The Process of Eating Less Processed

Weaning My Family Off of Processed Foods – While Sneaking in Some Hidden Fruits and Veggies

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Halloween Candy – Why I Will Not Be Militant

Halloween CandyAhhh… Halloween… it’s every kid’s dream come true. And what’s not to love… fun costumes and of course, oodles and oodles of candy. Oodles and oodles of processed, full of artificial color and who knows what ingredients candy. Halloween is also a perfect example of why I am not militant about the processed food and why this is a journey towards being “less processed” as opposed to eliminating it altogether.

I could take a hard and fast stance. Let my kids do the trick or treating and then have them trade me their candy for less objectionable treats. I could let them each eat a couple pieces and then donate the rest. I could even be truly militant and not let them participate in trick or treating at all as it just adds to the demand for these processed sugar bundles. But I’m not going to do any of those things.

I have awesome memories of Halloween from when I was a kid. I remember tromping around with a brown paper bag full of goodies, hardly able to breathe through those horrible plastic masks with the piece of elastic holding it to your face. And I remember dumping that bag out at home and experiencing pure joy at the haul. Halloween is pure fun for kids. And I’m going to let my kids have that. I will limit how much they eat the night of Halloween (mostly to avoid anyone throwing up), and probably donate some of their candy so it doesn’t stick around for too long to tempt not only them, but also their dad and I. But I’m not going to make a stink about processed foods for Halloween (probably also not for Easter either). A little extra candy and processed foods for a day (or even a week) isn’t going to really do long term damage, and those awesome memories of Halloween are totally worth bending a bit.

What do you do about the onslaught of sugary not so good for you candy that your kids get for Halloween?


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Avoiding the “Weak” night Temptation to Grab Fast Food

We’ve all been there… those evenings where we just don’t feel like cooking dinner, and head to the closest drive thru, or call and order pizza or other takeout. Often at not just a monetary, but nutritional cost. I had one of those days recently and was actually on the computer, trying to decide on what Chinese food to order – looking at a $30 plus bill for our family, but about to hit order anyways. And then I changed my mind. Partly because I was so lacking gumption that I didn’t even want to go pick it up and partly because I was being cheep.

I still didn’t really have the gumption to spend a bunch of time cooking, but I realized that because I had done some prep work weeks before, I had homemade butternut squash cheese sauce in the freezer, that could quickly be made into a nutritious macaroni and cheese. I also had chicken breasts that could quickly be grilled and bagged frozen green beans that only take 5 minutes to saute with some olive oil and garlic. So in 20 minutes, or less than the time it would have taken to order and then pick up our takeout, we ended up with a very satisfying and nutritious meal that cost a fraction of the takeout bill. The morale… if you freeze extras when you have the time and energy to cook, you can always have a convenient meal ready for those days where you’re just not feeling it.

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My Top Five Veggies to Hide in Our Food

946418_4788937597180_403803275_nIn addition to trying to eat fewer processed foods, I’ve also been hiding veggies in a lot of what I make. I know there is a debate about whether veggie hiding is ultimately good for your family – the argument against is basically that your kids don’t learn to eat fruits and vegetables if they don’t know they’re there. To be fair, I still put the veggies on the plate as well. Currently, only the six year old will actually eat his vegetables (he’s actually pretty good about it and loves things like broccolli, asparagus and green beans). My hope is that eventually the other two will come around. But until then… I’m not ashamed to trick them into eating at least some vegetables.

Here are the five veggies I hide most often, with examples of where I hide them.

Zucchini – I puree and put this stuff in almost anything. For some things, where a little bit of green color won’t be noticed I use it without peeling. For other things, peel first and then puree. It works great because it doesn’t have a strong flavor and just blends in with whatever it’s added to. Top uses: Fruit Roll Ups, Tacos, Pasta/Pizza Sauce, Sloppy Joes, Brownies

Carrots – These are also good to puree and add to anything that could benefit from a little sweetness. I cook them prior to pureeing for use in fruit roll ups. For everything else they go in raw. Top uses: Pasta/Pizza sauce, fruit roll ups, tacos

Sweet Potatoes – This one was actually an accidental discovery. I had a bunch of sweet potatoes that were going to go bad while I was out of town, so I cut them into fry shape pieces and froze in a ziplock bag. Sadly, my boys won’t actually eat sweet potato fries, so I was left to find alternative uses for them and was pleasantly surprised at how well they can be mixed into other foods. Like the carrots, they add a little bit of sweetness so they are good for anything that can use a little sweet or you can adjust your salt to compensate. Top uses: Pasta/Pizza Sauce, tacos, sloppy joes

Spinach/Greens – Spinach can surprisingly blend in with a variety of foods from smoothies to pasta sauce. I puree it raw and then freeze the pretty green mush to use later. It does add a bit of color to what you add it to. For smoothies, it can be noticable in terms of color unless you use a small amount or blueberries to counteract a bit of the green. When used in tomato sauces, it makes the sauce a sort of brown color. Top uses: Pasta/Pizza sauce, Quesadillas, Smoothies

Red Peppers – These too became a go to when I had a bunch that were going to go bad and had to freeze them. Now I purposely buy a bunch when they’re on sale and always have strips on hand in the freezer to add to the food processor. These are best in flavorful dishes like tacos or pasta sauces.

Cauliflower – Steamed and pureed, cauliflower can be added to almost anything. Macaroni and cheese, pasta sauces, tacos, sloppy joes, mashed potatoes… it’s mild and doesn’t really add color so is very versatile.

All of these can be pureed and frozen. I often throw a bunch of veggies into the food processor before they go bad and then freeze the mixture to have on hand. My most used mix would be carrots, zucchini, red peppers, and onions.

What types of veggies do you hide in your family’s food? What dishes have you found work well for adding hidden veggies?