I haven’t always been someone who eats healthy. I was raised in the days of TV dinners on trays, sitting in front of Gilligan’s Island in the TV room with my three siblings. Good nutrition and eating healthy may come easily to some, but for the rest of us, it may be a gradual progression of steps.
My family rarely visited or spoke during dinner. Commercials were reserved for running into the kitchen to get more milk. For variety, we would have canned SpaghettiOs, or Campbell’s soup with grilled cheese. Healthy wasn’t a concept that entered into my mind when eating. The goals were good taste and ease of preparation.
This changed when, at nineteen, I took a class on values clarification. The instructor had us assess what our values were by looking at where we were putting our time and energy, and considering what was most important to ourselves. I realized there was a huge contrast between my desire to be healthy and the food choices I was making.
Many of my peers were making their own granola, yogurt and growing vegetables to eat. The “hip” thing was to be a vegetarian. I wanted to be doing these sorts of things, but instead I was eating junk. So, at twenty I became a vegetarian… and started consuming vast amounts of dairy, wheat, and sugar. This phase was, perhaps healthier than the processed food, but it was still essentially lacking in nutrition.
This period was followed by getting married, having four children and wanting them to be as healthy as possible. I call this the tofu stage. I put tofu in almost every dish I made and packed tofu dogs in the kid’s lunches. I felt proud to be raising 4 vegetarian children in a society full of carnivores. Tofu and dairy competed for my attention. Our family favorites, after tofu, were bean and cheese burritos, and macaroni and cheese. To this day none of my four grown children will eat tofu!
I was, indeed, pretty ignorant about healthy eating. Fortunately for my family, I began teaching kindergarten at the private school that my children attended. The school was part of a spiritual yoga community that provided healthy vegetarian food. Things like, brown rice, steamed veggies, fresh salads, and homemade breads and soups were offered every day. Suddenly, my spectrum of healthy foods had many colors and textures and my kids were exposed to a new way of eating. They loved the healthy new foods and so did I.
This period was followed by divorce and the craziness of single-parenting four children. Time became limited, money was tight and priorities had to change. Once again, healthy food choices gave way to convenience and price. I rarely shopped at the local health food store and often filled in the gaps with pizzas, quesadillas, and canned beans. I assigned a night for each child to cook, and our meals were simple and filling. Flour, rice, beans, and pasta were at the top of the menu. Fresh vegetables cost too much so I bought frozen veggies sincerely thinking I was feeding the kids good food.
Fortunately, my awareness of what is genuinely healthy and nutritional food has changed. These days, my children are all grown and I am living on my own. I can afford to buy and choose what I want, and I have continued to evolve my own diet.
Three-and-a-half years ago, I gave up dairy and gluten to get rid of my eczema problem. Then, just 9 months ago, I gave up sugar and chocolate as well. I now have an awareness of the adverse effects of GMO foods on the body, and have started buying organic as much as possible. I see that I am a slow learner when it comes to health and nutrition. But, gradually over time, I have been able to incorporate improvements into my food choices. This transition is happening bit by bit and I am reaping the benefits of my improved healthier diet. My head is clearer, I have more energy, my health is excellent and I feel good about what I eat. Having moved away from processed food, I find that food in its natural state tastes even better.
Who knows, perhaps for the next step, I will become a raw food connoisseur? I encourage you, wherever you are in your dietary choices, to be open to the changes that can bring the priceless gifts of good health and well-being.