Sunday, June 29, 2008

Clarifying and De-Junking

First off for today, I want to clarify my last post. I wrote it after reading a magazine article about how kids don't have enough time to play and it got my brain churning. I was truly surprised that "lack of free play time" was a big enough issue that I was reading a magazine article about it. I wasn't trying to be negative about kids being in sports and activities but that's totally how I came off. SO sorry about that. I think sports are GREAT for kids to be involved in and as mine get older I'm sure we will. I was just stating why at this time in our family's life, it doesn't make sense for us, time-wise, financially, and otherwise. I'm not saying we CAN'T afford it, but just that it makes more sense for us to spend our cash on things we can all do together. With 3 little ones, schedule is huge. If we get off kilter for more than a day or two, Mommy pays dearly!

Moving right along, I'm on a quest. I have been reading a lot of labels lately and I'm getting serious about removing junk food from my kids diet. Now, I'm not going crazy and outlawing McDonald's or anything but I want our eating at home to be as healthy as possible so that things we have elsewhere are a treat. My first goal is to remove refined sugar from our house. It is SO much harder than I thought. Sugar is in everything! I have started with the basics~all natural peanut butter, applesauce, yogurt, ect. I am trying to get rid of the high fructose corn syrup type sugars. Some things like dried fruit are higher in sugar but are also high in vitamins and fiber. I'm also trying to keep all processed foods to an absolute minimum. Things like hot dogs, Spaghetti Os, and such.

I want to get some breakfast, lunch and snack ideas for summer and for fall lunch boxes. Breakfast is the easiest but snacks are killing me. Once you get past fruit and veggies there is not much left! We already do things like low fat string cheese and yogurt. The big girls love hummus with whole wheat pita chips.

The other big challenge with healthy eating is the cost. It is more expensive to go all natural for many reasons but so far in my experience, the biggest reason is the removal of generic products from the mix. We go through applesauce like crazy here but only Mott's makes a "No Sugar Added" applesauce so I'm stuck.

So throw some ideas at me! What healthy snacks do your kids love? What healthy options are good for lunch boxes? Do you have budget friendly tips?


i am not said...

We did this about a year and a half ago. With the presumed link between high fructose corn syrup and diabetes and obesity as well as many other diseases, its just not worth it to me to have it in the house.

My suggestions: focus more on cutting out HFCS and you will naturally be cutting out a lot of the refined sugar - and it might be easier to find it on the label. Also, I once read or heard that we should be eating food in the most natural state possible - Apples are best, applesauce is okay, apple juice not so good. So we've been keeping a ton of fresh fruit in the house for snacks... it does seem like it is a tad more expensive, but over the course of 18 months we've just completely eliminated all other snack foods so the only option is an apple or watermelon or carrots (we do have sugar free popsicles, though, and pretzels) so the added expense doesn't seem as overwhelming.

Tips: TRADER JOE'S if you have one nearby. I have not found HFCS in any of their stuff - they have great granola bars and super cheap natural peanut butter (1.69 for same size jar as in the regular grocery store). I could give you a gigantic list of the stuff we buy there if you have one close or are going to shop there when you're visiting your dad.

Aldi - their produce is actually pretty good and much less expensive.

We have yet to deal with full lunch at school, but for snack I have sent Nora with a TJ's granola bar & some pretzels.

I'll be interested to see how this goes for you. Take it slow so it doesn't seem so life altering.

Jen said...

I WISH we had a Trader Joe's here! I have heard they are awesome. I had a bad experience at Aldi like 10 years ago but I think it's time I got over it. They just opened a brand new one here so I'm going to give that a go this week. I'd love a list of your faves so if I do make it there I have a guide. I have found some great things at Costco. They have an organic, all-natural whole wheat poptart that is really good. The girls LOVE them for a treat.

We do lots of fruit and veggies for snacks so I'm looking to add some variety. I'm also looking for snacks with protein. What do you do for protein?

I usually don't buy chips or cookies b/c I will be too tempted so cutting that out isn't really an issue. I re-vamped when I did WW in 2002 so my challenge here is going to next step. Thanks for the info and keep it coming!

mommy to an angel said...

We don't buy much junk food here either - mostly because Brian and I would be tempted, but also because I don't want Olivia to be where we are 25 years down the road. I don't have the best ideas so I'm interested in what everyone else has to say as well.
I always have fresh fruit to offer as snacks and I try to add peanut butter to it for some added protein. Olivia's favorite snack is triscuits with cream cheese and yesterday she added to it summer sausage - she loved making her own little sandwiches out of it (not the healthiest, but it beats a bag of chips). Olivia also loves popcorn - we buy the 94% FF - Ya, it has carbs, but kids need it, and she's getting fiber and some protein. I buy stuff to make our own trail mix - WW chex, peanuts or almonds, raisens/craisens... Olivia loves to help mix it all together and put scoops of it in baggies - I have found that Olivia will try things more often when she is involved in making it. Olivia also loves anything she can make into kabobs with little toothpicks - different fruits or meat and cheese. Do your kids like cottage cheese? Olivia wants to like it, but she can't get over the texture thing with it - it's an awesome source of protein if your kids like it - try mixing in some fruit with it.
Looking forward to some better ideas - GREAT POST!

kkoois said...

i was insulted.
i like sugar.

amanda said...

As I sit here reading this, I am finishing the last of my big bowl of ice cream with crushed cookies and chocolate syrup. Thanks a lot! :)
Have you considered making your own applesauce? I haven't done it, but I've heard it can be done pretty easily.

i am not said...

LOL - I like sugar too. My hips do not.

Trader Joe's stuff (for the record, I'm mostly concerned about HFCS and not as much about sugar since we've been really limiting snacks to fruit & pretzels. I think it is important to keep a little sugary something in the house so the kids are around it and it isn't such a big deal):

Apples and bananas are super cheap compared to regular grocery store. Apples are $.49 each rather than by the pound - ends up being TONS cheaper and they taste better. Bananas are $.19 or $.29 each - again cheaper than by the pound. Other produce is comparable in price (strawberries, tomatos, etc), but I find their produce TASTES better than others. I do Aldi for stuff like apples for the girls (3lb bags for less than $2.00), baby carrots ($.99 per bag), mixed salads, whole pineapple, strawberries, grapes ($2.98 for 2lbs), mushrooms, cucumbers, sometimes bananas if I need them.

TJ's - chicken sausage- much healthier than brats or italian sausage, much less grease. several different flavors.

Natural PB - $1.69 per jar
Jelly - I think it may be organic, although I'm not concerned with organic stuff. It has less sugar, no HFCS and is coincidentally organic.

Pasta - flax seed & whole wheat - tastes no different than regular, is cheap.

Pasta sauce - I think this is coincidentally organic, too. Less sugar and no HFCS.

Tomato Soup - $2.49 pint. YUMMY! A nightly staple for me- 2pts for 1 cup, add 5 saltines = 3pts total.

Organic Yogurt - 1 quart = $2.49. I buy strawberry which has no fruit in it and Vanana (banana flavored). Less sugar, no HFCS.

Eggs used to be super cheap there, but now I think they're probably comparable with Aldi.

Chili Lime Chicken Burgers or Buffalo Burgers - both in the freezer department.

100% Whole Wheat bread - $2.99 for a loaf I think, which is actually cheaper than in the regular grocery store.

ABC cookies or Cat Cookies - small enough for a nice snack for them, no HFCS, no chocolate mess.

JoJo's - TJ's version of oreos - the vanilla ones are amazing. Dave and the girls like the chocolate cream ones, but they are kind of messy.

Granola bars - $1.99 per box of 6. I know you can get Quaker Oats ones for $2.00 for a box of 10 when they're on sale - HOWEVER, QO has HFCS and TJ's does not. TJ's bars are larger in size than QO.

Raisens - One large package with tons of smaller packages. The raisens look yummier than sunmaid. Good for lunches.

They also have some good frozen meals - fried rice, shrimp fried rice, SWEET POTATO FRIES (Mmmmm.!), stir fries, etc. etc.

Many, many healthy choices.

I agree - time to get over whatever issue you had with Aldi, especially with the difference in grocery prices right now. Eggs and milk are super cheap, cereal is amazingly cheap, diapers, wipes, chicken nuggets, frozen salmon, bread, etc. etc. Their granola does not have HFCS in it and is pretty cheap. I don't shop at Cosco so I don't know the differences.

As for protein for the girls - I don't worry about it too much. They have protein in their milk with their cereal in the morning, protein in the PB or cheese in their lunch and our dinners are heavy on protein. I don't worry about protein for snacks, just whether or not it is a healthy snack.

Georgia really, really loves cottage cheese (much cheaper at Aldi than regular store - $2.69 for 24oz vs. probably closer to $4) mixed with Aldi's peach pineapple salsa (so do I). You don't need to add much, just enough to mix it through and both are really cheap at aldi.

Just some ideas - sorry this is so long:)

i am not said...

oh the tomato soup is a quart, I think, not a pint.

And I forgot - TJ's has good coffee which is significantly cheaper. Their Bay Blend is comparable to Starbucks in flavor and costs only $5.99 compared to $10.

Jen said...

Um, wow. I can't wait to get myself to TJs! Thanks for the ideas!

I am hung up on protein more during the school year. Caroline has some concentration issues and high protein breakfast and snacks make a big difference.

I did Aldi this morning and wasn't thrilled. Milk was 70 cents cheaper and eggs were about 50 cents cheaper. Everything else was not stuff I buy. We don't do cereal or chicken nuggets. The produce looked pretty sad. The strawberries did look good but were more expensive than the ones on special at the other store. So all I really saved on was $1.40 on milk and $1.00 on eggs. With gas prices and 3 little ones to take in and out, I think I'll eat the $2.40 and stick with my grocery store.

Heaven Sent said...

We do a lot of the same things as Jana. In fact I am eternally grateful to her for introducing me to TJs.

As far as protein, we do a lot of nuts and beans. Yes, Garbanzo beans for a snack. If your kids like hummus, they probably will like them. You can also dry roast over them your stovetop with a little paprika for some crunch. Yum!

As a general rule, I try to put nutrition before convenience, most of the time. We do a lot of whole wheat, fresh foods, and organic when it makes sense -- and when it is affordable.

I totally stay away from HFCS. I try to eliminate as much sugar as I can, but sometimes it is unavoidable. And really, we all need a little fun in our lives every once in a while! As long as it is real sugar, I can deal with it on occasion.

Also, be careful with a lot of that "no added sugar" stuff. Many times they use Splenda and other fake sugar products, and that always makes me nervous. Especially for kids.

Emma loves savory foods, so I admit that I do allow TJ veggie chips and those baked Snapea Crisps. I also do the organic peanut butter cracker sandwiches. We can't do cheese, but I know they have those too.

If your kids do fresh veggies, sugar snap peas and red peppers with hummus are great snacks. That way you get a little protein in there. Peanut butter and banana or peanut butter and low-sugar jelly on rice cakes is another healthy option.

We don't do juice either. Just water with the occasion splash of juice.

Kudos to you for taking this on with four kids. It is so worth it though. And it sounds like you are already doing a great job. Now go get yourself some choclate... ;)

My Year Without said...

Congratulations on trying to get rid of sugary foods! I am going without sugar all of 2008 and have written quite a lot about it. There are a lot of wonderful foods (processed and packaged included!) that don't contain refined sugar. Anyway, your post inspired me to write about how to go from a kitchen stocked with junk food to a virtually sugar-free kitchen! I had to do it myself. I am in my 6th month of being sugar-free and it is the best thing I've ever done!

Hope you enjoy the tips I have and I would love to help you reach your goals in this area, so if I can be of any more help, let me know!

i am not said...

SUGAR SNAP PEAS ROCK! They are yummy - my girls split them open and just eat the peas - nutritious and time consuming:)

One thing that I started this summer was going to the farmer's market. I have a list of all of the local ones and we try to go once or twice a week - its a way to get out of the house and the girls like seeing all of the stuff. The produce is MUCH better than any store and usually comparable in price or a little cheaper. Orland Park also has a fun one for the kids with face painting and a jumpy on Friday mornings (info for Lisa - not you:) You have to be flexible on what you're buying - you may not get the same thing every week. We got a HUGE thing of sugar snap peas for $3.50 - a small bag costs $3.99 at dominicks. Strawberries were hit and miss, but we've gotten fresh beans, asparagus, nectarines, plums and tomatos. Its a fun outing for the girls.

You know what I get at Aldi? Bread, buns, milk, eggs, yogurt for Dave, cottage cheese, cheese slices, cereal, diapers, frozen chicken breasts, ground turkey. And I stock up on a lot of them. Those are our staples along with those vegetables that I mentioned. I think it is much cheaper than Dominicks for those kinds of things - I usually have to make a trip to Dom for oatmeal and a few other items, but we mostly do TJ's & Aldi. The produce may not look great, but it tastes good. We don't do juice either - not even a splash, just water or milk, which makes juice boxes a pretty special deal around here:)

Sorry to take up all of your space!

Oh, one other thing that we do - Ryann did a thing in preschool last year about Red light, Yellow light and green light foods. Her teacher has a MUCH different idea on what each one is, but we've used the concept in our house and it has made it fun for the girls to figure out what kind of food to eat. Our definitions:
Red Light - eat only once in a while: cookies, cake, ice cream
Yellow Light - eat maybe once a week at most: pizza, chicken nuggets
Green Light - eat everyday: carrots, apples, watermelon, pineapple etc.

Kary said...

Isn't there a Trader Joe's near Gap kids? Field Trip!!

List Mama said...

I wanted to comment on the structured activities for kids. I think I have a similar philosophy as you on those. Although my oldest, (girl, almost 7) has played soccer since she was 5, I have been very hesitant to start sports and classes. We live outside of town and eat dinner as a family at 5 or 5:30. I can just imagine what life would turn into if we were running around from activity to activity at that time of day. Someday, we'll probably have to face it. But for right now, everyone is content.


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