Growing Up Out Of A Can

I have recently just finished reading this book on infertility. It was pretty interesting and I have a lot of thoughts on it, but that isn’t what I want to write about today. The reason that I bring the book up is that it echoed something that my other (not trying to have a baby) doctors have been pushing with regards to my autoimmune problem – which is to try and eat better. More specifically, try to eat fewer processed foods. This is something that was reiterated in this book and really got me to thinking.

Over time, as my medical problems have continued to stagnate, I have slowly been trying to move both Robert and I away from processed food. But it’s hard. Sometimes you just want an Oreo, you know? But it’s not even just the things that are obviously processed – it almost seems like EVERYTHING is processed these days. And even the “good” processed foods are riddled with other health concerns (like BPA from tin cans). It’s honestly enough to make your head spin. And, for me, it pretty much lead to a small meltdown in my office at work as I felt beyond overwhelmed with trying to figure out how to eat “right”.

For me, a child of the late 70’s and early 80’s it’s hard to know what is right and what is wrong. Almost everything that was fed to me growing up came from a box or a can. One of the things that I wish my parents had done a better (or could afford to have done better) was make sure that we grew up with fresh fruits and (especially) veggies. To this day, I hate veggies and it’s a constant struggle to force myself to eat them. But, growing up poor meant that my parents did what they could. So we had canned soup, and spaghetti-o’s and shit on a shingle. And as an adult, I naturally gravitate towards the things I know – the things that come from a box or a can.

But I’m trying to change that. I’m grown up now and there is no reason I have to keep eating out of a can.

It’s only now that I’m trying to conceive and having so much trouble that the importance of the shit I’ve been feeding myself for the past 37 years is really starting to dawn on me. And it’s only now that I’m realizing that I don’t know HOW to eat well. It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s not that I’m not trying. It’s simply that don’t have the toolkit (yet) to do it. For lunch, almost every day, I have a frozen meal at the office. I thought “hey, that can of spaghetti sauce has two servings of veggies, it can’t be bad!”. But it is. It isn’t necessarily terrible, but it also isn’t necessarily good.

Even if I had always known how to eat well and had a healthy diet, I would find it challenging to do today when 80% of what you find in the grocery store is processed and contains this preservative or that preservative. Maybe 60 years ago this would have been less of an issue. Then again, I have cookbooks from the 50’s and 60’s and I’m not entirely sure if that is true either.

It’s hard to be told to eat this or eat that and to try to do better, only to discover you aren’t doing as well as you need to be. And to make it worse, I’m super picky about what I eat (probably part of the growing up out of a can problem). I don’t like leafy greens. At all. Which makes salad a non-starter for me. I’ve tried several times in my adult life to change this, but every time it’s come back to the same thing: I simply don’t like it. For me, to combat this, I’m going to try sneaking these types of things into foods that I do like and can cover up the taste of what I’m eating.

I’m trying to incorporate more fruit into my day. I’m trying to add in veggies even though it’s a huge challenge for me. I’m trying to eat the grass fed meats. I’m trying to make things from scratch, even though it’s less time consuming to just open a jar and dump it into a pan. But it’s hard. It’s time consuming. And the task of differentiating what is okay to eat and what you should avoid is hugely overwhelming. I feel almost as if I’ve been asked to summit Mt. Rainier – a task that is neigh near impossible for me.

But, you will never get to the top of the mountain if you don’t take that first step. So Robert and I are reallocating our budget to add more in for our weekly groceries so we can afford to buy all the organic fruit and veggies that aren’t coated with pesticides. And we can buy the grass fed beef. And make things from scratch – that cost four times more than opening up a can. And buying glass tupperware to avoid the chemicals released when hot food is added to plastic storage.

I don’t know if any of it is going to make a difference. But at this point I don’t really see the harm in trying. At the very worst it’s going to make me a healthier person. It’s certainly going to be a challenge – but even if it doesn’t help me get pregnant, it’s going to have a positive effect the way I live my life. And when push comes to shove, not continuing on the tradition of growing up out of a can is probably a good thing.

For added benefit, last night Robert and I cooked dinner together, and it was nice. So in addition to eating “good” foods, we also spent some quality time together, on this little dinner project, and I really enjoyed that. It gave us a chance to be intimate with each other outside of the scope of trying to conceive and that is a very positive thing I think.

I don’t know how much longer this journey is going to take us, or what lies down the road ahead. But I think that even though this change is very overwhelming at the moment, it’s going to have very positive consequences in the long term. And, hey, we are even going to try homemade spaghetti sauce this weekend. With real tomatoes. I bought a food mill and everything. We will probably still use a good quality boxed pasta (for now), but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

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4 thoughts on “Growing Up Out Of A Can

  1. I type this snacking on a bag of pretzels, after a lunch of canned soup… I think a lot of us who grew up in a certain era ate a certain way or at least a bit of it. I remember when my parents got a microwave, one of the first, so my dad could warm up dinner after his shift at the ER. Even though my mom made sure we ate veggies and fruits, we still lived in that post 70’s haze of convenience.

    Now, I will say that this was an unusual lunch for us. I’ve lost 18 lb over the last 6 months just by cutting out all the baking I love to do 🙂 A few weeks ago Sebastian was begging me for cookies and we didnt’ have any. He asked me to make some, so I did. After they were out of the oven and he had his first one, he looked up at me and said “Thank you Mum, those cookies tasted better than the ones at the store.” I naturally asked which ones he meant. “All of them,” was his honest reply (but, who doesn’t love an Oreo occasionally!?!). I guess, the point I”m getting at is that once you take that stuff out of your diet and start tasting REAL food, you lose the taste for the other stuff.

    I know I’ve pointed you towards this blog before, but she has some good advice for making the basics for yourself. Beans, tortillas, stock, etc. I’ve made a lot of her recipes and while they are not Gordon Ramsay or Rachel Allen or whomever your fave chef is, they are all edible/good and fairly healthy. (She is a Dr.) http://www.annies-eats.com/

    Also, I’m going to try a recipe for chocolate pudding made with Avocados in place of milk and egg. I’m so excited! My husband does not like avocado, and for me, they are the holy grail of food. I love them plain, but also, because they are packed with good fats, omega 3 and also, completely free of pesticide because of the way they are grown!! /TeamAvocado

    I wish you the best of luck embarking on your clean eating journey 🙂 If you ever want recipes, feel free to ask, I have SO many. You still have to try my honey carrots!I do them with olive oil now instead of butter and think they taste even better 🙂

  2. Baby steps are your friend. It’s easier to make changes in your diet an inch at a time and move on when you’ve fully incorporated them. And if you lapse, forgive yourself and try again. I don’t know about you, but if I try to make huge sweeping changes, then I fail at some little thing, and suddenly everything feels impossible. If I just try a little every day, and a can of Pringles is a treat not a failure, then changing my diet becomes a journey not a test. Wow, what a lot of platitudes. Still, I do mean it. 😉

    Look into your local CSA. The box of fresh produce every week will encourage you both to eat seasonally and to branch out in your cooking skills. (Kale chips really are tasty, who knew?) The price is comparable/cheaper than my local grocery store too.

    And don’t forget farmer’s markets. Take cash and set yourself a limit, because oh my gosh is it tempting to buy everything you see. (You can generally get a really good breakfast or lunch there too.)

    If you like shrimp
    http://spinachtiger.com/shrimp-mushrooms-tomato-barley-for-a-thirty-minute-one-dish-dinner/
    It’s EASY, tasty, it’ll use it up more of that bottle of wine. Plus, barley is a great way to add more whole grains to your diet. (I cook my barley in beef broth or veggie broth instead of water – it’s a great way to add flavor to barley/rice/noodles/boiled potatoes.)

    If you like tumeric
    http://spinachtiger.com/chicken-thighs-lemon-onions-tumeric-sweet-potatoes/
    Less than 10 min prep + baking time, and sooo yummy.

    If you want more suggestions for good cooking blogs, I have errr way too many. You might like:
    http://www.loveandlemons.com/
    http://naturallyella.com/ (serious food porn)
    http://www.loveandoliveoil.com/

    Oh, and I don’t advocate starting now, but eventually start saving your veggie bits for broth. I keep a ziplock (or 6) in the freezer and throw stuff in when I cook. Boil up carrot scrapings, onion and celery ends, corn cobs, mushroom stems, parsley stems, all that sort of thing. Then strain and throw away the solids. Freeze the liquid until you need it. I use it to pour over pot roast and flavor noodles and stuff like that.

  3. If you haven’t tried spaghetti squash (they are amazing, seriously… I thought I would hate them but I love it!) It’s a great pasta alternative. I buy them from the local hutterites, what you’re looking for is a nice uniform yellow colour and for it to be heavy for it’s size. The best way I’ve found to cook it is to cut it in half, scoop out all the seeds (like carving a pumpkin!) poke it with a fork a few times on the flesh inside and then add some extra virgin olive oil (or butter), finely minced garlic and pepper, some fresh oregano and rub it into the flesh. cook with the cut side facing down on a cookie sheet until tender (at 350 it can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes depending on the size of your squash). It’s done when it is tender when you push on the outside of the rhind and it makes a dent where your finger was. Take it out of the oven and let it cool slightly and then have a bowl ready and take a fork and start shredding the flesh of the spaghetti squash lenthwise from top to bottom making your “spaghetti”. I then either top immediately with fresh pasta sauce or sometimes sautee this in a bit of butter and then add a sauce or you can use it as a layer for lasagna or other pasta bakes and you can also even add cheese to it if you want and make a cheesy spaghetti squash. Definitely worth a try, I was a disbeliever that it could ever taste good and now I’m never without it.

    Another good pasta/grain alternative is Quinoa. It’s SO versatile. You can cook it plain to use in almost anything (seriously, I’ve made gluten free chocolate cupcakes with it and also a herbed pilaf…) or cook it in a broth or with spices etc to make it savory as a side dish or wherever your taste buds take you! With quinoa, it’s best to put it in a fine holed sieve and rinse it under cool water until it is no longer foamy. I usually rinse once, soak in cool water for a few minutes then do a final rince while I’m waiting for my water to boil on the stove. (cook it just like rice with the water to quinoa ratio). I’m never without this in my house I freaking LOVE it. The reason you have to/should soak/rinse it is it is technically a seed from (I believe the coriander?) family… not a grain and it has it’s own natural pesticide on it to keep it from being eaten (saponen or w/e) it’s harmless to ingest it’s just bitter as heck and the stuff tastes so much better once it’s been rinsed! Good luck on your journey. It’s not easy and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing from the get go. You will notice you feel better after a few weeks of even 50% cleaner eating. It’s done wonders for me! /hugs

  4. I too dislike leafy green, and while I used to hate things like Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts, I’ve recently discovered that if I roast them on a sheet pan in the oven at 425 for 20-25 minutes, they become slightly charred, sweet and wonderful. Slice them in 1/2, dress them raw with a splash of oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, put them on a sheet pan and roast away. Amazingly easy, and the greens actually taste good : ) Best of luck with it. Eating healthy is hard in America, we’re just constantly surrounded by the detritus of the “convenience food” era (the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s). CSAs are great, I find that if I plan out a couple of dinners on a Friday and then shop Saturday and cook Saturday/Sunday with the idea of having at least one day worth of left overs from each meal, I can cover 4 days of the week with ease leaving me only 3 days to “improvise”.

    I’m also a huge fan of a little crudite and hummus (super easy to make) which is a great way to introduce other veggies into a dinner whilst avoiding the dreaded Kale/Chard/Collards trifecta.

    One thing I started doing about a year ago is making my own chicken stock, it’s dead simple, freezes well, and you can make about 4 gallons in an afternoon and cover your stock needs for a month or more. Also, once you make real chicken soup with your own stock you’ll wonder how you ever liked the stuff out of a can. That was the thing that really did it for me, eating my own chicken soup with absolutely nothing processed and thinking…. damn, this is really really good.

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