It was an honest question from two teens to their Dad. Nothing strange about that, right? It will certainly go down as one of the funniest questions the girls have ever asked my husband. And, one we won’t soon forget! That seemingly innocent question was the start of my eating healthy food adventure, preservative-free experiment, insanity (call it what you like!). I had recently purchased a vegetable spiralizer, the Veggetti, at Target and was experimenting with making veggie pasta recipes for the family.
At the start of lent as I thought about what I should sacrifice for 40 days I found myself once again struggling with good old Catholic guilt to find the exact thing that would make me a better Christian. I’ve always been jealous of those who have no doubt in their mind what the exact sacrifice is for them. My sister gives up chocolate every year. For someone who hides chocolate in the deep recesses of her cabinets so that her children don’t find it and eat it, so that she can sneak in after midnight to grab a quick fix – I get that she is making the ultimate sacrifice! 😉
This year my sacrifice was giving up processed food. I made my grand announcement to the fam on Fat Tuesday as I was shoveling a piece of store-bought double chocolate cake topped with Friendly’s Cookies & Cream ice cream and Reddi Wip (yup, that’s how you spell it!) into my mouth. If I was going to do this – and do it right – I was going out with a bang! I wanted all the high fructose corn syrup I could find within arm’s length before the clock struck midnight.
What I didn’t know was that my quiet journey would soon become an all-in family trip, complete with two grumpy teens and a picky dad in tow. My youngest quickly said, “I’m in!” and my chocolate cake almost made a repeat performance. I was kind of hoping that maybe the chocolate had gone to my head and I was hallucinating. By dinner time, my 16-year-old and Dad joined the preservative–free journey as well.
Excerpts from the “Eating Healthy Food” Diaries
“Wait, does that mean I can’t have pizza flavored Goldfish?”
“What about my maple and brown sugar Oatmeal?”
“No chocolate chip Eggo waffles…or Cinnamon French Toast…or bagels? What will I eat for breakfast?!!!”
“We aren’t going to be eating quinoa every day, are we?”
“What about Oreos?”
As soon as they jumped on board I knew my journey was about to get much more complicated. I could easily be satisfied with fruits, veggies and some organic snacks to fill in the missing cravings in my day-to-day existence. But, giving that to a teenager or their picky dad was out of the question.
Step One – Push the Enemy Out the Door
Right after the kids left for school, I took a large shopping bag and dumped in all the processed, chemically-filled, high fructose-laden snacks we had – that’s right, every cracker, cookie, oatmeal packet, applesauce cup and chip bag. I quickly ran down to the basement and buried it in the back of the storage shelf behind all the items that kids never seem to know where to find like toilet paper, paper towels and ketchup. To this day (until they read this post) the kids don’t know that the food is there!
It’s amazing what I had left to eat in the cabinet once I decided to clear out and eat preservative free… amazingly empty! My first obstacle was finding breakfast food. I took a trip to the local Trader Joes where I found some new fruits to introduce to the family – they looked like miniature cantaloupes and honeydew melons. Not sure either were big hits. Upon checking the bagel ingredients and some of the breads I quickly learned I needed a new solution to satisfy my food requirements.
This Required a Trip to the “Moon”
Living without bread, muffins, cereal and bagels was not going to fly. I needed an answer and I needed it fast. Google directed me to a local bakery that subscribed to my new preservative-free philosophy. As I walked in the door of the Blue Moon Bagel Café , it was all I could do to not jump behind the counter and kiss the 17-year-old girl who told me that they don’t use any preservatives in their food. “I’ll take one of everything!” I settled for bagels, sourdough bread, a chocolate chip muffin and a cinnamon coffee cake.
Problem solved…almost. What was I going to do about the very serious missing pancake void? I tried organic mix from Trader Joes and the local grocery brand, but they crashed and burned. Turning to online resources again, I found what is now known by my family as the, “Possibly the best pancakes I’ve ever had,” recipe. I found it on a friend’s Facebook post for her blog (which I highly recommend for anything DIY/home design related). Lisa had shared a link from the everydayhomeblog.com for the fluffiest pancakes ever. They really are good!!! We’ve made them three times and each time they get better. Or, maybe we just feel a little more at ease with the whole making pancakes from scratch thing. You’ve got to try these. I promise you will enjoy every bite.
With the breakfast dilemma solved, I turned to the most important thing to teens – snacks! Next time we’ll tackle snack attacks and talk about which ones are great for healthy eating — and teen approved — if you are considering jumping on the train with us!
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