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Jun 24, 2013 03:27 AM

need help to do fewer processed foods--

Just read --Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us-- (sick! sick! sick!). I realized that I have been letting processed foods take over our diet.

I need to start feeding my family fewer processed foods. I know the basic rules: eat the perimeter of the grocery store, whole grains, so on etc. etc. What I need is help to make the necessary changes.

I'm a working mom with 3 kids under the age of 10. Anyone have a list of good websites to help me make this happen, esp with the 6:00 rush (both of them, morning and night)?

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  1. one step is to make a couple of pots of a whole grain each week to have in the fridge and use for breakfast cereals, salads and as the basis for part of dinner. I do the same with dried beans, cheap and nitritious, they are infinitely adaptable.

    1. What are you currently relying on? Perhaps knowing what you eat now will help is think of substitutions needed in your diet.

      14 Replies
      1. re: melpy

        I buy a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, but my freezer is filled with Costco and trader joe's short cuts. On the weekends I make pickles and preserves, so I am not a total loss.

        However, my husband has been steadily ramping up the processed chips, fruits and cookies because he is in charge of getting the kid's lunches ready.

        The idea of having a bunch of whole grains, cooked, is a very good one, but. . . I need ways to fix them that my kids will like. A homemade vinaigrette + stuff. . . but what else?

        We make salad nicoise about once a week. a potato/kale/kielbasa soup about once a week. take out chicken with homemade veggies once a week.

        A reasonable goal to me would be one processed item per meal, at most. (when we get there, then we set higher goals). Also, better kids lunch ideas.

        1. re: Guenevere

          As far as the kids' lunches go, there's no magic way to improve them other than to just say NO to processed crap. If you have time on the weekends, you can make your own crackers, cookies, etc. using whole grains and pre-portion them into baggies that your DH can throw into their lunch boxes. You could also switch to nuts instead of chips for snacky things. Buy plain unsweetened yogurt and add your own fresh fruit to it (along with a little of the sweetener of your choice if the kids won't eat it plain). It's more work, but if you want to avoid junk, you just have to do it!

          1. re: Guenevere

            If your kids like fruits and veggies, they don't need any of that stuff in their lunch. Alongside my son's sandwich or soup, he gets fresh fruits and vegetables: snap peas, bell pepper strips, strawberries, whatever. It's plenty to fill him up. He's never asked why he doesn't get chips and Go-Gurts like so-and-so does. That may change at some point, but not yet.

            Also, cut up plenty of fruit and veggies so that you have a few days' worth in the fridge.

            1. re: Guenevere

              Will your kids eat dinner leftovers for lunch? That's what mine usually have, but they are still little (3 and 1) and don't know anything different. Perhaps a fun lunchbox could spice up the leftovers without causing you any extra work. Then just add some fruit/veggies and maybe one treat (this could be a processed item).

              1. re: Guenevere

                Add dried and fresh fruits to grains and dress with a honey vinaigrette. Always a lunch hit

                1. re: Guenevere

                  Just say no to prepackaged snacks... if the kids must have cheezits, then buy a bulk bag and some snack-sized sandwich baggies and pack it up yourself on the weekend. It's a lot cheaper and you can shrink the portion to the size you consider appropriate (for a young child, 12 cheezits would probably be more than enough, they don't need a 400 calorie bag). Cookies, cake etc can be made in advance and frozen in individual portions to grab and go, and that way you have control over what goes into them.

                  1. re: Guenevere

                    Making your own veg chips is easy. I would sub kale, potato And other homemade chips in lunches.

                    Making cookies or using fruit for dessert helps. I use a few processed foods, mostly canned tomatoes and beans and cottage cheese and other cheeses as well as pasta.

                    1. re: Guenevere

                      For lunches look at Bento box lunches. There are tons of ideas online and they lend themselves to using healthier foods.

                      As for dinners, some labor saving devices can really help. A rice cooker can do lots of things and most new ones come with a delay timer to have the contents ready when you get home. I also use mine to hard boil eggs, make oatmeal and made brownies in it.

                      Crockpots do some things well. Some things less so. The things they do well (chili, cooking down beans etc.) are worth doing.

                      I would look at the things you like or want to eat and find a way to do that from scratch efficiently. Bulk cooking & freezing, using an appliance to do most of the work or partial shortcuts can help get you there. I was where you are once. Now I detest most typical processed foods.

                      1. re: Guenevere

                        Sorry if this has been covered--I only scanned the thread lightly-- but as objectionable as you may find some of these foods, I might be careful about making any food a "forbidden" food. That just increases its appeal. Instead, focus on why this particular food is a food is only a "sometimes" food or that it's a treat or that it's to be eaten in only small quantities after a full meal. That sort of thing. Plus, as soon as you can start introducing homemade cookies that are better than storebought and so on, the more your kids will realize "real" food tastes better than the processed stuff.

                        I have a basket on the counter, and a small box in each the fridge and the freezer where I put my pre-portioned lunch and snack items.

                        So, on the counter I might have small single-portion cookies, crackers, nuts, dried fruits, jerky, etc. In the fridge I have yogurt, cheese, dips, hummus, veggies, apple sauce, small portions of leftovers, hard boiled eggs, etc.. I try to keep fruit washed and ready to go.

                        In the freezer I might have sandwiches, meatballs, muffins, and other single portions ready to go. (I'm now mildly addicted to homemade "uncrustable" sandwiches, an idea I got from this thread. Lots of other great ideas in there.)

                        I try to do these things in batches on the weekend or on a slow weeknight. Definitely enlist your husband's help and your childrens' help. Even my toddler "helps." I put him in one of those "learning towers" and have him help butter the bread, or press down on the sandwich tool or count grapes, etc.

                        Good luck! Remember, you don't have to overhaul at once. Just keep making small changes, incremental progress and you'll get there. Plus, that gives everyone time to adjust to and develop new habits.


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          This is a great post!!

                          so many good ideas here and in posts above. If kids are ok w/pasta make good healthy Freezable sauces. Add less water/stock/liquid. Label and freeze. Same with soups (just don't freeze starches like potatoes-noodles, they get mushy).
                          Make your own concentrated convenience foods - start w/soups and pasta sauces. When needed, defrost, add liquid to taste, cook pasta, rice potatoes, add cut-up veggies and a healthy dip, maybe bread and some fruit for dessert.
                          Good on youo for jumping into this - you are a hero.

                      2. re: melpy

                        It would probably help to know what your kids usually eat for lunch, so we could make recommendations. If you change things up too much at once, there's likely to be a minor rebellion (pun intended).

                        But as far as what most kids are given, probably the worst thing is nitrate filled lunch meat, bologna, sliced meats, hot dogs, and the like. Substitute home roasted chicken instead. Or homemade egg salad. Next worst is probably either the salty snacks or processed cheese. You could easily substitute good cheese for the nasty stuff. For snacks, you could try weaning them slowly (start with subbing pretzels for cheetos, then work your way towards healthier choices). Satisfying their sweet tooth with even commercially made yogurt is far better than cookies. You can gradually move them in even better directions as you learn what they will adjust to, and what they absolutely resist.

                        1. re: ePressureCooker

                          They eat lunch meats, and I absolutely want those eliminated as much as possible.

                          1. re: Guenevere

                            Why not just buy ones that aren't chemically cured? As an intermediate step, anyway? Whole Foods and other health food groceries have Wellshire Farms or Garrett County lunch meats, hot dogs, keilbasa which taste better than anything on the market, IMO. Even uncured beef bologna.

                            1. re: Guenevere

                              Then I would recommend instead of making a chicken for dinner, make two, and use the leftover meat for sandwiches for the following days. Not only is it better for them, but its a heckuva lot cheaper than lunch meats.

                              Use peanut butter for sandwiches, too, because it has a lot of protein and will help them feel full. Home made egg salad is easy enough, and eggs have a lot of protein, too, if eventually you want to try it, you can make your own mayo really easily. Leftover pot roast too. If they like cheese, just give them good organic cheese instead of processed slices.

                              Once you get them used to the change in the sandwich filler, then you can start working on the bread. If you want to make your own, I saw a 1 hour sandwich bread recipe that I tried once (sorry, don't have the link) that was unspectacular as far as taste goes, but it worked, and the bread still tasted better than Wonder Bread or similar store bought varieties. And it won't have all the preservatives and chemicals that commercially made bread does (even bakery goods have a lot of additives that most home cooks don't use.) Get them used to that, start adding a little wheat or whole grains to it, and gradually get them accustomed to whole grain breads.

                              By which time they'll be so used to the completely changed diet that they won't even realize you've completely changed their diet. ;D

                        2. Perfect season for salads. Chef, Cobb, Nicoise, etc.

                          For breakfast, you can't beat toast, egg and orange or banana. Toast first, 2 minutes for the egg and 3 minutes for clean up. Boil the eggs if you are really pinched for time, and nuke frozen whole wheat buns.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: MickiYam

                            Boiled egg can go in lunch boxes too.

                            For breakfast cereal stick with oatmeal or make granola.

                          2. Heard about this website from "Pandora's Lunchbox", a similarly themed book:


                            1. Hrmm, you say you make pickles and preserves, so it would be a short step to start making sauces and canning them at the weekends too. Even venturing out to canning stewed tomatoes would allow you to make a quick easy pasta whilst controlling the salt and sugar that gets added.

                              Oatmeal would be great for breakfast and is extremely adaptable. There's lost of slow cooker recipes you can put together before bedtime and if you buy instant then it can be made easily in the morning. You can use fruit and your homemade preserves to flavour them.

                              A fun idea for chicken dinner would be to buy a whole chicken and break it down. Or buy it pre-broken down for ease. Get your kids to help you make it and you can even get them to decide how they want it to be seasoned that week. Oven chips are super easy too. Here's an Ina Garten recipe that works well;

                              Baked "chips" (2nd recipe down)

                              Another plan might be to also try making something from scratch each week. Say you previously bought meatballs pre-made and frozen. This week you'll make them from scratch. Look up recipes, chose a recipe that takes your fancy and try it out.

                              Finally, good meal planning is a great help to me. I eat very few processed foods these days. I plan out 10 meals for each 2 week period, then build a shopping list from that list. You could do one for suppers if that's the meal you mainly make and your OH can sort the kids lunch one out. Again, you can get the kids to help pick out the meals here too.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Musie

                                what kinds of meals do you plan for the 2 weeks?