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I Mean, Really. You Can Only Eat So Many Almonds.

I’ve said here and there and everywhere before that I do NOT like eating plans/diets/whatever that prohibit certain items. No matter how much I actually like that item, I’ll instantly crave it non-stop if someone tells me I can’t have it. PERIOD. END OF STORY. Even if someone says, “I just gave up all fast food.” I’d be like, “I could go years without eating fast food, but the second you told me I had to stop? I’d want it for EVERY MEAL.”

There’s one nutritional concept I have been thinking about a lot lately. The “Whole Foods” trend. The idea that maybe putting things into our body that have been over processed is a bad thing – that seems logical to me. I get that. It has always freaked me out when there are words I can’t pronounce in the ingredients section of the foods I eat.

BUT – here’s the thing. I could never jump on the train of the movement that takes it to the SEVERE EXTREME. I couldn’t buy all organic veggies and free-range eggs/beef/fish/unicorn. I couldn’t give up dairy. I couldn’t avoid all packaged snack foods forever. Here’s why:

1. I am lazy.

I just don’t feel like putting together healthy snacks for myself and the kids all the time. When I think, “Hmm…would I rather package up some homemade trail mix, or give the kids a pack of crackers?” I think: CRACKERS! Every time because I don’t even have to move for that one. The kids know where the snack box is with the crackers and cereal bars. Also? I don’t feel like fighting with them about it.

2. I am busy/I don’t care enough

I know that most people believe that you’re never too busy for something that’s important to you. And I agree 100%. So, I prefer to say I’m too busy to constantly be making stuff from scratch when pre-made options are quicker. But I know that if I cared, I’d make the time. But, I prefer to say “I am too busy” because it makes me feel less shitty.

3. That shit is EXPENSIVE.

Yes. There are several articles out there that proclaim that you can eat healthy/whole on a limited budget. And I’m sure you can. But when you factor in 5 people and time limits associated with the schedules of those 5 people – it’s just impossible to shop around. And, it’s impossible prepare that much food all the time for all those people. But I’ll say this – even if I had all the time in the world, and all the desire, I still think there’s no way I could feed my family as affordably the “Whole Foods” way as I do the “Healthy But Sometimes Processed” way we do now.

4. I can’t get too worked up about how bad it is for us.

Yes. I’m sure it’s not great for us to have all these weird chemicals in our bodies all the time. But I’m also not going to make it a black and white issue where, unless you’ve eliminated all the chemicals all the time, you’re going to die of cancer. There are tons of people who still get cancer and there are tons of people who eat nothing but McDonald’s and live until they’re 92. My Dad was super fit and healthy and died from cancer at 62. I can’t get so worked up about it that I just create an environment where my kids have to bring their own snacks to the ball field because I don’t let them eat the goldfish that one Mom brought the team. I just don’t feel like – big picture – that it has to be one extreme or another. I don’t think the options are: ALL WHOLE/NATURAL FOODS or PAINFUL DISEASE-RIDDEN DEATH. I’ll probably always allow my kids the periodic fast food happy meal. And I probably won’t even lose any sleep over it.

I still support the “Whole Foods” movement.

In general, however, I do support the movement. And while I still buy meat from the store, I buy more of it from the meat department than I do the freezer section. I avoid ground meat unless it’s got some sort of fancy labeling on it that suggests maybe there’s no rat meat in there. I feed my kids obnoxious amounts of fruit. We buy organic milk. (Only because not everyone drinks it. If everyone in my family drank as much milk as Donnie does? We couldn’t afford organic all the time.) I cook a hell of a lot of fresh veggies, especially this time of year when they’re everywhere and more affordable.

But we also hit the McDonald’s drive-thru sometimes for chicken nuggets on an out-of-town trip. I buy pre-packaged crackers with tons of that yellow food coloring my kids love so much. We eat a lot of breads and cheese.

So…on the Cheeze Whiz to Whole Foods spectrum we’re closer to the Whole Foods side than the Cheeze Whiz side, but we’re not ever going to be poster children for any kind of Whole/Natural lifestyle.

But…BUT…this week I decided to just give it a try. I have several friends doing a 21 day detox/diet thing to jump start/reboot their weightloss. I can’t get on board with that for a number of reasons (see: Lazy/Busy/Not Care Enough) but I decided in some sort of solidarity, I’d at least try to do the Whole Foods thing this week.

Y’all…IT’S HARD. In some ways I’m being fairly strict: No dairy, bread, processed snacks. In other ways I’m not because I’m eating a ton of sliced sandwich meat. But, still, it’s a HUGE CHANGE for me. I didn’t realize how much I depended on the quick cereal bar/granola bar for snacks/fuel throughout the day. I also didn’t realize how much cereal I eat. Now that I’m trying to avoid those types of things I realize how big of a part they played in my diet.

I’m okay with almonds, as long as they’re blanched. I found out I have a limit to how much fruit my stomach can handle. And my stomach still can’t handle raw vegetables.

But all in all? Two days in and I’m totally doing okay! I could see me keeping a lot of these substitutions around for awhile. It’s not complicated feeding everyone else because I always cooked Whole Food dinners and we all eat separately the rest of the meals. Now, Sunday is family dinner and I have a whole hell of a lot of recipes I want to try that don’t fit into the Whole Foods model – but I think I can stick with this for 3 weeks while the rest of my friends finish their detox.

Do you eat Whole Foods? What type of snacks do you eat? That’s the toughest part for me. Finding good snack replacements because I eat all day long. This body needs nutrition constantly, and while the blanched almonds are okay – they’re getting really old, really fast.

33 thoughts on “I Mean, Really. You Can Only Eat So Many Almonds.”

  1. Lara bars!! I rely on them when I need a quick and easy breakfast or snack because I have a gluten intolerance and can’t grab my previous favorite bagel or muffin (or even crackers!) anymore. I’ve read lots of people talking about how they fit into the Paleo diet, so I think they probably qualify under your current Whole Food eating plan. And they come in LOTS of flavors, so that might help with the “getting old fast” problem.

  2. We do not eat Whole Foods as you described it, and frankly I have doubts about the necessity of such a strict diet. But, we do avoid artificially processed foods and refined carbohydrates. My husband, n particular, finds his metabolism requires it and has done so very faithfully for almost a decade. I don’t feel a dip in my energy/health unless I overindulge, so I’m more likely to eat something processed now and again. And I believe being overly strict with kids diets sets up unhealthy eating. So, my toddler gets her goldfish crackers, a cookie with the other kids, and yesterday she even got McDonalds fries. But, overall, we eat pretty naturally.

    Snacks we rely on: hard boiled eggs (boil a bunch at once and keep them in the fridge), Babybel cheese, plain yogurt (stir in honey or if I have time blend it with fruit), fresh fruit, peanut butter on apples, raisins, nuts and sunflower seeds, premade trail mix if I can find a good one. but, I have to admit at this time of year the toddler and I mostly eat watermelon (I cut up a whole one and keep the bowl of cubes in the fridge) or Power of Fruit Popsicles.

    Also, if you slowly build up your raw fruit and veggie intake, your stomach will adjust and process them mine. But, you really don’t want to shock your system.

  3. SO WEIRD because a friend from boot camp was telling me about Lara Bars too. I’ve tried one or two and they were AWFUL but she swears some flavors are good. Do you have any recommendations? She told me to try the Peanut Butter and Jelly one.

  4. Oh, yeah. I do not – on any level – think it’s necessary to live a strict natural/whole food diet. I may need to try the boiled eggs, although sometimes they upset my stomach too. Love the other suggestions.

    I didn’t even consider that I could build up a better tolerance to raw veggies. I just avoid them blanketly now, but maybe I can ease into it!

  5. If you don’t like dates, then you probably won’t like any of the flavors. So that might save you some time and money (since they’re handy, but not cheap!). I’ve found I like any of the chocolate-type flavors like chocolate chip cookie dough or there’s a brownie-type flavor that I enjoy. I’m kind of afraid to branch out very much because they do have some (I think) odd flavors. I had a lemon one once that I also liked, but again, it doesn’t seem to matter what flavor it is, I can ALWAYS taste the dates.

  6. OH. I don’t know if I like dates? Maybe that’s the problem. I’ll try a few more before I decide for sure. I think I tried a blueberry muffin one and something else.

  7. BTW, I really love how friendly and complimentary your “there is a reply to your comment” emails are from your blog. It kind of made my day, once I took the time to actually read what it was saying instead of skipping straight to the reply. 🙂

  8. I’m with you and that it makes logical sense to eat more whole foods that I can identify by sight than things I can’t. I’m not nuts about it, but I find that it makes it easier if I double a recipe and stick one in the freezer. Can’t do that with everything, but I can do it with at least half of the stuff I make. And for things I can’t I pre-cook, when I cook chicken for something, I’ll cook a ton of it and then freeze it so that I can eliminate that part the next time. I usually chunk up a bunch of it for salads, strips for fajitas and whole breasts/thighs for other things. I’ve done the same thing with ground beef, cook up a bunch, stick in pound bags in the freezer and then thaw when I want it. It’s not perfect, but it does help me especially on those nights I don’t want to “cook” anything because I’m too busy (really, just lazy).

    The snacks are hard for me too. I do dried fruits, different nuts, and peanut butter on apples so I’ll be checking back for suggestions.

  9. raw almonds are the snack i have depended on for months but yes, its getting old, i have reflux and dairy intolerances, so sometimes I can grab a bit of cheese and sometimes my stomach wont tolerate it.. its really hard for me to find breakfast and snack choices I can depend on. I used to cook a scrambled egg every morning for breakfast but sometimes eggs just gross me out, i like the taste but if i think too much about it, i make myself avoid eggs for weeks (but yes I am a weirdo)….I try to avoid too much fruit (the kids get a lot of berries and watermelon though) due to the sugar but I really wish I knew the best thing to do. I’ve lost around 26lbs in 6 months doing zumba but the last two months thanks to classes ending and vacations I have been maintaining my weight and not doing any further losing…in the past when i got into an eating rut, just changing things up for a week often caused a pound or two to drop, but i just dont know. I will be looking back for suggestions because I just like this morning I ate a crappy quacker chewy bar with basically nothing going for it, except i am out of almonds, currently grossed out by eggs and my backup protein bars I also ran out of

  10. I also have had to explore the “whole foods” route recently because I got diagnosed with a dairy allergy (epi pen worthy, sigh). So that pretty much eliminated eating out for a while until I could research which restaurants had their recipes online and/or find out how to deal with the whole cross-contamination issue.

    As a result, however, I’m getting really good at reading labels. And realize I’m too lazy to read labels so whole foods that have few ingredients it is! I’ve started to rely on a HUGE bowl of fruit on the kitchen table with various nut butters in the fridge to spice things up. Also the Justin’s nut butter company (they are local to me, so I have no idea how far they have distributed) has very handy nut butter packs, kind of like goo or athletic gels. I love the honey roasted pb one.

    Watermelon is another favorite. Tortillas with homemade guac (store bought guac has sour cream sometimes and see above about too lazy to read labels). And fruit veggie smoothies are another go to. Once I got over the “ewww it’s green” factor I realized I LOVED them. And as well, I was less reliant on the afternoon coffee/diet coke to get me through teaching hours of violin lessons. I just do spinach, whatever juice I have on hand and whatever bagged fruit is in the freezer. That helped my stomach get used to more raw veggies as well.

    Ok I”ll stop rambling and will definitely check back for more snack ideas!! Great post, zoot!

  11. I think every person is different, for me restriction of certain foods has cured my chronic heartburn and eating whole, unprocessed foods and no grains has actually DECREASED my food bill because my family and I simply eat less because we aren’t hungry all the time due to blood sugar swings.

    I don’t snack often but when I do I eat sunflower seeds, apple with almond butter, homemade trail mix with nuts and unsweetened coconut, salad (I make a huge salad that last for a few days to take to work, etc.), beef jerky (not from the grocery store, it’s full of BS ingredients) and sometimes bits of cheese but I’m trying to stay away from dairy.

  12. I *try* to keeps snacks to healthy alternatives but sometimes you just need a mini snickers bar! We always have fruit in the house, nectarines, plums, watermelon, bananans, different apples, berries of all kinds and I like to make home made salsa although tortilla chips are not too healthy. Also plantain chips are amazing! I can not eat Lara bars either, they are some nasty stuff!

    Annies Organic has a bunch of different kinds of snacks and they are available at Target http://www.annies.com/products

  13. I just took a summer class called Nutrition and Your Health–it totally changed the way I look at food. Yes, I still eat certain processed foods but I read labels more than ever now. I don’t know that I could ever get my family to change to a whole foods diet but we have added in a lot more fruits and veggies to our diet. If you are ever really interested in seeing “into” the food industry, read “Food, INC” and watch these movies–“Food, Inc,” “Fast Food Nation” (graphic and sexual content), “King Corn,” and the one that really changed how I look at food “Forks Over Knives.” Most people think of our food being grown on small farms and ranches but it’s not really like that–it just kind of blows my mind about how much I didn’t know how our food was grown or processed.

  14. Sometimes, I get on a kick that if my grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, I shouldn’t be eating it, but YES, it’s hard and more expensive and time-consuming, But I do the best that I can. 😀

  15. I can’t afford to eat all Whole Foods and it is just me. But working for a non profit makes you kinda poor. 🙂 I did do gluten free for awhile, and grocery shopping that way made me cry, not only because of the cost, but I am the same way. Tell me I can’t eat pasta and that is all I want. I still haven’t figured out how to cook the gluten free pasta right. It would always be too hard or soggy soggy soggy. That said, the one thing I did take away from that was smoothies. I was buying fresh fruit and cutting it up for my smoothies, but then I got lazy. Now I use the frozen fruit, but wash off the juices. I thaw it out first before throwing it in the blender and I usually put in Kale or baby spinach so I get my greens as well. Little Agave to sweeten it and some soy milk. Lately I have that for breakfast and a hard boiled egg and I am good until lunch. I know I should have a small snack but I always forget.

  16. Homemade hummus, homemade guac mine has sour cream, you can make it without). I dip raw carrots, celery and bell pepper slices in that, but I COULD eat it with a spoon, heh. If you were just doing gluten free vs. “no processed foods” you could use the The Mediterranean Snack Food Company ‘s Lentil crackers (I love the Rosemary/Olive Oil and I’m not gluten free, just love the crackers).

    I have my lunchmeat sliced at the deli, and make rollups of the meat, chopped herbs and guac or hummus (or since I’m not dairy free, lite cream cheese). Tie them shut with a green onion.

    Get a deli roast chicken, shred, mix with salsa and black beans, spoon into lettuce cups. Use boston or butter lettuce for the best cups. OR, you can just use romaine and make them wraps – fold like enchilada and tie shut with green onion. This is simple and when you can go back to dairy add either sour cream or cream cheese to the mix.

    Which – lettuce wraps are the easiest, and you can put anything your heart desires in them. To the above I ahve also added corn )a la black bean salsa) and I’ve used the variations of Asian cups as well. Just that tne deli chicken and jarred salsa is a very very easy option.

    A link for you to sesame almond brown rice balls, these are great. You can go nuts with this as a snack adding herbs, etc. This uses brown sushi rice – hope you can eat that?. http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/sesame-almond-brown-rice-balls-recipe.html – Check out her site 101cookbooks.com, I think you will find lots of ideas there. Some are time consuming but… so yummy. (vinegar and salt potatoes? YUM)

  17. I love the way your mind works. I tend to fall much more on the Whole Foods side of the issue, but am also not all or nothing. At home, we have mostly nonprocessed snacks (but not all – Xander LOVES fish crackers, and I let him eat them whenever). What I tend to be most anal about is food coloring. I try to avoid it, especially in his diet, all together. That doesn’t mean, though, that I’m going to snatch a cupcake out of his hand at a party because it has blue frosting on it. I may just try to wipe most of the frosting off before he notices. I have also not ever taken him to fast food. But will I hold to this forever? Probably not.

    I want to be healthy, my family to be healthy, and to support the healthy food industry/farmers/whatever as much as I can. But I also don’t want to be a jerk about it, and it’s not always possible to be perfect.

    Also important to note is: I don’t work out of the house, and my work IN the house is very sporadic, so I do have much more time to cook and prepare heathy foods. When I was super diligent and not quite as busy, I spent tons of time cooking and chopping. I don’t have that time now, so we have a lot more crackers and granola bars around.

  18. I say good for you for trying to cut back on processed foods. When I open the grocery flyer, I’m amazed at how much of what they sell is processed in some way.

    I’ve been following a website called “Mark’s Daily Apple,” which espouses the “primal” way of eating. MDA also acknowledges that for most people, it’s OK to eat their way (meats, veggies, fruits; no grains, lentils, processed foods) most of the time, like 80-20, and allow the other stuff now and then (like for special occasions). I do not follow that plan exactly, but feel like I’m in the learning/adapting/phasing in portion.

    Lately I’ve been making green smoothies for breakfast, having things like almonds, peanuts, cashews, carrot sticks for snacks, and a dinner that usually consists of grilled meat or fish, fresh salad with home-made vinagrette (very easy, just oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and a few herbs), and sometimes a sweet potato.

    As for being “lazy,” I don’t think it’s any “harder” to grab a handful of nuts than to grab some crackers out of a box; it’s more a matter of habit. I don’t buy the pre-packaged snack crackers because of what they have in them — but I did when I had kids at home because I didn’t know then what I do now. And they liked them — and sometimes with kids you bend a little to make sure they’re eating SOMETHING. Gah, I gave them pop tarts, instant oatmeal, and all sorts of things I refuse to have in my house anymore — not because they were picky eaters, but because thought it didn’t make that much difference.

  19. I am on day 24 of Whole 30 (you can Google for more info). Whole 30 is basically no dairy, no grain, no white potato, no sugar or sugar substitutes and a few other things. You can eat meat, seafood, fruit, veg, healthy oil, nuts and seeds. I have a significant amount of weight to lose and wanted to see what would happen on the Whole 30.

    I feel good and our grocery bill isn’t any higher. Since doing this I have CRAVED every food I can’t have. I tell myself if I still want it when I am done with the 30 days I can have it. I figure when I am “allowed” to have it I won’t even want it.

  20. We joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) this year. We get about 2 or 3 meals worth of meat, 1/2 dozen eggs, and a box of veggies each week. It is a little more work with all of the chopping of fresh stuff but we’ve had a lot of fun trying new things. That has gone a long way in improving our diets. We still eat some processed stuff because if you take away pasta I will cut you. The kids still eat cereal for breakfast (I’ve not eaten cereal for breakfast for years). Pretzels are still usually found in my pantry and ice cream is still usually in my freezer. But our dinner table tends to hold meats straight from the farm, veggies, and fruits. I’m kind of an “everything in moderation” kind of person so we will never be entirely whole foods.

  21. Oh and I am completely with you. The second someone says I can’t have something? It is all I can think about.

    And snacks are hard. We do veggies and hummus sometimes. Fruit sometimes. But often it is crackers or pretzels or fruit snacks. I suck.

  22. I like homemade guac in small quantities but I recently had a black bean/corn/advacado salsa I could eat by the BOAT LOAD.

  23. I think my problem is our snacks are CHEAP. Like bulk packs of crackers (8 packs for $2!). So to switch to a $5 bag of almonds that is only good for about 7 snacks, it adds up. Maybe if I wasn’t going from two huge extremes my bill wouldnt vary as much 😉

  24. Man. When I stayed at home it was worse because I baked a lot 😉 Again – my food decisions are not always the best ones in my past!!!

  25. I’ve always wanted to try our CSA but – can I be honest? I’m a bit intimidated. THE MEAT HAS BONES IN IT. I don’t think I know enough about food yet to brave that 😉

  26. For ours, the meat is optional. You can order just veggies or a pack with veggies and meat and eggs. You can also do an a la carte with eggs, milk and cheese. The flexibility is one of the reasons I chose the one I did.

  27. Ha! I think it was also peer pressure for me. I was in a “Crunchy Moms” club (I know, but it was the only one with women I liked!) and since THEY were super healthy, I was, too. Now? I’m not around such….avid health fanatics and I find that I’m a lot more lax about it myself.

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