This is our second guest post in our 2020 Reader Advice and Tips Series where we invited our readers to submit guest posts with their best advice on how to cut out out processed food. Those who were chosen to be featured are receiving a signed copy of one of my cookbooks (their choice)! A big thank you to everyone who turned in a submission. We loved getting to know you!
Life didn’t really give me an option.
If you would have asked me 10 years ago if label reading, real food, fruits, and veggies were important I would have answered with a resounding “Yes!” Like any soon-to-be first time mom, I had visions in my head of how I would make all our baby food filled with delicious fruits, vegetables, nutritious meats, homemade stocks, and all-natural sweeteners. I toiled and slaved over the stove, cooking, pureeing and then freezing big batches of baby food that first year. I was so proud. But when baby #1 had an allergic reaction to peanut butter just after her first birthday, I was reminded of the importance of reading labels.
Two years later, baby #2 had an allergic reaction to dairy the very first time I ever fed him real food, and that landed us in the doctor’s office and my 7-month-old on oral steroids. At that time I sat up and focused even more.
Flash forward three more years, and baby #3 had a life-threatening reaction to cashew butter at 14 months requiring two EpiPens, a visit to the ER, and a 36-hour hospitalization. It was then my eyes were really wide open to the importance of the food that crossed my children’s lips.
My Best Advice
I will admit my story is unconventional, and quite honestly, I hope food allergies never happen to you, but here is what we do have in common …” we learn!”
My Top 5 Tips For Cutting Out Processed Food
- Read ingredient labels.
You would be amazed at how many ingredients are in most store-bought foods. Labels became critical to me along this journey. At first, I was looking to ensure that it didn’t contain the life-threatening foods my children were allergic to, but along the way, I learned so much about the ingredients that are in processed foods. The fewer ingredients, the better.
- Go at your own pace.
While we cut out peanuts, dairy, and tree nuts cold turkey, unless it’s a medical necessity, I would truly recommend going at a slower pace. It is hard to change everything instantly. Instead, set yourself up for success and pick a few areas that are most important to you, focus on them and then continue to convert to real foods at a pace that works for you and your family. Don’t set yourself up to fail by overwhelming yourself. Remember, this is a healthy journey we are on!
- Make it fun!
Maybe making homemade bread is totally your jam, but maybe it’s not and that’s still okay. Find the areas and aspects of this real food lifestyle and journey that you love and focus on improving those areas first. It is okay to buy some store-bought items, just remember to go back to step one and check those ingredient labels to make certain you are feeding your family the best foods that your lifestyle and budget allow.
With three young children, snacks are crucial in my house, and that third child of mine is the “King of Snacks” (I mean really, does he even eat actual meals?). I find if we have healthy snacks on hand, then my children make better choices, and I am much happier with what is filling them up in between meals. Plus, I feel like I am setting them up for success in the future —you know, when they are on their own and I am no longer around gently reminding them about the importance of healthy eating.
- You still have to live.
For so many years, strict avoidance of all our allergens and the food we ate consumed and crippled me. It was not healthy. The food allergies and fear of another reaction created so much anxiety in me that it began affecting all aspects of our family. Find a happy balance so that you may still enjoy life while making good real food and real-life choices.
The most important thing is to believe that you can do this! Find the advice, knowledge, and tools that work for you and give it your all. You and your family will be glad you did.
To follow our journey and see how far we have come visit http://www.tealfork.com. I talk about food, food allergies, life with multiple food allergy children, and our life-changing Oral Immunotherapy with an amazing Allergist.