I remember when the toughest decision I faced while grocery shopping was whether to purchase a name brand product or its generic equivalent. That was before I started learning about nutrition. Now when I shop, I’m faced with an abundance of questions:
- Are the pesticides used on fruits and vegetables harmful to environmental and human health?
- What makes processed foods unhealthy?
- What are the implications of genetically modified organisms?
- Why is there so much hype about raw milk?
- Which forms of food packaging contain BPA?
- How does high fructose corn syrup differ from regular sugar?
- How do the antibiotics and hormones given to animals impact environmental and human health?
- How can I afford to purchase healthy foods on a limited grocery budget?
The recommendations that stem from the answers to these questions can be confusing and overwhelming.
As my husband and I continue researching nutrition, we’ve adopted some simple strategies to prevent our menu planning and grocery shopping from being reduced to utter mayhem.
- Take one baby step at a time. Trying to change everything at once is difficult and can reduce your chance of success. Why? You feel overwhelmed and out of control in response to the sudden, massive change. Incremental changes, on the other hand, help you adjust both physically and mentally to the changes. Moreover, given the cost of healthy foods, incremental changes can help you manage the budgetary implications of healthy eating.
- Prioritize. Prioritizing helps you choose which baby step to take first, second, and so forth. There are numerous factors to consider when prioritizing. One factor my husband and I consider is the frequency with which we consume a given food. We eat apples more than any other fruit, so we’ve made it a priority to purchase organic apples. We use a lot of crushed tomatoes, so we’ve made finding an alternative to BPA-laden canned tomatoes a priority. Another factor to consider is cost. You may find it easiest to prioritize based on how much it will cost to adopt each recommendation, adopting those that are less costly first. The impact each recommendation will have on your family is another consideration. You can determine which recommendations will have the most beneficial impacts and adopt these first.
- Be realistic. There may be circumstances beyond your control that limit what recommendations you can adopt. You may want to bake your own bread but find yourself too busy to do so because you’re caring for several young children. Your family may experience a job loss that requires you to reduce your spending on groceries. You or a family member may be on a specific diet to treat a medical condition. Though it’s hard, try not to be too discouraged by these limitations. Try to find good alternatives that are realistic.
- Keep healthy eating in perspective. It’s no exaggeration to say that your food choices can be a life or death issue. Will eating a doughnut once a year give you a heart attack? Probably not. Will eating fast food on a rare occasion make you obese or give you cancer? Probably not. Negative health consequences generally result when a person eats poorly for a while. In other words, don’t panic if you’re not eating as healthily as you should. Start reading up on nutrition today and use the strategies listed here to move in a positive direction. What about the spiritual implications of healthy eating? As Christians, we should be wise stewards of our bodies, but healthy eating should not become an idol. There’s a lot more to discuss regarding this topic, so I encourage you to peruse the following thought-provoking posts: Embracing a Food Philosophy Without Judging Others, Food Choices Are Not a Moral Issue, and When Food Choices ARE a Moral Issue (the second and third posts are from Keeper of the Home).
- Shop and eat without shame. Once you’ve enlisted the abovementioned strategies, purchase, prepare, and eat your food without feeling shame. Sometimes I feel bad while I grocery shop or put dinner on the table. I want to purchase grass-fed beef, but we lack the money for it. I want to bake snack crackers for my husband instead of purchasing a boxed variety, but I don’t have the time. A little bit of this shame may be good because it motivates me to make changes. However, when I’m making changes in an incremental and calculated manner, there’s no reason to feel shame. There’s every reason to feel good about my successes and to be encouraged to continue making improvements. The same is true for you!
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the abundance of healthy eating recommendations? How do you manage this mayhem?