Real Food Challenges: Your Questions Answered (Part One)

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Real Food Challenges - Your Questions Answered

In yesterday’s Monday Mission, I asked you to share your top 3 real food strategies to really make it happen and stick to it.

Today, I want to discuss the hard part – the biggest challenges people face as they transition to (or try to keep up with) a real food lifestyle.

We talked about this question on Facebook a few months back, and today I’m going to list the top challenges from this conversation and start to answer them with my best suggestions – I invite you to chime in via the comments as well!

I asked, “As you transitioned to real food, what did you find to be the biggest challenge?”

The Curse of the Clock

No Time for Real Food?

The hardest part of real food for most is TIME, which makes sense – convenience food is called so for a reason. I totally empathize with this problem, as I always feel behind and underwater when it comes to to-do lists myself!

Unfortunately, there’s no easy or comprehensive answer for that one – each situation is going to be different. When, for example, “Teaching kids to help out,” works for one family, it’s not so effective  if you only have a toddler.

I offer plenty of time-saving tips in the archives at KS, including these:

When Husbands Aren’t on Board

half marathon

Many on that thread, and other readers over the years, struggle with being united as a couple with their husband. Many husbands resist real food. (Not all of them of course! Some men chase real food with more urgency than women, but in my experience over the last 5 years of listening to people make positive healthy changes, husbands can be trouble for goals.)

The husbands who aren’t on board tend to enjoy their snacks and junk food, they may not believe that healthy food is important, they may have deep-seeded habits, or they may simply lack will power, partly because they’re not fully invested.

My story is one of the “success stories” on the husband front – my husband grew up on a Standard American Diet, and even after being diagnosed and having surgery for Crohn’s Disease, an autoimmune disease in the gut, no one talked to him about how he ate.

He begrudgingly put up with some of our changes for the first four or five years after our oldest child was born, but he didn’t buy into it all.

Two things happened to turn the tables:

1. He saw real food completely knock out some nasty Crohn’s symptoms that doctors had not been able to touch.

2. He started to own his own health, committing to work out and eat better, and when he tasted success, it motivated him to do more.

He is a man who used to hate running and has now done a half marathon. A man who used to drink soda daily and hasn’t had a sip in nearly two years. A man who is challenging his friends to embark on a shared “get healthy” challenge, where they will set goals, work out for 90 days straight, and support each other through daily check-ins.

He owns his health, cares about his body, and, because he’s seen good things happen, he’s down with my nutritional philosophy of traditional foods, healthy fats, low gluten/grains and more.

Here’s another great spouse success story from a reader on that thread:

So very blessed my husband jumped on board quickly … We are not looking back … He and I have lost 20 plus pounds and he has suffered with daily headaches for 30 yrs taking a concoction of meds to alleviate the pain but after six weeks of real while food, he is a walking testimony to the benefits since he has only had two bad headaches and he notices his energy in the afternoon. For those with stubborn husband issues, I recommend looking for ways to fix a few loved recipes with whole real food … Many sources of recipes and blogs and but in general keep making new stuff they will learn to like it when they see the benefits. Really they have to want to feel better.

Believe that it’s possible! For some ideas about how to go about a real food lifestyle when hubby isn’t with you:

Getting Out of the Clutch of the Box

Fried Rice with Veggies (9) (475x316)

I saw another trend on the Facebook thread about breaking old habits, particularly when it came to thinking beyond boxed or canned side dishes and recipe ingredients for dinner.

A few quotes:

“Boxed side dishes for dinner, like rice-a-roni”

“Too many recipes use packaged ingredients.”

I still have a hard time rethinking a “meal” when some meat, a box of side dish (rice a roni, mac n cheese, etc), and a can for veggies was what I did for so long

And it IS very tricky! Unless you’re running in real food circles, a lot of recipes you find online and via Pinterest still include processed junk – taking the time to cook from scratch and be foiled because it’s still not even “from scratch” is NO FAIR.

It’s really the reason I wrote Better Than a Box in the first place and the precise mission of the 200+ page book: to help people take their own favorite recipes that include processed ingredients and transform them into real food meals the family still recognizes and enjoys.

(All my books are 50% off through Saturday if you buy at least 3, by the way! See them all HERE.)

Some “out of the box” ideas to combat old habits:

  1. Use frozen veggies instead of canned. Far more nutrients and just as easy. Everyone needs a quick side and a little grace.
  2. Offer simple cut raw veggies and a yummy dip – you can make the dip outside of the frenzied meal prep time and hopefully it will last a few days, too. (Probiotic avocado dip and garlic sweet potato dip are two examples, with more in Better Than a Box, Healthy Snacks to Go, and The Family Camping Handbook.)
  3. Plan sides right along with the meal, so that you know what you’re making. Sometimes deciding is half the battle, so don’t leave that part until 5 p.m.
  4. Try these simple sides, many of which make enough for more than one meal – leftovers always simplify things!

More to Come…

That thread was packed with ideas that deserve addressing, so the first three here are “part one” of Real Food Challenges – I’ll probably get another blog post out of this remaining list this month, and I’m thinking perhaps the February monthly newsletter will cover the rest:

  • kids
  • eating on the go (especially with little ones)
  • old temptation, habits
  • sugar
  • learning to cook and prioritizing it, knowing what ingredient does what
  • healthy recipes that taste good – can’t afford to waste ingredients and time on flops!
  • sourcing real food
  • eating out
  • money/budget
  • too much information to sift through
  • meal planning
  • extended family and culture of treats everywhere, school and the same

What responses to you have to the time/husbands/habits challenges? I can’t wait to hear!

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Clock image from Pixabay.

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11 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. says

    In both the time and habit categories, my favorite tip is to prepare a whole lot of an ingredient at once, use some right away, and freeze the rest in handy recipe-sized portions. Here are some details about how I do it:

    I guess it works in the husband category, too–he might be more likely to cook a meal if some of the ingredients are pre-chopped, measured, and thawed, ready to add!

    We just got a slow cooker, and I am looking forward to finding ways to use it to make more real foods efficiently!

      • says

        Yes, this is our first slow cooker! We resisted because our kitchen is small and we didn’t know where we would keep it. Still a little unsure about that. But we made lentil sloppy joes that were pretty good and definitely easy, and I am thinking it will be a very useful tool for us!

        • casey says

          When I lived in an apartment and had a tiny galley kitchen – I kept my slow cooker on top of the dryer. (the laundry room was behind louvered doors at the end of the kitchen)

  2. Alissa says

    My answer to avoiding the box for sides and reducing the dishes?
    I don’t cook side dishes for most of our meals! =) My menu is always focused on things that can “all in one” meals, like soups, fried rice, pasta with the veggies and meat mixed in, rice bowls with beans, veggies, and toppings, etc. Fresh fruit and chopped veggies are faster (and easier) than cooking a separate dish when we need something extra.

      • says

        One-pot meals cut down on dishes, too!

        We sometimes have to separate meal components to accomodate kid preferences–but he does eat many of the mixed-together foods, and I think it’s because we presented a lot of one-pot meals as normal food from the beginning.

  3. Anitra says

    My big thing with getting my husband on board was (a) not to push too hard (ie. I let him know I was going to try to get rid of the boxed and processed stuff for meals, but I would still buy him soda or other “junk” snacks if he wanted) and (b) to find out WHAT he cared about most in our meals. In his case, he was confident that “anything you cook will taste good, honey” (aww), but he was tracking calories (which is a lot easier with boxed/processed food). So, if I would give him complete ingredient lists for my recipes, he would put them into his tracking program on his iPhone and figure out the calories per serving. When I’m really trying to be extra helpful, I put the recipes in FOR him using a website.

    It’s been a few years now, and it’s working for us. We certainly don’t eat perfectly, but he’s been on board with every change I’ve made (even when I stopped buying soda except for special occasions). Left to himself, he’ll still buy snack food with artificial ingredients, but he’ll also step up and tell visitors why we don’t have any margarine or non-fat “creamer” in the house.

    The last few months, I’ve had all-day morning sickness and no energy, so we did revert to eating a lot more “convenience” food. (It was that, or not eating at all, really.) But it felt so good (for ALL of us) when I had the energy to start cooking from scratch again!

  4. Katherine says

    My husband has always been supportive of changing our food habits–but I’ve been the one doing, he’s been the one eating. One of the first things I did in our kitchen was eliminate MSG (6 years ago). I often shared info with him on how MSG was hidden on labels, and how “natural flavors” was a hiding place for lots of things… mostly thinking he knew I was doing it, but not realizing how much he was paying attention. Last week I was really sick and the doc suggested I eat some probiotic yogurt. Since I was too sick to go out myself (and label read…) I sent my husband with simple instructions to “just get activia, unless it has aspartame or nutra sweet, then try for organic”, and that was about it. (I avoid the yogurt section since I know there’s not a lot of value unless you make it on your own, and since I don’t have a good milk resource, yogurt stays out of my diet.) Low and behold, he came home with a great option (for being from the grocery store), organic, sweetened with honey, and all the right probiotics. I mentioned what a great job he did and he said, “It was the only one I could find that didn’t have natural flavorings!” He was label reading at the store! Make a girl’s heart flutter!

    He’s also enjoyed the benefits of a local meat source and sings the ranch’s praises with me when I share the resource with others. We both devour the chicken every time I make it. For the new year, he’s been making our breakfast every morning, 2 eggs (organic) with chicken and other vegetables, and it has been such a help in the morning. I know he’s fully on board now because he now also contributes to the health of our family! And I love him even more for it!

    • Angie says

      Nice story – my hubby is also mostly on board. My first task was finding good meat, and once I satisfied my carnivore with a local meat CSA we were set. It really helps when the food you switch to tastes 10 times better than store-bought too. He label reads for me and scoffs loudly in the aisles at corn syrup, artificial flavorings, etc. I’m so proud of him!

  5. says

    My husband whines about my “pickiness” in a good-natured way …. teasing that he’s going to pick me up margarine at the store or saying, “We buy skim milk, right?” He thinks I’m a bit nutty. My general policy is, for meals we have together, I’m going to make what I’m going to make. If he wants me to buy something just for him, I will. And if he buys a snack at work, I’ll never know.

    For a long time he was eating healthy at meals and living on ramen noodles and potato chips for his own snacks. But after years and years of health problems, he made up his mind to go gluten-free, and now he owns that himself. I serve gluten free meals when he is home. On his business trips, or when shopping for himself, he’s learned to read labels and take care of himself. When he slips up, he warns me ….. because he is quite a grouch when the gluten symptoms hit. 😉

    For sides, we usually have buttered rice or mashed potatoes. Booooooring. But easy. Oven-roasted potatoes aren’t much harder — if I can remember to put them in on time — and tastier in my opinion. And a frozen veg or a salad.

    Can you guess what my number one real food challenge is? BOREDOM. I can’t afford a million fancy ingredients for all the really good recipes. But in the freezer case next to the frozen peas there are always delicious-sounding complete meals with all kinds of different flavors. How can avocado not be in my budget, but a box of frozen burritos with avocado IN them actually turns out to be a better deal? I resist, but I am soooooo boooooored. I am always on the lookout for CHEAP recipes that don’t rely on artichoke hearts or brie to be delicious. But ….. those are the things that taste good. There really is only so much you can do with chicken and rice. And I am fairly certain we’ve done it all.

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