Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to make “better than horrible” choices at social gatherings today (this week, this summer, whatever).
When you’re out to eat, at a family get-together, a potluck, a neighborhood party, and end-of-the-year celebration at school…you’ll likely be inundated with a plethora of foods, most of them absolutely terrible for your health.
Will eating them kill you instantly?
Will indulging in a few – or even a dozen of them! – kill you eventually?
Not in such a direct, morbid way. For most of us, our bodies can handle some junk food as long as we’re feeding it nourishing foods most of the rest of the time.
It’s stress about food that may get to us in the end, so it’s important to let loose every so often. This NPR report shared a study done on how people’s mental outlook about eating literally changes their feeling of satiety and hunger, even when consuming the exact same item, and I’ve been reading The Great Cholesterol Myth this weekend and learning about how much stress (particularly chronic stress) can increase your cholesterol levels and blood pressure, even in the absence of any bad foods.
Having a plan for your social indulgences, or not, and keeping the right attitude about whatever you choose, can make a big difference on your health, regardless of what you put in your mouth.
Making an Impact on the Buffet Table, One Recipe at a Time
Imagine a buffet of typical holiday potluck foods:
- hamburgs and hot dogs (nitrates, who knows what?) on white flour buns
- potato salad (inflammatory soybean oil, artificial sweeteners)
- crescent rolls wrapped around mini hot dogs (trans fats, white flour, nitrates)
- pasta salad (white flour, soybean oil, added sugars)
- green bean casserole (MSG, weird fats, white flour)
- slow cookers full of white pasta, sugary BBQ meatballs, and dips made with Velveeta
- crackers (industrial fats)
- desserts galore (trans fats, white flour, white sugar in abundance)
Now imagine what you could bring if you had the Gluten-Free Snacks Community Cookbook in hand:
- Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and fresh vegetables
- Pomegranate Guacamole
- Chorizo-Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon
- Paleo Pizza Poppers
- Potato Rosti Pizzas
- Quinoa Crusted Oven Fried Onion Rings (with Spicy Dipping Sauce)
- Smoked Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Meatballs
- Raw Peanut Butter Coconut Bites
- Brutti e Buoni (Hazelnut Cookies)
and 25 more gluten-free, naturally sweetened (if sweet at all) recipes for your own on-the-go snacking, after-school re-fueling, or potluck contributions. See the full table of contents and photos HERE.
What to Choose on That Buffet?
I’m digressing slightly from the mission at hand here, but I promise, I’ll pull right back in.
The question is: when you’re out of the house and not completely in charge of the meal, what do you eat?
I believe there are ways to make what I call “better-than-horrible” choices in any social eating situation.
I have a few pretty hard and fast rules, for example, as the really, really basic foundation:
- no artificial sweeteners, ever
- no known trans fats (which might mean to ask about the French fries or avoid the pie pastries, since those are common sources)
- not too many nitrates/cured meats (although I throw caution to the wind for bacon, every time)
- reduce white flour products
- something nourishing before major indulgence
Will I grab a tiny cookie before eating lunch sometimes? Maybe. Don’t shoot the messenger.
Lately I’m really trying to ask myself, “Is this truly amazing in my mouth? Is it a beloved taste that is worth white flour and white sugar? Am I loving what I’m eating?” Oftentimes, the answer is, “Eh. Not really.” This has been a really good attempted habit for me and has enabled me to take a few bites and not go back for more.
I’ve increased my consciousness about eating, and it only took me 33 years of life to figure it out.
My Potluck Plate
Practically, here is how some of the other “rules for social eating” play out on my plate and my children’s plates:
- Fresh or cooked vegetables = always choose
- If I didn’t make the dip, it’s a toss-up. I have to either know I’ll love it or have some idea that the base is sour cream, avocado or legumes, rather than straight soybean oil.
- Fresh fruit = always choose (load up those kids’ plates and let them go back for seconds and thirds of fruit so they don’t notice/don’t have room for much other junk!)
- Meats – if they’re not cured meat (ham, pepperoni, smoked lunchmeat) I’ll typically choose a meat. I often put a hamburger on lettuce instead of a white flour bun if I can help it (but not 100% of the time). I might have an open-faced sub sandwich and toss the top layer of bread. Mustard is a better condiment than ketchup or processed mayo.
- Cheese, salad, etc. = typically choose. I want to try to fill my plate and stomach with fairly nourishing foods and leave some room for indulgences.
- Plain white flour rolls and biscuits? Skip. There’s usually so many other good foods that these aren’t even a temptation for me!
- If I can visually see whole food ingredients in something (casserole, salad), it has a better chance of being added to my plate than something that’s obviously super-processed and if I have a hunch of tons of industrial oils or MSG, I’ll skip it. Mexican and Asian style dishes tend to be on the safer side for this.
- BBQ sauce is loaded with sweeteners, so I try to go lighter on that (except when it’s the only main course, then you just gotta throw caution to the wind)
- I always bring something my family loves, that they’ll eat in large portions, and that it truly nourishing (and usually that others will recognize and enjoy, too). That way we can have at least one item on the spread that we can load up on without thinking about it.
- At the dessert table…I’m not too picky. Smaller portions and really analyzing whether you want to/need to finish an item are good goals, and you can always choose fruit as a dessert or seek to avoid trans fats when possible, lean toward desserts with fewer refined grains, etc. But if you don’t know the cooks and the recipes, that can all be touch. The dessert table is where you just need to make the decision: Am I skipping it altogether and happy about that, am I going to take a small piece and not stress about it, or am I going to enjoy, indulge, and not stress about that?
Note: With the youngest children, Mommy makes all the decisions about what is offered to them but still provides a choice: “Would you like cucumbers, homemade potato salad, a hamburger cut up, or all 3?”
I just don’t mention the potato chips and MSG-laden dips they can’t see because they’re too short. If someone offers them the chips, I’ll let them have a few – but I typically draw the line on known sources of MSG. Excito-toxins are not what I want to pump up my children with in a big crowd!
With my oldest, the 9-year-old, we offer him a lot of choices. There are things I’ll put my foot down on (artificial sweeteners is a 100% never-compromise issue), but mainly, for special occasions, we let things slide. It’s my new goal for this summer to have more food decision discussions with him:
- “What do you think is an appropriate amount?”
- “How does this food make you feel?”
- “Is this a special occasion or everyday food, and why?”
- “Where are some good choices you can add to your plate to balance some of the fun foods?”
- “Why do you think Mommy is not choosing that food, even though it looks really tasty?”
But most importantly, if you’re going to indulge, either a little or a lot – don’t stress about it. Commit to letting go completely. And seek to reduce the stress about food in your own home, too.
Another note: If you have food allergies, sensitivities, or are in the midst of a special diet like GAPS, then all bets are off. You have to eat within your restrictions, usually by bringing your own foods or avoiding major social eating situations at times. This is your health, and unfortunately compromises can really throw off your progress.
Frugal Cooking Hangout This Week
I’m super excited to host Erin Chase of $5 Dinners and Jessica Fisher of Life as Mom and Good Cheap Eats this week for a KS Connect *Plus* Google Hangout on a special day, Wednesday, May 28th. Join us live from 9-10p EDT or just click “maybe” at the event page to get a reminder and catch the replay anytime on YouTube. MORE INFO HERE. (See all the past Hangouts, on topics from Paleo food to balancing an unprocessed day, right HERE.)
The Kitchen Stewardship Scale-Back Plan
In the interest of reducing my stress and keeping me alive past age 40, my husband and I have realized that something needs to change with my work schedule, which far too often is happening between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
Keeping up with what has become a full-time business, making all our food from scratch, parenting three little blessings and committing to sustaining a healthy marriage has overfilled my proverbial plate, so I’m making some conscious changes in what I do.
I’ll still be here at Kitchen Stewardship, writing posts and answering comments, but I’ll be posting less, hiring one contributing writer a week, less active on social media, and I may become even worse at answering emails than I already am. I’m going to get more sleep and spend better quality time with my kids instead of feeling like I always want to be running to the computer to get “one more thing” checked off my list.
The Scale-Back Plan will be in effect from right now until at least January, when potentially something very exciting will happen in our home, almost as exciting as what will happen in October…
What’s in October?
Some of the more observant among you may have been asking the question already after viewing my messy house videos – “Is Katie expecting?”
That darn pink shirt.
The answer is yes, God has decided we’re not screwing up the three children He’s already given us too badly, apparently, and would like us to bring one more soul into the world and into the faith. Exciting and very daunting! I’m due the last week of October, and yes, I remember saying after number three that I hated hospitals and would never do that again if God had a number four in mind.
So. We have some huge decisions to make about this birth!!! Right now we’re in flux, big time, but of course I’ll share all the juicy and natural-living-oriented details when the time is right.
Monday Missions Taking a Break – But Also Available from the Beginning!
Next week will be the last official Monday Mission you’ll see until the end of the summer – a little hiatus from that part of my routine is part of the scale-back plan, and besides that, summer isn’t always the most conducive time for making changes in the kitchen.
Don’t worry, KS will still be full of great ideas, time-saving tips, foodie research and essays, and challenging posts – just not with the structure of the Monday Missions.
But you can start from the beginning, coming soon!
One of the behind-the-scenes projects I’ve been working on is preparing the top 25 basic Monday Missions, starting from the beginning (5 years ago!), so that anyone can sign up to receive them once a week (on Mondays of course). This will be perfect for:
- newbies to real food
- recent readers who are looking for those baby steps, right from the beginning
- readers at KS for just a few years who want to see where it all began
- those who have done all the missions but want a refresher or information to pass on to friends (each mission email will have the entire mission in the email, no clicking necessary to get the info you need, but also links to other supporting posts from the archives available at the bottom – a great way to be organized and able to find all the KS info in one place about basics like yogurt, chicken stock, dry beans and more)
Watch for an announcement and way to sign up someday…when I get the project finished…which might take a while under the new scale-back plan!
Many blessings on your and your family, and know that I am grateful for you being part of this grand Internet entrepreneurial experiment with me! This Memorial Day weekend in the States, we are also grateful for all the servicemen and women who have sacrificed so much to keep us safe and ensure our freedom. Have a lovely day, and eat well (or throw up your hands and don’t stress about it!).
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Amazon from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. See my full disclosure statement here.