I've been on a mission the last...oh 2 years or so...to force my family (i.e. my husband) to eat healthier. My definition of "healthier" is a very simple one, but hard to switch over to, so I've been doing it rather slowly, one change at a time. (Which is really the only lasting way to change a diet, I think.)
Here is my basic theory: The less the food has been "messed with" the healthier it probably is. I'm all for nature, baby. We lived for 1,000's of years before the invention of processed foods, added nutrients, "fake" mayonaise, ect. and I think we where honestly a lot better off. So like I said, easy to understand what's on my "good" list and my "bad" list but hard to put into action in today's world.
I started, way back two years ago with 3 moves that mostly just affected me:
1. I started buying fresh produce ONLY. No more canned (which has been processed, see?). Then winter hit and I had to also concede to flash frozen, which I've now learned can actually be a lot better then winter greens. (and I'll admit I still keep canned tomatoes around, because hell, sometimes I just cant find any good tomatoes!)
2. I switched as much as possible to whole grains. Whole grain bread (the real expensive kind, not the dyed brown white bread), whole grain rice, whole grain crachers, and whole grain flour in my baking.
3. I switched to honey over sugar whenever possible. I started buying honey sweetened yogurt, putting honey in my tea, and using honey in a lot of my baking. And when I couldn't do that I tried to use brown sugar over white. And when I couldn't use brown sugar I of course went ahead and chose real white sugar over corn syrup. So basically I moved in order of least processed to most processed in my sugars.
As soon as Josh and I got used to those changes, I moved on to something VERY close to my husbands heart. Our processed foods. I made the changes 1 at a time, again, so as not to give Josh shell shock. I basically look at the ingredients list and choose the one with the shortest and most recognizable list. We now pop our own popcorn. Ingredients: corn and oil of MY choosing. We also buy Adams all natural peanut butter. Ingredients: peanuts and salt. See the pattern here? You'd be amazed at the ingredient list on a jar of Jiffy peanut butter or box of Pop Secret popcorn.
We also now buy all-natural salad dressings, all-natural barbeque sauce, Annies over Kraft mac and cheese, steel cut oats over instant, dried over canned beans, whole-fat dairy products, and when I couldn't do any better I switched Josh to Triscuts over Wheat Thins on my mom's advice. Boy loves his crackers.
One place I haven't been able to budge Josh, though, is margarine. Stuff is pure processed evil but he was raised with it and he loves it. And while he will use butter now in almost all the baking he does he still likes to use it to spread on his toast (and sometimes if I'm not watching him to butter his pan for eggs). I just cant find a good alternative. He wants the ease of spreading and I cant stand leaving butter on the counter to rot. We go thru so little that it always would.
And I realize suddenly that you may think we are WAY healthier eaters then we really are so let me say once and for all that Yes, we have Ramen Noodles in our pantry. Yes, Zeke eats Gerber snacks. Yes, I almost always have oreos around the house. And, no, none of that will change any time soon. I do what I can but I'm no whole foods afficiando. Just a concerned wife and mother with a slight yet growing hippie streak. Blame Washington.
The next step (besides further gleaning our snack and processed foods) is to plant a garden so we can have fresh organic veggies for part of the year. We decided there is no way we will be able to plant more then our tomatoes this year (and only those because they are going to be hanging) but that also will give me a full year to start my plot and my compost pile. The key to healthy veggies is healthy soil, yes?