Food Choices

Living in a house with four people is difficult enough when everyone cooks for themselves. Mr. Moon likes to HELP with the cooking, but prefers to be given direction and instructions rather than be given the title of an end-product and let loose. Mum is learning new things to cook all the time and is limited in her mobility. When we all originally discussed Mr. Moon and I moving here, I agreed to take responsibility for most of the cooking and meal planning and grocery shopping. Pops has no desire to participate in any of it, really, though we can send him grocery shopping and only expect a 10% variance from the list.

But beyond the physical and emotional is the medical. Cancer diet for hormone-related cancers recommends a low-hormone diet. This means that Pops needs to be cutting out, in order of importance: Red meat; fowl; dairy; fish; all animal products altogether (honey is OK). Best advice is to go vegan, but he's a cheese addict and has no desire to limit his enjoyment or undergo major life changes at this stage in life. Don't misunderstand me, he and Mum made LOTS of positive changes between diagnosis and us moving in, and we are gradually continuing those choices. But he's not willing to go totally vegan, and that's his choice.

Pops needs to limit red meat due to gout. Mum has a blood disorder that precludes her from eating too much red meat (too much iron in the blood). I have the opposite problem, I need to eat red meat on a regular basis or else I start dipping into anemia, and the first stage of that is EXTREME CRANKINESS. Two years of trial and error with weekly blood tests and the final medical-professional recommendation was: lean red meat at least every other day, try to increase fish consumption to supplement in between since red meat is supposed to be so bad for you, and keep eating lots of whole grains (which at the time was hard because I was so low-carb, I had to reintroduce them). Besides which, regular protein consumption helps regulate blood sugar, which is something I need to keep track of, and Mum needs to get her diabetes under control. Mr. Moon loves his meat and candy and cookies and dairy and greens and pasta and let's just say if it's tasty he'll eat it, but faced with both parents having diabetes he decided ages ago to make some better life and food and health choices, which I was happy to oblige and encourage.

Trying to combine all these diets has been a chore, and more often than not we all end up eating variations of the same meal. Mum & Pops tend to eat the same thing, and Mr. Moon and I tend to eat together, but we don't always all eat the same thing. Actually, we usually don't.

Where I was going with this is that we've struggled over the last month and change to get our menus and shopping lists in order, to try to be accommodating to each other's needs and treat our own issues with some amount of success. Thing is, this house is covered in candy and cookies and baked goods and the woman with the blood sugar over 300 for the last 6 months bought angel food cakes, the first ingredient of which is sugar, and on our previous grocery trip I had to make her put back three different sets of "treats." Mr. Moon kept snacking on cookies and candy and all sorts of stuff that he says he wants to cut back on, just mindlessly snacking because they're sitting out and open in bowls and drawers and stashes within reach of almost every seat in the house. After Easter he was on a two-day candy binge, even after saying he wanted to stop eating so much sugar. It was then that I had to say, enough is enough.

I hate anyone thinking of me as that stereotypical nagging "wife" figure, dictating what Her Man can eat and what he can't, laying down the law and manipulating him to do things he doesn't want to do, like eat healthier. Our relationship just isn't like that. He made a decision, and asked me to help keep him honest, and I have tried to do that. I do still FEEL like I'm nagging though, and often I find myself channeling my mother with the dirty look pointedly at the candy bar on the belt at the checkout. I hate it. Mr. Moon and I are currently brainstorming a way that we can remind each other of our goals without being nasty, nagging, or guilt-tripping each other. Some way of being positive and supportive while allowing the other person to make their own choices. Still working on that ;)

But all of that culminated in Mum and I talking about better snack choices and not buying more candy and cookies, or at least not leaving them around everywhere. It wouldn't hurt ANYONE to have to walk into another room to grab a small handful of candy if they really want it, and there's no need to have the cookies just sitting out. She's doing this "for her son's health" and not her own, because "[I] don't want him eating that stuff," but after making sure Mr. Moon and I were cool we decided just to let her do what needs to be done for whatever reason she can use to do it. So I've stopped defensively correcting her.

This week we stopped by Winco which has a huge bulk section, and we stocked up on unsalted mixed nuts, almonds, tamari almonds, and walnuts (for baking). I broke out the peanuts I had stocked up and we stashed little snack bowls of nuts near the usual candy spots and put all the candy and cookies a little less conveniently placed. Mr. Moon and I agreed that nut-snacking is totally OK in whatever amounts we want, no judgment, no funny looks. That was 2 days ago and about half the nuts are already gone, but the newness seems to be wearing off and the snacking has tapered off as well. I'm hoping to keep the choice of nuts on a fairly regular rotation so that it's not always the same thing day in and day out, to keep things interesting.

At our weekly menu planning meeting, we also discussed our meal planning goals. We'd kind of fallen back into a meat-starch-veg routine with a few vegetarian soups thrown in the mix, but need to shake things up a bit. So I spent 4 hours preparing for our menu planning meeting by going through all the cookbooks that I had currently accessible, which just happened (due to packing constraints) to be my set of low-carb cookbooks. I tried to focus on vegetarian items, though admittedly I failed hardcore. A trip to storage is happening soon to grab the rest of my books for more inspiration, including my two Moosewood books.

Currently our goals are thus, in no particular order:

* Try to get through the stockpiling in the freezers. I cleaned the indoor freezer out a few weeks ago, but the garage freezer needs to be emptied and defrosted. Much easier when there is less to move out of there.

* Increase fish consumption as a general rule. It's something we all enjoy, and there are lots of health benefits to a diet that gets a majority of the animal protein from fish.

* Increase vegetable consumption. This is a positive way of looking at a couple different goals. It's a goal in and of itself, but as a result, if we are mindful, it will decrease the refined-grain/starch-heavy foods and help to reduce the meat dependance for those of us who need it.

* Keep Oh Shit Meals on hand. For Mr. Moon and myself, this usually looks like having serving-sized pieces of meat on hand such as pork ribs and small steaks, brats and hot dogs and the like, chicken wings, things that can be cooked fairly quickly from frozen as needed. For all of us this means making batches of things like soup and chili, and freezing them in serving sizes and family-meal-sized portions. For example, did you know that a gallon-sized ziplock bag that is mostly-full of chili will make dinner for four people? This goal is also where we find the goal of having a few bags of frozen veggies on hand, going through them regularly but keeping some around for the times that the veggie didn't quite cook right, or whatever was on the menu got scrapped and we need a quick pinch-hitter. (You see that? I made a sports reference!)

* Purchase high-quality meats. If we're going to continue eating meat, and we are, it needs to be the best. Certified Organic labeling is a joke and a half, but buying local, ethically-raised meats is not impossible. We just got some awesome ground beef for $2.99/lb, which is still a good price even for factory beef. It definitely means being conscious about what we buy, buying it when we need it, not stockpiling more than we need and making sure to use it.

* Do more from-scratch baking. Going low-carb so long ago, I found that my taste for sweets really fell off the face of the planet for a while. I can't say I'm low-carb anymore, I still crave chocolate sometimes, and the occasional bag of potato chips tends to find its way home during certain weeks, but for the most part candy and desserts just don't appeal (but I do love my whole wheat pasta!). Contrast that with the 'Rents who seem to be very resistant to the idea of reducing sugars and starches, even if it could mean their lives.

I realized while standing in the store the other day putting back candy and cookies and such that we really unnecessary that I was not going to win the fight against dessert. The only way out of it is to go through it, which means I need to buckle down and start learning to bake. The one batch of cookies I made two years ago didn't turn out badly at all even if the apple pie was inedible; Mr. Moon promises to help, and Mum says she will too. But we're going to be making things like carrot cake, banana bread, zucchini bread muffins... things that I can stuff full of veggies and whole grains and nuts without tasting like cardboard. I can only hope that it doesn't turn out to be an unmitigated disaster. Bonus: they become easy breakfasts for me, the girl with no appetite and especially not in the mornings.

Making "better" food choices is hard, especially with so many different opinions and needs regarding what is "better." I guess this is one of those things were we just need to take baby steps.
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Making any food/diet related changes in your house? How do you deal with people who aren't as committed to making those changes? How about the kids who want what they know and aren't really of an age where we can rationalize? Or is it you who isn't quite on board?

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