It all started when we heard news that a very close friend of ours was diagnosed with colon cancer. It was a shock because he was just in his early 30s, just starting to enjoy life. Cancer and sickness is the last thing we want to worry about at our age. Being the paranoid that I am, I started researching about cancer and the digestive system. And while I was going through some articles I came upon a blog article from 100 Days of Real Food about how bad processed food is to our body. It got me interested so I started reading the article. The blog opened my eyes and I realized that we have been feeding ourselves junk all this time, and much of our health issues – my daughters’ health issues – can be attributed to our eating habits. After reading through the blog, I made a decision to change the way we eat and see food. Here’s how we did it:
1. I made extra effort to cook for my family. I was never fond of cooking. I never had to learn how to cook because when I was single my mother cooked for us. When I got married and we lived with my in-laws, my mother-in-law cooked. When we moved to our own place, I tried to cook a little, but I was working then so our house helper did most of the cooking. I knew the basic dishes – Adobo, Sinigang, Caldereta, Nilaga. But I made them with Calderata mix, sinigang mix, and most of the time we had fried food – hotdogs, chicken nuggets, corned beef, luncheon meat, longanisa, ham, bacon, etc. So the decision to cook was a very big commitment for me. Instead of eating outside, having food delivered, or buying takeout, I cooked. I planned our meals, searched for easy recipes in the internet. I looked for simple recipes, took note of the ingredients, and made a meal plan. I did the meal plan every Saturday, and then every Sunday I would go to the grocery store and buy a week’s supply of ingredients.
2. We slowly cut down on canned goods and frozen processed meat. We grew up eating tocino, longanisa and hotdog for breakfast. Abstaining from the processed foods that we got so used to eating was hard at first but we were able to do it. First on the list were hotdogs! We stayed away from chicken nuggets, luncheon meat, corned beef, longanisa, tocino and ham. What did we eat for breakfast? Cereals, oatmeal, bread and fruits. I searched for breakfast recipes in the internet. My favorite sites for recipes are Panlasang Pinoy and allrecipes.
3. When we got used to eating home-cooked meals, I decided to take our real food commitment a little further. I’ve read that most items we see in the supermarket have ingredients that have been known to cause certain types of diseases. We started checking the ingredient list of items that we usually buy. We dropped items with a list of more than 5 ingredients, and those with ingredients you cannot even pronounce or wouldn’t cook with at home, from our grocery list. We wanted to eat real food so the bouillon cubes, sinigang mix, caldereta mix, canned cream of mushroom had to go. I made my own soup stock, made my own cream of mushroom. If I can make it from scratch, then I won’t buy a ready mix/ready made item. We tried to be as basic and as natural as we can. It was very hard at first because we were used to the salty flavor of seasonings and MSG. Everything was bland. The kids didn’t want to eat and they complained. There were times when I felt so hurt and discouraged. What kept me going was the thought that I am doing all this for my family’s well-being.
My homemade Cream of Mushroom made from fresh button mushrooms
4. We explained to the kids why we changed the way we eat – why we don’t buy their favorite chicken nuggets and hotdogs anymore. Why we don’t buy cupcakes and biscuits from the supermarket anymore. I showed them articles and videos of how too much sweets and salt can be bad for our health. I showed them a documentary of how burgers and chicken from fast food joints are produced.
5. We explained to our extended family our decision to change our diet. We talked to our parents about our “real food commitment.” At first they did not understand why we don’t want to use chicken cubes or Magic Sarap, why we don’t want the kids to drink iced tea, or eat biscuits. Eventually they understood and got used to it. The kids bring their own snacks whenever they visit their grandparents.
Apple and Celery for merienda
Processed foods is a part of our daily diet. What I intend to control is my family’s intake of highly processed food. We buy cheese, mayonnaise, peanut butter, cookie butter, tomato sauce, ice cream (although my goal is to make our own ice cream someday!) and cakes (I’ve been trying to make cakes but still needs more practice), but we limit our consumption of these sweet treats. We make our own cupcakes, cookies, banana bread and cheesecakes. I plan to learn how to make pandesal and bread. I allow them to eat chocolates and some candies on rare occasions just to let them “experience” it and not feel left out by other kids. Kids are kids and the more we deprive them the more they’d want those treats. We are still transitioning from a highly processed food diet to a real food diet. So far we have completely eliminated sodas, store-bought fruit juices, iced teas, chips, and canned goods from our diet. We are still in the process of reducing meat consumption and increasing the variety of vegetables we eat.
I let them participate in simple recipes to get them to appreciate cooking and baking
This is my commitment to my family as a mother. I commit to giving them my time and energy. Cooking can sometimes be very tiring and time-consuming. I must admit that there were days when I just didn’t have the energy to put something together and just opted to have a meal delivered. Most days, I summon all my energy to create healthy meals for them. I want them to enjoy a long and healthy life, free from sickness. I hope that by doing this, my children will realize the value of eating real food, and will also give the same commitment to their family in the future.