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I'm looking for input on people who moved from a lifestyle of fast food and convenience foods (processed box stuff from the middle of the grocery store) to a healthier eating plan that uses whole foods. How on earth did you start? When I think about using produce to cook, I'm overwhelmed! FWIW, we do buy fruit and salad veggies, but the only veggie I cook is beets.


Does changing from white to brown rice really make any difference?


What bread is really good? I eat white bread that is low-cal high-fiber, but the 2nd ingredient is unbleached enriched flour. The 1st ingredient is water. Is this bad? I don't want bread that tastes like cardboard. I can't imagine cooking bread from scratch. I do have a bread machine, or at least I used to have a bread machine, but I used a box mix on the flour aisle.

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We are in the same boat, so I'll be watching this thread, too.


We have gradually made the move to healthier eating in the last 3 weeks. We have done it gradually and there is still more work to do. We make sure that we have lots of fruits and veggies in the house, too. I make a tossed salad for us every night with dinner. We are not big on cooked veggies. I am trying to make healthier snacks available for the kids and us. Fruit and yogurt are two staples. I'm always looking for other options.


Now I'm :lurk5:. Oh, and that reminds me, I gave up my nightly popcorn snack. :)

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We decided last Spring that we were changing our eating habits. What worked for us was starting simple. I read one of Dr. Sear's books about diet/nutrition, and that helped us get started without feeling overwhelmed. Our first change was throwing away all foods and not buying anymore that had MSG, HFCS, any color #, hydrogentaed oils, and certain preservatives. After that became easy(at first i wanted to cry because it wasn't easy), we started implementing other things. We eat very healthy now, and I am so thankful for all the changes we have made.


Another thing is to find a good recipe book. One that has been recommended here is "Saving Dinner". I like it because I don't have to figure out what to make that is healthy. She does it for me. :) Replace canned veggies with frozen, and when they are in season, fresh. Have a plan implemented for those days when you just can't or won't cook dinner. That can be having a few staples on hand to make pasta or grilled cheese,ect.. Or you can premake meals and freeze them. We haven't eaten at a fast food restaurant in months(and only because we were traveling).


As for sugar, most recipes call for WAY too much sugar, You can cut back by a lot usually.(yes, we still eat sugar)


Part of what motivates me is the difference I have seen in my children since eating "real food" only. They are better behaved and able to concentrate more. My sons tummy issues have gotten better. It's been good. And once you get used to it, it is easy. I promise! :)

Edited by jenn1129
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What are you trying to replace?


Mac and cheese - make homemade mac and cheese, serve salad or a cooked vegetable on the side. To make homemade, buy a box of elbow noodles. We like whole wheat, if your family does not, get white. Cook macaroni per package directions. Dump into colander. Put pot back on stove. Melt about a 1/2 stick of butter (less is okay), add milk and a few teaspoons of flour. Add paprika and pepper if you like. Cook over medium heat until thickened. Remove from heat, add shredded cheddar. Stir to melt cheese. Dump macaroni into sauce and mix together. (You can find a recipe for white sauce online that will give amounts of butter/milk/flour/cheese. I go by "that looks about right.")


If you want baked mac and cheese, make mix a bit wetter (add extra milk) and pour into a buttered casserole dish. Top with extra cheese and chopped bread crusts. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1/2 hour. You can mix in chopped streamed broccoli, cooked peas, or chopped steamed spinach if desired. (My family prefers vegetables on the side.)


Look for recipes for homemade versions of other favorites.


Brown rice is much better for you than white.

My children like Arnold's Dutch Country 100% Whole Wheat. DH was raised on Wonder Bread. When we were transitioning him to Whole Wheat, I bought Wonder Soft Whole Wheat for him. It is as squishy as white bread. (I could only eat it toasted.)

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Unless I am making a salad, I buy frozen vegetables. We eat REALLY simple in my family.


White rice (steamed, look, it's an Asian thing), marinated meat, stir fry frozen vegetables. Just buy raw meat but some junk on it and let it sit in fridge. You could either bake or chop it up and pan fry (don't need a lot of oil).


IF I feel fancy, I'll roast a chicken with some root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, leeks, fennel, sweet potatoes. It always a hit in the house.


Frozen vegetables include peas, corn, string beans, broccoli, red peppers (sometimes). That's it. Fresh stuff tends to spoil in our house.


I do buy processed foods as back up for laziness (TJ's soups, canned chili, ravioli but that's just so the kids can eat something).

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I'm looking for input on people who moved from a lifestyle of fast food and convenience foods (processed box stuff from the middle of the grocery store) to a healthier eating plan that uses whole foods. How on earth did you start? When I think about using produce to cook, I'm overwhelmed! FWIW, we do buy fruit and salad veggies, but the only veggie I cook is beets.


Easiest thing with the vegetables is to get a bag of frozen veggies, whatever you like -- peas, broccoli, whatever. Get the kind that is just the veggies, no sauce or anything added. If you have a steamer, you can steam them; if not, you can put them in a saucepan with a bit of water, bring it to a boil, then simmer until they're nice and warm (lima beans may need a long time). Drain and add a bit of salt and pepper, or butter, or olive oil if you like. If you have fresh broccoli, you can roast it (frozen will work too but is trickier to get right); wash it, cut off the stems, and cut the broccoli into pieces. Spread on a cookie sheet and toss with a bit of olive oil. I like to add a sprinkling of sea salt and maybe some garlic slivers. Roast in the oven at around 350-400 until just a bit browned on the edges, 20-40 minutes. Remove and toss with some parmesan cheese if you like. My kids LOVE this!


When making changes, I don't recommend trying to make them all at once. Work on one or two things at a time. Switch to brown rice (yes, it's better). When you are comfortable with one thing, then move on to the next step.

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Well, we've always eaten pretty much whole foods, but I've tried to cut back lately too as packaged things do start to encroach. Personally, I'm not a big fan even of Trader Joe's as they have so much processed and packaged stuff.


First, try to shop just the outside aisles of the grocery store as a general rule - I skip the entire middle of the store! So just the produce section, meat, and dairy.


You can steam most vegetables, then maybe add a little butter if you need some flavor. We eat broccoli often and I actually just put it in a covered dish with a few Tbsp of water and cook for about 5-8 min. in the microwave - it's so simple! You can steam it on the stove top in a pan the same way, but I tend to be in a hurry. Another favorite meal is loaded baked potatoes - 1 hour in the oven; very simple. Betty Crocker's cookbook has about every veg. you can imagine listed, and how to prepare and cook - be it boiling or steaming or baking. Just figure out how to make the few that your family likes and focus on that to start with.


I think the best thing to think about too is simplifying things. Lunch can be bread with a slice of cheese melted on it with apple slices & carrots. Healthy, simple, and nutritious.


As far as bread, I have baked it in the past but lately haven't had the time or energy. I buy Nature's own whole wheat bread. Most bread from the bakery section of your store is delicious, fresh-baked, and has few ingredients. I don't see and HFCS on the labels at our Safeway. I try to focus on whole grains for sandwich bread and not worry too much about the rest.


Those are just a few thoughts; I'd be happy to answer any questions you have. Good luck!


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Me, me, me! Over here! I'm one of those people. I have to help dd through CW work so this may be a bit sporadic. Starting slowly is best and easiest. Like you I never really cooked a veggie unless it was a potato or threw onions into a pot of chili.


I took Rosie's advice to eat more dark green leafies to heart, and put dark green leafies into everything. Scrambled eggs became Eggs Florentine. Lentils got spinach added to them. Salad just about every evening with dinner. As it got warmer here salad became dinner.


I bought vegetarian cookbooks to learn how to cook veggies. I helped a friend start a garden and got some of the produce. I have these vegetarian cookbooks and started making vegetarian meals. We now average 3-4 meatless days. You don't have to go to that extreme if you don't want to though. It is just how it progressed for us.


Experimenting came next. Leeks taste like big scallions. Scallions taste like onions. Leeks and scallions were just a change from diced onion. Red onions got put into salads because of their flavor and color. Two out of three of us found they don't like bok choy as a stand alone side dish. So bok choy gets chopped and put into soup. Buy one new veggie on market day. Have a recipe on hand for it so you can get any other ingredients you might need to prepare it. Eggplant Parmesan needs more than eggplant.


So that was the veggies. Next came things like cheese and eggs. It kind of coincided with the crappy eggs I was getting. The shells were like paper. I thought there had to be something wrong with the chickens. So I started buying the free-range eggs. Luckily I found a local person who does eggs/chickens at a much better price. I switched from the can of grated parm to the real stuff. It is much more expensive but it is real cheese.


Start looking at ingredients lists closely. If you want or need to buy dry pasta buy the one with the fewest ingredients. Get the one with the ingredients you recognize. if you want or need to buy canned/jarred spaghetti sauce don't get buy the one that has mono-dextro-gibberish-you=don't-have-a-clue-as-to-what-you-are-putting-into-your-body ingredients. I changed tomato sauce and paste because the stuff I'd been buying my entire adult life had more than tomatoes in it. I also learned to make my own with real tomatoes.


Hormone free milk, butter with just cream and salt instead of margerine with butter flavorings. Fresh herbs that you can use a bit of then pack them into ice trays and freeze are better for you and your body than the dried. Although sometimes dried is the only way some things are available. Just be aware of when you purchased them so they don't go rancid.


oh, and speaking of rancid - start using good oil. I put olive oil in everything. I buy it by the half gallon now. It is good and good for you


Good cookbooks are a bonus. Find ones that don't have recipes full of cream of something soup, canned veggies, boxes of mac & cheese.


It takes a bit of time to plan things out. I'm still not good at quick meals on the fly. I tend to resort to salad and some kind of pasta and chicken if I need fast.


Good luck.

Edited by Parrothead
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Start small. It is overwhelming to change your life in one week and you'll stop because you can't take it.


Go get a cook book that you love. Ina Garten, Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver have some good ones out right now that are all whole foods and they have great pictures. (good pictures help a lot at first)










this one is good because it's seasonal




This is an Alice Waters book that I think every beginning cook should have. These are the staples of how to cook.





Even if you have to get them out of the library and start writing them down which is what I always do before I buy a cookbook, they're a great place to start.


Then pick two meals for the week, and make them. Start there. Then the next week add in another meal. Pretty soon you'll only be shopping the perimeter of the store and coming back for more industrious cookbooks.

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I started one meal at a time. I'd replace frozen chicken nuggets with real broiled chicken. When that started to seem "normal," I'd replace something else, like pre-made spaghetti sauce. Within a year I was making most of our meals from scratch with healthy (at least, healthier) ingredients.


We eat most of our fruits and vegetables raw; really the only time I cook veggies is when I'm making roasted vegetables to eat with pasta.

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We went through our cupboards and got rid of everything that was unhealthy. We changed all our grains to whole grains (pasta, bread, cereal stuff like oatmeal). Then I went through and spent a few hours coming up with recipes that I could make guilt free. We have three weeks worth of well-balanced meals that my family likes. And they are all very healthy. Once I did that, I also put in place a plan for days when I'm being lazy and don't want to cook. We have spaghetti on those nights, or we have left over soup (I always make twice as much soup as we need and freeze the extra. That way if I'm feeling lazy, I just have to put the frozen lump in a pot and I've got dinner!).


Eating well-balanced and whole foods has even helped us lose weight. In the last 45 days (since I began tracking it) I've lost 12 lbs and my husband has lost over 20!


From my experience, it just took some planning and organization as well as a little commitment to not be lazy!

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I agree...one step at a time.


We went from eating Hamburger Helper and Easy..everything, to a whole foods, mostly grain free diet.


Switch to brown rice, and use this recipe..even my "I hate brown rice" kids LOVE it and prefer it to white now.


For bread, Orowheat makes some AWESOME whole grain breads that are HFCS free. (Oat nut was our favorite, and we miss it!) And honestly, after you eat whole grain for a while, the white stuff is what tastes like cardboard. Go for whole grain, not just whole wheat.


Go simple with the veggies. Steamed broccoli. Roasted brussel sprouts/asparagus. If your family likes garlic, the easiest, tastiest seasoning for veggies is a little minced garlic, salt and olive oil.


Change your main cooking oil to olive oil.


Use real butter instead of margerine. That stuff is mostly a chemical soup anyway..lol.

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We also like Nature's Pride bread! If you're looking for something closer to what you've been eating, I'd start with their Soft Honey Wheat bread or the Oven Classics line. ALL of their bread is excellent, IMO, and tends to be as cheap or even cheaper than some other less healthy stuff! Their products (along with Arnold brand, another good one) can often be found in outlet stores, too.

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My frugal side is probably stronger than my healthy side, so I put myself in a situation where my frugality forces me to be healthy: I subscribe to a couple CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and once I've paid the subscription, there's no way I'm going to let all those fruits and veggies go to waste. Not by my sainted Scottish ancestors. :)


Ways I've learned to use those veggies that show up every week?

-a subscription to Cooking Light. Back in the day, one to Vegetarian Times. I pull out any recipes that look 1) Not too fussy to prepare, 2) not too expensive ingredient-wise, 3) yummy. Then I'll pull them out when the veggies in the recipe show up in our CSA basket.

-I'll go on the Cooking Light website, or allrecipes or recipezaar and look up whatever weird thing showed up in the basket this week (kale? chard? LOTS of dill?) and find a recipe.

-I chop and snack on anything that's good raw (lettuce, kohlrabi, celery, carrots, etc). I roast anything else (kale, potatoes, butternut squash, garlic, onions, etc.). I've found just about any veggie that isn't good raw is delicious tossed with a bit of oil, salt and pepper (and vinegar, in the case of kale) and roasted.


This was time-consuming for the first month or two of our CSA subscription, but at this point, I've got a go-to plan for any produce that shows up, and eating lots of produce is pretty automatic for everyone in our family. I tend to do produce-based snacks and produce-inclusive meals. I don't often do produce side dishes - that's too fussy - I just incorporate it into the main dish.


So, we're not perfect, we do still eat processed foods, but this CSA stuff means that we're eating a lot less of it. The produce just takes up so much of our diet that there isn't as much room for processed foods.

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What are you trying to replace?


First, thank you for the mac & cheese recipe, that sounds so good!


Things we eat on a regular basis:


jars of pizza, salsa, and spaghetti sauces (Emeril)

single-serve velveeta mac & cheese

canned veggies (peas, green beans, and corn)

can soup

refrigerated crescent rolls and pizza dough

Chef Boyardee ABCs (a staple of ds14's diet)

instant grits and instant oatmeal


box stuff: meals (Banquet ham & cheesy potatoes, chicken & biscuits), instant potatoes, Zatarain's rice meals (red beans & rice, jambalaya), taco kits, hamburger helper, pasta kits (pasta roni)


That's pretty much all the processed stuff we have, I think. We cook the same meals each week. We're rather pitiful. :)

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From the boxed stuff you listed, I think learning how to do two things will go REALLY far to get you moving in the right direction.


First, is making your own tomato based sauces. It's super easy to take canned tomato sauce (organic is even better) and add basil, garlic, oregano, onions, etc. to make a spagetti or pizza sauce that is much lower in sugar, salt, and other additives.


The second is making your own white sauce. It's really not hard, and you can find recipes online for basic white sauce. Then you can add shredded cheeses to make alfredo, mac-n-cheese, etc. Or for cream of style soups, you can add mushrooms or chicken stock to make the soup base from the white sauce.


Learning these two things and using your own pastas and potatoes would eliminate a TON of the processed food from your list.

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If I'm honest I'll admit I don't cook vegs very often. We eat a lot of mixed green salads instead. About the only thing I cook is broccoli and spinach. As Chucki said, you can sneak spinach into just about anything. Raw kale goes into smoothies.


Going from white to brown food - bread, rice and pasta - is huge. Think of it this way: eating white food is like eating sugar out of the bowl. Big, heaping tablespoons of sugar. Yuck.


I agree you should start small. And realize there will still be days when your family wants, and you need to feed them, frozen pizza or boxed mac and cheese. :D

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Things I can't live without in my kitchen-my veggie steamer. My grain mill. My food processor. These three things and you can make anything you want at home. When I see a boxed meal that looks tasty I think "hm how can I make this myself?" And I find I really enjoy the challenge. Our healthy eating started when I had my son 6 years ago. I made all if his baby food from scratch and then just ran with it from there. Now I minimize the distance between where our food comes from and our plates as much as possible by growing almost all of our own produce and buying locally raised and butchered meats.

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I grew up thinking that I didn't like vegetables. I remember my mom had the Dr. talk with me about it. I liked salad, raw carrots and corn. My mom always cooked balanced meals for us. Looking back, though, some veggies were canned and others frozen. I literally would gag on frozen squash as the rule was we had to try at least one bite.

Over the years, I have read lots of books and educated myself about healthy eating. What really jumpstarted us was my husband's health. The more I learned, the more we changed.

One great thing I learned was that I LOVE vegetables, I just don't care for canned or frozen! There is nothing better to be than fresh! At one time I joined a produce co-op. Each week we received a basket of fresh produce and every week there was something in there that I had never eaten. It forced me to look it up and figure it out.

Getting rid of processed foods really will make a difference. We eat grassfed beef that we buy as 1/2 cow, antibiotic-free chicken, organic milk and eggs and raw honey. We try to buy organic fruits and vegetables when we can afford them and when we can't we buy local produce. We have a water filter that ensures our water is clean and we drink lots of it. We stay away from white and eat brown rice and homemade wheat bread. We substitute honey for sugar when possible and make our own yogurt.

Lately, we have really been into making as much as we can from scratch. The chemicals that are in processed foods just don't belong in our bodies!

This has been a process that has taken years, but I am so happy with what we're doing. The older I get, the more I realize that health is worth some time and effort!

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