Grocery Budget Makeover – Processed Food Edition

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on July 28, 2010

Kristine needs help!!!!!!!

I am a full-time working (and pumping) mom to a 3 month old and a 4 year old. We are the typical “kool-aid family”. We eat LOTS of prepackaged, high sugar foods.  The problem is…I’M the picky eater and the organic/produce section of the grocery store intimidate me! I can walk through the produce section and not know what half of the items are. I barely glance at the organic section because it looks Greek to me! :)

If it comes in a box or if it is frozen, then I’m all over it! The only veggies we eat are potatoes, corn, and broccoli.

  • Can you suggest some small steps to take to start adding better foods to our diets?
  • What sort of snacks, etc would be good to try in the organic section for picky eaters who are used to lots of sugary foods?

I don’t have a super tight budget that I must stick to, but still want to be good stewards of our money. I plan to try a few recipes from your garden series to get started, but can you give me a few more sugggestions?

What steps can you think of that Kristine needs to make in order to start incorporating healthier foods into their diet?!?

(P.S. LOVING all your suggestions and ideas!!!)

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

veggie fan July 28, 2010 at 6:42 am

Oh, Kristine … you don’t know what taste sensations await you in the produce aisle! Use google to find a site that will tell you what’s in season — and hopefully on sale — in your area and pick one or two items at a time to experiment with. If cooking or otherwise preparing veggies seems intimidating, why not start with fruit? It’s summer, so watermelon, cantaloupe and other melons are a no brainer — you can make smoothies, or even throw them on the grill! My favorite vegetables are red bell peppers and beets.Red bell peppers are so pretty and sweet when eaten raw that it seems like a waste to cook them. BTW, you’re already off to a good start in the frozen aisle, bc not only are those vegetables frozen at the peak of freshness and therefore more nutritious, but also they’re also inexpensive, PREWASHED AND CHOPPED! Talk about a timesaver. I like to use frozen veggies like carrots, spinach and peas to add a quick serving of produce to whatever meal I’m already making — you won’t notice chopped frozen spinach in spaghetti sauce.

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Jennifer July 28, 2010 at 7:13 am

One really good way to prepare vegetables is to roast them. Most people are not interested in eating bland, overcooked, boiled veggies. Roasted or sauteed vegetables have a lot more flavor. I prepare potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, cauliflower, and zucchini this way. There are a lot of good basic recipes online, I usually just cut up the veggies, and toss them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and bake at 325-375 for about 20 minutes. Cooking times and temps vary for different vegetables, but the idea is the same.

Also, I have found that fun dips make raw veggies more palatable, and not just for kids, for me too! You can either buy or make a simple sour cream and onion dip, or just use ranch dressing. I love cucumber slices dipped in ranch dressing.

When it comes to buying processed foods, you don’t necessarily have to get the organic options, but you should focus on buying things made with a short list of pronounceable ingredients. For example, ice cream made with eggs, milk, and sugar, instead of 7 different stabilizers and additives. It is always a good idea to try to avoid high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, MSG, and artificial sweeteners. You should be able to find a healthier alternative to processed snacks that are already favorites, especially if you go to a store like Trader Joe’s or whole foods.

Some of my favorite healthy snack ideas are: string cheese, apple slices with peanut butter, trail mix, cottage cheese and fruit, yogurt and berries, raw veggies and dip, and graham crackers with peanut butter.

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Amanda July 28, 2010 at 7:13 am

We’ve struggled with eating packaged, high sugar foods too and I think you just have to be open to trying new things and trying your hardest to get away from packaged goods and more fresh food. I would suggest trying fresh green beans, zucchini, squash, fresh tomatoes, and other vegetables you may eat already, but fresh. Also, some good snacks to incorporate would be fruits like grapes, strawberries, kiwi, any kind of berries like blackberries or blueberries, banana and veggies like carrots, celery, salad. Other healthy snacks you could try are raisins, pretzels, sugar free jello or pudding, yogurt and leather fruit. I found out that leather fruit snacks are really good and very sweet! You can usually find them in the health foods section or maybe by the registers at stores.

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Andrea July 28, 2010 at 7:34 am

First, broccoli is a great healthy choice. Kudos!

For snacks:

Try Horizon Organic Yogurt Tuberz. Sweet and portable. Your kids will go crazy for them!

Nothing is more portable or easy a snack food than an apple! Or how about buying a bunch of grapes. As soon as you get them home, cut the stems with kitchen shears so you have small bunches of grapes. Then just grab a small bunch, and away you go!

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Jodi July 29, 2010 at 9:40 am

@Andrea, Grapes are great frozen, too. I like to rinse them, put them in a freezer ziploc bag with some SF Jello, shake and freeze. They are very sweet and taste like popsicles!

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Morgan July 28, 2010 at 7:36 am

Our family was just like yours and we have made leaps and bounds of progress in the last year. To add fruits & veggies, I looked online to see what items were in season in my area (or visit the farmer’s market), then each week I would pick one or two new ones, look up recipes and try them. Fruits are pretty easy-they just require knowledge of how to peel and eat which you can find on youtube (mango was new to me so I had to look up how to eat that thing!). Veggies-you can eat most raw but like mentioned above-roasting was my go-to way to prepare. My search was always “how do you cook a butternut squash/kale/eggplant”. Millions of results. I would read a few to get an idea then pick one and go with it. Sometimes the new fruit or veggie was a hit and sometimes we ended up throwing them away. Trial and error and patience. I cried over my dinner plate more than once because my hard work turned out to be inetible. But I learned quickly to choose simple recipes with few ingredients and not try too many new things at once (acorn squash stuffed with quinoa and swiss chard sent me over the edge but our family had never had any of those things-why did I think it would be successful?)
For boxed goods, I started cooking more things from scratch but when I do buy prepackaged I read the ingredient list. Too many items or things that I know are bad (msg, aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, sugar in something where it shouldn’t be) and I just don’t buy it. The more natural the food the better so cheese, plain yogurt (with fresh fruit), natural peanut butter, olives, etc. are good snack options that kids generally like and that have grown on me too. I went organic for a while but it was just not sustainable for our family. We live in a small town with not much selection. The prices were too high as well. I do buy some organic cereals though because they use much less sugar and it is real sugar and not high fructose corn syrup.
I still buy some things that feel like a compromise, but I am still learning and trying and I think the key to success is to be patient and try one change at a time. Broaden your fruits and veggies, then replace one boxed meal a week with one made from scratch, then add in one healthier snack a day. I would ditch the daily kool aid right away though. Start weaning today-I started by allowing one glass a day (our crutch was sprite) then eventually it became a special treat. Milk, water, or no sugar added apple juice was allowed (although now I am trying to decrease apple juice and increase water) I did the same to myself with coke. I hardly drink it any more (but it still tastes good when I do!) Good luck!

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Heidi July 28, 2010 at 7:37 am

I definitely understand this problem and I’ve been making a concious effort in my grocery to stick to the outside of the store. Frozen vegetables are great, as are dairy in our house, but trying to steer clear of all the packaged stuff and aim for more fresh produce and some frozen side dishes as well.

I agree about the roasting vegetables. They’re delicious and my 1 year old eats them up! Just add a little olive oil and throw them in the oven. So good.

Fruit is a wonderful idea as well. Fruit salads are easy to throw together or just make sure to always have some on hand that you can just grab, just blueberries or raspberries.

Carrots, zucchini, and bell peppers would be how I would start. Add some shredded carrots into a meal or make fajitas one night with some bell peppers and onions. I too think that it doesn’t necessarily have to be organic – just fresh. Not that I’m above buying frozen lima beans, but just try to think around the outside of the grocery store and what you can do with adding a few basic, easy foods into your diet.

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Trista July 28, 2010 at 7:38 am

After reading “In Defense of Food” I decided that it was time for our family to make some food adjustments. After making an extensive price list at all of the stores in my area, I found that my local co-op has the best deals on organic foods–produce in particular. They offer year-round savings on items we always use. For example, their organic pears and apples are always $1.29/lb. That’s usually less than my regular store’s NON-organics!! While the co-op does have better prices on just about everything, keep in mind that the prices WILL be higher in most cases. While it has caused us to be a bit tighter with our budget, there is no looking back for us. Not only is it good for us but in general, organics taste AMAZING, particularly produce.

When I started off, I did so slowly, and doing stuff that I knew my family would at least try. One of my favorite sites to help me out is superhealthykids.com. Meal Makeover Moms also have great stuff and a fun podcast that I like to listen to when I’m in the kitchen. Not only are there great, straight-forward recipes that kids typically enjoy, but their meal plans are very extensive. Meal plans are another thing that keeps me on track. If I have all of the items I need to make the meal, what’s my excuse for not doing it?? And if I don’t, it’ll go bad, and that’s just money down the toilet. (Not saying that this never happens, lol. If it does, I have a “master list” of all of the foods that my family enjoys broken down by meal so I can pick something off there and attempt to use up some of that produce in that dish instead later on)

It IS overwhelming. I have a difficult time going into the veggie section unless I know exactly what I need. But just take baby steps. Here are a few that helped us:
– limit juice to once per day for kids (mine are young), and make sure it’s good 100% fruit juice, no high fructose corn syrup. The organic juices are awesome, but you need to catch them on sale and use a coupon if you can to get them for a decent (to me) price. When they do, we stock up. We also limit milk to 2 cups per day (one at breakfast, one at dinner) and supplement w/ other calcium sources like yogurt, cheeses, broccoli, spinach (easy to sneak into smoothies!)
– sneak veggies into normal things. It’s an extra step in the food prep process, but if you have some cooked squash (or even canned–like pumpkin), it can go in EVERYTHING. It’s a teeny bit sweet, so the kids like it…if they don’t know it’s in there, lol. The thing that I started w/ was breakfast–you can put grated carrots, apples, pear, squash, bananas, into muffins, pancakes, waffles…and they taste great. There are some fantastic recipes on the websites I listed above.
– Find one or two ways that your kids enjoy veggies. Along w/ sneaking the veggies in though, I think having them available for the kids to eat whole so that they know what it is, is important as well. Broccoli salad, in tacos or wraps, sweet potato fries…and go with that. Also, smoothies are a GREAT way to get more fruit and veggies into diets…and they’re easy!
– For snacks and/or treats offer produce. I know, I know…what kid in their right mind would choose an apple over a fruit roll-up?! The key is to offer a choice between two good things. I ALWAYS make sure to be stocked on apples and pears (and carrots…which my daughter prefers(?!?!??!), lol. I’ll generally get some of whatever else is in season (on sale) for special treats and desserts.
– Same as snacks, offer the kids a choice for lunch/dinner and have them help you make it. My kids are MUCH more likely to try something if they help make it and it’s their choice. Granted sometimes they don’t get a choice and when we sit down to eat I’m usually sweating bullets to see if their noses will stick up into the air in protest or if they gobble it down. If it’s the latter, you better bet that dish is going on my list of meals!

Good luck, it is daunting, but it’s most definitely worth it!!

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leslie July 28, 2010 at 7:39 am

Well, surely you know what apples and oranges are! Something as simple as apple slices make for a great dessert or snack.

Some processed foods are very easy to replace as well, for example, pre-packaged shredded cheese. If you buy a block of cheese and shred it yourself, it will taste better and be better for you.

I don’t purchase organic foods for a variety of reasons but still eat healthy. For snacks, I suggest fruit leather (a healthier version of the fruit roll-up), strawberry yogurt, jello with fresh fruit (i would say avoid jello altogether but if you’re going to eat it, at least put good stuff in it).

Buy non-organic, with leaves carrots and celery. As soon as you get home from the store, peel and chop into sticks then put in a plastic container (with some water) in the fridge. Next time you or the kids are hungry, you will have a snack all ready to go!

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Samantha July 28, 2010 at 7:42 am

I like to peel bananas, break them into about 4-5 pieces and freeze them in a ziploc bag. Once frozen I blend them with chocolate soymilk (you can add berries too). It’s a delicious, healthy “milkshake” and very easy.

There is a wealth of information online and you can compare vegetables and learn about them on wikipedia.

Since you guys eat alot of sugar, start with natural sugars found in fruits, melons, etc. Pair them with cottage cheese, raisins, nuts, or granola.

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Kelly July 28, 2010 at 7:42 am

It sounds like Kristine isn’t as bad off as she thinks – her family eats broccoli!

I would suggest that she tries to eat vegetarian one meal per week – some good choices are black bean chili, vegetable soup, or stuffed peppers. As long as her family doesn’t pile on the cheese – like my family – these recipes are healthy and packed with vitamins.

As far as snacks go – what about old fashioned popcorn. As long as it isn’t swimming in butter, it is healthy, filling and cheap. Another option is pre-washed baby carrotts or radishes. Both have next to NO calories and are packed with fiber and vitamins. Or hummus – either pre-made or homemade. If she likes starchy foods, this one will fit her taste profile and is super healthy.

My final piece of advice – don’t be afraid of the “weird” vegetable aisle. You don’t have to love every vegetable or fruit, but there are some hidden gems in those aisles like napa cabbage, red cabbage, fresh spinach, cilantro, rutabagas, fresh cilantro, ginger, or sweet potatoes. Throw caution to the wind and pick up something different next time you are at the store and give it a whirl – you might be surprised.

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Trista July 28, 2010 at 7:45 am

Oh, also wanted to add that I try to stick to the Dirty Dozen when buying produce, being the 12 produce items that are most treated w/ herbicides, pesticides, etc. Here is a list ranked from the least effected to the most effected: http://www.foodnews.org/fulllist.php

This definitely helps w/ knowing what to buy organic!

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Nicole July 28, 2010 at 7:49 am

Try mashed sweet potatoes. Peel, cube, boil, and mash. Yum!

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Musheera July 28, 2010 at 7:50 am

Hi,
How about taking a cooking class?
This has helped me get on track and learn new techniques to add more beggies in my family’s diet.
You can google vegan or vegetarian cooking classes in your area.
I don’t mean that you have to go vegan the whole way but eating these dishes from someone who CAN cook them may make a difference.
I never thought that healthy food could taste GREAT until I sampled the cooking from one of the best teachers.
You are very smart to want to make this change and you will reap the benefits sooner than you think.
Good Luck!!

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Tonya July 28, 2010 at 7:52 am

I would suggest that you take one of the “pre-packaged, processed” foods that you buy, and try to re-create it using fresh ingredients. You can control the amount of fat and salt yourself. For example, it you like those frozen potato skins….make them yourself with fresh potatoes and cheese.

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Wendy (The Local Cook) July 28, 2010 at 7:52 am

For starters, get out of the grocery store! Take a trip to your local U-pick, it will be a fun family outing and the kids will be more likely to eat berries that they picked themselves. Many farms have tours which are super fun (and educational!).

Also, pick up a cookbook that focuses on vegetables and fruits – there are lots of them out there because eating locally, in season is becoming more popular. I’m blogging through Simply in Season and have been amazed at all the things you can do with vegetables.

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Crystal July 28, 2010 at 7:58 am

New things can be so intimidating! A fun way for your family to incorporate new produce items into your family would be purchase one produce item you have never cooked, every week and try it out! Make it a game, and your 4 year old will love it! Every week you can choose a new item, like kohlrabi, smell it, touch it, find a recipe for it and taste it, then try and describe the flavor. Also, remember that it takes your taste buds a few different times to become accustomed to new flavors, so if you think you don’t like something the first time you try it, give it a second (and sometimes a third or fourth) shot! Try cooking the item in a different way, too! Just don’t get discouraged if the first time you try something new you don’t think you like it, you may just need to get used to a new flavor. good luck with this adventure!

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Georgeann July 28, 2010 at 8:09 am

Kristine,

I know how you feel.. I have a 3 month old as well along with a 3 and 7 year olds. I have recently started making a dinner calendar and I mapped out what we were having each night. Tonights example: Sloppy Chicken Joes on toasted buns with cheese, steamed carrots and bluebery cobbler if I get it made this afternoon. The Sloppy Chicken Joes comes from the $5 Mom Cookbook and what I liked is that I make my own sauce vs having it come from a can. I can control how much salt and sugar my family is consuming.

I agree with the Kool Aid. I know I drank the stuff until it came out of my ears when I was a kid, but that is when we were out camping or on a picnic. ONce we got home, it was back to water. Our 3 and 7 year olds have 2 glasses of milk in the am, water with the am snack, milk with lunch and duliated apple juice with the pm snack, milk with dinner and water if they are still thirsty.

I do try to make as much as I can from scratch to save money and again I have a better idea what is in our food.

I would recommend searching your librarys website for some cookbooks so you can get some ideas for meals that sound yummy. I personally have stopped cooking for my kids, but for my husband and myself. If the kids do not eat the dinner, they go to bed. We need to eat better and it is not like I am giving them a huge amount of food. They are each receiving roughly 1 tablespoon for every year they have been alive.

Good Luck and congats on the new baby!

Georgeann

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The Working Home Keeper July 28, 2010 at 8:09 am

I also work full-time outside of the home. And when I was couponing a few years ago, we also ate alot of boxed, processed foods. What worked for me was BABYSTEPS! My first goal wasn’t necessarily to go organic, but to just increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables we ate. I started with one of our favorite boxed meals (Zatarian’s Dirty Rice) and found a recipe for it using fresh ingredients. The more I began cooking, the more comfortable I became. Tammy’s Recipes was a great resource for me, as she had loads of yummy recipes using simple ingredients.

Once I started reading more real food blogs, I began to look at eating organically. Which led me to focus on eating more locally. I found a wonderful farmers market close to our home that sells organically-grown fruit and vegetables and grass-fed and pastured meats. Shopping in-season at the market has really encouraged us to try new vegetables. Just last week I tried sprite melon and patty pan squash for the first time thanks to our farmers market! I had no clue what to do with the patty pan squash, so I just asked the farmer that grew it and he gave me some great suggestions.

For snacks, we do fresh fruit (we pick berries from a local, organic farm), veggies like carrots or kale chips (my personal fav!). You can also make homemade ranch dressing for dipping. We also do nuts and raisins, stove top popcorn cooked with coconut oil, green smoothies, flourless nut butter cookies, homemade muffins (my kids really like pumpkin muffins). Yogurt, which you can make in a crockpot, sweetened with fruit or local honey.

Good luck!

Mary Ellen

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The Working Home Keeper July 28, 2010 at 8:16 am

Just wanted to add, if you need an alternative to sweet drinks, try Red Zinger herbal tea (I buy the Celestial Seasonings tea bags) . It has a sweet, punch like flavor without the sugar!

Mary Ellen

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jesser July 28, 2010 at 8:21 am

Honestly, I say DIVE IN! You can’t continue on the kool-aid diet forever because you’re intimidated. Find some fresh produce that’s in season (it’s usually the cheap stuff), bring it home and look up how to cook it. Corn on the cob is amazing right now and I don’t believe anyone wouldn’t love it! We also eat a TON of zucchini, either chopped smallish or shredded, sauteed in a teeny tiny bit of butter with a little S&P. That is super tasty. Try carrots and red peppers with hummus dip. Bake sweet potatoes! It may take a few times of eating it, but you really do develop a taste for the good stuff and then the processed stuff just pales in comparison. Good luck with your transformation!

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Sarah July 28, 2010 at 8:24 am

I also agree with Roasting Vegetables. My favorites are green beans, red pepper, onion, zucchini, asparagus, and I recently read that roasted tomatoes are also good. With the beans and aspargus I toss with olive oil, set the oven for 450 degrees and cook for 10-15 mintues, or until they just start to turn brown. Sprinkle with sea salt or kosher salt (we like the bigger granules.) Yum!

Also, if your tastes prefer boxed meals, you may try finding some make at home versions. Look for quick recipes that make some of your favorites from ‘scratch’ to cut out A LOT of sodium. For example, I’m thinking something like hamburger helper would not be too difficult to put together – cook some pasta, brown some meat and mix with tomato sauce, herbs and a bit of cheese. It might take a bit more time the first few times you try it. But the more you make something like that the easier and quicker it will become. Also, as others have said, there will be a little adjustment in taste needed.
-Just thought, I would also say find a friend to take with you to the grocery store that can tell you more about the produce and different ways to cook it – help educate and give ideas.
-I think fresh fruits would be a great snack. They have a lot of [natural] sugar, too.
-If you like getting information from books, might check out Feeding the Whole Family from your library
http://www.amazon.com/Feeding-Whole-Family-Cooking-Foods/dp/157061525X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1280323376&sr=8-1
As others have said, don’t be daunted by the amount of things you can do, but pick and choose one or two baby steps that works for you.

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Lea Stormhammer July 28, 2010 at 8:30 am

I, too, am a working mom of 2 and it’s a lot easier than people think to cook from scratch – just keep it simple! I cook with very few ingredients and dinner for example is a meat, a starch, a veggie and a fruit. Fruit is eaten raw and cut up. Veggies are either roasted (baked) or steamed or satueed into a stir fry. I usually buy from the farner’s market or the regular frozen section for veggies and just stay away from packaged, processed or otherwise pre-made meals.

I grew up with a working Mom who cooked from scratch so I was pretty used to it, I just had to find my own groove with it. My advice is to keep things simple, try new things in moderation (one at a time preferably), and don’t execpt yourself to change overnight. Small changes made over time add up to huge changes!

Good Luck!
Lea

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Pokeyann July 28, 2010 at 8:57 am

In an effort to try and help my kids eat more veggies and fruits, I took them to the produce section and let them pick out whatever they wanted. Then I looked up recipes online for anything I’ve never cooked or prepared. It was more expensive for that one trip, but alot of fun and interesting to see what they picked out. It also helped me broaden my horizons and branch out from my rut of only preparing certain veggies. I also throw a bag of frozen mixed veggies into almost everything I make. I would suggest taking flavors you like and using them on the veggies. Experiment, you might have a few bombs, but you will also find some great things that you like and never knew.

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Specialforksndy July 28, 2010 at 9:01 am

A good introduction to fresh produce is the farmers’ market. I know it’s not easy with young children but it could be a fun family outing. Most vendors give samples so you can be sure you and the kids like the fruit or veggie before you buy. Also the farmers will give you advice about how to select, store and cook the produce so it can be a real educational experience.

On a first visit, do not get carried away and buy too much or you might get overwhelmed when you get home and not know how to incorporate your purchases into your routine meals. If you end up with thing spoiling it would be a discouraging first experience. I make a list of all the fresh things I buy and keep it handy in the kitchen so I don’t lose sight of what’s in the crisper bin of my fridge. That way I can remember what I have and be sure to use everything up so nothing goes to waste.

Good luck. You are trying to do a good thing for your family.

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Ellen July 28, 2010 at 9:04 am

Congratulations on being brave enough to dive into a new world of food! If there’s a farmers market near you, ask the farmers for cooking advice. When I moved to a different region of the country, the farmers at the market were happy to talk to me about how to cook okra, different squashes, and greens of all kinds. (And yes, I really do believe that farmers market produce tastes better than most of the stuff you’ll find at the store.)

Also, spend a little time browsing your library’s cookbook selection or search their selection of books about vegetables or produce. There are cookbooks for all skill levels and all types of food. I know cookbooks can be intimidating for some people; just remember that recipes are only suggestions and you can change them to fit your changing tastes and comfort level. Recipe calls for fresh ears of corn but you don’t know how to cook it? Don’t worry about it, you can substitute canned or frozen. Find a salad recipe that sounds interesting but you don’t like the oil and vinegar dressing it calls for? Just pull out your bottle of thousand island dressing (or whatever you like) and use that until you get used to the flavor of new veggies…

And one final idea- if your family eats rice, try substituting other grains. I love bulgur, but there are a lot of different options. Just make sure the package you buy has cooking instructions on the package!

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Megan July 28, 2010 at 10:52 am

We have also recently made “the change.” We spent many years eating out of a box, and now, I feel terrible for doing it for so long. I have noticed a HUGE difference in my children. Much more calm and they are sleeping better at night:) The have adapted well to the change, and I am not even sure they know we have made a change other than we are not eating as much junk and we are eating at home instead of going through the drivethrough. The one I was actually worried about was my husband. He has done great as well and had no complaints. I still make the same foods I made before, I just make from scratch. We pulled out all HFCS and all dyes. Like previous posters have said, take it slow. The kids really like:

Enviro Kidz organic cereal (around $2.99 on sale at my local Kroger)
Cascadian Farms cereal
Horizon yougurt tuberz
Cliff Z bars
Barbara’s snack bars
Hansen’s Natural Soda
Fritos – One of the only chips that doesn’t have a bunch of junk in them

It is not really that much more expensive to buy natural and organic. Most of the stuff goes on sale at my local Kroger all the time. I just get what is on sale and we try different things. I also make my own granola bars, so good. And let me tell you, I am not a good cook or baker, lol. I am a busy mom of 3 who works part time and drives kids around all day and night to thier activities. I just made the commitment to change the way we eat. I feel so much better for it. You will too:)

Oh, one more thing. The blog previously mentioned, superhealthykids.com is a wonderful resource. I get a ton of ideas from that site. Granola bars and soothies have been a huge hit!!!!

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Amanda July 28, 2010 at 11:18 am

Kristine,

From a cardiology standpoint, I congratulate you on recognizing the need to improve your lifestyle and taking the steps to do so.

Here are a couple ideas I have used in expanding my own palate. I wrote a post on this exact topic: “What do you do when an adult doesn’t want to eat his/her veggies? http://eatlikearabbit.net/2010/02/17/what-do-you-do-when-adult-doesnt-want-eat-hisher-veggies

Also, I’ve learned to like bell peppers by roasting them (under the broiler for 5 minutes or so each side. Serve on crackers or on a good bread). I wouldn’t eat them any other way.

Good luck!

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Kristine July 28, 2010 at 11:43 am

WOW! Thank you so much for all of the great suggestions! I really appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences. I’m really encouraged to hear that some of you started out like me. We don’t have a farmer’s market like many of you suggested, but I think they just started something on Thursday nights. I will check it out and see what I can find. Also, I got a smoothie maker for my birthday so maybe I can start there with the fruits. The roasted veggies sound great, I will be trying those once I learn how to cut them up! I will be checking out YouTube! Also, thanks for the suggestion to take a freind to the store. I really never thought of that, but I called one of my friends who grew up on a farm and she said she would be glad to go with me sometime. Thanks also for all of the encouragement. My family thanks you…well they will one day when they are enjoying their healthy meals! :)

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Jennifer Y July 28, 2010 at 1:12 pm

We love the Clif Z bars. They come in many varieties and most Targets carry them. I also find them at Wegmans, or you can buy them on Amazon I think. I’m a working mom too, and I can relate. When you’re out of the house for 10 hours a day, there’s only so much you can do. Keep it realistic.

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Sara K July 28, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Another resource I love is Dr. Sears’ “The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood.” It explains why you should try hard to switch out your “kool-aid” foods and gives you vocabulary to use with your kids (a grow food, red-light food, etc.). My husband and I started slowly with some things, but took the plunge with others (ie we stopped buying Pepsi before I even finished the book). But, I think small steps is the way to go, as is adding dips to veggies and even fruits. The other thing I do is offer what I know my kids really want (cereal, grain products, etc) for snacks but only after they’ve had a fruit or vegetable. I try to do that myself, too, and though it takes considerably more discipline, I actually enjoy my brownie better after my salad at lunch! :) Good luck!

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Nancy July 28, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Watch Rachael Ray it is like a free cooking class. Food Network is also a great place for online videos and recipes. Through trial and error you will learn what your family likes.

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Jen July 28, 2010 at 2:54 pm

In the produce section start with a few things.. buy a bag of pre-washed spinach, baby carrots, grapes and blueberries. And get some food scissors (http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?SKU=14082611). Then when you’re making a convenience pasta dish (from a jar or can or frozen) open that bag of spinach and snip off a palm-full or more of pieces of spinach and throw it in before you heat it up. Put the raw carrots out with ranch to dip in, or sour cream. And wash the blueberries and grapes to have available to munch on anytime!

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Jan July 28, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Go to a farmer’s market and try different things in season- you’ll find something you like. I love love love yellow squash!

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MH July 28, 2010 at 3:56 pm

I’ve found that sometimes young kids will surprise you by eating/wanting unexpected things. My twin almost-5-yr-olds were the ones who wanted me to try the green plums at the store last week – at 99 cents/lb I went for it, and they are really good.
Summer is a great time to try new produce b/c it is in season and at peak quality. I didn’t fully appreciate papaya until I had it in Hawaii. I second the earlier comment about going to a u-pick place if possible. We pick blueberries and freeze some of them – my boys think they are such a treat in the winter. And so easy, when all you have to do is wash them!
You can microwave sweet potatoes, they don’t have quite as good of flavor as baked in the oven, but quicker to prepare on busy days.

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Morgan July 28, 2010 at 3:58 pm

I love superhealthykids.com too! She has the best simple yummy snack ideas! Try the orange treat, berry delight, and power bars! So easy and so delicious!

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Melissa July 28, 2010 at 4:43 pm

start by reading ingreds. Try and eat food as close to it’s natural sate as possible. An apple instead of applesauce. Also switch to whole grain options. They are healthier for sure.

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Gina July 28, 2010 at 8:30 pm

I have a 4, 2, and 6 month old and we have slowly started eating better. We did a garden this year. My girls love to help me pick the veggies and then they get excited about trying things that we have grown. I completely took juice out of their diet a while ago, which helps with lessening sugar intake. They only drink milk or water.

My friend introduced me to swiss chard. Chop it up, throw it on a pan with a little oil, garlic, and salt, bake it for about 5 – 10 min at 400. They taste like potato chips, but they’re veggies. So good!

Good luck!

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Jennifer @ Saving & Giving July 28, 2010 at 9:19 pm

We like to grill veggie kabobs in the summer. Grab one of each color bell pepper (usually green, yellow, organge, and red) and a pack of mushrooms. Put chunks of peppers on skewers, separated every so often with a whole mushroom. We like to brush ours with KC Masterpiece Steakhouse marinade/sauce and throw them on the grill. They’re colorful and yummy!

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frugalwarrior July 29, 2010 at 6:51 am

We have gone to the no white diet (no salt,sugar,white pasta,no white flour). 2 months 20#’s off for me. If you don’t like veg. eat it w/ sauces. slowly dial back until it’s plain. W/o sugar in your diet things taste better. My facial pores are tighter,my hair is glossier and less oily,I have more energy. Next I will go to the Eat Clean way of eating. Try Costco for organics. Livestrong.com is a fantastic site for novices. Good luck.

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Callie July 29, 2010 at 7:22 am

I know what you mean, I have been that way about the produce aisle. I am a simple cook, who tends to stick to recipes with 5 or less ingredients, with basics like plain old white potatoes, corn, frozen broccoli. One thing I do to branch out is look at cookbooks/websites with simple recipes (like $5 dinners!), and try one or 2 new recipes a month that may have one ingredent different from our norm. So, $5 dinners has some roast recipes that have sweet potatoes instead of white, and recipes with different uses for squash (such as a filler for mac & cheese). I’m more willing to try to use these types of produce if they are included in a very simple recipe, especially if I can just throw everything into the slow cooker and hope for the best!. Just print a couple recipes and keep them next to your shopping list, and when you see that produce on sale at your store, grab it and try it. If it’s a bust at least you tried, and didn’t spend too much money!
Also, try natural/no sugar added peanut butter — you might be surprised at how good it is and it’s great with sliced apples as a cheap snack. Sometimes I find it on clearance, and periodically there are coupons in the paper. Get fresh lemons and limes when they are on sale and squeeze into sparkling water if you’re trying to wean yourself off diet soda (I get 12 pks of Krogers cheap BK sparkling water, usually $1.99 a 12 pk, instead of big bottles that lose their fizz).
One last thing, try Aldi for produce. It is EXREMELY cheap store, but very clean and well organized (bring a quarter to rent your cart!). There you can also try out new produce without spending much.
Good luck!

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Susan July 31, 2010 at 3:41 pm

I’m making my husband and kids eat better by sneaking in things they don’t like to eat. I use my food processor as my secret tool. I can practically liquify a can of red kidney beans and add them to spaghetti sauce. My husband hates onions but eats them chopped very small or liquified in all kinds of casseroles, soups, etc. My daughter backs away from a mango, but if I toss it in the processor with some strawberries, bananas, yogurt or milk, and perhaps a touch of sugar or honey, she gulps down the smoothies. Puree cooked white beans or mashed potatoes and add to white sauces (alfredo, gravy, whatever). You can hide almost anything in foods if it’s not too strong-tasting and it’s almost liquid! Fruits, veggies, greens – works with everything I’ve tried so far. Just don’t go overboard. I pureed too many carrots once for spaghetti sauce and they noticed a different taste, but still ate it because I shrugged when they asked what I did differently.

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Trish August 1, 2010 at 5:29 pm

I haven’t read through all 41 comments that are already on here, but I did want to add a few suggestions. Some of these may already be on here, but here goes.

1.) Try at least one new fruit and one new veggie each time you go grocery shopping. Keep a list in your purse of what you liked and didn’t like. Choose in-season produce, especially if it’s on sale.
2.) If you decide you don’t like steamed green beans, for instance, find other methods of cooking. Food.com is another great resource for recipes of all kinds, as well as menus and online cookbooks by the users. Bake, broil, grill, roast, steam…. There are lots of healthy ways to cook veggies, without covering them in melted cheese or battering and frying them every night. Once in a while is OK, but everynight is bad for you.
3.) Zucchini, butternut squash, Yukon gold potatoes – these and more can be hidden in foods if you do it right. My husband hates a lot of veggies. I try to get him to eat them. I usually lose. Last week I made homemade lasagna. (With canned sauce, but hey, I work outside the home, so I do take a few shortcuts.) I had a zucchini I grew in my garden I needed to use. When my son started eating fruits and veggies, I roasted and pureed some butternut squash for him, which is slightly sweet naturally. I shredded the zucchini on my box grater, using the smallest side. I threw that ana a few ice cubes of pureed squash into the sauce and melted it before I put the lasagna together. Many other veggies can be hidden. Frozen spinach can be thawed, the water rung out of it, and pureed in a blender if you have the need to hide it really, really well.
4.) Doctors now say it takes up to (I believe) 10 tries for a baby to decide he likes a food. Why should we expect ourselves to be any different?
5.) For steaming veggies, I have a bowl that goes in my microwave. It has a divider in it, so I can cook two different veggies if I want. It had a lid with a vent. I just pour my fresh of frozen veggies in, add a sprinkle of water (more to fresh veggies, less to frozen) and microwave until just tender. Easy. There are many different ones on the market, many of them are economical. Ziplock also sells microwave one-use bags if you get in a real bind. I found mine on clearance, so I bought a few. They should be near the zip-top bags and aluminum foil in your grocery store. These aren’t very economical, and they can only be used once each, but are good in a pinch.
I’m sure you can Google other ideas. I just Googled “cooking vegetables” and got a ton of links.

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