Nourishing Tummies (Recipes)

Becoming a “Whole Foods” Family

(Okay, this actually has nothing to do with the store of the same name. Especially not after the soulless sellout to Amazon, haha. Just wanted to clear that up!)

Over the past few years, our diet has undergone a fairly radical transformation. There are a lot of reasons for this, but honestly it simply boils down to our growing awareness of what a healthy diet looks like. And how it looks nothing like what we think it looks like.

Food is a polarizing topic. Diet, even more so.

When people discuss food, the topic often becomes filled with buzzwords and jargon, and it’s rather quite confusing because don’t we all just want to make friends over some pizza and beers?

Food consumption in the United States – maybe everywhere, really – is incredibly politicized. Advertising dollars drive diet advice. Lobbying arms of giant food corporations hold the pen for illustrating each year’s government recommended food pyramid/plate. Competitive bids buy the space on grocery shelves that you’re most likely going to see and touch, ensuring that your family craves the items that marketers want you to crave.

I could go on about the corporate gymnastics that dictate the food you eat, but that’s not really my point. (Perhaps another time.)

Suffice to say, when we realized the extent to which our diet was influenced by factors outside of the actual nutritional value of food, we knew we needed to make some changes.


Our transition to a healthier diet came with much trial and error. First, I tried finding healthy alternatives by shopping where we already did and making the switch from standard products to ones with shorter ingredient lists. I swapped refined grains for veggies, and made an effort to learn how to prepare a vast sampling of the different choices in the produce section.

As the primary shopper and cook for our family, the dietary changes came mostly at my observation and experimentation however, Joshua has been nothing but wholly supportive of my admittedly unorthodox endeavors. I honestly don’t know how I would have been able to make these changes if it weren’t for his support.

After all, I base roughly 90% of my cooking skill on how much people enjoy it.

One change led to another, and soon I was made aware of a world beyond the four walls of the grocery stores where I grew up (I did actually work at a grocery store for six years, so that’s not totally a melodramatic recollection).

Last summer, we started shopping at a local farm market and that set off a chain of events (more on that later) that’s led to the current iteration of our diet, which is, effectively, a whole food diet.

Which isn’t even remotely a diet. But there are precious few words in the dictionary to explain your eating plan and ideologies, so we’re going with it.

Why Whole Foods?

Whole food eating – and thinking, really – to me means choosing whole foods instead of processed foods to fill the bulk of our diet. This includes whole fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, and very occasionally meat.

I spend a lot of time preparing food now, as it is more labor intensive to do things like prepare your own veggies (versus buying them pre-washed and packaged), soak and cook beans (versus buying them canned), and make as much from scratch as humanly possible. Thankfully, I love cooking, so the kitchen is a natural place for me to spend my “free time”.

We don’t eat a ton of meat these days. Good meat is expensive. We’ll delve into the topic of meat and animal ethics a little later, but let’s just say the packaged stuff at the grocery store hardly falls into the whole foods, non-processed category.

So we eat a lot of veggies. I’ve learned how to make a delicious burger from black beans and “meatballs” from sauteed eggplant that taste like, well, meatballs.

As a result, we eat less processed foods than we did before. Sure, I’m a sucker for cheese, and we still use butter and some other animal products, but I make sure to source them from local farms and choose items with ingredient lists that are only four or five items long.

On the whole, I’m averaging less than one grocery bag full of processed foods weekly shopping trip. And I feel pretty good about it!

Wrapping it Up

Coming to our current diet home has take a lot of trial and error, as I previously mentioned. There are plenty of things I’m thrilled about as far as our food ethic is concerned, and other areas where I’d like to see improvement.

How are we feeling since switching to whole food? Um… Awesome! Joshua and I both feel healthier and have significantly more energy than we did before (which is saying a lot, when you factor in hectic work schedules and tiny people). Joshua’s noticed a significant reduction in some digestive issues he’d been experiencing and I’ve lost weight and gained a good amount of muscle – something that isn’t always so easy to do after having kiddos back to back.

To be fair, now that I’m pregnant yet again, there is obvious present and future weight gain to factor in. But I’m starting out a lot lighter than I did before even having kids, so that’s some real motivation to keep the cravings in check.

The kids, too, benefit significantly from our diet. And yes, they do eat the same whole vegetables and grains that Joshua and I do. Paisley’s behavior is pretty consistent, without hyperactivity and wild mood swings that people often credit to food additives like dyes and colorants.

I’d say that all around our family is definitely reaping the benefits of a healthier more plant-centric diet. How about you? Have you added more whole foods and veggies to your diet and noticed a positive impact? I’d love to hear in a comment below!

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Gabrielle Rystedt
Gabrielle Rystedt
Gabrielle Rystedt is a writer by day and a writer by night (because writers never sleep), who spends time balancing client orders, a couple of books and her blog at Raising Rystedts. She’s a business school grad who’s dabbled in management, both at the project and company level. She loves coffee and crafting, and enjoys settling down with a good book. Though as mom to three kiddos in three years, she realistically spends most of her time reheating her coffee and typing away like a crazy person on a laptop keyboard while surrounded by (clean) cloth diapers and cheddar bunnies.

3 thoughts on “Becoming a “Whole Foods” Family

  1. Small changes over time has created a new way of eating. We are slimmer, have more energy, sleeping more soundly, and just feel better. Shopping is more simple also. I like this post. Glad you enjoy cooking and that whole foods is working for your family!

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