Our life is changing, and I blame the chicken nugget.

A couple months ago I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Greene speak at a Metro Moms event in Dallas. He’s a pediatrician, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, and author of Raising Baby Green and Feeding Baby Green, among many other accolades. It was a pivotal point in my life as a mother

It’s not that he spoke that much about stuff I wasn’t already aware of. I knew that feeding my kid fresh fruits and veggies, organic when possible, is a pretty key ingredient in raising a kid who hopefully won’t become one of the 1 in 3 who is predicted to end up with Type 2 Diabetes sometime in their lifetime.  Although, I must say I didn’t know, or just hadn’t given much thought to how much respected baby food companies market and successfully sell sub-par (at best) food to well-meaning parents.

I learned quite a bit about the history of the baby food companies that day, and how, from a very early age, we are (many times unintentionally) introducing our children to foods and tastes that set them up for a lifetime of cravings for chips, cookies, processed snacks, and a distaste for the fresh fruits and veggies that are best for them. It KILLED me to think that parents who are just trying to do the best they can with what they have are already fighting a losing battle simply because they don’t know any better.

We love arranging the veggies and homemade chicken nuggets on this fun face plate!

I left that day with a renewed commitment to take an active role in what I was feeding my family, an autographed copy of Feeding Baby Green, and a curiosity about what else I just don’t know any better about when it comes to what we eat. A few weeks later my husband downloaded the audio book version of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. He listened to it non-stop on a long business trip and couldn’t shut up about things like monocultures, CAFOS and corn when he got home. I hadn’t seen him this passionate about anything since he thought he’d try out home brewing and become the next Budweiser.

It was a long trip up to St. Louis for Christmas, so I crammed in the always-too-big-for-my-tiny-earholes earphones, and let the sweet sound of the narrator take me away while the sound of my screaming child faded into the background. I listened to the first half of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and was riveted, appalled, disgusted, saddened, but most of all, determined. I knew entirely too much about chicken nuggets for life to ever be the same again. It was yet another pivotal moment.

Scott and I have since had hours of conversation about the impact of  the food industry on the world we live in today, on our family, and on our child and the world he will live in 50 years from now. These conversations usually involve a lot of “I KNOW!” and “We HAVE to make a change” kind of exchanges. We raise our voices, but not because we are disagreeing with each other. We are just both so fired up and DETERMINED.

We have a few simple goals for this year that will help us to make that change.

1. We need to get a deep freeze. I’m scouring Craigslist on a daily basis, and we’re earmarking tax return money for one.

2. We want to take part in a produce co-op. Basically, we will receive a box of local and organic, seasonal produce twice a month. We will then have to get damn creative on how to cook up or store that whole box of produce (and you see why the deep freeze is so key to this plan).

3. We want to eat less meat, and the  meat we do eat we want to come from a local, responsible farm. Like this one. The meat will cost more this way, yes, but if we are eating less, it shouldn’t make much of an impact on the budget. And we shouldn’t have any problem eating less meat because, again, we are going to get damn creative with the produce.

Okay, so headed into the new year we were pretty set on these goals. We weren’t moving at lightening speed to achieve them, I will admit, but I do have to say that I think we’ve already drastically changed our eating habits over the last month.

Then we watched Food Inc. last night, and all I have to say is HOLY FUCKING LIFE CHANGING. I mean, our life, the way we look at food, is already switching gears, but that movie threw everything into third and sent us screaming down the highway toward lasting, huge changes.

Please, please, I implore you to watch Food Inc. What you do with the information from there is entirely up to you, but please do yourself a favor, sign up for a one month free trial of Netflix.com and watch it. Now. You can stream it onto your computer. That’s what we did. We had a little date with my laptop, and I cried more than I ever thought I would watching a documentary about food.

It’s no secret that I’ve slowly morphed into a person people may refer to as “green” or “eco-friendly” over the last few years. I blog about bits and pieces of that here when I talk about things like cloth diapering and making our own baby food. Well, I am absolutely honored and THRILLED to tell you all that this week I am the featured guest blogger over on Dr. Greene’s Perspectives blog. Yes, a man who had a profound impact on the way I want to feed my family reached out to me and wanted to hear what I have to say about the decisions we are making today to live healthier and smarter. I really don’t know how much cooler blogging can get from here.

You can check out the blog posts from Monday and Tuesday, and check back the rest of the week for the remaining three posts by going to http://Blogs.DrGreene.com/Perspectives.

Born Free, A natural baby product company that makes BPA free bottles and sippy cups, has reached out to partner with me on a few things, too. Become a fan of mine on Facebook and take a look at my wall posts. You’ll find a contest you can enter to win a Drinking Cup, which Kendall had the pleasure of trying out (Born Free sent the product to us at no cost). Also, in response to the FDA’s announcement today, January 19th, that they are now as concerned as the National Toxicology Program about the impact of BPA on human development, Born Free is sponsoring a Twitter Party all day on Wednesday, January 20th. If you Tweet, please join in!

I have big plans to blog all about the changes, big and small, we are hoping to make this year when it comes to what we eat as a family, and I hope many of you who’ve already told me how much these books and Food Inc. have changed your life will chime in and help me along. For starters can anyone tell me some great vegetarian recipe websites? We’re not going completely vegetarian, but like I said, we’re going to have to get damn creative with that produce.

Kendall is nearly 21 months old, and I’m proud to say he’s addicted to clementines.

50 Things to Do Before You Deliver: The First Time Moms Pregnancy Guide
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  1. Congrats! I can guarantee you will never look back…we made similar changes almost 2 yrs ago (when I read Pollan’s “In Defense of Food”), and it has been FABULOUS!

    We now buy 90% of our food at the farmer’s mkt (we go twice a week), and make everything – everything – from scratch. We make our own butter, bread, beer, jam, pickles, sauces, etc, etc. And it is FUN, and so delicious. And good for our bodies and our planet.

    I highly, highly recommend the following: all of Deborah Madison’s cookbooks, which are focused on vegetables (many are totally vegetarian), and Alice Waters’ “Art of Simple Food.” Alice is often called the matriarch of this food “revolution,” and with good reason. She has been making local, sustainable food crazy delicious for almost 40 yrs. We cook from “Simple Food” several times a week. And you can get all these books from the library!

    Jealous about the deep freeze. We simply have no place to put one – but damn I would buy a whole cow (humorously called a beeve) if I had one.

    • Thanks for the recs. We won’t be able to get a big deep freeze, so we won’t be able to get the whole cow all at once, but I’d love to get 1/4 of one, at least. I can’t believe all that you make from scratch. Have to say, that sounds overwhelming, but I’m hoping we’ll ease into it a little at a time.

  2. Great post – we are following a very similar path to you.

    I haven’t read Dr. Greene’s book yet, but will put it next on my list. We’re about to start feeding our daughter solids in a couple months (I’m in no hurry) and all this has been weighing heavily on my mind. We already eat out of the farmer’s market, have an organic delivery service and can/freeze stuff in the summers. Like you, we’re also earmarking some money for a deep freeze this year to take advantage of buying organic or grass fed meats in bulk from farmers.

    As all my friends and typical references recommend starting rice cereal among other things, it just doesn’t sit well with me. Why rice cereal? Why not rice? Why not a pear instead? Or an avocado? Is it really as ‘hypoallergenic’ as people say? You get the picture. Will look forward to following what you guys do.

    • Why not consider starting with quinoa cereal? It’s easily digestible as a first baby food, and a nutritional powerhouse.

      Nutritional info here… http://www.vegparadise.com/highestperch36.html

      Rinse 1/4 cup of whole organic quinoa and then toast it in a dry skillet until it pops and smells kind of like peanut butter. Then pulverize it to a powder in a (VERY clean) coffee grinder or food processor and whisk into 2 cups of boiling water. Whisk well to avoid lumps and cook for about 10 minutes, whisking occasionally. You can then thin it with breastmilk or formula as needed. I started off with plain quinoa cereal as posted, then gradually started adding things like mashed whole banana, a bit of cinnamon, etc. Now I still frequently feed it to my 18 month old son as a breakfast cereal with added banana, blueberries, soft-cooked apples, and always a dash of cinnamon and vanilla and he loves it. I make a batch on weekends and freeze it in to cubes for the rest of the week. 🙂

      • Thanks for the recipe! I did something similar with millet. It was pretty good, except I found it hard to really pulverize it in our food processor. I’ll have to try the coffee grinder.

  3. hitting up borders next week. my friend mae (tophersgirl1 on twitter) was also telling me today how TOD is changing her life. as i was making hamburger helper. seriously.

    i always make sure Harper’s food is organic, fresh and healthy, but slack off on Scot’s and my plate. hopefully some good reading can change the way we all eat.

    completely unrelated? super hot mama pic.

  4. Just a note about the deep freeze…try ApplianceSmart. I know they have a couple stores in Texas, but not sure where you live so it might be out of the way? We got ours there for $200 and it’s in perfect condition.

    Oh yeah…love the pic!

  5. I also live in the Dallas area and strive to serve my 16-month old twins organic food. We moved here from Philadelphia about 1.5 years ago and it was SO easy to find fresh organic locally-grown produce and meat there. It’s been a challenge here however. We finally found a CSA that has delivered fresh organic and local produce and it’s wonderful. It’s called squeezepenny CSA (www.squeezepenny.com). And we buy nearly all of our meat and eggs from Truth Hill Farm or Sloane Farm, 2 local organic, grass-fed farms. As for vegetarian recipes, we found some great ones on http://www.william-sonoma.com.
    Hope this helps you!

    • Isn’t it crazy how it’s actually HARDER to find fresh, locally grown produce in TEXAS than the east coast?? Mind boggling.

      Thank you so much for that link.

  6. You might enjoy checking out peasandthankyou.com. “Mama Pea” is vegan and feeds her two girls vegetarian, so she’s always got quick and fairly simple recipes that still taste good. I’m moving towards vegetarian and I’ve made several of her recipes. She’s funny as heck, too.

  7. Very motivational post, and I will definitely check out the resources you’ve recommended! My husband and I read TOD a few years ago and were so passionate about it …. but now we’re really slacking off. We’ve totally decided we need to get back to where we were a few years ago. Can’t wait to follow along on your journey!

  8. Just found your blog, and I love it. Seems like you have the time/inclination/research savvy to discover all the things I should be looking up re: raising my kid properly so as to avoid my sweet babe turning into an 800 pound meat-hormone-induced blob who subsequently gets seriously injured in a forward facing car seat.

    and it doesn’t hurt that you’re hilarious!!

    keep writing, please. I’m working 70 hours a week as a lawyer and will never, in 1,000 years, be able to cull together this information on my own. Thanks for the links 🙂

  9. You should also check out “Eating Animals” – I’m at the end of it now and…wow…is all I can say.

    We always have tried to eat locally and organically (about 70% of food is consumed that way), but since moving to a more rural part of the country we are finding it harder to do. Thanks to google I found a local farm that sells eggs, chicken (who are actually free roaming and killed ethically) and pork.

    We also own quite a bit of land and my husband has agreed to building a chicken coop and maintaining our own little mini farm.

    Great post, Jill!

    • Thanks! I will have to add that to the ever increasing list of reading materials. Have to say, that title alone is making me lose my appetite.

  10. great post!! though i haven’t read any of the books you talk about (though i will put them on my list now), our family is moving in the same direction. we have started buying our meat directly from the farm (sharing it with some friends since we are a small family) and we are buying into a co-op as well!! i look forward to more about your experiences as we join you!

  11. I couldn’t agree more. Learning from the first child, the second got organic baby food or home made. I also know that it’s common for people to have 10 baby bottles, but we wanted to use the born free ones. At $10.00 each we had two. We used two the whole time he used bottles. It didn’t matter, we washed them and it never became a problem. We live in a society of such excess that you think “I must have 15 onesies and 10 bottles and 6 pairs of shoes, etc.” If you are realistic your actual needs, you can afford organic or green products. You just won’t have as much, and trust me this is for the better. A baby already brings so much into life, an overboarding of products just makes the liability list that much longer. Keep spreading the word to the world!

  12. This is wonderful news! Congrats and good luck on your journey 🙂 I made the switch over 2 years ago, and it’s been challenging, but rewarding.
    For starting out, check out Jennifer McCann’s Vegan Lunch Box books:
    She’s so inspiring!
    Also, definitely check out all of Isa Moskowitz’s cookbooks (she has made my transition so much easier):
    I just got this book as a gift, and I’ve already made a few things. I love it, and the recipes go well with everything that i receive from my CSA:

  13. No idea who you are, never met you, but… I am so proud of you! It’s a wonderful thing that you’re doing, and it takes a lot of guts to commit. I’ve been veg for 14 years, and almost vegan now, so the site I’m going to link is all vegan recipes, but just use regular dairy/meat products when they list veg*n ones. http://www.vegweb.com They even have a kid friendly section. Try the General Tao’s Tofu… amazing! Good luck!!

  14. Jill – great article. I have not seen Food Inc. yet but my husband (chef) has and wanted to give it as Christmas presents this year, he thought it was that important. I hate going to the grocery store. Isn’t it mind-boggling to see row upon row of canned food products full of God knows what that we put in our bodies! I am so happy I made my 3rd child’s baby food and when I shop I buy everything fresh, and if it isn’t fresh then it comes from the freezer when it was frozen fresh. Our family ranch is also attaining organic status on our cattle operation. There is such a difference in the way we raise cattle. Oh, and we slaughter a cow once a year for our very own meat. Good stuff. Interesting about the produce co-op, need to check that out!

  15. Just finished The Omnivore’s Dilemma this morning, and yes I’m energized. We’re heading to the farmer’s market again this Saturday and next to search out some more local producers and I’m lucky to be able to take advantage of Florida’s extended growing season. But. As a two working parent household making everything from scratch sounds incredibly overwhelming to me. I think it’s going to take a bit of extra time for us to get things figured out for our home meals and that’s not even considering the daycare aspect. I send alternate food on days when I think the lunch provided is unacceptable (hot dogs, bologna sandwiches… wth?). But the more I think about it, the more that’s starting to turn into every day. I don’t know how close we can get to what I would consider the ideal. But I think as long as we’re consistently moving a little closer, that’s the important thing. Right? No really, right?

    Sigh. If you’ll excuse me I need to go lay down for about the next 17 years.

    Also, great links on the post and in the comments. Not sure if I saw it up there or not but eatwild’s website has been a good resource for me for finding local farmers. We’re hoping to upgrade our deep freeze for a larger version soon as well and fill it up with some local grass fed meat.

    • Mae, I know. It DOES seem really overwhelming. There is no way we can change completely and make 100% of everything we eat. Not now, and I’m not sure if we ever will. That being said, like you, I feel like we just have to start putting one foot in front of the other. We have to make one small change at a time.

  16. What a great post! I am reading in Defense of Food right now by Pollan and just finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Kingsolver. Both books have fundamentally changed my life for the better, especially when it comes to what I am feeding my 20-month old. I’ll have to carve out some time to watch Food, Inc. although I have to admit you’ve got me a little nervous 🙂
    So excited to hear about your guest posting with Dr. Greene, keep up the great writing!

  17. I love your post. You have described the changes I have made in a nutshell…now if i could only convince my husband to do the same. He understands why I’m so passionate about these issues, but cannot seem to find that passion himself. I’ve been dying to watch Food Inc and read the Omnivore’s Dilemma myself, but maybe if i can get him to than he’d be more on board.
    As for me, i cringe when I see all of those ridiculous gerber treats, they are definitely not nutritious baby food, but I have friends who think that they are. I only feed my son organic and homemade food. I also only eat organic, local meat…so outside of our house I don’t eat meat at all. I desperately need a deep freezer…especially since I feed my dog only raw organic meat as well, so my freezer is bulging!

    Anyhow, congrats on the spot on Dr. Greenes blog, hopefully together we can all make some changes in this world!

  18. Some more book recs: “Real Food” by Nina Planck (and she has a “Real Food for Mother and Baby” about conception/pregnancy/baby foods, if you might need it in the future, hee hee!), “Food Matters” by Mark Bittman (a more go-to guide about changing your diet to more plants and less meat), and also “how to Cook Everything Vegetarian”, also by Bittman.

    Meal planning has made all the difference for us, in changing our eating habits from relying on any prepared foods to making everythign from scratch. We’ve also started eating meat once a week, which has turned out to be easier than we thought it would be.

    And we should remember how powerful we can be as consumers by refusing to buy pre-made, corporate food – including most organic prepared foods, as small organic companies are getting bought up by huge corporations – see http://contexts.org/socimages/2009/03/18/who-owns-organic-brands/

    Good luck! It’s a good change to make

    • Meal planning is definitely going to be key, and I think that’s going to be one of my biggest challenges. I also have to say that I have a whole new outlook on the “organic” movement, and “local” and “sustainable” now mean far more to me than “organic”. Thanks for the link!

  19. Great post! Thanks for spreading the word… this topic has been on my work radar over the pasy year or two (I’m an environmental planner, discussing and pushing reintroduction of gardens and small farms into the suburbs) and this whole topic is of more pressing interest to me that now that I’m 5 months pregnant. Incorporating these efforts into our lives not only make us healthier, but will help clean up our planet a bit too! Thanks again!

  20. Ok, so the hubbs and I decided to take you up on watching Food, Inc. and after watching I am so fired up to just totally walk away from all of the agribusiness junk that surrounds me. First thing this morning, I called a local family-owned organic farm and signed up for a weekly box of fresh produce and chicken, and contacted a nearby grass-fed cattle ranch to arrange for organic beef purchases. After watching, I felt so disgusted, at myself, at the companies, and at our regulatory bodies, that I am determined to just cut it out of my life. If I can’t find it organic, then I probably don’t need it. I can’t believe it took me so long to realize what was going on around me. AND, on a (related?) note, my husband and I decided to switch to cloth diapering (i’m sure everyone who knows me will be shocked) so I’m going to have to take your recs from your long-ago cloth diapering posts. If you have any suggestions on where to buy the dipes/supplies besides greenmountain, please let me know (like are there any moms out there selling covers used? We’re going with pre-folds, and we’ll buy those new).

    • Meghan, wow! I’m so glad you are as fired up as we are. We can’t believe how long it took either, and my husband works for the FDA and sees a lot of this firsthand. Don’t feel bad. It’s scary to make such a commitment to change, but I remember feeling a little like this before we started cloth diapering, just overwhelmed, and we don’t even have to give it much thought now. It’s become a way of life.

      As far as other resources for diapers, I have to say my absolute favorite covers are Thirsties, and you can get them lots of places. If you use the code Babyrabies at sunshinediapers.com, you’ll get 10% off. You could also check out DiaperSwappers.com to see if you could get any gently used ones that way.

      Congrats on making the switch, and please send me an email anytime you have questions.

  21. I just wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you – I borrowed Food, Inc. from the library and we watched it last night. All I can say about it is Wow, I had NO idea and now I’m so glad I do.

    I probably would have never heard about it if it wasn’t for your blog. Keep up the great work!

  22. post like this make my heart smile and so happy how movies and great books are really talking to consumers! I changed a while ago and went meat free a few months ago. i agree with everything you said and think meat is fine as long as you know your farmer and what you are getting!

    i read, watch documentaries, and even take classes at a local college I have gotten so passionate about it. And like you said i stress over and over again on my blog that i understand why not every one eats like this, its too hard to even start to understand even when we think we are doing the best we can for our friends!! cant wait to watch you through you journey!

    all michael pollan books are wonderful and another great read is eat animals but jonathan saffer foer and any marion nestle book is fantastic!! if you like to read or listen on tape!

    • Have heard many recs for Eat Animals now, so I’ll definitely have to hurry and read that one. It’s an exciting journey to be on. Can’t wait to check out more of your blog!

  23. Great post 🙂 I’m also a big Michael Pollan fan and hoping my family continues down this path as well!! It also has me excited and determined to get more REAL food in my life. Good luck to you!

  24. Eeek! Jill, you’re going to make my husband hate you, haha. First med free birth, then cloth diapers, now THIS? Just kidding; we’ve been (slowly) moving away from fast and packaged foods lately. We’ve pretty much cut out all meat except chicken, turkey, and fish on occasion. Maybe I really will watch food inc. to give me that extra boost to really make these changes. I have one question- will it make me throw up? My pregnant tummy is sensitive. 🙂

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