Freckles in April: Whole Foods FAQ

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Whole Foods FAQ

I've gotten a lot of questions about whole foods in the past and I want to start addressing them, especially since we're trying to get back into the swing of things.

We really love eating this way. During our 3 month experiment I dropped weight like it was going out of style. I slept better and had more energy. I rarely got headaches and my hair and skin looked the best they have in years.

We did a hardcore version of whole foods eating for three months from the beginning of September until Thanksgiving. We fell off the wagon pretty bad between our cruise and the holidays and are slowly getting our groove back. I'm currently trying to find a happy balance that combines whole foods, a little convenience, a happy budget, and the occasional white sugar laden cookie.

So here are some of the questions I've been asked:

Q. What are your "rules?"

A. We didn't really come up with specific rules except for following Michael Pollans general "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." mantra. If you haven't read the book, when he says "Eat food" he's talking about REAL food, not "edible food-like substances." We try to eat things that are as close to their natural form as possible. Things that grew from the ground or things that ate things that grew from the ground. Nothing processed. Organic as much as possible. If it comes prepackaged (like cheese) check the ingredient list. Everything should be pronounceable and recognizable and there should be no more than 5 ingredients.

Q. How religious are you about following your rules?

A. When we first talked about it we allowed ourselves one "re-tox" day a month when we could eat whatever we wanted. Unfortunately, it ended up being a little more frequent than that, especially when we got invited to dinner. We were not going to be like, "Um, I can't eat that, sorry." when someone offered us frozen ravioli. So when we're home we are pretty good. When we're out, it depends. But if I know dinner is going to be a bust I try to be really good about breakfast and lunch and then limit portion sizes at dinner. Especially after we decided this needed to be a permanent change we had to figure out how to be a bit more flexible.

Q. Do you hold your kids to the rules?

A. As much as possible. As long as we sit down and eat together Stinky will usually eat whatever we're eating. I'm pretty lucky- he's always had a fairly open mind when it comes to vegetables. The area I run into trouble with is snacks. Three is a very snacky age and many of his favorite snacks aren't what I want him eating. I do make exception for graham crackers. For Stinky, life without graham crackers is a life not worth living. Otherwise, there are lots of good whole food snacks I keep on hand. Raisins are always good (and portable if you buy the little boxes) and he loves apples. He's learned to crack open his own pistachios (a big-time family fav). I let him slide a lot more than I let myself but mostly he's on the wagon with us.

Q. What about Baby 2? Do you buy organic baby food?

A. Actually, thanks to Baby 2's repeated and vehement rejection of all purees, we're doing baby-led weaning with him. Basically, since he was six months old he has gotten big people food cut in such a way that he can grip it and gnaw on it. He loves avocado, apples, pears, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, you name it. If we're eating it then he wants it. And if we give it to him he usually loves it. So he's easy (and cheap, thankfully. Organic baby food is pricey). He's probably the most adventurous eater out of all of us these days.

Q. Do you spend all your time cooking?

A. If whole foods had a dark, seedy underbelly then this would be it. Our favorite enchilada recipe takes me every bit of 3 hours from scratch. It takes me about 30 minutes to make tortillas. Ravioli takes an afternoon. But don't let this scare you off! Because we weren't really veggie eaters back in September we started off with these kinds of recipes where the vegetables were chopped small and hidden. But as our tastes adapted I've been able to start going with simpler meals where the vegetables are just vegetables instead of part of a big production that allowed us to pretend they weren't there. Plus, it's always easy to just bake some chicken and throw together a salad and there are definitely nights when we do that.

The nice thing is that those ridiculously time consuming meals tend to freeze really well. I'll make a double batch of enchiladas which feeds us for 4 meals. We'll have one that night and I'll freeze the other three. The whole wheat pasta recipe I use for ravioli is incredibly filling so we'll end up eating like 3 or 4 apiece at dinner and I'll have 25 left to freeze. So you might put in a ton of time one day but have a bunch of meals to show for it.

But yes, to be honest, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen these days.

Q. What if I hate whole wheat?

A. So does Aaron. Or so he thought. Did you know there are different types of wheat? For some reason, hard red wheat is the "whole wheat" of choice. It's the brown, spiky feeling wheat flour you find in most whole wheat flour bags. It has its place but we much prefer softer white wheat. The baking results are much closer to what you get with all purpose flour. Look for white whole wheat flour (King Arthur carries it) or you can grind your own (which is my new favorite thing. Tortillas made with fresh ground white wheat are to die for). It really does make a difference. Things that come out dense and barely edible with red whole wheat flour are infinitely better when made with white whole wheat flour.

Q. Yes, but what do you eat?

A. Breakfast is usually pancakes, oatmeal (regular or steel cut), or whole wheat toast with organic peanut butter (I love Costco's) and some seasonal fruit. Snacks are apples, grapes, pistachios, raisins, string cheese, or Triscuits (bless their little 3 ingredient whole food friendly hearts). My go-to lunch is a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread with string cheese and an apple but there are also usually leftovers in the fridge. We do quesadillas and tacos a lot (great places to stick veggies). For dinner I try to plan around and include as many vegetables as I can. If we eat meat I try to view it as a side dish in terms of portion size. If a recipe calls for meat I almost always halve the amount and double the veggies.

Q. What has this done to your grocery budget? Isn't eating organic super pricey?

A. Ahhh, the golden question. I'll be doing a separate post on this because it's a long answer.

Any questions? Clarifications? Etc.?


  1. o thanks for posting this!

    I have been curio about the whole foods way of life!

    going to share with my mom-she'll will eat it up (pun intendido!)

  2. Where do you buy your wheat to grind? I want to do that and I'm looking for a cheap option.

  3. We barely know each other and are so much alike! Running, only eating real food/whole foods, baby-led weaning, and a ton of other things I've noticed (but forgot what they were) while reading your blog. Keep up the good work, I enjoy your posts :)

  4. You are gorgeous!!
    And this is such a great idea! I need to be better about what I eat! Thanks for posting :)

  5. i love this post - really helps demystify the whole foods issue. i'm currently reading Michael Pollen, so it really hits home.

    stumbled on your blog somehow... cheers! :)

  6. Wow, thank you for sharing this. I really liked Michael Pollan's books and wanted to follow through on living like this... really I think it's laziness keeping me from it - so I appreciate your ideas on how to make it all work!

  7. I love this post. Absolutely love it. When I grow up (read: no longer have class to muck up my evenings) I would love to spend some extra time in the kitchen!

    I also LOVE that you quote Michael Pollan--his books changed so much of my opinion and perspective on what I cram into my body.

    Excellent post, my dear.


  8. i eat clean myself and love this post. way to go lady. my hubby is lame and "hates" it but then eats whatever i make him and always goes for seconds/thirds. i think he just wants to keep his street cred. PS: since you're obviously a stylin' Mormon mom, you're invited to link up here: if you want, of course:)

  9. I love this subject. I feel like I'm an overall healthy eater, but I definitely get lazy sometimes. You inspired me to make waffle batter last night so I could send the girls off to school with something other than cold cereal in their tummies for once! :) I also LOVE grinding my own white wheat flour. I need to read The Omnivore's Dilemma. Have you read Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? I bet you'd love it too!

  10. i loved this. i haven't been the best at my healthy eating lately. i just keep justifying everything bad by saying that since i haven't been eating sugar, i deserve french fries/burritos/etc. not really the best way to go about things.

  11. Yay! Great post. Thanks for the honesty around whole foods eating. Yes it can be more expensive and yes it takes more time, but in the end the good that you are doing your body is totally worth it. You are a champ for making tortillas from scratch. I haven't gone that far yet.

  12. I know this post is from ages ago, but I just came across it again and thought I'd add my 2 cents, being the wife of a plant breeder who wrote his dissertation on wheat. :) The reason hard red wheat is the go-to whole wheat in the US is because 1)the climate of most of the US is better suited to growing red wheat and 2)most of the white wheat grown in the US is exported to Asia to make noodles!

    P.S. How are you liking your BlendTech grinder? I'm looking into getting that one?


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