the food that we eat

the truth about healthy eating is now sinking in..

I have mentioned quite a few times in this blog (here, here and here) how we are trying to revolutionize the way we live to fit into what can be considered a “sustainable lifestyle.” While moving out of the city was the biggest influence for this change to happen, we also realize that at the core of this sustainable lifestyle are choices that has to do with the food we eat. Because these are choices that we have to make everyday, and with every meal.

our children have developed an acquired taste for carabao milk products. we have a preference for carabao milk and yogurt, which we purchase from a local source, because we know these went through less processing than milk products you would often find in supermarkets.

Looking at where we stand financially, it would seem an unlikely move to be shifting to an organic, natural and whole foods diet, considering that such food options command premium prices in markets at the moment. But the thing is, this lifestyle shift I’m talking about is not just a trend that we’re trying to jump on, but it is in fact our commitment—to be able to live well—and our investment—to have healthy minds and bodies for years to come.

Whole foods is the general term for foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or foods that are processed and refined in as little ways as possible. As a rule, we make it a point to buy fresh food items from the market and avoid the grocery altogether as most of the items found here are commercially processed and make use of a lot of synthetic packaging. Our family loves cooking and eating at home, and refraining from “instant” and “canned” and “processed” food items was not really difficult. What was more difficult, in fact, is changing our mindset that going for groceries is an essential part of our day to day living.

Natural foods are those grown naturally without the addition of harmful chemicals such as pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. We are blessed to have a small piece of land to till where we grow some of our vegetables, so shifting to a diet filled with organic and chemical-free vegetables came in quite easily.

The last but major item in our diet revolution is shifting to all-organic meat. Since the previous month, more than 50% of the meat we cook and eat came from farms employing natural and sustainable farming practices. We are lucky to be networking with enterprises whose objectives are similar to ours—that is providing healthy and natural food sources at the most affordable prices possible. We have started purchasing organically raised chicken and pork, eggs from organically fed ducks and hens, and ocean-caught seafood.

The thing is, the prices of some of these items that are now staples in our food list cost several times as much than their conventional counterparts. To give you an idea, here are the prices of some of the food items we buy from what we consider healthier sources, compared with their price if we bought them at regular sources.

Regular market price Price of organic/natural Price difference
Pork PhP 170/kg PhP 195/kg >15%
Chicken PhP 120/kg PhP 170/kg >25%
Rice PhP 34/kg PhP 120/kg >250%
Fresh milk PhP 50/liter PhP 95/liter >90%

Indeed, some of the food items that we purchase are that much more expensive. Considering that these are food staples, a lot of you may wonder how we are able to afford such food choices. The key is in finding portions in our food budget that we can spend less on. Like vegetables, for example, because we grow some of our own, we can spend as much as nothing on vegetables on some meals in a week.

When it comes to fruits, buying local and seasonal fruits is key. Fruits in season are always at their cheapest. We had just left rambutan season, now we are thriving in calamansi before prices start to climb up again. Lansones also come in cheap nowadays. And we have banana and papaya trees so we have free fruit sporadically throughout the year.

Another tip is to finding less expensive alternatives to these expensive food staples. When it comes to meat for example, because organic meat is definitely more expensive, we are now trying to expand our protein sources to include more beans, legumes, nuts and soy. This way, we can cut down on our organic meat purchases without sacrificing our protein requirements. For rice and bread, there are plenty of local food crops that can be as filling, as healthy but much less expensive. Take cassava, camote, saba bananas, these are very cheap sources of carbohydrates that some of us often overlook. And when my children won’t eat boiled cassava? I make them into muffins, and they’d have no way of finding out that they’re eating some of the best calorie sources there is.

The good thing about maintaining an organic, natural and whole foods diet is that you are assured of better nutrition because these foods contain more complex micronutrients than processed or refined products having the same ingredients. So even if you skip meat on a meal but eat organic potatoes and parsley instead, you will still get your protein and vitamins and minerals because these contain a fairly balanced amount of nutrients.

So yes, we have made another step forward towards a truly healthy lifestyle. The first steps are really the most difficult. Still, it can be done. We are a normal, middle-class family, and yes, we can afford this kind of lifestyle. Because at the end of the day, it’s still a matter of choice.

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