i’m a pretty rule-driven person. it’s comfortable to me to know the boundaries. i believe that you can enjoy yourself more when you know where the confines of “safe” is. and it’s been said in writing that you must know what the rules are before you break them. i frequently told the kids who complained about particular rules that “for every rule, there’s an idiot [that caused the rule into being]”.

for some reason i woke up early on saturday morning thinking about food rules. ironically, my mom, sister & i later talked a lot about michael pollen on oprah and his newest book is called Food Rules (seriously, pollen, i deserve endorsements).

my first food rule ever, circa 2002,revolved around diet coke. i love a good fountain diet coke. i’m not a huge pop drinker, but i do love me some diet coke. i found, at one point in my life, that even though i really loved diet coke, i would drink pop on all occasions – even pop i didn’t thoroughly enjoy. when i decided to think more about what i ate, i decided that i would only drink diet coke at restaurants that served it. if the restaurant served pepsi, i drank water. it was a good compromise. and i found myself eating at taco bell and kfc less (because they serve pepsi). but still, it works for me.

my eyes have been opened to the food world mostly because i’m becoming more conscientious of what the child is eating. as he is growing and developing, i feel like i need to offer the best stuff i can to help him get a good start in life, building a stronger baseline. later in life, like where i am now, it’s about extending what i have- i’m not really creating anything new (well, currently i am, since another child is getting a direct line of my food selection). i have a firm belief that anyone over 70 should eat whatever they want without anyone complaining. but i digress. surprised?

what i’ve come up with as my personalized guidelines to feeding my household operates off of a principle one of my cousins told me about a while back – “always foods” vs. “sometimes foods.” this goes great with the discipline ideology i ganked from KLM’s training, based on “rights” vs “privileges” (separate post). i don’t like the idea of “never” foods – God created all things and said that it was good. perhaps not good in the sense that we make a dinner out of chocolate, but good enough that I can’t put a “never” label on it.

i’m starting to try to see things more on a spectrum – that there are always foods (good example: broccoli) and sometimes foods (example: cookie). there’s no dark black line between the 2 and sometimes foods vacillate between the two based on factors. and there are things about foods that make them a stronger always food – always, like daily – or a sometimes food that is best enjoyed once you’re 21.

so how does one know where on that spectrum a particular food lies? here are my primary factors:
1. Number of ingredients. the fewer, the more it’s an always food. broccoli has one ingredient. milk the same. burger. apple. all very good always foods. the more ingredients, the less often you eat it. because it goes with the next….
2. Pronunciation of ingredients. hydrogonated anything doesn’t sound appetizing. anything that sounds like it should be a medicine instead of a food ingredient rapidly sends it down the sometimes food line. high fructose corn syrup puts it at the back of the line. (i know, “its nutritionally the same as sugar.” but. it’s not. it’s not sugar. its CORN. corn should be eaten off a cob, not sipped through a straw). the ingredients of the ingredients of a dish do change where in the spectrum a food falls. mac and cheese made of real cheese, milk and butter is closer to always than one made of velveeta because the list of ingredients on that box is 80x longer. i fully accept and understand that velveeta does make mac and cheese much creamier. you win some, you loose some.
3. packaging. the less, the better. and if it needs to convince me that its nutritious, it’s probably not. no one disputes the grapes in a ziploc baggie with holes, but the fruity pebbles seem to need to tell me about all the “vitamins and minerals.”
4. Locale of creation. jj and i decided that it’s ok for H to enjoy a treat or two if mommy (or grandma) made it. specifically if we made it and it did not come from a box / bag / plastic square. so pancakes sans bisquick. cookies sans nestle tollhouse tub. ice cream sans ben & jerry’s artwork. they’re on the sometimes food list – we don’t have pancakes every day, or even every week – but they work their way higher in the frequency chart by having roots in my kitchen. theory applies also to where foods are grown, such as in my garden vs. Argentina. and i think my crawford county cow is better than what’s been shipped to my meijer from omaha.

i think that’s all to my rules, but you never know. my list could be ever evolving, much like my reading list. but it’s helping me to achieve balance in my life, that i can enjoy a few things as a sometimes food (especially if i’m truly only sometimes eating it) without too much guilt because i’ve established a good repertoire of always foods.

happy eating.

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