Friday, October 24, 2014

Good bye, magic pill

Flashback to 4 years ago when Abigail was 6 months old. Our family practitioner suggested that I may want to start including liquid iron supplements since her stores from birth (as an exclusively breastfed baby) were likely to  be depleted. I took it with a grain of salt... and simply made sure to include red meat and iron-rich vegetables in her homemade baby food. I did buy a bottle of Poly-vi-sol around 12 months of age and added it to her bowl of breakfast oatmeal when I remembered. Evan got about the same amount of infant vitamins starting around 12 months, if remembering correctly... harder to do with the Second Child.

It seems that from that first bottle of Poly-vi-sol, we gave our kids vitamins in some form, when we remembered. At least through their 4th and 2nd birthdays. Then I decided to let the bottles run out. We had been giving half a kid's Centrum and half the recommended amount of fish oil. The Centrum was one of the only kid's vitamins that wasn't gummy, full of sugar, or marketed with a licensed character on the front, did contain iron, and wasn't cross-contaminated with not-safe allergens for Evan. The chewable fish oil was very allergen-friendly (other than fish) and contained no dyes or sugar.

But the daily cost of vitamins got to me. Not the dollar cost, but that our kids asked for them and ate them like candy. It bothered me that our kids regarded them as a magic wellness pill to keep illness at bay or be stronger. It bothered me that the kids saw the vitamin as delicious but were suspicious of some nutritious foods.
"One Kiwi contains the daily dose of vitamin C!"
"I hate the seeds! I still see them in the smoothie."

I would much rather teach them to eat healthy amounts of each food group, exercise, and be cleanly.

It led me to reorient our weekly grocery budget and buying strategy yet again. There's a ceiling limit that's usually respected, and a minimum that's always reached each week and month. Because I like to cook, have the time, and we have a child with a food allergy, all meals except maybe 1-2 of Nick's lunches are eaten at home with whole foods from the grocery store. No meals from a box or mix. Visitors lure us out to restaurants, but we don't have a "call for take out" stress reflex, or standing Saturday out ritual.

The question was, could I buy the Dirty Dozen produce as well as meat and dairy products organically while maintaining our budget?

Clearly, if we weren't paying $30/month for vitamins in the Health category, we could use those funds for Grocery. We buy the Clean Fifteen produce conventionally and economize on many other products... but they rarely include dyes, high fructose corn syrup, or preservatives. The Dirty Dozen plus meat and dairy (because toxins typically are stored in fat) organic switch did bump our budget up about $50 weekly. However, we eat almost every meal at home... so in a 7 day week with 3 meals a day:
  • $7.14 per day increase (for a family of four)
  • $2.38 per meal (serving four)
  • $0.60 per person, per meal

Pretty cheap, really. And the budget's been fine! And the food has been delicious! Anecdotally, I feel that everyone has been healthy and been in an increasingly better mental state over the past 5-6 months. This link is about nutrition for focus in kids with ADHD; similar diet switches made by us. When we first switched, it felt like my body was swollen every morning -- even my fingers. This was pre-pregnancy, just so you know. It felt like my body was detoxing and in desperate need of the fruits and veggies and water we ate in larger amounts the first month of the switch. Anecdotally, our kids have been eating a wider variety of seasonal fruits/vegetables and it's not a fight: even for shredded Brussels sprouts braised with apple, onion, lemon, and apple juice. Menu planning helps a great deal because I think kids really like variety.

The kids have been able to come with me for the CSA share pick up, or "our farmer's vegetable stand," some of the time since September. The farmer's family is friendly with our kids, and Abigail and Evan like to help with each step. This past week, bi-color dried "Indian" corn seduced them. We get a weekly share of meat and fruit from the CSA; it covers some but not all of those categories of our menu. Organic produce, meat, and dairy comes from Trader Joe's. As much as possible, conventional items are from Aldi. And anything left over is from Shop N'Save (a discount grocery retailer). It only takes 1-1.5h to hit all stores and return home because the list is organized by category and separated by store (pretty easy to remember which store is where certain items come from).

Seeing and feeling the results of our switch, I'm humbled. Previously, the dollar amount of our food budget category was king and dictated many of our purchasing choices. No longer.

Do you give your infant, or kids over age 2 vitamins or supplements? Why or why not? Do you take vitamins?

Which products do you buy organic or conventional? How do you decide?

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