I would give us a “B minus”.

So how did we do?  Was our family able to avoid fast food for 30 days straight?  How on earth did we even get into a situation where avoiding fast food was “hard”?  2010 has been a really fun year – we’ve taken several family vacations, visited college campuses, the kids attended summer camps – and somehow we found ourselves eating in the car more often than at the kitchen table.  I didn’t realize how lazy we had gotten until school began this fall and I had to get back in the habit of preparing dinner.  So on August 25th, we (okay “I”) made a conscious effort to eat healthier and to avoid fast food!

By the way, I decided Subway wasn’t a “fast food” restaurant.   Who am I to disagree with Jared?  I also had to exclude delivered pizza from the list.  What else do you feed a family room full of teenagers?  Otherwise we tried to eat at home or to dine out at restaurants with a choice of healthier meals.

We managed to avoid fast food for five whole days.  On the sixth day I had dinner with my cousin and sister, and left dinner at home for my husband and boys.  The boys phoned their dad and said there wasn’t anything at home to eat.  He brought home McDonald’s for dinner.  At that point I learned my “men” could not be trusted.  On Day 7 my husband and I attended a school open house and the little darlings tricked grandmother into bringing them Wendy’s!  On Day 8 my husband and I had yet another open house – this time grandmother said they ordered salads with their cheeseburgers.  : -)

On Saturday, Day 18, I had an early morning seminar.  I offered to cook pancakes for dinner that evening, but one of the boys said no because dad had gotten them pancakes from McDonald’s for breakfast.  I was conflicted.  They ate fast food, but at least in hiding the evidence they had cleaned up the kitchen.  Everyone pretty much joined the program after that (or at least as far as I know!) and we managed to avoid the drive thru.

If I had to grade us on our experiment, I would have to give us a “B-”.  I was the only family member who made it 30 days without a cheeseburger or chicken nugget or rubbery pancake.   I came to realize that, for better or worse, I’m responsible for my family’s dinners, and I need to learn to plan meals and to shop more efficiently.  We’ll be healthier and spend less money on groceries.  I also recognized much of our weekend entertainment is dining out at restaurants.  A home cooked meal is far healthier than a meal from a restaurant, and you can prevent oversized restaurant portions.  Better yet, we’ll be healthier if our entertainment involves some sort of exercise other than dinner and dessert.  Along the way I’ve gotten great suggestions from my girlfriends on how to plan meals and how to have healthy items on hand to grab as you go out the door! 

Thank you friends and family for reading my blog!  This has been fun, and I’m going to share some of the recipes you have given me for quick and healthy meals in future blogs.  I’d love to hear how you plan your family’s meals and how you limit your trips to the grocery store!  Please send your menus or recipes to this blog or email me!

Chow!  Sherry

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Sept. 20 – Day 28

I wowed my family with my culinary talents last night.  We had chicken noodle soup (I added spices and vegetables to canned soup), grilled cheese sandwiches and grilled cheese quesadillas.  Remember, when cooking for men and boys quantity and speed are as important, if not more important, than quality. 

We continue our sophisticated desserts of homemade jello or pudding, with a dollop of whipped cream (definitely not homemade).  I’m trying to get them to like fruit – bananas or blueberries – with their dessert. 

I’m feeling better about how I’m feeding my family, but I still have to do some work:

  1. I have yet to sit down and plan our dinners for a week.  
  2. We eat too many weekend restaurant meals (it’s a form of family entertainment)

So, how do I, at this point in my life, learn to plan and shop for an entire week’s meals?  Am I too “organizationally challenged”?  Maybe my more organized girlfriends can train me, or better yet,  I could just steal their weekly plans (just kidding, sort of…..).

I’m not incredibly worried about our practice of eating out on the weekend – it’s usually only Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.  I do worry though that there is never a healthy activity to go with it.  We could go for a walk before or after we eat.  My family would love that (do italics communicate sarcasm?).

My homework today is to find that organized girlfriend with the menu and shopping list!

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Sept. 19 – Day 27

My 30 day experiment to see if our family could live without fast food is coming to an end.  I picked a good time to do this, given the recent negative media attention focused on fast food. 

I love the TV ad featuring a corpse on a gurney clutching a half-eaten McDonald’s hamburger, followed by the caption “I was loving it”.  The advertisement was sponsored by a non-profit physician’s group.  I don’t blame McDonald’s or Burger King or Wendy’s for the flabby condition of Americans, which by the way, includes a third of our children.  No one holds us by gunpoint and forces us to eat a double cheeseburger and chocolate shake.  We do it willingly!

I remember going to McDonald’s when we were growing up.  My Mom took us once or twice a month, when our dad had a dinner meeting.  The hamburgers were the size of a child’s hamburger today.  The fries came in a tiny little paper bag and the soft drink was probably a small.  Basically adults and children alike ate what is today a happy meal!  How did we come to the point where we’re eating double and triple hamburgers, extra-large fries, and 42 ounce sodas?

The good news is that with just a little planning and forethought we really can avoid fast food.  We need to rearrange our priorities.  It’s important to get our children to baseball and soccer practice on time, but it’s even more important to get them there with a healthy meal in their tummies.  

If you don’t put the manufacturer’s recommended grade of fuel and oil into your car, your car eventually breaks down.  The same holds true for our bodies.  We aren’t machines, but we are organisms, and we need nutrients to function, and without the best nutrients we will eventually break down.  Adults that don’t eat well develop chronic health problems and have a shorter life span.  Children that don’t eat well develop a whole host of problems.  It affects their ability to learn and allows them to develop “adult” illnesses like diabetes at a young age. 

Sometimes I wonder how humans became the “highest functioning” animals on the planet?

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Sept. 14 – Lots of Days!

I wonder what happened to Days 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21??  No wonder it’s so hard to eat healthy.  Who has time to think about shopping and cooking healthy meals when you hardly have time to feed the dog?  (Don’t worry about our dog – she hasn’t missed a meal ever, I mean EVER.  She seriously needs to join “Treats Anonymous”.  When she was a puppy we rewarded her with a treat when she went “potty”.  Now if she even steps over the threshold of the backdoor or front door, she expects a treat.) 

I’m proud to say I have successfully continued our boycott of fast food (except Subway, which doesn’t have a drive thru).  I cannot honestly say the same thing about my family.  I attended a seminary early Saturday morning, and left before anyone else was up.  Later that afternoon I asked the family if they wanted “breakfast” for dinner.   The youngest said “nah.  Dad brought us McDonald’s for breakfast”.  Then the three of them tried to convince me that breakfast from a fast food restaurant was not really “fast food”.  I wonder then, why they hid any evidence of their breakfast and were not supposed to tell me????

This brings up another interesting topic.  While having coffee with my girlfriends, my friend Paula suggested men define fast food differently than women.   Some men seriously think breakfast bought from a drive thru is “real food”.  Everyone agrees that double cheeseburgers with bacon are fast food, but would guys say the same about a grilled chicken sandwich or roast beef sandwich?  I think any meal that is pre-packaged and delivered in a really big truck to a fast food restaurant, and then thawed, microwaved or cooked by a 16-year old, is probably not very healthy.

Speaking of grilled chicken, I think I’ll head to the grocery store and buy chicken to grill out tonight.  I haven’t tackled the Plan Your Meals for a Week Program yet.  Maybe next week…….

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Day 16 – Sept. 9

If you’ve lost control of your day before 7:00am, then you know you don’t stand a chance of getting it back.  That was my day yesterday.  I drove all over town delivering forgotten school work and transporting kids to and from activities.   Then when I finally arrived home from the last unscheduled kid run, one of the boys announced I had to run yet another errand.  This errand, if not run that evening, would result in him failing high school, and possibly destroying all life as we know it.  It was after 7:00pm when I left the house on my mission to save his future (not to mention the planet).  My husband arrived as I was going out.  He asked “what’s for dinner”?  I responded “there’s stuff in the refrigerator – I gotta go”.

My errand took an hour.  While I was gone, the boys warmed up Progresso soup for themselves and my husband warmed up leftovers from last night.  Normally my husband would have gone to Wendy’s or McDonald’s and brought food back home.  

As we were getting ready for bed he said he had read my blog and he knew I didn’t want us eating fast food for dinner.  Now how cool is that!

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Day 15 – Sept. 8

I heard a surprising cancer statistic on the radio this morning – one in five Americans (20%) will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.  I guess if you live long enough you’re bound to get something, but 20%?  The doctor speaking said the high rate has a lot to do with our lifestyles and all the toxicity that is in our environment.  So, do you (a) avoid evil plastic water bottles, Chinese lead toys, and artificially created fast food, or (b) give up and drown your sorrows in an aspartame diet coke and cholesterol laden McCheeseburger?

I guess we just carry on.  Last night I made a chicken and rice concoction in the crock pot.  Surprisingly the boys liked it.  They also ate more Caesar salad.  Who knew that kids LOVE Caesar salad?  I made an old-fashioned dessert, which I haven’t made in years – jello.  Remember jello?  Surprise – kids love jello too.

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Day 14 – Sept. 7

At dinner last evening my youngest son was observed eating only Caesar salad and corn on the cob.  Curious.  Does he enjoy eating salad or is he merely toying with me?  Should I do a security sweep of his bedroom for empty potato chip bags?  

My middle son also ate salad and corn on the cob, but he primarily feasted on fish smothered in catsup.   Does totally covering up meat with catsup enhance or mask its flavor?  Should I be offended, or just buy more catsup?

My husband prefers to hide my fish under tartar sauce. 

Maybe it’s my cooking….

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Labor Day Weekend (#10-13)

I’m pretty sure the “rules” for defining “healthy eating” are relaxed over holiday weekends.  I don’t know exactly what the rules are.  If I had to guess, I would say healthy eating would include movie popcorn (w/o butter), any form of meat grilled outside, anything eaten at a cook-out or tailgate party, and anything sold at a football or baseball stadium.  That said, our family enjoyed a lovely and very healthy Labor Day weekend.

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Day 9 – Sept. 2

We had a family dinner at home last night.  It was home-made taco night!  We didn’t have any extracurricular activities so we actually got to sit down at the table and chew our food.  I’ve always heard that if families sit down to dinner their children won’t use drugs or alcohol, will make straight A’s and are actually better looking than their peers.  I googled “statistics supporting families eating dinner together” and found that’s true (except for the better looking part).  

 http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Allen_Wheeler   According to this article, a Bureau of Labor statistics report said that “meals eaten with family consist of 50% more fruits and vegetables, are three times more likely to include low-fat choices, and have 40% percent less soda”.  The article also cited a 2003 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine study that found “adolescents who regularly sat down to family meals had better grades, less depression, and were less likely to drink alcohol, smoke, or use marijuana”.  (Again, nothing about being better looking.)  

The best part of this article was the author said “picking up take-out, ordering pizza. or going out to eat still counts as a family meal.”  YIPEE!!  I am a good mother, and by golly my children are good-looking!

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Day 8 – Sept. 1

Changing bad habits is an uphill battle.  I have been fussing at my family for preferring quick and probably bad food, but really those types of meals work best with our crazy lifestyle (which I helped create for them).   I have run them between school activities and sports practices and playdates their entire lives. 

I can’t help but feel guilty for feeding them all those Happy Meals at the playland, but where else could you turn three little boys lose where they couldn’t escape?  Why does the mother always feel guilty?  Do dads lie awake at night worrying about such nonsense?

Last night my husband and I attended yet another school open house.  We had to leave at 6:00pm.  We usually don’t eat dinner until 7:00pm so of course I didn’t have anything ready that early.  The time got away from me and when my husband got home we had about five minutes to eat dinner.  He made himself a sandwich and I microwaved leftover pizza for my middle son, who went with us.  I’m not going to even bother to submit my name for Mother of the Year.  My mom watched the youngest and took him out to eat.  I don’t think my mom has cooked a meal since my dad died.  When we got home my mom said they had salads with their meal.  I didn’t ask, but I bet they also had cheeseburgers.

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