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10 Small Changes You Can Make in the Way you Shop in Order to Improve Your Family's Health

07 January 2012

Let's face it- Change is difficult.

This is the time of year for resolutions. We all want to change something, but sometimes the reality is much harder than the dream. Sometimes we just aren't ready for all that "change."

So, in that spirit, I have come up with a list of 10 small changes that you can make which your family may not even notice but will make the foods that they already eat, a bit (or a lot) healthier.

If you're struggling to try to get your child to eat better, these are changes that mostly just require you to shop differently. Some of these changes involve buying items that are more expensive. If that's holding you back, I urge you to look at your grocery list and see what you can cut out (For example: maybe you can choose not to buy that pack of cookies- even if you're getting it on sale- you can then apply that amount of money toward buying whole wheat flour and making your own cookies...)

It seems that a staple in the diet of most kids is Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches.  Unfortunately most peanut butter has added sugar and hydrogenated oils, most jelly is mostly sugar (or high fructose corn syrup), and white bread is processed by your body in much the same way as sugar (not to mention it can be a chocking hazard for young children!)...  So, my first three suggestions will up the health factor of your P.B. and J. and if your kids eat this daily, it could have a huge impact! Your kids may surprise you and not notice these changes at all, but if you're skeptical, you can try Scaffolding your PB & J.

1. Buy a better jelly. In fact, instead of jelly buy "all-fruit" spread. I recommend Smuckers All Fruit. Be careful, some brands that appear to be "healthy," or are "organic," are still mostly sugar (even if they call it, "evaporated cane juice.")

2. Buy a better nut butter. Many "natural," peanut butters still have added sugar, and if not, they may be dry. I recommend, if you can find it, Crazy Richards. It doesn't have sugar added and it is still creamy and smooth. You could also try a nut butter that isn't peanut... though they are much pricier. I am allergic to peanuts so we almost always have cashew butter (and, on occasion Almond Butter.) A word of warning, most all natural nut butters will have a layer or oil on the top. Don't pour it out (yes, I did this the first time) you will end up with, essentially, ground nuts!

3. Buy a better bread. Many people assume that kids will only eat white bread. Fortunately there are more and more whole wheat options on the market that aren't dense and "grainy." One of my favorites for kids is Sarah Lee Soft and Smooth 100% Whole Wheat. It has all whole wheat flour and no high fructose corn syrup. (Incidentally, this is different than both the Sarah Lee 100% Whole Wheat- which includes high fructose corn syrup, and Sarah Lee Whole Grain White -which still has a significant amount of white flour.)

4. Buy a ketchup without high fructose corn syrup. Ketchup seems to be a staple in the diet of many kids and even though it was classified as a vegetable in the 80's ketchup has a high concentration of sugar (or high fructose corn syrup HFCS.) When I first discovered this, I started buying Trader Joe's Ketchup (because it not only has sugar instead of HFCS, but it is also inexpensive. Since I sadly no long live near Trader Joe's, I usually buy Simply Heinz or Heinz Organic.

5. Buy (or make) a better syrup.  Similar to the ketchup, I was rather disgusted several years ago when I actually read the label on the syrup. Since then I have always bought Maple Syrup.  Yes, pure maple syrup is much more expensive, but, to me, it's worth it. I reduce the amount my kids consume by giving them about a teaspoon's worth in a medicine cup- I never let them pour it themselves out of the bottle- we'd go through it much too quickly that way!  If real maple syrup is just way too far out of your price range, try this recipe for making your own syrup.

6. Buy a better cereal.  Despite the claims of "Whole Grain," and added vitamins, most cereals are not very healthy (even some that appear to be.) If your kids are starting their day with cereal, try to buy the healthiest (most whole grains and lowest amount of sugar) that you can buy.  If they are hooked on sugar cereals, you may even want to try Cheerios or Kix and then allowing them to sprinkle a little bit of sugar on top. They will still be getting significantly less sugar than most "kid cereals."

7. Buy a better pasta. If your family will go for it, you can buy 100% whole wheat pasta for a dollar a box at Walmart! If you think that they'll be turned off by the color, tryThere are many hybrid whole wheat/ white pastas on the market currently and it's likely that your kids won't even notice any difference. I have noticed, however, that I've served whole wheat pasta to kids who don't typically eat it and they haven't even noticed. You can also try rice pasta which is white in color.

8. Buy whole wheat flour. In most grocery stores you can now find White Whole Wheat Flour, as well. I always assumed that it was bleached so I steered away from it, but it turns out that it is just made from a different kind of wheat. You can read more from the Mayo Clinic, here.  We do all of our baking with whole wheat- we just substitute it for the white flour. I always assumed that you couldn't, or that you at least had to do half and half but it's simply not true. In most cases you will need to use less flour, and depending upon how much of the flour you cut out, you may want to cut back slightly on the baking powder or baking soda.

9. Buy a better beverage. Many kids drinks or drink boxes contain high fructose corn syrup or sugar. When choosing a drink for your children, don't look a the grams of sugar because they will likely be the same for those containing added sugar and those that are 100% juice. Instead look at the ingredients list and choose one that only contains juice. If your kids already drink 100% juice try watering it down and cutting back on the number of times per day that they drink juice. Encourage your kids to drink water as much as possible and choose an acceptable amount of juice that you'll allow per day.  I have recently cut way back on the amount of juice that I buy, and I pretty much stopped buying juice boxes. I send my daughter to school with a water bottle instead.

10. Buy a better "fruit snack." Despite the name, most fruit snacks are basically just candy- even those that are "organic."  There are some brands which are all fruit, or you can try fruit leather- Target's Archer Farms snacks are probably among the least expensive. They are still super sweat but without the added sugar.

What small changes have you made or would you recommend? Which of these do you think you'll try? I'd love to hear about them in the comments.

If you've already made all of these changes, check out my post in the 31 Days Challenge- Day 7 where I list the 10 small changes I plan to make this year.


  1. I don't have kids (and I'm not planning on them either) but I use these same techniques for my fiance and my mother in law. (I do all the cooking in the house so it was easy for me to do the switched with them not noticing anything except the food tasted better). Before I came into their lives they were eating soooo unhealthy, and I have slowly chainged their eating habits and both of them have lost weight as well as have better cholesterol levels now.

  2. It's funny how many people comment that their husband/ fiancé/ boyfriend is the picky one. That's probably even harder than a picky child since it's been ingrained for so long! It's great that you've been able to help your fiancé and his mom!


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