Straight Talk

The Art of Thoughtful Real Food Compromise

What kind of compromises are you prepared to make? Almost no one goes into a major change in their life or their diet thinking of the need for compromise. The very human tendency is to believe that you can “be the change” 100% right off the bat, or at least soon thereafter. At that point no further compromise is necessary … you’ve made it, you’ve arrived. But change is really a journey and not a destination. You never arrive, not completely. There is just variation in the degree of the completeness of your arrival.

My experience with converting my family’s diet to real food has been an up and down journey, sometimes we feel close to arriving and other times we feel we’ve lost so much ground it’s hard to not be discouraged altogether. These ups and downs are caused by a number of factors but the single biggest ones are time and money … big surprise there ;-). In “Is Real Food Really More Expensive?” I talk some about the time vs. money trade-off’s inherent in adopting a real food diet and how to come to your own personal balance. What I’ve learned in addition to that is that the right balance for you is always in a state of flux. That balance needs to be struck over and over again as things change in your life. In short I’ve learned the art of thoughtful real food compromise.

Thoughtful Real Food Compromise

Every decision we make in life has consequences, even the decision to not decide :-). If we go with the flow and let others decide for things for us we get the consequences that come along with that. If we weigh the facts and decide for ourselves we get the consequences of that decision. That’s just life as a grown-up.

When we come to real food we can go several different ways with it. We could decide to never compromise our diets we get the consequences of that decision. Or we could choose something more like an 80/20 plan, with some judicious compromise to accomodate other things in life that we value. Things like dinners out with friends that aren’t real foodies, or our child socializing with other kids without food restrictions. And we’ll get the consequences of that decision. Or we could take a more lenient approach and eat real food when it’s convenient, but not go out of our way for it. And we’ll get those consequences too.

Maybe this seems like rambling, but I do have a point :-). That point is to choose your consequences carefully and with full awareness. Don’t just go with whatever is easiest to do at the time, or some standard someone has set for themselves … really think through what you’re going to get if you go down this path. In my own life, I always felt that a higher degree of compromise on good food for my kids when they were away from home was a good compromise with consequences we could handle. Now they are grown, I think they’d agree with that. But that choice didn’t come without some negative consequences. For instance, they both like fast food. Had we restricted their access completely they wouldn’t have had a chance to get used to it. But they would have lost many many opportunities to hang out with friends, which was something I just couldn’t live with.

Just think it all thru knowing the pros and cons well. Then you’ll be prepared for the results you get. If you want to do a full-on no compromise diet your health may be better, but this path will be more expensive, require significant time and may require financial sacrifices. If you don’t there may be health consequences. If you go 80/20 or 70/30 then maybe the kids eat enough bad food to cause some immediate health problems from time to time. But they are able to spend more time with their parents ’cause they aren’t killing themselves with work to both make all the families meals and pay to ensure they always have the best ingredients. If you go really lenient of the real food side your family can reap some of the benefits of nutrient dense food without a great deal of sacrifice. But it will be just some of the benefits. The risk of health problems would still be pretty high.

Our Decisions Change with Time

Whatever balance you strike, just know that it will change over time. We eat very differently now than we did after first learning about real food. And we eat even more differently than we did prior to learning about real food when we had a simple desire to avoid processed foods most of the time. Some of that has to do with knowledge, but mostly it’s a matter of time and money.

Back when my only real concern was avoiding toxic ingredients in food I had more money and lots less time than I do now. My kids were small and it seemed like a small miracle every time dinner was produced, like manna from heaven ;-). We took lots of shortcuts to help manage the heavy time pressures. So even though we knew about processed foods, we knowingly included it in our diet a small part of the time.

Later the situation shifted to more time and less money. So we ate more from scratch meals at home. Lots more. When we learned more about nutrient dense food we bumped that up even more. As we got better at it we found we saved a lot of money over the way we had been eating before. Processed food disappeared mostly except for outings with friends.

Now armed with the knowledge we’ve gained we find we have more time and a little more money. So we are working at taking things up a notch to a balance that is more like 90/10 hopefully. But when we were just gaining ground the rug was pulled out by illness. So for now we’ve lost some ground. Soon to be made up for, circumstances permitting :-).

We all experience these kinds of fluctuations in circumstance. When things change think through the consequences of the new balance you hope to achieve and make sure it’s the best one for you. No one else is in your shoes … you are always the best judge of how to best strike a balance.

What kinds of decisions have you made to find the right plan for you?

11 thoughts on “The Art of Thoughtful Real Food Compromise

  1. Love this article, live the same way with the same anguishes. My youngest (7) is understanding healthy choices so much, even when her Nana offers to take her to McDonald’s she declines. Eating habits are horrible and unhealthy, I am winning this battle for her. She understands it is OK to step outside the box occasionally but still make what we call “a good bad choice”.


  2. You’re so right! It’s a lot about the fluctuation of a time/money balance. Right now I’d say I’m in a 50/50 place more or less.
    Thanks for linking this up with the TALU!


  3. Kathy,
    A well-seasoned post–I enjoyed reading this! It’s like hearing parenting advice from a mom pregnant with her first child . . . idealistic, un-touched by reality, hopeful and sweet. And parenting advice from the mom of 6 is a little more flexible, a little more realistic . . . well-seasoned.
    I hope you continue to gain ground and illness doesn’t upset your apple cart too much more.


  4. It suits our family right now to make the rule that at home, we eat real food. When visiting family or friends, we eat what we are served. And we eat out once a week. That has worked for us so far . . . but it is always something worth revisiting. Thanks for sharing this process. It is good hear hear how others are doing it.


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  6. Thank you for your submission on Nourishing Treasures’ Make Your Own! Monday link-up.

    Check back tomorrow when the new link-up is running to see if you were one of the top 3 featured posts! 🙂


  7. This is so true! The more time goes by, the more I’m realizing that this real food journey is all about balance and compromise. I try to eat the best that I can when I’m preparing my own food so that I can relax if I’m eating out at a restaurant or over someone else’s house 🙂

    Thanks for sharing with Old-Fashioned Friday!


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