Real Food. Modern Realities.

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Do you ever feel like you’re living with the Cleavers?

Me, neither.

(If you answered “yes,” then feel free to skip the rest of this post ’cause you’re livin’ the dream!  If you have no knowledge of the Cleavers, then you need to study up, friend.)

And we certainly don’t live in a world that is anything like it was when that show was popular.  Can you imagine June Cleaver with an iPad in her kitchen?  Hahahaha! Ha?

But wait … But stop and think about the food that she fed to Ward, Wally and the Beaver (and Eddie Hascal, of course).  I’m betting that it was a closer approximation to real food than anything served in most households today.  And I would also imagine that because it was a part of their culture, it was much easier to get fresh milk and local meats, fruits and vegetables than it is for most of us.

Of course, I do realize that this was, in fact, a television show.  It does, however, depict with some degree of accuracy, the general reality of life during that era, albeit with an overly dramatized glossiness.

Although we are not very far removed from the Cleaver decade, our reality has “advanced” so much more rapidly than similar passages of time throughout the course of history.  They had black-and white television and AM radio;  we have iPads, iPods, television in myriad forms, DVRs, Blu-Ray and on and on and on.  And while they had milk delivery and local farmers, we have GMO-laden milk, GoGurt, Skittles, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Funions, and McDonalds.

Frankly, I think I’d rather have to deal with the Beaver’s trouble-making than have to deal with the constant complaining that I get as a result of the overwhelming barrage of junk food that my kids come into contact with each day.

No matter how much we would like to insulate our children from all of that nastiness, they are so inundated with technology and well-targeted advertising that it’s nearly impossible to avoid.  Plus, if you are coming to the real food table as we are, with children who have already been directly exposed to junk food, it is difficult to divorce them from it.

And so, while I would sometimes like to live in a Cleaver-esque reality where I (as June) tell them in the most gosh, darn, aw-shucks way possible that they should really avoid those M&Ms and then they say “Gee, okay, ma” and happily run off to play outside, I do realize that this is but a dream.

I set out on this journey to get my kids eating fewer things out of packages and more things that come from my kitchen.  But I also recognize the realities of the world in which we live – a world that includes lots of things that I would prefer that they never experience, but that experiencing these things is a consequence of their reality. I don’t want them to ever feel ostracized or deprived because I don’t allow them things that other children are allowed, but at the same time, I want to educate them so that they are capable of making intelligent choices when I kick ’em out into the cold, cruel world and they are forced to navigate these waters on their own.

So, we make compromises.  We have Dunkin’ Donuts.  We indulge at the county fair.  We go out for ice cream.  I don’t freak out if someone gives them a handful of Skittles.  We also stay away from fast food.  We try to eat out in places that serve locally sourced food or, at the very least, places that make an effort to be real.

And I have learned to be okay with that.  We do the best that we can, keeping in mind the reality of our reality.

Even if it’s nothing like the Cleavers!

51 thoughts on “Real Food. Modern Realities.

  1. I totally believe that we can only make the best food choices we can. For many of us it’s hard to live a complete non-gmo, organic lifestyle, but we can try really hard to come close. I’m so looking forward to reading more of your posts in the future!

  2. What a wonderful post! So spot on with how I feel. While I know the amount of junk food needs to be cut down, it is difficult to do so. Part of me says it is okay, after all, I am working on four or five new cookbooks so I need to be taste testing desserts. 🙂 Another part of me says we can taste test and practice moderation at the same time. Thank you for the reminder that it is okay to indulge occasionally with the family. ~Adrienne

  3. Congrats on striving to be the change you want to see in the world. I think the tide is changing, and more people are coming onboard the healthy train. At least that is my hope as a health coach. Great article.

  4. Love this post! I wish to live in a time like that. So funny wish my kid would say “gee ma okay” haha. It is definitely much harder to eat healthier and cleaner than ever today but I also agree to let kids have the opportunities from time to time to indulge.

    Deb

  5. Ah, sometimes I long for life like the Cleavers enjoyed! There are benefits to that simpler time, and yes, food is one of them. We are bombarded with so many choices now, and the temptation to eat out is one my husband and I battle every day. I grew up in the 60s and I don’t recall ever eating in a restaurant with my father.

    Thanks for the reminder of those good ‘ol days. You are right about today, too. We can enjoy all the things available to us, but we have to make compromises.

  6. Sadly, I don’t think many people realize the true “dangers” of eating processed foods. Our health is at serious risk. At our house, we try to have a nice balance of foods. Winter is especially hard, but we work during the summer and fall to grow and harvest garden grown foods and preserve them (canning and dehydrating) for use year round. We live in the country and have taken advantage of the opportunity to grow our own meat…just took our first bull to the butcher shop yesterday. That is a whole other story. It is not for everyone. And we have 125 broiler chicks coming tomorrow or Friday to be raised and butchered around the end of May. My husband and boys do the chicken butchering. Then my husband, yes, my husband, cans the meat (and anything else that needs to be done in a pressure canner). We have a long way to go until we are where I would like us to be, but we are on the right path.

  7. I definitely agree it’s hard to keep kids away from all the junk nowadays! My kids are always wanting this or that, but we too splurge every once in a while. I think it’s great to have a healthy balance, and it sounds like you try to do just that. Keep it up. 🙂

  8. I completely agree. I luckily live in a city that puts a premium on whole foods, but it also charges an arm and three legs for them. I find myself using more packaging to create a home cooked meal, that I do buying something packaged. So I do what I can and try to change one thing for the better each shopping trip…most of the time:). Good thoughts. Super glad I don’t have to wear Mrs. Cleaver’s high heels!

  9. I was JUST thinking the other day how I do not cook (or eat) well-balanced meals at home as much as I should. When compared to my childhood, we got meat and like two veggies. Since it’s just my sweetie and I, I find myself NOT making such meals because he’s ultra-picky about food and vegetables, and I enjoy food that is so far away from his palate. I cut out wheat and sugar for four months, and enjoyed it…basically I had to cook or I starved. I really wished my sweetie would have went on the adventure with me. It feels really good to abandon processed food.

  10. I love how real this post is! It’s so hard not to compare yourself to TV, Pinterest, or blogs, especially when it comes to how your family operates. I want to have the perfectly clean and decorated house, the photo-op ready clothes, and the fresh and natural meals on the table – but that is NOT reality! And I would rather have memories and fun than run around trying to be perfect 😉

  11. What a great post. I am right there with you. We have divorced from processed food. But it incredibly hard as our kids have gotten older to hold it at bay. (I pride myself on the fact my 5 year old has never eaten at McDonalds. McDonald’s to her and my almost 8 year old is where we stop for bathroom breaks on long trips 🙂 ) I try not to be too hard nosed at times and try to give treats like ice cream cones and donuts, but the battle against process food is a slippery slope. I am glad to see that someone lives this life too! Good luck!

  12. Don’t we all wish we had a life like the Cleavers where every problem was solved by dinnertime? Dinnertime filled with yummy, Mom-approved foods? I would sure like to live in that sort of world. It is harder to get my kids and grandkids to eat real food. They want snacks and candy over healthy stuff all.the.time. I appreciated this article and found it helpful. Thanks for sharing.

  13. It can become so stressful to want to be like the Cleavers Family these days! I too have learned that its OKEY if I let my kids go get a donut with Grandpa or if we are out and we desperately need a quick meal and its not healthy…..at least I don’t do it weekly! 🙂 Thanks for your post!

  14. Tracy I totally agree with you about educating our children about food choices (the “why” behind what we eat or don’t) and moderation. I prefer most things from scratch, but will occasionally purchase store bought cookies, pizza or pot pies. Nothing wrong with a little treat now and then!

  15. We, too, are trying to eat more real food, buy from local sources and rely less on packaged food. Now when we do occasionally eat out for a treat, we notice how salty things taste and we actually feel sick and lethargic. But I do like your everything in moderation approach, because sometimes you just need a little Dunkin’ Donuts! Great post!!

  16. Ahh..the cleavers. If only life was still that way. Life seemed so much simpler then. Although I’m sure it wasn’t. Everybody has their own challenges. It’s a great reminder not to get caught up in the busy day to day tasks. To slow down, and enjoy what we have here now because 50 years from now people will be riding on hover crafts and taking vacations to the moon!

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  18. I completely agree with the Cleavers most definitely ate a lot more real food than what the standard family does these days. I grew up eating terrible food, lots of canned fruits and vegetables and poor cuts of meat and lots of fast food. As soon as I moved out of the house and luckily to California I began eating “real” food and have tried to maintain a diet with mostly real food as well. Of course we are all human and I do some of the things that you do with your family, but it is the minority of the time and not the norm.

  19. This is all so true! I think everyone is becoming more aware of just how bad the packaged foods are but once we’re used to the easiness of it, it’s hard to go back to scratch. It is also a struggle once our kids are used to all the goodies! We are also always struggling with finding the right balance! This will be a good resource for me going forward for ideas! Thanks!

  20. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. <– I'm a big believer in this idea. We are perpetually struggling financially, but I still try to feed my family the best I can with what my budget allows. It would be a dream to serve up only organic, non-gmo, local seasonal yummy goodness. I imagine myself much like June cute apron and all!! Lol! One of my two boys is allergic to all kinds of things, so out of necessity I cook most of our food from scratch, and have been blessed with three backyard ladies that give us some truly decadent eggs. But I also buy gluten-free pasta from Aldi and shop sales and clip coupons. I feel like your approach is not unlike our own, and appreciate your sharing the story. Keep fighting the good fight! 🙂

  21. Our family’s dream is to have a small piece of land that we can grow a majority of our food on! What a blessing that will be. Having six kids I can relate to the balance. I can’t drive myself crazy watching every little item that goes into their mouths – but I have to be responsible and make wise decisions! Thanks for the post!

  22. I admire and appreciate your mission to eat less processed and more farm to table.
    It is a struggle (especially when you live in a smaller town like we do).
    I know that sugar is such a highly addictive substance, I see my co-workers constant struggles to lose weight and they can’t get away from the stuff.
    The key is moderation as you are doing.
    Thanks!

  23. I totally agree! I so wish I had the money and resources to get local milk and meat but it;s just not a possibility right now. I am trying my best to give my daughter as much real food as I possibly can. I feel like I fail a lot in this area right now (our situation isn’t really good right now so we have to take whatever food we can) but at least I’m trying. I too kind of wish I lived in simpler times, but I don’t so I just have to work with the world I live in.

  24. I deal with food allergies so my son and I are forced to more real foods and less processed foods. He is learning how to read food labels even more closely as we discovered a new allergen for him that is not in the top 8 so does not need to be listed separately as the gluten and dairy do. The closest thing to fast food we do is Chipotle as the food is responsibly sourced and fairly healthy depending on what’s ordered.

  25. We try to be like you in this regard too. It is so hard with our oldest child. If he had his way he would eat everything out of a box but he is still a work in progress.

  26. Social comparison is a horrible thing – especially when you compare to the Cleavers who were of another generation (and I wonder – real people of that generation – did the show depict reality for them? I just consider the crazy shows of today that are NOT at all my reality, yet still on the tube. Sometimes it’s a false reality, a facade.). ANYWAY, I’m glad to hear that you’ve let yourself off the hook a bit! Educating is excellent. Indulging is okay too at a certain level. Mix and match but send your own message to the kids regarding nutrients and nourishment. I also wanted to add – you mentioned about trying to get away from packaged foods but – what about packaging your own? Your favorite chips, snacks and treats (even healthy options) can be bought in larger bags then repackaged in your own sandwich bags at home – so the kids get a snack that feels like a packaged treat BUT you are controlling portion size, choosing what snacks they get, and getting a better deal (savings!) on a larger bag versus the individual snack size portions they sell for hefty prices.

    1. I think you didn’t really get the full point of this post, and perhaps even the blog as a whole. The reference to the Cleavers was merely anecdotal and intended to make a point not to compare life to any true reality. Obviously, television is never an accurate depiction of real life because then no one would watch. We, as a society, are far more entertained by ideality or the sensationalized reality than we are by actuality. The question of comparison was intended as rhetorical. And as for the moving away from packaged foods – our reasoning is not driven by cost but rather by the fact that food made in a factory is generally just not healthy. I do package food that I make and I do not buy snack size bags of anything. The problem is that the way that packaged food is marketed in addition to the fact that it’s designed to make us want more of it (thanks to MSG), it is sometimes difficult to eat clean and keep my kids happy and not feeling like “those” kids. Thanks for the tips, but honestly, I rarely buy anything pre-packaged. The deals that I look for are mainly in the fruits and vegetable department.

  27. I have a terrible time keeping my son away from Junk Food! My husband too. I buy 95% of our food locally. But there is still 5% junk in my house in the form of packaged cookies, chips, Doritos, spam (yuck), chicken nuggets and frozen pizza. My husband demands these foods be available for him and our son all the time. I refuse to eat them! Thankfully we rarely eat out.

    All we can do is the best we can do. My family is still eating junk foods, but they have stated eating a lot of healthy ones too over the course of the last two years. Just ask my son about his love of grass fed beef and butter.

  28. We kind of function under a similar mindset, acknowledging the reality of the world in which we live but also seeking to eat as healthfully as possible. I try to keep everything at home extra pure, clean and healthy. Out of the home, I don’t have as much control. There are birthday parties and well-meaning relatives, road trips, baseball game snacks and more. So I work hard serving nourishing food at home, which is their primary diet, and I choose to not worry about the rest. And I’m hoping, like you, that when they’re grown they will love wholesome, real food and make real food choices!

  29. My husband and I made one New Year’s Resolution. To not eat fast food. We wrote in our own exceptions of what actually constitutes fast food, but burgers from McDonalds are definitely 100% out! (as are most other forms of traditional fast food) I’m looking forward to slowly converting us into “real foodies” at home.

    1. We used to eat McDs a lot … more than I care to admit actually. But once we decided we weren’t, we haven’t. And even the kids won’t touch it – even when they’re out with their friends. It’s a process for sure, but I’ve learned that small changes over time really do make a big difference in the long run. Good luck!

  30. You had me immediately when you said “…June Cleaver with an iPad…” and the rest was just perfectly said.

    We moved our dining room table into our kitchen, literally, so we as a family (when we can and we seriously TRY) to cook as a family and eat as a family.

    I think there is a lot to say about how hard it is to get the entire family together, in the same room, let alone at the same time… dinner time.. to then eat together. I think a lot of it a blame on technology (this comes from the guy with a technology blog lol it’s all about balance, right?)

    But once we do, we love it. Conversations are going and it’s a great feeling.

    Plus like you said, take the kids and show them how food can be made in a kitchen and not all food comes from a package!

  31. I am going through this right now with my two girls. We have switched to a real food diet and there are some days they are just NOT happy about it. Like you we try to let them have occasional junk but strive to give them all natural whole foods the majority of the time. I have found that getting them involved with teaching them about the WHY to the real food and no processed food is helping a lot. Thank you for the post! Your food looks yummy!

    1. Thanks, Debi! My kids complained A LOT in the beginning, but now they’ve mostly figured out how to adapt. When we first started and they would ask from something like twinkies, I would read the ingredients and then pick the most difficult one to pronounce and explain the science of the chemical, complete with possible side-effects. They never argued after that. Now, I merely have to mention reading the ingredients and they quickly drop it. It is a handy tool with older kids for sure!

  32. I loved the article, I think we need more positive attitude towards food, our reality, world of abundance and technology. Everybody craves real, more or less, but only adapting to what’s being made available to us so that we still make good choices but don’t freak over a fry or two – is the key. It’s the whole picture, isn’t it? One meal from a fast food chain will not make much difference if the overall approach is healthy and seeks real and nutritious. And I really like your approach 🙂

  33. It’s all about 80/20 – eating well 80% of the time, so our kids learn healthy food choices as well as how to handle “treats” or foods that may not to be the best. My husband & I were recently discussing something similar – why we never “learned” nutrition or healthy food choices. It was because it was always “just there.” We grew up with gardens and berry bushes. I fondly remember sneaking my mom’s prized strawberries out of the garden, sitting under the blueberry bushes eating as many berries as I could, or the freshly picked green beans. I think many of us would be thrilled if our kids were too full for dinner from eating fruit outside.

  34. I love this post, because it is real life. I read a lot of info regarding “clean eating” which can be defined in many levels of commitment, but I always come back to the fact that my kids won’t do it completely, so why bother? I love the sense of compromise that this post portrays. I, too, try to keep my kids away from fast food. We eat out, but I try to at least have their meals normal portion sizes of foods that will give at least a little bit of nutrition, rather than a giant grease meal. That my compromise part. At home, I am the only one who buys the groceries. While I do buy an occasional box of cookies or bag of candy, I generally try to fill the pantry with healthy options that kids would still consider a snack. Whole grain granola bars and fruit/nut bars, very dark chocolate, organic/all natural fruit snacks, nuts, and whole grain organic tortilla chips with homemade salsa are a few of their favorites. Of course, we stock fruits and veggies too but sometimes kids just want something sweet or “unhealthy”. I try to accommodate their tastes so when they go out somewhere, they aren’t hoarding the candy bars and ice cream. Keep it real as much as we can – it helps us busy working mothers strike a compromise and keep our families healthy without making them feel deprived. Great post, thanks for putting it all in perspective!

  35. I love the personality you put into your writing! I too am TRYING to feed my family like the Cleavers did it! I also know that I cannot be a helicopter mom and worry about all the little things! Thanks for the reminders ! By the way I LOVE your family pic at the table!

    1. Thanks! It is easy to get swept up in the should/should not debate (in all things – not just food-related) and trying to stay too far on the “should” side could drive even the best mom into the looney bin. That was a hot, buttered toast night … lots of personality in this house!

  36. Great mindset to live by! We can’t all be perfect, every meal of the day. We can all indulge a little, but need to focus on fueling our bodies with good food.

  37. A great wise approach to equipping your kiddos! When my 3 youngest were much younger a wise woman told me once “I don’t worry about the treats they get when out with friends, instead they get to freely enjoy them, and at home we choose to freely enjoy the good and nourishing food I prepare.” I loved that and it is one of the things that have helped me to relax!

  38. You sound a lot like us. We make all of our own treats at home, try to make healthier choices in public and don’t worry about the odd piece of junk food that gets eaten. Life is about balance, and I’m going to be too stressed out if I try to police every morsel of food my children eat. I think a big part of it is the teaching. Teaching them what is good and why we eat it as opposed to the “easier, more convenient” food. I think these lessons will help them as adults to continue to make the right food choices.

    1. I figure that if I make everything that they eat at home, then I don’t have to worry so much about the rest of it. Because it is about balance. Even if sometimes finding that balance is definitely not easy!

  39. Ahhh, I love your mindset on this. I am just getting to the point of trying to get my family eating healthier – we use to be big McDonald’s junkies but have finally broken away! My kids think fruit snacks are the greatest thing ever and don’t understand why I don’t buy them (when Grandma does) or why I don’t think they count as a snack when they are hungry. I appreciate that you don’t freak out about it. I know those parents whose kids don’t watch an ounce of tv and they don’t eat any sugar and make a big deal out of in front of everyone! I wish I could eat some of those June Cleaver meals 🙂

    1. Thanks! When we first ditched McDonald’s, I went a little overboard and then realized that I was driving everyone (including myself) crazy, so I decided that we had to find a happy medium. It’s a continually evolving process – figuring out where to draw the line – and my kids are not always pleased with the outcome. But I don’t want to be “that” mom or make my kids “those” kids!

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