Thursday, January 10, 2008

Master of Deception

Thanks to the influence of Michael Pollan and countless newspaper and magazine articles on the subject, I have embarked on a quest to eliminate high-fructose corn syrup from our diet. Remember how giving up trans fats was the big thing last year? Well, HFCS is next on the list around here. It is evil and it is vile and it is (grrrrr) hidden away on the ingredient list of more items than you would ever expect.

And I’m just not going to take it anymore.

So grocery store excursions are becoming increasingly more time-consuming. As if taking a nursing baby and a moody preschooler to the market isn’t enough to try one’s patience, add in a neurotic female who must read every word of every food label and, well, things can get testy.

What used to take 20 minutes has now become an all-afternoon adventure. Case in point:

Yesterday I decided to do our weekly grocery shopping at Walmart (oh, how I despise that place) because in addition to food, we needed diapers and a few other discount store items. To refrain from making unnecessary jaunts to town, I decided to suck it up and get it all done together. And after making sure The Big Boy went potty before we left, and Little Miss Piggy had a fresh diaper, and all three of us had full bellies, we spent another half-eternity buckling everyone into the car and making sure pacifiers and Hot Wheels were all within reach for the whopping six-mile car trip.

But then, of course, Little Miss Piggy decided she needed to nurse (again) right after we pulled into the parking lot which, of course, resulted in another rather funky diaper change. So finally, I stash the baby in her sling on my chest, plop The Big Boy in the three-man-cart of his choosing and, 45 minutes after I announced it was time to get in the car and go to the store, we are finally actually IN the store.

The part of the shopping experience that requires my greatest patience, though, hasn’t even begun. Taking a young child into any food store is an exercise in frustration, and I have learned that redirection is one of the few weapons in my arsenal that works with any regularity. Well, that and conflict avoidance, because, you see, if you just don’t shop on those middle aisles where all the cookies and fruit roll-ups huddle, waiting to attack, then most problems can be circumnavigated rather easily.

Not at Walmart, though. There they stick the organic yogurts right next to the neon, hyper-sweetened kiddie versions. And brightly-colored cupcakes lurk dangerously close to the cage-free eggs. And what do you think is directly beside the organic milk? Why, strawberry “milkshakes,” of course.

Conflict avoidance just isn’t an option at Wally World. So I dance madly around the yogurt section, picking up every possible healthy option and excitedly extolling it’s virtues to an increasingly suspicious three-year-old. "Look!" I shout. "French vanilla! That means this vanilla comes from another country." "Wow. Check out this one! It has strawberry bananas in it? Can you imagine? I've never seen a strawberry banana before?" Five excruciating minutes later, I win, though I pretend I’ve given in to his demands by settling for the organic fat-free blackberry yogurt. He grumbles a little and, being smarter than I tend to give him credit for, he starts immediately angling for a “special treat.” See, he knows good and well that I gypped him on the yogurt. So he starts wearing me down before I’ve fully recovered from the near-meltdown on the yogurt aisle.

And I’ve gotta admit, I was sorely tempted to just cave in and grab a bag of gummy worms from the end-cap. But doggone it, I was sacrificing my favorite coffee creamer in the name of this HFCS-Freedom Fight and I was already kind of on edge about it. “Creativity,” I reminded myself. There has to be some creative alternative to gummy candies that will seem just as appealing to a three-year-old. Redirection is my best friend, after all.

And then it hit me. And I nearly knocked myself over trying to reach behind my head to give myself a good old-fashioned pat on the back.

Dried apricots.

That’s right. Dried apricots. No sugar, no high-fructose corn syrup. No chemicals that I can’t pronounce. No long ingredient lists. And, best of all, they’re big, they’re bright orange, and they’re chewy. Just. Like. Gummy. Candy. And The Big Boy thought he’d gotten away with something, because these “apricot gummies” came in a much bigger bag than the nasty sugar-coated worm things that he had originally requested. He snickered at me and ate them greedily, refusing to share even one.

Jessica Seinfeld, eat my dust.


Cindy said...

French vanilla ain't local - signed a yokel

Shari said...

Next time tell him if he's really, really good he can have the purple ones too (prunes). My favourite right now is the mango though.

Sarah Beam said...

Oh Shari, I love those dried mangoes too. I eat them until I make myself sick.

Tapsalteerie said...

We went off of HFCS some time back... luckily so did our grocery store (earthfare) so that made shopping easier...

BJ's puts the organic yogurt next to the bright-neon-green-marketed-just-for-children yogurt too... it's annoying.

Just found your site btw... great to meet you :)

Shel said...

I found your blog through BigMama's, and I'm glad I did! We have much in common (I'm a veg that occasionally eats fish too), we avoid the bad oils and HF corn syrup and artifical anything...the list goes on. I can definitely relate to being the neurotic label-reading mom shopping w/impatient little kids;-) Love your blog!

Samara said...

Dried apricots, oh yum. Now if only there were a way to make them stay that lovely orange without dumping heaps of sulfites into them... the organic kind taste just as wonderful but look GROSS!

Jamie said...

I don't even think the unsulfured ones taste as good. Maybe it's the psychological effect. ;-)

I gotta give you a round of applause for your shopping tactics. We've been trying to avoid HFCS, too, and I sure don't know how we would manage with kids in tow. If it weren't for Kashi Strawberry Fields cereal--oh, and Heinz organic ketchup!!!--I'd have snapped by now!

Jennifer said...

Those apricots are delicous if you put them in the boiling water for oatmeal. Yummy. Anytips on getting kids to eat veggies????

Sarah Beam said...

Jennifer, the veggie conundrum is kicking my butt. The latest trick I have is making blue cheese dip and letting the preschooler dip carrots in it. Most of the time he just licks the dip off the carrot, but occasionally I catch him actually eating the carrot too. I'm also a big fan of lying - sometimes I tell Ray that the item in question (like strips of bell peppers, for instance) are special dinosaur foods that I got from a mama dinosaur who picked the item in the woods behind our house. Ray doesn't actually believe me anymore, but he likes my stories so much that he'll end up taking a bite anyway.

Melissa said...

Ah, we went HFCS free this summer too. It is really challenging in the beginning.

Bread was really hard, we were only able to find ONE variety of ONE brand in our grocery that was HFCS free! Fortunately, we found a local, all natural, bakery around the corner that is HFCS free so we buy all our bread there now. We can even walk there, bonus. Until I manage to settle on a breadmaker it will have to do.

Trader Joe's organic ketchup (I'd never had a ketchup that actually tastes like tomatoes...I was shocked), Stonyfield organic yogurt and Newman's Own Caesar dressing were the other coups.

Oh, and...Jones Root Beer. I KNOW! It's soda but Mama needs a treat once in a blue moon so I keep a case stashed in a dark corner of the basement. Please don't tell.

Sarah Beam said...

Melissa - I totally get the Jones soda thing. At Earth Fare, I found tiny cans of carbonated 100% fruit juice. I treat The Big Boy to those and he thinks he is getting away with a soda. heh heh.