For most of us, starting on the path to additive free foods can be a difficult journey fraught with obstacles ready to lead us straight to the too hard basket.  Overcoming the information overload on food additives and symptoms is usually the first issue, closely followed by questioning how far to go with the change of foods and eating plans.

The easy answer to the question “How far do we need to go with this whole additive free thing?” is, put simply, as far as you want or need to go!

It can be such a big change, and providing there’s no life threatening allergies involved, it is always best to go at a pace with which your whole family is comfortable – some may need to take small steps, others may quite happy to go the whole hog straight up.

So whilst there is unfortunately no single answer, I’ve established three general levels most families can work within, with a little tweaking and adjusting according to your own family’s particular needs.  And to help work out which level is right for your family, here’s are a few simple steps you can take.

Step 1.  Work our your family’s are you happy with your normal- (1)current and desired ‘normal’
Determining what level is right for your family is closely linked to knowing the current ‘normal’ behaviours shown by your children, then figure out where you would like to be – what is your ideal ‘normal’? Check out my blog posts on this topic to help you identify common symptoms of food sensitivities, how to recognize them in your family and determine your family’s current ‘normal’.  (I’ll cover more about how to decide what your desired ‘normal’ is in future posts on effective change management…..stay tuned ☺)

Step 2.  Pay attention to what foods your kids currently eat and enjoy
Are their lunchboxes full of processed and packaged foods that are quick and easy to grab from the pantry?  Do they eat many fresh or raw vegetables?  What are their favourite meals/foods?  Knowing what they currently eat can help to work out what level is best to introduce new foods.

Step 3.  How busy are your how busy are you-days and weeks?
Are you always racing kids from school to sports and afternoon activities?  Is it hard to get a minute in the kitchen?  Do you work until late and stick to quick one pot wonder meals?  Being aware of your current schedule and sticking to a similar amount of cooking and preparation time will help make the change easier and lasting.

Step 4.  How motivated are you? Your family?
Are you all ready for the change?  Is there a reluctance to try new things?  Knowing how willing you are to make the change and how open to new tastes your family really are, will determine the level of change with which you should start.

Step 5.  Pick a start point for your family based on the first four steps.
Using what you’ve just worked out about your children’s current behavioural issues, current tastes and meals, how much time you have to cook and prepare and how open your family is to new things, take a look at the three levels below to decide how far you really want to go with additive free food changes…

Level 1 – No Colouring cakeor Preservatives
Cutting out the colouring and preservatives is a rather large step all on it’s own.  Those pesky additives are everywhere – especially in processed kids foods!  So just dealing with this is a big task and quite enough for beginners to the whole ‘real’ foods concept.

It’s all about finding alternatives to tastes and products your family currently enjoy.  There are a lot of options out there for products that can be substituted for ‘old favourites’ and whilst they may still have some other ‘nasties’ in the ingredients, the colours and preservatives are eliminated, and that’s a great start (especially when a large percentage of child behaviour problems can be linked to colourings and preservatives). For some families, this is all that is needed to stop the daily transformations from darling children to food werewolves, and keeps the wolves at bay for the majority of the time.  Is this level the best start point for your family?

Level 2 – Less Processed, More Freshmakemore
Perhaps you’ve tried eliminating the colouring and preservatives and you’re still not happy with having some behavioural issues.  Maybe you’re aiming to move towards healthier eating habits with less ingredients of unknown origin…

For those with a need for a more refined change, this takes things up a notch.
Here, it’s about checking out the nitty gritty stuff – salicylatesaminescaseingluten, flavouring, sugar, MSG and all it’s hidden buddies, etc – and basically start moving away from the processed foods and into fresh, healthy natural foods.  Wondering what all these things are?  Click on each highlighted word for more information.

It also involves getting to know your inner culinary artist (and your kitchen).  But never fear!  It can still include simple, quick and easy foods that don’t require a degree in hospitality and three hatted chef skills.  The idea is to not just substitute foods for better alternatives, but to start changing tastes and habits towards healthier less processed, fresher foods, and along the way, fix any specific issues or problem foods at the same time.

This level requires a bit more commitment and support, as labels and ingredients (that whole information overload thing ☺) come in to play and strategies for managing the change and your kid’s tastes and behaviours become the most prominent part.

Is this the starting point you’re aiming for?

Level 3 – The Whole Kit and eatlessKaboodle!
The ultimate change to pure organic and/or biodynamic foods.  Out with the processed, in with the homegrown, chemical free living in all it’s glory!

Often a massive change for beginners and most suited to those that have either worked through the other two levels, or families that are ready to become hard core health freaks, hell bent on keeping it real, pure and of the highest energy…Not afraid of mung beans and proudly so!

Ok so maybe not that extreme… maybe just ‘normal’ people wanting to bring on the organic produce and happy to cook and create a nice exchange of energy with the universe.  We’re all human, perfection is a rarity, and life can definitely get in the way of this occurring 24/7, but the intention is there, and the majority of the time, things are good and pure on the food front.
Are you up for the challenge and ready to go the whole hog? Click here for more information on Organic.

Which level suits you? 
Take the time to think about what’s most important – consider your goals re: why you’re making the change and what outcomes you’re hoping for.  Perhaps all you need is the first level? Perhaps after a month of this you want to go the extra mile and try the next level?  It’s all about balance and what’s right for your family.  I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on this topic and hear where your start point is (or was)…Drop me a line in the comments below this blog post or head to my Facebook page to share your experiences.

Now you’re armed with the information to choose your family’s starting point, my next blog post will deal with the last of the top three obstacles to starting the journey to additive free eating – Actually Making the First Move!  Let me guide you through the choices of what is best to do first…Stay tuned!

Loren x
The Food Werewolf

*Please note, I recognise the need for extremes and full elimination diets to help parents and children (and all humans and animals) be as happy and healthy as possible.  There is a need for this level of change (due to allergies for example), and I’m all for it.  There are many people in need of this – and with the help of the right dieticians, doctors and other health practitioners, it’s a path that leads to success and happiness for many.  Change is still the crux of the process – just with some expert help on the nutritional side.

My (very important!) point in this blog post is that many (fortunate) people don’t need such extremes, and for them, determining the start point for change using the above levels is a nice easy way to do so.  And for those in need of strict elimination diets, I believe the change process is even more of a challenge, and it’s therefore even more important to help make it easier with not just food education but also change management support and tools to overcome the obstacles that arise from such a big change.  In the long run, how and where that help comes from is not important, but that the support and love is there to help all people through the change…

For a great rundown on where The Food Werewolf (TFW) fits within this wonderful community and where we sit in the grand scheme of all things healthy re: foods, additives and lifestyle in general, here’s an infographic.

Ultimately, TFW is all about taking the best bits from all extremes to help the average family make a change that’s just right for them.  A lovely eclectic mix of the good stuff, tailored to your unique needs, with a big focus on strategies (how) to create calm happy families and change lives.  Would love to hear your view on this super infograph (created by the amazingly talented Miss Kate!) so please drop me a line and let me know what you think!