Real food, hold the sprinkles.

I was inspired to write a quick post after reading this post about Pop-Tarts and their “Made for Fun!” tagline, written by Giselle, The Granola Mama.

I have very little patience these days for anyone who uses lack of time or money as an excuse for feeding their children processed, artificial, unhealthy, sparkly, candy-coated food (like, for example, … Pop-Tarts.) 😡

…or food that comes with a toy, or food that has zero nutrient value, or…well, you get it.

If your life is anything like mine right now, you might have about 5 whole minutes each day to throw together something remotely edible. Be it breakfast, lunch or dinner, those processed foods can look reeeeeeally tempting at times. And, honestly, there are a few that are not half bad. But – when they start marketing them to your children with FUN as the major selling point, WE HAVE A PROBLEM.

The solution?

  • Grow what you can.
  • Get to know your local farmers and farmers’ markets.
  • Buy in bulk to save $$ and packaging.
  • Use your leftovers.
  • Start with whole, natural ingredients, then experiment!
  • Don’t assume your kids won’t be interested. Let them help, let them choose, let them get excited – chances are, they’ll eat it!

Here are just a few of the meals I haven’t shared on the blog lately because, well, they’re just not that blog-worthy or remarkable in any way.  But they’re fast, cheap, relatively healthy, and my kid eats all of them.

And not one of them contains sprinkles.

It doesn’t always make for a pretty photo, but it certainly can be done.

Zukes, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and Fontina cheese.

Mushrooms, onions, spinach and tomatoes, quickly sauteed...

...and served over whole wheat couscous.

Flatbreads with a jar of tomatoes, basil and a cut-up string cheese. I know, not my finest moment. But still not a Pop-Tart!


Garden beets, leftover dal, part of an avocado and a whole wheat pita. On a paper plate! (We already packed most of the kitchenware.)

Chickpeas, asparagus, tomatoes and oranges in a vinaigrette. I think I tossed some pasta into this, too.

A snack platter of berries, fresh mozz and colorful tomatoes.

A tiny grass-fed beef slider with pineapple mixed in.

Organic strawberry and almond milk yogurt pop, with a straw in the holder to catch drips. Now THAT's made for fun!

OK. Rant over.


Do you avoid heavily processed foods? How? What’s your best go-to recipe when you need an affordable, healthy dinner, like,  5 minutes ago?


  1. says

    I seriously hate those poptart commercials!! I can’t say I never use process foods, but I do try to feed my kids healthy foods. That much sugar at that time of the day (or at all during the day) just seems absolutely ridiculous! I’m now following you from the hop, and love your blog! Your boy is adorable!!

    • admin says

      Thanks for visiting! :) Nice to meet you!

      I agree 100% – I definitely can’t say I never use processed foods either, but I do my best to avoid them…and when it comes to products like Pop-Tarts, it’s really a no-brainer. All you have to do is read the first few ingredients! Yuck! 😛

  2. says

    Okay I avoid processed foods mostly, but I do keep some things like chicken nuggets in the freezer. Honestly, we are on a single income (my husband words for a church – hello low salary AND no benefits)… and buying lots of fresh foods often is ideal but not possible always for us. I agree that buying locally grown produce, or growing your own, is ideal and even cheaper sometimes. We grew a very small organic garden this season. But it was not super successful – only got a coupe squash, couple tomatoes, some lettuce. So really that only provided a couple weeks of produce for us. The heat wave killed all my plants :-/ All that to say, I choose organic when I can, and avoid processed foods mostly, but i’d be lying if I said that never eat bad stuff. And I am slightly offended by the attitude that you and others have no patience for the lack of time or money excuse. (I love you and am not mad!) But I just really would question if someone had that attitude, do you really know what its like to live pay check to paycheck and run out of grocery money a week or two before the month is over? To be in WIC checks, and NOT be able to buy organic things, because WIC doesn’t ALLOW that? It’s hard and I get your point – but money is a serious issue for eating healthy. Why do you think so many low income people are obese? A box of mac n cheese is cheaper than a cart full of fresh produce, even locally produced produce. *sigh*

  3. admin says

    Hi Emily! I’m glad you responded, and I really do value your input. I understand exactly what you mean about living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to buy food – my husband and I both did that for a very long time. The subject of eating healthy on a budget is one I struggle with in my day job, too, as I am often asked to help educate consumers on the issue, because it’s a very real one that so many people face. There are a few points I’d like to stress: First, I definitely eat “bad” foods sometimes, too. I want to make that clear – no perfect eater here! :) Also, I think when it comes to processed foods, there are many different levels of processed. Keeping some prepackaged foods in the house is one thing, Pop-Tarts’ trying to sell Moms on the idea that a sugary pastry is a good idea for breakfast when you’re short on time is an entirely different story. (That’s where I lose my patience for the time excuse. I stand firmly that if anyone ever says to me “I had no choice but to start my kid’s day with a Pop-Tart because it’s cheap and I’m in a hurry”, I’m just not buying it.) I mean, saving time and money at what cost!?

    Also, I think the biggest point that needs to be made when addressing the subject is that when spending your food dollar, it is SO important to consider the nutrient value you are getting per dollar spent. If you get more quantity of food, but far, far less nutrient quality, you aren’t saving anything. You can get a bag of black beans for less than a dollar (one of our kitchen staples!) or a McDonald’s cheeseburger. Both cost a dollar, but what they provide for your body are worlds apart. The same goes for so many foods – that’s why I suggest buying in bulk (my favorite way to save on really high-quality foods!) I think it’s terrible that WIC doesn’t allow organics, but I would guess that’s probably still a ways off. I don’t mean to say in any way that I think every mom should be supplying their family with nothing but organic food – organics are a luxury I definitely can’t afford to eat exclusively – but I DO think that it’s of the utmost importance for the quality of life for the next generation of children we are raising that we strive for REAL food, and stop accepting any less. Companies are starting to catch on, and if we don’t buy into marketing campaigns like the one in this post, we hurt them in the pocket where it really makes a difference. You are absolutely right that many low income people are obese, but research very often shows that it is not because of income, but because of a lack of understanding and education about food – but that’s a really complicated issue that includes lots of different variables. I think income, education, time and sheer commitment all need to work hand in hand to make the changes that need to be made.

    I’m so glad you left your comment, and please know that I truly respect your opinions. Truly, I don’t judge the moms of the world who are trying to do what’s best for their babies – I judge the companies who are NOT. I’m sorry the weather hurt your garden this year! I know how that is, and it’s SO frustrating when you’re trying to feed your family. Thanks for stopping by, fellow PA mama! :)

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