I am a sugar addict who married a health nut.
I love M&M’s, Captain Crunch, caramel lattes, coffee cheesecake, and Twinkies. He likes to mix together horrible looking concoctions of all kinds of healthy stuff, and proceed to slug it down like it’s got Starbucks written on the side of the glass.
How did we ever get married, you say? Well nobody was talking about health, aches and pains, and getting old when we were dating. Some of these differences lay buried for quite a few years.
So we’ve had some “meeting in the middle” to do with our ideas of health! That’s what this post will be – our meeting in the middle. Lowell is awesome at researching something in the natural health field. He then proposes it to me and we talk about it, deciding if we want to change anything in our diet or lifestyle. Then we come up with a plan to put it into practice.
*That paragraph above put it so nicely, didn’t it? But you didn’t see the tears, miscommunications and decided opinions that went into that paragraph. Remember . . . we’re not perfect here either!
Now when folks would start talking about eating healthy, cutting carbs, going off sugar or stopping dairy, I would begin to get nervous. I am not an all-or-nothing kind of gal. I am a “let’s take a baby step in that general direction and see what happens” kind of gal. So after trying Trim Healthy Mama about three times, and failing three times, I decided there was a way to conquer this health thing with my baby-step mentality.
With the help and wisdom of my husband, we are finally getting somewhere.
Did I say that plain enough? Plan it!
This is the most important single factor I have found to help me in my healthier cooking attempts. I didn’t realize how Americanized I had become with all the fast food options available to me, and how I was using quite a few of them. “Fast food” meaning processed stuff in a can, a box, or anything that virtually shouts “Ready to eat in 1 minute!” Oh yeah. I liked that stuff.
I slipped into the habit of grabbing those frozen pizzas, potpies, and sugary yogurts and told myself that it was okay because I was so busy with multiple toddlers running around me all day. If you are in those shoes . . . I am not condemning you one single iota. I was there.
However, I am now with older children who can help cook, clean, wash and babysit. So I also have this question taunting me: What excuse do I have now? Uh, none.
And I decided to attack this like I do my monthly cleaning – with a plan. You might not be a plan-everything kind of gal, but I love plans. They make me feel less stress, more in control of our food choices, plus I do not have to think about annoying subjects like what to cook for dinner for the five hours preceding 6:00! Can you tell I’m not a real foodie? I’d much rather garden than cook, but that’s another subject.
I had read all over healthy cooking websites that to do it right, you needed to plan ahead. So I did. I rewrote our weekly dinner menu using our whole food choices, adding in breakfast and school lunches, and including snacks. Covers all my four major “feeding times” and I feel so de-stressed I might eat a chocolate . . . but it’s dark, so that’s okay!
If you want to view, print or download the Whole Foods Menu Planner, you can do so here. However, you will notice it is not 100% whole/real foods, but adapted to fit our family’s preferences.
More Whole Foods
This is the area that we are headed. Notice I said “headed”, not “arrived”.
I found an awesome website that has virtually anything you want to know about real foods, whole foods (don’t ask me what the difference is), all the rules (yeah, I don’t like that word either) and recipes galore. You can visit at 100daysofrealfood.com.
Basically, we are trying to eat the foods the way God made them – without many additives, chemicals and fillers.
Here are a few of the things we are trying:
Different sweeteners – We have come to realize how bad sugar in large quantities is for us, how yucky we feel on it and how much we were consuming, even in things like crackers and ketchup. Now we have not completely eliminated this from our diet because we still want to live in this world, but we are trying to switch over to honey and maple syrup when we can. For example, I revamped my granola recipe to be made with all honey and no brown sugar and it’s still delicious!
Reducing our sugary snacks – I am reserving sugary desserts for when company is here. However, there are three items that we are keeping on our menu, even though they would be considered desserts. These are the whole wheat oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, our Sunday morning cinnamon rolls (a tradition that I can’t quite get this family to put aside yet) and two pieces of dark chocolate per day. We like the dark chocolate because you get the health benefits of chocolate without quite so much sugar! All other cakes, cheesecakes, ice creams and sugar-laden desserts are for company time only.
Cutting down processed foods – If you begin to read the ingredients on your cans and boxes, you might become both surprised and sickened. Our foods get so much junk stuffed into them and we chow them down without critical thinking – especially if it says “healthy” on the label somewhere. 100 Days of Real Food website says real food is defined as having 5 ingredients or less listed. This is a good rule of thumb to follow, but some items are harder to find with only 5 ingredients. For example, I haven’t yet found a whole wheat tortilla with only five ingredients in our grocery store and within my budget, so I will attempt to make them myself here soon. But until then we are using some that are whole wheat with quite a few ingredients I probably can’t even pronounce, yet are better than all white flour tortillas. It’s called the lesser of two evils . . .
Make our own foods – If you have little kiddos, this one can be so hard. I know, so you can skip it if you want to. I understand. But this is one we are now trying to do more of. I used to make some of my own bread, rolls, cinnamon rolls, etc. However, I am now expanding my horizons a bit by trying my hand at more “odd” recipes. For example, whole wheat biscuits, whole wheat macaroni and cheese (was yummy), homemade kefir, from-scratch sausage gravy, and more homemade salad dressings. You are probably doing all of those, but I was using their processed counterparts.
Here are a few substitutions we are making:
- Yoplait yogurts >> plain Greek yogurt sweetened with honey and put in small jars for little kiddos
- Store-bought granola >> homemade granola sweetened with honey and using only oatmeal, no Rice Krispies
- Wheat bread >> 100% whole wheat bread
- Regular tortillas >> 100% whole wheat tortillas
- Boxed macaroni and cheese >> homemade whole wheat macaroni and cheese with real cream and cheese
- Fruit chew snacks >> dried cherries
- Store-bought granola bars >> store-bought Larabars with only 5 ingredients
- Hidden Valley Ranch >> homemade ranch with buttermilk, sour cream and spices
The list could go on and hopefully will, but I think you get the idea.
Farm fresh eggs – We have had our own chickens for almost ten months and they have been laying for about five months. We have enjoyed these chickens and their eggs so much! If you are able to, substituting farm-fresh eggs or free-range ones for the white ones in the store is a good step to take.
Healthy fats – Fats are back in? Or haven’t you heard? They now say fats are good for you and that when they made so many products low-fat years ago, they were adding in sugar. No wonder we have so many sugar/insulin related health problems in America! Our favorite healthy fats to use are butter and coconut oil. However, since we have bacon on Sunday mornings, we reserve that fat for our weekly morning eggs. I know fat from store bought bacon may have chemical byproducts in it , but with the cost of butter and coconut oil – plus we are going to be having bacon anyway – we use the fat as well. It helps reduce one cost for feeding a family this size.
Dried fruits – If you like sweets, like I do, you will find that dried fruit can help with the sweet tooth. With our own orchard, we had so much fun drying lots of apples, plums and fruit leather. But that is almost all gone now and so we have had to find another way to get dried fruit that doesn’t break the bank. We have found that to purchase dried cherries, dried blueberries, and dried pineapple in bulk can save us quite a bit of money. The best place we’ve found for these is on Amazon – especially with their “Subscribe and Save” program. Dried cherries are delicious and can replace jelly beans for flavor as a treat!
Nuts, veggies and fruit – These are all great and can be eaten in their whole forms. I like to keep the kitchen counter stocked with some kind of fresh fruit for little hands to grab. I also try to keep a variety of nuts and dried fruit on our windowsill in the dining room. If it’s in sight, it will get eaten. If it’s hidden, it takes a little longer for hungry tummies to find it. Pretty simple for simple-minded folks like us.
Real cheese – The processed stuff is just that – processed. But you’d be surprised how good real cheese can be! We buy ours at our local bulk food store’s deli and it helps to try different kinds. I do love their garlic cheese – but since it’s processed, I am trying to move to something else. We tried provolone last week and like it as well!
Whole grains – Along with trying to reduce our sugar consumption, we are also reducing our white flour consumption. This one hasn’t been quite as hard as sugar and we are almost to the 100% whole grain point. Just the other week, I conquered one of my fatal failings by successfully making 100% whole wheat bread! I am probably shooting myself in the foot by saying this publicly . . . but, yes, I was proud. (How is that for my boast of the day? :)) It didn’t flop, it didn’t crumble, and I even made it without fresh-ground flour! It has a unique taste to it that I’m trying to decide might actually be helped with fresh-ground flour. But since I don’t have a grinder at the moment, I will continue on with this recipe. You can view it here.
Unfortunately, I can already see that this post is going to get really long . . . so we will do it in 2 parts – or until I am sick of talking about healthy stuff. And then gorge on cheesecake.
Next up, we’ll continue with whole foods, supplements, tips for getting started and exercise! Please don’t hate me for that word . . . See you then.