Archive for the ‘Healthy Eating’ Category

The Food Journey Continues

Almost a year ago I was a much more enthusiastic blogger, making a somewhat regular appearance around here.  These last months have been so full in so many ways, blogging has taken a far back seat.  My thought is that this trend will probably continue for the mean time.  I have so many new responsibilities and new areas to learn about.  I am regularly researching, reading, and running to keep up with it all.  But today I had a request from a friend for information about what I’ve been learning about food and health, and so I began compiling the list of resources that have been great teaching tools in my journey.  My last post about my food journey was about my journey during 2011: https://learningtheoldways.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/my-food-journey/.  2011 brought me a long way – stepping towards organic, grass-fed, and whole foods was a IMG_0632huge step from where my food journey started.  But this year’s step has been as big as last year’s.  Maybe bigger.

2012 has brought its fair share of ups and downs.  We moved in March to a mobile home in the middle of a field of dirt.  There are no trees, no grass, and the wind comes sweeping down these plains at least 10 out of every 20 days.  We lived without a back porch or any kind of rear entrance to our house for… 6 months.  Keith had two super-intense farming seasons in 2012:  March-May he rebuilt a cotton planter and then planted cotton, and Sept-mid Dec he planted wheat.  Seriously, he was working LONG IMG_1548and HARD for those months, which takes a heavy toll on our whole family.  Thirdly, we raised more than 1500 chickens in 2012.  Neither of us could have done it single-handedly while also farming, homeschooling, and running 2 businesses, and I have never worked so hard iIMG_1267n my life.  Fourth, I surely underestimated the amount of work starting 2 businesses in one year would take.  I most certainly work at least half-time for our new enterprises, with most of my hours being put in between 8pm-1am.  We also raised a garden, and homeschooled the children.  So 182580_10150944489902701_439672118_nbetween moving, starting new businesses, house projects, raising children, chickens, veggies, cotton, and wheat, it was a super full year.

This summer I spent lots of time in the garden, and lots of time preserving and storing food.  The later is a bigger time commitment than I knew.  I read the book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” which chronicles one family’s year long journey of giving up their favorite imports in favor of eating   and raising much of their own fresh, local food.  This fall I hunkered down through cotton harvest, wheat planting, and homeschooling, and tried to simply not fall off the wagon too many times through that busy season.  Small victories felt large, such as 389170_10150963618247701_1027069010_nsometimes taking a salad when running errands instead of going through the drive-thru, continuing to buy lots of organic food on our monthly Food Coop/Whole Foods trip, and getting to the gym at least 5-6 times a month.  In my mind, I wanted to be there 3 times a week, but the busyness of the fall would not allow for that.  Neither would being sick for the entire month of October allow for that.  Nor would hand washing and selling 160 dozen eggs for two months in a row allow for that.  I was way too busy.  We were way to busy.

When December 1 arrived, the end of the busy fall tunnel was in sight.  The eggs slowed down, we began finishing our home school units for that semester, the chickens were all in the freezer, the garden was ready for the winter, and the end of planting season was only days away.  And I was ready for a change.  I was reading a book about healthy living called “The Healthy Home“.  I really enjoyed it, and only begrudgingly returned it to the library after its third renewal.  Then I came upon a documentary film called “Food Matters“.

MV5BMTkxOTQyNjEwNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDE1ODc4Mw@@._V1._SY317_CR6,0,214,317_Hippocrates said it best when he said, “Let Thy Food Be Thy Medicine, And Thy Medicine Be Thy Food.” But in western culture, we want anything but our food to be our medicine.  We cling dearly to our food-like substances, justifying them with any and every excuse we can come up with.  From “everything in moderation”, to “anything in the name of convenience”, from “I just don’t have the self-control”, to “it’s too expensive”.  Even to the more social and emotional ties, “I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy”, and “If it’s my time to go I’m ready, but until then I’m going to be happy eating whatever I want”.  These are all bogus reasons.  Perhaps I’ll write a post responding to each of these ideas.  Even when compelling evidence of the health benefits of a plant-based diet come up, we have a card deck full of reasons why we are unwilling to listen, let alone give it a try.  Myself is included in this “we”.

But after watching “Food Matters”, and then signing up for their Food Matters Mastery Course, my thoughts towards plants began to soften.  Do I really want steak more than long life?  Do I really prefer sugar and cream over pain-free living?  Do I really enjoy carrying around this extra 30-40 lbs?  Wouldn’t it be great to eat the best food ever, and to be healthier than ever doing it?  I was ready for a change.  A plant-based, superfoods diet offers countless health benefits from disease prevention to pain relief, from weight loss to curing headaches.  I’ve got my own list of health struggles, and I would love to see improvement in my health, both now, and as I continue through the coming decades.  I started with breakfast, replacing grains and animal proteins with a raw superfood shake.  Here’s the basic recipe I got from the Food Matters Recipe Book:

2 cups of organic milk of choice (I use almond milk – available at Wal-Mart & health food stores)
2 heaped tbsp raw cacao powder (available online and in many health food stores

1 tbsp organic coconut oil

1⁄2 tsp natural vanilla extract (alcohol-free tastes best)

Pinch of unrefined sea salt

2 tbsp pure raw honey

6 ice cubes

fatsicknearlydeadThis is the original recipe I started with, and now I also add 2-3 Tbsp Hemp Protein Powder, 1 Tbsp Chia Seeds, 1 Tbsp Goji Berries, or any other superfoods I am in the mood for that day.  Blend everything in your blender until well combined and frothy. Enjoy straight away.  For the kids, I change out the cacao powder for organic strawberries and a banana, and add a bit of pomegranate juice.  I’m not sure why they prefer the fruit over the chocolate shake, because it’s absolutely amazing.  Both are great though, because we are fueling up our bodies with power-packed superfoods to start the day!

Then came our trip to Minnesota.  While there, my sister-in-law Amy said she had read some of my facebook posts about eating raw, and asked if I had seen “Sick, Fat, and Nearly Dead“.  I had not, but a few nights later Keith and I both watched it.  As we were watching a couple of guys transform their lives JuiceVeggiesand their bodies with juice fasting, Keith said to me, “I could do that.”  That was a few weeks ago, and as of today, Keith has lost 12 lbs in 7 days on his first ever juice fast.  Woohoooo!  Way to go Keith!  At first, I thought I would do it with him, but since we have small children at home and one of us has to feed them, I decided that I would have to make my roll mainly that of facilitating Keith’s juice fast right now, by trying to keep tantalizing food smells out of the house as much as possible, feeding the children, and helping keep the fridge stocked with lots of organic produce to juice.  He’s done a fabulous job, an inspiration to us all!

I continue learning about eating raw foods and superfoods, as well as wrestling with being the main shopper and chef for our family.  It’s a big responsibility to fill up our kitchen each week – whatever I bring in here is what we eat.  Whatever I prepare for dinner is what we will fuel our bodies with.  It is largely I who will determine whether my children grow up already “a cheeseburger away from a heart-attack”, “a soda away from diabetes”, or if they become self-controlled, well-educated young people who know how to make their food be their medicine rather than letting their stomachs be their gods.

The two big food groups we wrestle with right now are animal protein products and grain products.  If we want to cut back on one of these, we will most likely need to lean more heavily on the other to round out vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.  As we learn and research, the coming year will tell which way we lean:  gluten-free or meat/dairy free.  The research for avoiding both of these food groups has real substance.  We have friends and family in both camps.  Either way, we are moving towards a more plant-based diet, where vegetables and fruit are the big players in our meals all day everyday.  I think that once we establish a new routine at home over a few months, the biggest challenge will be taking it on the road.  Where do vegans eat while traveling?   Where do gluten-free’ers eat on the road, without relying on even more awful things like french fries or non-organic salads (did you know that conventional lettuce can have over 50 different chemicals?!!)?

So as of January 5, 2013, this is where I am on my food journey.  And so thankful to be here, loving every minute of it, and thanking God for His wisdom, knowledge, and grace to become better care-takers of these bodies He has given us.  I will post after this a list of books and documentaries that have helped us in our journey lately.

Here’s to your health!

Lacy

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Preserving the Harvest – Canning!

So I wanted a garden this spring.  Not just a few plants out behind the house, but a real garden with beds and significant plantings of vegetables and fruits.  And though it’s no acre garden, it’s pretty big for a first year gardener.  I have enjoyed planting the seeds, watching them grow, keeping them watered, and now we enjoy the harvest.

However, though I may have slightly underestimated the time input needed to get the garden going this spring, I really didn’t know how much time it would take to preserve the food this summer.  I’ve been canning about once a week this month.  Canning is one of those things that by the directions seems like it should only take about 2 hours.  Usually it takes me the better part of an evening, maybe the late afternoon as well.  So far I have a good batch of carrots, a batch of sweet pickles, and a batch of dill pickles.  If I could can cantaloupe, I’d have a ton of that.  Is there ANY way to preserve cantaloupe?  It’s all ripening at once! I’m about ready to do a batch of tomatoes, but really need to see a bunch of them ripen at one time

Sweet Pickles

to get many jars of them, they cook down so much.  I also blanched and froze 10 heads of broccoli, shredded and froze 6 zucchini, and made another 6 into 3 loaves of zucchini bread.  Also, we are grinding our own grain this month with the addition of a grain grinder attachment for the Kitchenaid.  The flour and the bread it makes are amazing!  My zucchini bread was made with organic freshly ground locally sourced white winter wheat, home grown organic zucchini, home grown free range chicken eggs, and locally sourced honey.  It is gooood stuff, and good for you!

So, it’s a bit of a time commitment to preserve the harvest this summer, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.  In fact I have 25 lbs of peaches coming next week from the Oklahoma Food Coop, as well as bushels of pears about to ripen on my sister’s 3 huge pear trees.  Should be a delicious fall and winter we have after all this laying by!

Enjoy the fresh fruit and vegetables of summer, and take a few Saturdays to preserve some of it for the fall.  You’ll be glad you did!

 

~~Lacy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oklahoma Food Coop – A Great Place To Get Natural and Organic Food

As I mentioned in a previous post, it can be hard to get natural and organic foods in a rural area. I did discover that a local grocery store carries a pretty decent organic selection I had not yet discovered. I was pleased to discover that at Food Pyramid in Ponca City! I have been buying some organic produce and frozen goods there (frozen hamburger buns, corn, and mixed veggies mostly). But let me point you to the best source of locally raised organic and all natural food in Oklahoma – the Oklahoma Food Coop!

Here’s how it works. First check out their website. You can see the various products available, all Oklahoma grown. Keep in mind that the products available vary each month as the growing seasons change. Next, sign up to become a coop member. There is a small one time membership fee of $50. When your membership has been processed you can then shop online and fill up your cart with healthy locally grown food.  You pay when you pick up the food on delivery day.

Once a month farmers from all over the state deliver their food to the Coop. Then volunteers distribute the food to the correct drop off vehicle in coolers. The food is then delivered to your city where you meet the delivery truck to pick it up. It works beautifully!

I have gotten amazing grass-fed beef from the coop (the only beef we eat now). Cheese, butter, yogurt, and cream from grass-fed cows, organic wheat flour or grains, organic veggies (last month amazing lettuces, celery, and sweet potatoes), farm fresh eggs, and of course pastured poultry (grass-fed, hormone-free and antibiotic-free chicken)! There is really a huge variety of food raised right here in Oklahoma, and Oklahoma Food Coop makes it convenient to buy.

Keith and I here at Fifth Generation Farms will be the newest producers at the Oklahoma Food Coop this spring, soon to be selling our pastured chicken and free-range eggs.  We hope you’ll get signed up as a Coop member and support Oklahoma grown food!

Why eat organic, why eat local, and what IS eating seasonal?

Dear friends, perhaps you’ve seen that I have posted a few links on facebook lately about eating local and organic foods.  As a new healthy food producer, I of course hope to see more and more people understand the realities of supermarket food, specifically non-organic food.  For example, “Non-organic supermarket spinach and lettuce tests positive for 50 different pesticide residues” (Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list).  That sounds like a main course of pesticides and a side of lettuce.

Perhaps you’ve forgotten how nasty pesticides are.  Here’s a quick rundown… Pesticides can damage the nervous system, reproductive system, and immune system. They can cause developmental and behavioral abnormalities in children. Pesticides also contribute towards many health risks such as leukemia, lung, brain and testicular cancer, liver and pancreatic damage, decreased sperm counts and spontaneous abortions.  Ummmm, no thanks.

So that pretty much clears up why eating organic is the way to go.  If it was simply to avoid pesticides it would be worth it.  But add to that herbicides, artificial ingredients, hydrogenated oils, additives,  preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, tons of salt and sugar, and a whole list of other things are truly risky for your health, and for sure, eating organic is the way to go.  As for the cost of eating organic, when I stopped filling up my grocery cart with processed foods, boxed snacks, and sugary drinks, it truly didn’t increase my grocery bill by any noticeable margin to buy whole organic foods instead.

So with that brief explanation perhaps you can see why someone may choose to eat organic.  What about eating local?  If you think that eating organic is a challenge, try eating local.  Where you live will greatly affect how easy or difficult it is to eat local.  In a very green metro area it may still require extra effort, but it is often feasible.  Most people live somewhere in between, perhaps in the suburbs or in a smaller city.  But then there’s me (and a tiny percentage of Americans) livin’ out on the countryside.  You’d think that out here where fields stretch for miles and farms dot the scenery that local food would be in abundance.  But sadly, almost all of what is produce out here in rural America is the chemical-laden stuff you find on your grocery shelves.  In my county, I know of one other farmer who raises organic and all natural food.  There may be a few others out there, but not very many.  Even when I go to the summer farmer’s market, many of the vendors sell conventional (chemical-laden) produce.  Really?  So eating local and living in the country (or simply far from a metro area) can be a real challenge.

Perhaps you may wonder what’s the point of eating local?  Isn’t organic broccoli from China the same as locally grown organic broccoli?  It’s usually cheaper, that’s for sure.  I recently saw a news report that highlighted Whole Food’s 365 brand.  “Organic” labels the front of 365 packages of frozen vegetables.  On the back in small print reads “Made in China”.  Upon further investigation, we find that not only is imported food not checked by the USDA, but the organic certifier listed on the package stated they have never certified any products from China.  Yet there their seal of approval was, right on the package, giving false assurance to unknowing customers about a supposedly organic product.  Perhaps the vegetables really are organic.  Perhaps they aren’t.  China’s reputation for chemical use and tainted products certainly isn’t very reassuring.  So why would I pay more for a product that may not be free of chemicals and other harmful ingredients?  I would guess that this situation isn’t an isolated incident in the imported organic produce world.

ImageSo that brings us to eating organic produce raised in the good ole U S of A.  Alright!  American food, American jobs, American USDA certified organic (or in the case of local produce, raised without chemicals).  Good for our health, good for our economy, good for American farmers.  But eating organic strawberries from California when you live in Vermont isn’t exactly eating local.  Those strawberries will certainly have a bigger “carbon footprint” than those grown in your own home town (or state in my case).  But strawberries aren’t available in Vermont for 3/4 of the year, so if you can find them, organic strawberries from California might be your best option for an organic-conscious shopper.  But for the eat local purist, the principle of eating seasonally is an integral part of healthy eating.  Eating seasonally entails doing just that – eating what is in season, and not importing what is in season elsewhere.  That means not eating strawberries in Vermont in the winter.  Just like in the old days, if you want fruit in the winter you will need to root cellar some apples, freeze some strawberries, and dry some grapes.  These consumers are not only concerned with eating organic food, but with how it got to their table.  How many miles has the food traveled?  How long ago was it picked?  How much fossil fuel was burned and how much pollution was caused to bring this food to my table?  Perhaps these issues are important to you, for many of you these thoughts may have never crossed your mind.  Whether or not you are concerned with fossil fuel consumption and pollution may partially impact your motivation to eat locally and to some degree eat seasonally.

But here are some additional reasons why eating local just may be worth considering.

Top Reasons to Buy Local Food

1. Locally grown food tastes better (it really is true!)
Food grown in your own community is usually picked within the past day or two. It’s crisp, sweet, and loaded with flavor. Produce flown or trucked in is much older. Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles.

2. Local produce is better for you.
Fresh produce loses nutrients quickly. Locally grown food, purchased soon after harvest, retains its nutrients.  (Plus, pasture raised animals are MUCH healthier for you!  Our coming website will tell you why.)

3. Local food preserves genetic diversity.
In the modern industrial agricultural system, varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen simultaneously and withstand harvesting equipment. Only a handful of varieties of fruits and vegetables meet those rigorous demands, so there is little genetic diversity in the plants grown. Local farms, in contrast, grow a huge number of varieties to provide a long season of harvest, an array of eye-catching colors, and the best flavors.

4. Local food is GMO-free.
(Seen the recent reports about GMO foods?  Not good.)  Although biotechnology companies have been trying to commercialize genetically modified fruits and vegetables, they are currently licensing them only to large factory-style farms. Local farmers don’t have access to genetically modified seed, and most of them wouldn’t use it even if they could.

5. Local food supports local farm families.
With fewer than 1 million Americans now listing farming as their primary occupation, farmers are a vanishing breed. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middle man and get full retail price for their crops.  (If we want to continue seeing food produced in our own country, we have to buy what our farmers produce).

6. Local food supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife.
A well-managed family farm is a place where the resources of fertile soil and clean water are valued. Good stewards of the land grow cover crops to prevent erosion and replace nutrients used by their crops. Cover crops also capture carbon emissions and help combat global warming.

7. Local food is about the future.
By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow, so that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful, and abundant food.
Source: Green Right Now

So eating local benefits you, your health, your community’s economy, your local farmer, the environment, and the future of American food production.  That’s a good thing.  So what is available to you locally?  Next time you cruise through Whole Foods, look for locally grown products.  Ask around or search online to see if there is a local food “CSA” (community supported agriculture) where you can get fresh produce and/or meat every week.  Check to see if there is a local coop you can order through to get locally grown products (I use oklahomafood.coop).  Find local farmers producing organic or chemical free food in your area and stock up once or twice a month.  Sites like naturallygrown.net and www.eatwild.com can be helpful.

I’m on my own food journey to eating more organic and locally produced food.  For me, luckily, my organic eggs and chicken come right from my own back yard.  As I checked my grocery list today though, I can see that I need to plan further in advance for what I will need from the food coop.  My coop order comes next Thursday, and that leaves me a week without access to local food.  This month I get grace having just moved to a new house.  But next month, I want to do better at stocking up when local food is available by planning ahead of time my meal plan for the month.  I’m also looking forward to canning and freezing a whole bunch this year to eliminate the need to buy lots of things on my list right now – pizza sauce, V-8, beef and chicken broth, sweet pickles, apple sauce, green beans, diced tomatoes, etc.  But for today, I’m working on a month’s menu plan with lots of crockpotting, having my list ready for the next coop order, and buying organic from my supermarket to fill in the gaps.

Here’s to your health.  Eat Organic.  Eat Local.  Eat Healthy.

~Lacy

Cook Smart

“WHY DO THEY WANT DINNER EVERY NIGHT?!!” 

I’ve seen this quote and matching distressed mother on my facebook thread a few times lately.  That’s me.  Last night we had toast and eggs.  And then I remembered my crockpot.

I don’t know why I got away from using the crockpot.  For a while I was using it 4-5 times a week.  Using the crockpot isn’t just a preference for slow-cooked foods.  It is something that truly changes my day to day life, for the better.  Way better.  How many days does the 5-7 pm time frame just about do you in, ladies?  We’re already tired from our day’s events, we’ve sometimes just returned home, sometimes yesterday’s dishes are piled in the sink, and many times there’s nothing planned for dinner.  Children begin to escalate as their bellies growl and discontentment in the house goes up quite a few notches.  Sound familiar?  For sure.

Somehow I forgot the GREAT HAPPINESS that comes when I reach 5 pm and dinner is already ready.  Secondly, that happiness is compounded by the fact that the only dishes to wash from dinner are the crockpot (easy if you use cooking spray before filling the crockpot), 4 plates, and 4 forks.  I fill plates, I sit and eat, someone does 3 minutes of dishes, and we have sailed through the dinner hour.  Right now, it’s 4:34.  In my kitchen is a crockpot full of hot tender BBQ ribs, and some baked potatoes are almost done in the oven.  I am tired from my day, and I am blogging.  I am not cooking dinner.  I heart crockpots. 

Veggie chopping in the great outdoors.

To compound happiness upon happiness, not only will I find hot dinner ready at 5pm, and wash only a few dishes, but I will also eat whole food ingredients without any work.  Today I have chopped and mixed up the ingredients for 6 crockpot meals over the next few weeks.  They are there, in my freezer, just waiting for me to dump them into my crockpot on some hairy-kairy morning.  What a joy notcooking dinner will be on those days.  So that makes the next two weeks of meal planning really easy.  3 days of ready to dump crockpot meals, 1 day of crockpot chicken meal, 1 hamburger day, 1 day eating out, and one dinner left to plan.  Freezer to crockpot, fresh healthy meals.  Today, happiness is a crockpot.  And tomorrow too.  🙂

The kids and I sat outside on the patio table and chopped vegetables in the sunlight.  Beautiful.  Then they fed the scraps to the chickens and rabbits, who were also then very happy.

Here are the three meals I made two bags each of.

Teriyaki Chicken (2 Bags)

  • Split a large bag of Baby Carrots between the 2 bags (I cut up whole carrots)
  • Cut Onion into Large Chunks and split between the 2 bags
  • (1) 20oz can pineapple in each bag (undrained) (I split one between 2 bags)
  • (2) Garlic Cloves chopped per bag
  • (2) Chicken Breasts in each bag
  • 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce in each bag (I’m adding this when I dump it in the crockpot)

*Add 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce to mixture. Cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours. Serve over Rice.

Vegetable Beef Soup (2 Bags)

  • Chop (1) Onion and Chop (2) Cloves of Garlic- Brown in Pan with the Ground Beef- once cool divide mixture between bags  (Instead, I taped a bag with uncooked stew meat to the bag with the veggies).
  • (2) whole carrots chopped per bag
  • (2) celery stalks chopped per bag
  • (3) Red Potatoes chopped per bag
  • (1) can v8 split between bags
  • (1) 28oz can diced tomatoes SPLIT between bags
  • (1) cup frozen green beans in each bag (I left this out)
  • (1/2)TBSP Worcestershire per bag
  • (1/2) cup Beef Broth per bag
  • (1) TBSP Parsley per bag
  • (1) tsp Basil per bag
  • 1/2 tsp Thyme per bag
  • (1/2) tsp salt per bag
  • (1/2) tsp pepper per bag
  • (1) TBSP Sugar per bag (optional)

*Place in Crockpot with 1.5 cups of water and 15 oz Beef Broth. Cook on LOW 8 Hours.

Chicken Fajitas (two bags)

  • 1 yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • fajita seasoning

*Place in Crockpot with small amount of water.  Serve with tortillas, cheese, and other fixins.

HAPPY CROCKPOTTING!

~Lacy

(P.S.  Crockpotting doesn’t change yourself or your kids, so sadly not even all crockpot dinner hours will be smooth sailing.  For those changes, check with the Creator.  He’s got the real hope and change.)

My Food Journey

Food.  We all eat it.  We all need it.

Food can nourish our bodies or pollute our bodies. It can improve our health or it can make us sick.  It can be be treasured and appreciated, or it can be taken for granted and abused.

Each person’s journey with food starts as a young child.  What we learn at home stays with us for the rest of our lives, including our eating habits and our view of food.  For me, that food journey started in the early 1980’s when every kitchen boasted it’s own Fry Daddy and when Spaghetti-O’s were a pantry staple.  Women had gone to work, and convenience food was the much appreciated time-saver they all needed.  This was before the internet, before organic, and before America had awakened to the fact that Fry Daddys and processed foods make us obese and sick.  My mother was not an unusually unhealthy cook, it was just the way of the times.

During high school I used to buy a Pepsi every day during morning break, and sometimes pair that with an order of fried hashbrowns from the cafe across the street.  At lunch I’d chow down on a chili cheese deep-fried burrito and a side of greasy tator tots.  My favorite.  The day was rounded out with a bag of chips or a plate of pizza rolls, and often something like Hamburger Helper or deep-fried chicken strips and french fries for dinner, and of course ice cream or brownies for dessert.  I actually never ate a salad until I was in my 20’s.  My food journey started out on a pretty bleak note.

It was about ten years ago that I first learned that a romaine salad is better for me than a chili cheese burrito with tator tots.  Periodically during my late twenties I would come across some reading that revealed to me the sad truth about processed food.

*Processed foods can cause diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.   Not things I want to have.

*Processed foods are linked closely to obesity.  Not something I want to be.

*Harmful chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, and additives) are in almost all conventional foods to increase production, shelf-life, and decrease things such as pests and weeds.  These chemicals are linked to cancer, endocrine diseases, nerve problems, and a very long list of other undesirable health conditions.  No thanks.

*High-fructose corn syrup (soda) is linked closely with obesity, heart problems, and a list of other health problems.  Not worth it.

*Hydrogenated oils can cause heart disease, cancer, and obesity.  Not for me.  Not for my children.

(Not convinced?  Google it yourself.)

But change does not come overnight, not after a lifetime of addiction to high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils.  But slowly, step by step, I have made progress in my food journey.

Some of the steps I have taken are:

*replaced sugar with honey in much of my baking

*bake bread at home, whole wheat with honey

*broke an addiction to soda and caffeine

*never fry, always oven-bake

*cook from scratch, use very few boxed items

*make my own snacks for the kids from scratch

*use grass-fed meat and eggs in our meals

*eat more vegetables – less out of a can, more fresh or frozen

*most recently, buy organic produce and dairy rather than conventional

I think there are endless improvements to make in healthy eating.  From morning smoothie concoctions to using more beans and grains and less meat – but for now, I am happy with the steps I have taken over the last years.  When I set food before my family, I am happy with what they are eating, and that feels great.  Amazingly, the addition of grass-fed meat, eggs, and organic produce and dairy has not increased my grocery bill.  I have stopped piling my cart full of frozen pizzas, little yellow fish crackers, canned and bottled drinks, and boxed quick-fix meals, and started filling it with the whole foods that my family and myself need to maintain healthy bodies.

I buy my grass-fed beef from a local producer who is also a friend in our journey towards our own sustainable farm this year.  It’s only $5/lb for ground beef, just $1 or so more than what I used to pay for corn-fed.  We raise our own pastured chicken and free-range eggs, which we are really enjoying.  The taste is fabulous, and I don’t think we could ever go back to supermarket chicken or eggs.  It would be like eating cardboard when you are used to dining on succulent steaks.  We will be increasing our production this spring and selling both free-range eggs and pastured chicken, and also pastured turkey in the fall.  I’ve been buying my organic dairy (just cheese and occasional cream – we drink organic rice milk) and organic produce from Whole Foods.  While their prices can be pretty good on some items, I would rather buy from a local producer, as most of the produce I bring home from Whole Foods is from Peru or Chile.  I’ve got no beef with Peru or Chile, I’d just rather support a local or regional organic grower, and not have my food flown in from half way around the world.  As spring and summer heat up, it will be easier to do that – and of course, our own back yard garden will be a great source for local produce!

So that’s my story.  I didn’t go into the emotional details or the roller coasters and yo-yos I’ve traveled through with food.  I’d like to say my food journey looked like a slow and steady upward trend graph.  Mine probably looks more like huge mountains and valleys where over time the valleys slowly become less deep, and the overall average of the chart slowly inches up, point by point.  This year’s stability in our life has helped greatly, bringing more of a steady climb on the healthy eating virtual chart rather than a bunch of jagged peaks.

When it comes to healthy eating, healthy is the key word.  Food is a treasure, a gift from God, and something that we should contemplate our own view and relationship with.  I for one, am ready to know what is in my food, to know how it will affect my body and my life, and to choose that food which will empower me to live the life I was made for.

Here’s to good food.

Lacy