Posts Tagged ‘Organic food’

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:  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!



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.