A mom who likes to live outside the norm

Archive for the category “Food”

Awesome snack idea

A friend referred me to a company called Graze a few weeks ago.  Basically, you sign up to have snacks delivered to your home or office each week.  I got my first box yesterday, this is what it looked like when I opened it:

10293716_10152493158434515_1972153710690544987_oEach week you are sent a box with 4 individual sized snacks for $6 (that includes shipping).  Here’s a closer look:

1932512_10152493158779515_1309303535207113060_oAfter you try your snacks, you are able to log in to your account and rate it.  If you don’t like it, they’ll never send it to you again (I marked a few things I knew I already didn’t like before they ever sent me my first box), and if you really like it, they will send it more often.   There are also peanut free and low-calorie options.

I have several friends and family members who got their first boxes too, and we all received different items.  My sister discovered that she liked pistachios :).

There are different markings on the snacks based on low-calorie, high protein, having a lot of nutrition, etc.  These are intended to be healthier options than a vending machine (which is why they also ship to your workplace!).

I’m going to be honest, I haven’t tried it yet since it’s a little pricey to be eating at home around my kids who will want them.  But these are great for stashing in your purse or diaper bag for eating on the go.  I’ll be trying my first one today while I’m out running errands during my usual snack time.

Let me tell you the best part: You can get your first and fifth boxes free!  If you use this link, you can try it at no risk: Try graze for free!  There’s no commitment, so you can quit after your first box, after your fifth (free), or any time you choose.  You can pause weeks if you’ll be on vacation, you can have several boxes come, you can send gift boxes, the possibilities are endless!

I plan on signing my husband up for a box delivered to his work.  He eats so much junk there he needs some good options!10387160_10152493159114515_3913808930949749599_oAnd as a bonus for sharing with your friends (which is another reason for this post), is that you get $1 off your next box for referring friends.  You can also donate that money to the Graze School of Farming.  There’s also handy little tickets that you can pass along to friends and coworkers.

Let me know if you try it and what you think!

Why I Hate the “5-Ingredient Rule” | Butter Believer

This is really good.  It’s about food education, not food restriction!

Why I Hate the “5-Ingredient Rule” | Butter Believer.

Follow your body’s cues

Okay, this is one of the hardest health related posts I’ve written.  As a person with poor body image and who has regularly been on some sort of diet for a majority of my life, this is something I have personally struggled with.

You need to follow your body’s cues.

This totally goes against most of what mainstream diets tell us.  They all have the same sort of advice:

  • Eat lots of this stuff
  • Avoid things from this list
  • Drink lots of water
  • Ignore the cravings

Well, of course I have said some similar things, but the main point of my advice is to Eat real food.  Avoid packages, items with an ingredients list, preservatives, etc. Drink when you are thirsty.

But what do you do about cravings or aversions?

Eat what sounds good to you and avoid what sounds bad.

The avoiding what sounds bad is super easy.  I’ve never done many diets out there because I don’t like soup, beans and other things that affect my texture issues.  And many sweet foods just don’t sound appealing to me, so I naturally avoid many foods that have excess sugar.

The part I really struggle with and am working on now is eating what sounds good.

What do most diets tell you to do when you crave sugar?  Don’t eat it, be a martyr, use self-control!  And what do you do?  You can avoid it for awhile, but then you cave in after a week or a few days and binge eat.  You eat a whole package of cookies, or eat several servings of ice cream.  And then you give up.  Or you tell yourself it’s just one day and you’ll do better tomorrow.

And then we are told to drink tons of water.  The advice varies from 64 ounces a day to half your body weight in ounces daily.  I read this recently: 8 Reasons NOT to Drink 8 Glasses of Water A Day.  In most cases we are not following our body’s cues and are actually over hydrating!

So what is a Real Foodie to do?

The first thing you should do is listen to your body.  If you are craving sweet, give your body sweet.  I would start with eating some fruits to see if that takes care of the craving.  But if you are really wanting dessert, go for it!  Find some recipes that use whole food ingredients.  You can try out my recipes for whole grain cupcakes (no icing necessary) and cookies.  Eat one and move on. If a few hours later you are still craving sweet, re-evaluate.

Craving salty?  Nuts may be exactly what you are craving.  A slice of homemade bread with butter may take care of it.  Make some soft pretzels.  The main point is to stop the cycle of reaching for the normal chips or pre-packaged pretzels, find a way to take care of the craving while actually feeding your body.

And I’m learning with the water.  Of course your body needs water, that is what we are made of!  But if you are eating real foods, you are already getting a lot of water from the fruits and vegetables you are eating.  The main point is to swap out all the juice and soda for water.  If you are thirsty, fill up a glass of water.  If you want some flavor add a slice of cucumber or lemon, or try out some other flavoring options. Maybe go for a glass of full-fat milk.  Drink when you are thirsty and stop when you are satisfied.  Stop focusing on quotas and minimums!

Remember the words “is this feeding me, or hurting me?”  If it is hurting you then see if you can find something else, but if it is feeding your body, go for it!  If you are constantly denying your body what it wants, you are setting yourself up for failure.

And stop focusing on the scale.

The goal is not rapid weight loss or a perfect body.  The goal is balance and health. So eat what is not only good for you, but also what you are craving.  Get active.  If you are truly overweight, your body will slowly shed the excess.  It may take months for your body to realize that it is being regularly nourished and getting what it needs to function, and then (and only then) will it start to lose its fat stores.  And if it doesn’t you may want to consult a doctor about underlying issues.

Is there anything about this that is new to you? Is there anything encouraging you can share?

There’s only a few days left to join the 7 Day Real Food Challenge. Click here to join us and get the plan, recipes, and support now!

Previous Post: Start Your Day Off Right

Not all eggs are created equal

If you couldn’t tell by my post Start Your Day Off Right, I love eggs.  My family of 5 goes through roughly 4 dozen eggs a week! But I don’t just go to my local grocery store and buy the cheapest option there.

As a frugally minded person, I would love to go to my local grocery store and pick up 10 cartons of their $1/dozen eggs when on sale.  Or for a step up maybe get a bunch of antibiotic free eggs from Aldi for $1.50/dozen.  Or should I go to Trader Joe’s and get them for $1.70/dozen?

What is the difference in all the egg jargon?

Hormone free, pastured, organic, free-range…what’s a person to do who is shopping on a budget and yet wanting humane eggs with the best nutrition?

First, you need to know what the terminology means and what it looks like in real life.

  • Conventional eggs – those eggs you buy on sale at chain grocery stores are from chickens who are regularly kept in individual cages 1/2ft square.  No room to move around, let alone practice normal chicken behavior.  If you see the label United Egg Producers Certified, that means they follow these practices.  Please avoid these eggs if at all possible!
  • Cage-free – this label is not regulated.  It simply means that instead of individual cages, the chickens are kept in a large barn or pen.  Often these chickens have their beaks clipped so they cannot peck at each other.  While they are able to practice many normal behaviors like nesting and walking around, they are still normally kept indoors and have minimal space per chicken.
  • Free-range – This is another unregulated term.  All it means is that there is access to the outdoors.  Could be just a door opened to a tiny pen, could mean regular access outside.  It is often a marketing ploy.
  • Certified Organic – These chickens are required to have outdoor access, but there are no requirements in place for duration, etc.  Beak cutting and starvation to induce molting is allowed.  These chickens are fed an organic vegetarian diet which sounds good, but is actually not a chicken’s natural diet.
  • Certified Humane – While these chickens may be kept indoors at all times, there are requirements in place as far as stocking density, requirements for nesting boxes and perches, and provisions for chickens to be able to perform natural behaviors like dust bathing and nesting. While forced molting by starvation is prohibited, beak cutting is allowed. This is a regulated label.  You may see the label Food Alliance Certified.
  • Animal Welfare Approved – This is a step up from Certified Humane.  All the chickens must also have continuous outdoor perching access, and beak cutting is prohibited.
  • Other terms – Vegetarian-fed means that no animal byproducts were used, though this is actually not a natural diet for a chicken.  Natural means nothing regarding to welfare or diet, a marketing ploy.  Fertile means that the hens had access to roosters.  These eggs are completely safe and normal to eat, and this often means cage free.

So what are you to do with this information?

The main thing to remember is that chickens are naturally omnivores.  That means that they not only eat weeds, seeds and vegetables, but also bugs!  They do best on a varied diet where they have the ability to forage and peck.

And to be completely honest, none of the above labels provide you with eggs that come from chickens that are living the way they were intended to be.

The best eggs come from happy chickens.


A happy chicken is one who is allowed to practice natural behaviors: roosting, pecking, nesting, foraging.  They have a balanced diet of bugs, weeds, food scraps and the occasional supplement of grains.  They are sheltered from bad weather and are kept in humane conditions.

There have been independent tests showing the nutritional differences of conventional eggs to truly pastured eggs.  Pastured eggs have less cholesterol and saturated fat (yes, a diet of exclusive grains means more fat!), higher levels of Vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids, much higher levels of Vitamin E and Beta Carotene, and up to 6 times the amount of Vitamin D.  Did you know that eggs are one of the only ways you can naturally get Vitamin D other than sunlight!?!

So, where does one get these eggs?

The best thing you can do to ensure that you have eggs that come from happy chickens is to raise them yourself!  This is a step that I am working towards, but sadly my municipality does not allow it.  If you want to raise your own chickens, be sure to look at the rules for your area!  Great resources are, and  I also found an awesome blog series from Vintage Garden Gal where she shares her experiences and tips raising chickens.  While expensive, you can buy chicken coops on amazon, and also many of the needed chicken supplies.  You can also get books and other information to decide if this is right for you.

If you cannot keep chickens where you live or that idea does not sound pleasant to you, you can try to find someone local who raises their own flock.  Check with your friends or on craigslist.  Many people sell their extras to help supplement income. Be sure to talk to them about how their chickens are raised and what they eat.  I have a friend who sells hers for $2.50/dozen.

Another options is to check out local Farmer’s Markets.  Be careful though!  Many of these eggs sound great, hidden under the labels described above.  Be sure to talk to the farmer about conditions, size of the flock, their diet, etc.  I have a farmer who has the best eggs who sells them for $3/dozen.

I have to be honest though, right now I get my eggs by the case from a local co-op. They are $2.50/dozen and are under the label of cage-free and natural.  Due to access and budget restrictions, this is a compromise I am temporarily making.  But I can’t wait until my Farmer’s Market opens again and I can get the eggs I really want!

To get more information about animal welfare, labeling and nutrition, visit The Humane Society’s website and Real Food University.

Also be sure to check out the 7 Days of Real Food Challenge! Click here to join us and get the plan, recipes, and support now!  Also, feel free to check out my weight loss series where I talk about using real foods to help you Get Healthy to Lose Weight!

Do you have any more information about egg nutrition? Do you have any great resources on raising your own flock? Please share your experiences in the comments!

7 Day Real Food Challenge

Start your day off right

One thing many people who are trying to lose weight do is skip breakfast.  The mindset is that there are less calories eaten throughout the day.  But people who skip breakfast have a tendency to actually eat more throughout the day, on average 100 calories more than those who do eat breakfast!

But there are many other issues with skipping breakfast:

  • Slowed metabolism
  • Binge eating before lunch
  • Low energy throughout the day
  • Side effects like – lethargy, dizziness, irritability, poor immune system function and nutrient deficiencies

So basically, skipping breakfast can lead to weight gain and health issues.

I’ve shared previously about how the typical “American” breakfast also leads to weight gain in my post Why Americans are Overweight – or – How to Fatten up a Pig.  Basically, not all breakfasts are created equal.

The typical american breakfast consists of:

  • Grains – cereal, toaster pastries, granola bars
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Juice

A breakfast like this gives a sugar high, provides little fiber, and contains little to no protein and fat (both provide longer lasting energy).

How to start your day off right

Start your day with a great source of protein, like eggs!


I got lucky when cracking my eggs the other day, such a cute smile!

There are many benefits of eating eggs daily: protein, good fats, vitamin D, and many other vitamins and minerals.  If you can find locally sourced pastured eggs (from chickens able to scratch in dirt, nest comfortably and eat their natural diet of weeds and bugs), you will get even more nutritional benefit.

My day starts off with 2 eggs, scrambled in a little cream, and then topped with cheese and often an assortment of veggies (mushrooms, peppers, etc).  Not only is my breakfast right around 300 calories (with my coffee sweetened with real cream and maple syrup), but I am not hungry again for 4-5 hours.  I’m able to then plan a healthy lunch instead of grabbing whatever I can get my hands on!

Oh, and speaking of coffee, it’s not all bad!  1-2 daily cups of coffee can help improve your memory, cut your diabetes risk, and decrease the chance of developing certain cancers.  Coffee contains antioxidants and is a mood booster. There are of course issues with high caffeine consumption: it can affect your heart, increase anxiety and cause sleep issues.  The key is moderation and unless you’re immune to the negative sleep effects (like my husband), try to avoid caffeine after lunch.

There are things you can do to improve your coffee habit to better benefit your body and the world around you:

  • Buy fair trade – it provides a fair wage for workers, it prohibits child labor, and is better for the environment
  • Grind your beans fresh daily – there are often extras mixed in with pre-ground beans (yes, that may actually be dirt you are tasting), you can finely grind the beans and get more coffee flavor with less beans, avoid stale grounds which can also lose their antioxidant levels, and the coffee tastes better!
  • Use real cream and maple syrup to flavor your coffee – most store bought creamers have many unpronounceable ingredients and preservatives.  Or they cost too much.  Plus, refined sugars are not good for you.  There are many options for homemade creamers if you prefer more flavor in your coffee.

What if you don’t have time to fix a hot breakfast?

My favorite breakfast on the go is a mixture of full-fat yogurt, granola cereal, and frozen berries (raspberries are my favorite).  I put it all in a tall cup, grab a spoon and go (just make sure to mix it up first if you are driving)!

There are also several options for on the go if you have time to prep beforehand:

  • Fruit salad with a piece of buttered toast
  • A breakfast sandwich – (you can pre-cook eggs and bacon) and put them on toast or an english muffin
  • Smoothies – blend up some milk or yogurt with fruit and veggies (easy to hide spinach or kale in a smoothie!), and maybe add some flax (or other variety) seeds.  There are lots of options out there, but don’t forget to use full-fat dairy or almond milk!
  • Make a sandwich with peanut butter and banana on toast.  For added yumminess, fry it on a skillet with lots of butter! (I saw this on the news this morning, so yummy looking!)

If you do honestly prefer cereal, make sure that you limit yourself to the actual serving size.  Skip the juice and use dairy with fat in it to give you some lasting energy.  The key is to limit the simple carbs that will not sustain you until lunch.  Find a way to add some protein and fat.  And add some complex, real food carbs that are high in fiber (like fruit).

But the most important thing to remember is: Don’t ever skip breakfast!

Previous Post: Baby Steps to Health
Next Post: Follow Your Body’s Cues

Update: I realized when looking back at this, that I made no mention of starting your day of right spiritually as well!  I find that breakfast is the best time for me to sit down and spend some time in the WORD.  I fix my family a nice breakfast, stick the youngest in the highchair, and I have a good 30 minutes to spend reading God’s Word without getting up super early or having too many distractions from busy kids!

Join the 7 Days of Real Food Challenge

As part of my eating healthy series, I thought it would be appropriate to join The Holistic Mama’s “7 Days of Real Food Challenge” and share information with you all so that you can join as well.  The whole idea is to try out, for seven days, eating only Real Food.  No boxes, no processed foods, and unless you’re lucky with a restaurant that serves real foods, no eating out.  If you can do it fully for a week, than you can decide to do it for 3 days a week, 80% of the time, whatever you decide.

Do you think you can eat only real food for 7 days straight?

To some of you this might sound nearly impossible and some of you may be thinking – I already do. This challenge is designed to help those of you who really want to live the real food lifestyle but might need a little guidance to get started. This challenge is also for all of you who have already figured it out, but you have fallen off the bandwagon. Sometimes life gets hectic and our diets seem to suffer. It’s never too late to get back into the healthy food routine!

So, What is the 7 Day Real Food Challenge?

There is a big group of us following this challenge. Everyone who joins this challenge is making a pact to eat only real food for 7 days – specifically on April 21st – 27th. Already there are 28 bloggers who have committed to this challenge and are here as a support team for everyone who joins us. Here is your support team:

Todd Dosenberry from Primal Toad
Amanda from Natural Living Mama
Erin Odom from The Humbled Homemaker
Janey McKeever from Consistantly Sporadic
Jaime Reid from Jaime Reids Kitchen
Anne Simpson from Authentic Simplicity
Laura Broach from Mama Making Changes
Mike Lamitola from
Alix from Blessed in Homemaking
Stacy Karen from A Delightful Home
Nina Nelson from Shalom Mama
Melissa Joulwan from Well Fed
Kimball Young from Heavy on Wholesome
Laura Prevost from Head over heels in Health
Victoria Moore from Yogi Mami
Carol Lovett from Ditch the Wheat
Katie Stanley from Nourishing Simplicity
Jami Leigh from Young Wifes Guide
Andrea from Homemade for Elle
Sarah Warren from Unorthadox Momma (That’s me!)
Amanda Anderson from Chef Amanda
Sara Roylance from Sara
Sara Shay from Your Thriving family
Jennifer from Hybrid Rasta Mama
Marillyn Beard from Just Making Noise
Nichi from My Healthy Beginning
Michelle Elnycky from The Crooked House Blog

So for those of you who think this might be way too hard to do – you have all these experts here to back you up and help you meet the challenge. It’s not only these bloggers that will be doing the challenge but many of our readers will be following along. We will have a special Facebook group for discussions about the challenge and a place to reach out to everyone for help and support. There are two ways you can participate in the challenge:

Option # 1 (Free)

Join us and make the commitment to eat only real food for 7 days starting on April 21 – April 27, 2013. You will receive:

  • An e-guidebook on “What is Real Food?”
  • A chance to win one of our fabulous real food prizes

To enter this challenge for free click here

Option # 2 ($29)

If you want to get really serious about this challenge and take full advantage of the support you can get from this group – this is for you. Making a big lifestyle change can be difficult on your own but with a huge group of people doing it along with you it is a lot easier – and a lot more fun! As a member of this challenge you will receive:

  • An e-guidebook on “What is Real Food?”
  • A full real food Paleo meal plan for 7 days – three meals a day and snacks
  • Recipes for all of the items in the meal plan (37 Delicious recipes!!)
  • A shopping list to help you prepare for the challenge
  • Tips on how to prepare your kitchen for this event
  • Membership to our private Facebook group which is a place to reach out for help and ask questions
  • A chance to win one of our fabulous real food prizes – worth over $600+

PLUS these fabulous Bonuses (worth over $237+) for everyone who buys this package…

The meal plan for this challenge is a Paleo menu! This means that all the recipes are grain-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free. If you have ever thought about trying the Paleo / Primal diet and thought it was too hard this is the perfect chance to try it out. All of these done for you planning items and the built in support are designed to make this challenge much less of a challenge to complete. What do you think – are you ready to take the 7 Day Real Food Challenge?

Click here to join us and get the plan, recipes, and support now!

The plan and recipes require basic kitchen tools. A good set of knives is the best thing you can splurge on in my opinion – even better you may win some in the giveaways that go along with this challenge!

Speaking of giveaways…Don’t forget about all of the fabulous prizes from our amazing sponsors!! We are giving away $600 worth of products! The Giveaways (over $600+ value)…


Ergo Chef Knife Company, makers of ergonomically-designed professional chef knives, is giving one participant of our challenge their Pro-Series 7” Santoku knife, Come Apart Kitchen Shears and a 9” & 12” Duo Tongs (Retail value $132) Follow them on FacebookTwitter, andYouTube

Taza Chocolate company, makers of traditional stone ground Mexican Chocolate, is giving one of our participants a package of their salted almond discs, their chipotle chili discs, a jar of chocolate covered hazelnuts and their 87% chocolate bar. Taza chocolate has a direct trade cacao program that cultivates face-to-face relationships with farmers. (Retail value $ 30.47) Follow them onFacebook and Twitter

Kaya Foods, superfoods for delicious living, is giving one participant 5 bags of their delicious Kale and Veggie Chips, great for healthy snacking and a few $1.00 coupons (Retail value $ 10) Follow them on Facebook

Yogi Tea, products inspired by Ayurveda  is giving one participant of our challenge 4 boxes of a variety of our top selling teas and a Yogi tea mug. (Retail value $40)Yogi tea is committed to providing healthy, natural teas that are accessible to as many people as possible. Follow them on Facebook.

Applegate, Organic & Natural Meats, is giving away a gift pack of products. (Retail value $ 25) Applegate meats are free of anti-biotics, growth hormones, nitrates, artificial ingredients and fillers which makes them far surpass the quality of conventional sliced sandwich meats. When buying Applegate products you can be confident you are eating a high quality product. Follow them onFacebookPinterest and Twitter

Trilight Health, makers of fast-acting, great tasting liquid herbal supplements, is giving one participant a $50 gift certificate to order products on their website! For over 20 years now, TriLight Health have supplied their customers nationwide with their high quality line of liquid herbal products. They specialize in great tasting, alcohol and sugar free, liquid herbal formulas for pregnancy, children, and the family. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter

Eco Lunch Gear, eco friendly reusable lunch gear, is giving one participant a a reusable sandwich wrap (Retail value $10.50). Eco Lunch Gear was started by a Mom who saw a need for an alternative to plastic and aluminum foil, her products can be washed and reused over and over to save money and our environment. Follow them on Facebookand Twitter.

Erin Odom from The Humbled Homemaker and creator of Real Food, Real Easy the eBook is giving one participant a copy of her eBook to help you continue with your Real Food journey (Retail value $$9.95) Follow her on FacebookTwitter, andPinterest

Health Coach, Mike Lamitola, is giving one participant free entry to his Tele-seminar on Cravings. Do you have a sugar habit you’ve been trying to beat? In this tele-seminar, Mike will explain how. (Retail value $25.00) Follow Mike onFacebook and Twitter

Alix from Blessed In Homemaking offers organic and all natural body care products, gentle baby care products, herbal products, crocheted items, and more, for your healthy lifestyle in herEtsy Shop. She is giving two participants a one ounce bag of loose chamomile  tea (Retail value $8.00) Follow her on Facebook

Stacy Karen from A Delightful Home is giving one participant of this challenge a copy of her eBook,Simple Scrubs to Make and Give. Start making your own scrubs at home for yourself and others (Retail value $3.99) Follow her on Facebook,Twitter, and Pinterest

Nina Nelson of Shalom Mama, is giving one participant of the challenge a healing balm and lavender mint lip balm from her etsy shop (Retail value $19.50) Follow her on FacebookTwitter, andPinterest

Melissa Joulwan from The Clothes Make the Girl, is giving one participant a copy of her Paleo eBook called Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Like to Eat (Retail value $14.95). This is a great resource for anyone interested in Paleo diet, whether you are just getting started or you are just looking for some new recipes to try. Follow her onFacebook and Twitter

Health Coach, Laura Prevost is giving 10 lucky participants one of her Dynamite Coachingsessions. If you are looking for some support around breaking a bad habit, or getting yourself motivated, Laura will work through it with you in this session (Retail value $20.00/session) Follow Laura on Facebook or Twitter

Jami from Young Wife’s Guide, is giving one participant a copy of her eBook, Apartment Gardening, which is a great resource for getting started growing food in small spaces (Retail value $2.99) Follow Jami on FacebookTwitter, andPinterest

Jennifer from Hybrid Rasta Mama has also offered to give away two copies of her eBook, Cooking with Coconut Oil (Retail value $19.95). The 68 recipes in this eBook are all simple to make and the ingredients in the recipes are all readily available. This eBook is a great way to start getting more coconut oil in your diet to get all the amazing health benefits. Follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest

You will have the chance to win all of these prizes by joining is the challenge with either Option # 1 or Option # 2 detailed above!


Do you have questions about this event? Please feel free to comment on this post with any questions or concerns.

My Favorite Bread Recipes

In my previous post Baby Steps to Health, I mentioned making to switch from store bought breads to homemade.  This is one of the first steps I made two years ago.  Not only did I not like seeing all of the unpronounceable ingredients and preservatives, I liked the taste of homemade so much better.  While I used to mix and knead everything by hand, I soon learned that getting a bread machine made life so much easier.  While spending $100 on a bread machine is a good investment, it’s not one I could make.  I got mine for free from a friend.  I see them all the time for $5-10 at thrift stores.  Craigslist is another way to find a used one cheap (or maybe even new and never used!).

Here are some things I do to make my bread even healthier:

  • I use honey instead of sugar
  • I use butter instead of oil
  • I grind my own flour instead of using store bought, and here’s why.  A grain mill is a huge investment though.  I received mine as a Christmas gift from my parents, and there are varying degrees in quality.

Here are my favorite recipes!

Whole Wheat Bread

1 1/4 c hot water
3 t yeast (add last if you will be setting the machine to start at a later time)
1 egg slightly beaten
1/2 c honey
1/4 t salt
1 T milk
2 T softened butter
4 c whole wheat flour (you may have to adjust slightly due to humidity or weather)
(optional 1 T vital gluten.  It makes the bread softer and less crumbly)

Put all of the ingredients in the bread machine and set to dough and start.  When the cycle is over, split into 2 equal halves and shape into loaves on a lightly floured surface.  Set loaves in greased loaf pans (I use butter), and set in a warm place covered for 30-60 minutes until risen to just over the height of the loaf pans.  Bake at 325 for 40-45 minutes.  Lightly glaze with butter (I love butter!).

Whole Wheat Yeast Rolls

1 c hot water
2 T softened butter
1 egg slightly beaten
1/4 c honey
1 t salt
3 1/4 c whole wheat flour
3 t yeast

Put all of the ingredients in the bread machine and set to dough and start.  When the cycle is over, shape into 15 balls and place on a lightly greased pan.  Cover and let rise for 30-60 minutes.  Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes.  This recipe is great for bringing to dinners.  I often make them a little smaller (I can easily get 24 rolls) and cover with plastic wrap and let them rise in the car and bake on location.

Baby Steps to Health

I’ve heard it takes 21 days to make a new habit.  Well 21 days full of denying yourself what you want and eating things that are new doesn’t sound like a habit that you will be able to make and keep!

Most fad diets (and even good ones) have you make drastic changes.  And not just one or two changes, but often a complete 180, all at once.  The changes supposedly make your body start “eating bodyfat” by denying it a major food group (for example the Atkins diet denying all carbohydrates).  Or they do not allow you to eat any of your favorite foods, which make the diet so difficult to maintain!  Since the goal is a lifestyle change to be healthy and not just quick weight loss, a new approach should be taken.

Make Real Food “Baby Steps”

To create healthy eating habits and make them sustainable, you have to like what you are eating.  Some changes you may not even notice (like simple food swaps), and other changes will make you feel better and thus be easier to maintain.  My favorites are the ones that taste better than what I was eating before!

Here are some suggestions you can do in your home.  Pick one or two a week, and keep building!

  • Switch from margarine to butter (man-made trans-fat to an animal fat).
  • Switch from powdered or dairy aisle creamers full of yucky ingredients to homemade creamers (my favorite is peppermint mocha).
  • Switch from a snack of chips to a piece of fruit.
  • Switch from meals focused on carbohydrates (pasta or potatoes) to high in vegetables.
  • Switch from soda to water (or if you really like flavor, try home made flavored water).
  • Try baking your bread instead of buying it (here’s a yummy recipe that’s fairly easy).
  • Invest in a bread-machine!  I prefer using the dough cycle and cooking everything in the oven (it tastes better that way).  My favorite bread recipes for the bread machine.
  • Make homemade rolls instead of using refrigerated dough.
  • Switch from processed sugars to natural sugars like honey, maple syrup, and succanot (many recipes can be easily swapped 1 to 1 or 2 to 1).
  • Start cooking from scratch instead of from a box. Build up to once a week, then twice, etc.
  • Slowly cut out meals eaten in restaurants.
  • Switch from vegetable and canola oil to coconut oil (great for cooking eggs, popcorn, etc).  Olive oil is okay, but not for cooking at high temps.
  • Slowly step up from fat-free milk, to low-fat milk, to full-fat milk, to even raw milk!  (We’re at the full-fat stage, still looking for a safe raw-milk provider). Why to drink full-fat milk.
  • Switch from low-fat to full-fat dairy (see the previous link on milk).
  • Switch from low-fat, fat-free, sugar-free, and artificially sweetened products to the real thing, and here’s why!
  • Instead of store-bought desserts, make them at home and control what goes in them.  My favorite cupcake recipe, and cookie recipe.
  • Instead of store-bought trail and snack mixes, make them yourself.
  • Buy produce in season instead of buying the same thing every time (you get more nutritional benefit since it is fresh, you can save money since it is often on sale, and you increase variety).
  • Find local sources for produce, honey, eggs, dairy and meat.  Your produce will be fresher (because they will be picked ripe instead of ripening in a truck), often have more nutritional benefit, and you will be helping your local community (as well as helping your body and your pocket-book).  Often, local farmers follow organic practices but either can’t afford being certified organic even though the may follow stricter practices than many things labelled organic.  Get to know them and learn about their sustainable practices.  Eating local honey and produce can help with allergies as well.

This list can go on and on!  Do you have any real-food healthy switches you can recommend?  I’m sure I missed so many!  Again, don’t do all of these at once.  Pick one or two a week, and keep building to a healthier lifestyle.

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It’s okay to be imperfect

There are so many ways to apply this statement in the journey to weight loss, and even more ways to apply it to a natural lifestyle.  The most important thing to remember is the changes you make have to work for you and your whole family.

I’ve found that what works for me (in a household with no known food allergies) is the 80/20 principle.  I strictly control 80% of what we consume so that 20% of the time I can not worry about it.  For me it comes by controlling everything that comes into my house, so I don’t have to worry so much when we are out to eat or at someone’s house.  Of course I’m going to watch portion sizes and make the best choices from what is available, but I’m not going to stress about every ingredient or feel guilty if I occasionally eat something that I shouldn’t.  I also try not to stress when my kids are at someone’s house.  I know I feed them a balanced diet, so it’s okay for them to occasionally get foods that I don’t allow at home.

There are also days that are completely out of your control.  At my Grandpa’s funeral the food choices were: fried chicken, biscuits, cole slaw, canned green beans, pasta salad and LOTS of desserts.  I was hungry and grieving.  So I ate what was available.  And enjoyed it.  But I only ate one dessert (with lunch).  That evening for dinner we had leftovers from the luncheon.  While I did prepare a wonderful salad, there was still fried chicken and biscuits (which I have not had in over a year). So I ate more of that, and another dessert.  While the next few days were horrible with cravings, I didn’t let one bad day set me back on eating whatever I wanted.  If I had let myself go for a few days it would have been okay too.

What is important is what you do after you make a mistake.  Are you going to throw all the changes out the window and go back to doing what you were doing before?  Or are you going to get back to doing what you know is best for you and your family?

If you have a few weeks of no visible progress will you quit?   Or will you find another area you can change to keep moving forward?

After my first 20 pounds I plateau’d for weeks with no progress on the scale.  I researched information on what nutritional balance from a natural foods perspective meant.  I found I wasn’t eating enough healthy fats (nuts, dairy and animal fats) to balance out the carbohydrates I was consuming.  A simple change from low fat dairy to full fat meant more progress on the scale.  I have friends who too heavily restricted their calories and made no progress.  As soon as they increased their daily calorie allowance they started losing weight.

The human body is an amazing thing and every one is different.  In general, if you feed your body a balanced diet of healthy fats, proteins and complex carbs, your body will have what it needs to fuel itself and should start shedding the fat stores. Most fad diets are making your body starve in a certain area.  So even if you do lose some weight, as soon as you make a mistake or quit from it being too difficult, your body quickly works to build up a reserve fuel source for next time (body fat).

It may take a few weeks to notice any changes.  If you have a history of yo-yo dieting or nutritional deficiency, your body needs to realize that it is getting consistent nutrition and that it can start shedding the reserves.

But keep moving forward.  Rarely is any good thing achieved quickly, and lasting weight loss and health is something worth striving for.

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Get Rid of the Junk

This is the hardest step.  You have to remove everything from your home that may be a temptation to you.  Your self control can only do so much.

You cannot stay positive about changing what you eat while thinking about that candy bar sitting in the cabinet.  You cannot watch your kids eating your favorite kind of dessert without wanting it yourself.  You cannot make drastic changes to your own diet while watching everyone else eating things you are “not allowed”.

And I want to make something clear.  When I use the word diet, I am not meaning depriving yourself of a major food group or eating tasteless foods that are difficult to choke down.  There will be no powdered shakes and absolutely no skipping meals! When I use the word diet I mean “the kind of food a person eats”.  This is not a magic weight-loss solution, this is a lifestyle change for you and your entire family.

It’s going to be hard, but getting your whole family on board and the junk out of the house is the best way to do it.  Not the easiest short term, but it’s one of the only ways to make cheating harder and keeping temptation out of sight.  You can do it if someone else is doing it with you.

Here is something that needs to be brought to light: If you are overweight, chances are someone else in your household is.  Seeing the statistics about those who are overweight and obese is staggering.  When I started making changes, I weighed over 220 pounds.  My husband weighed over 220 pounds.  My children were both well over the healthy BMI range.  You are making a healthy change for your family, not just for you.  The first few days and weeks will be hard as you make these changes, but you are doing them for your family.

But I’m not saying that you can’t have treats in your house for your kids or your spouse (or even occasionally for you!). One option is to choose things for your family that you can live without: I could not care less about most cookies (unless they’re homemade).  I buy Trader Joe’s Cat Cookies for special treats for my kids (and they only get 5 at a time while a serving is 15).  Another idea is to change the whole idea of what a treat is.  My kids know that strawberries are a special food, we don’t eat them on a regular basis like apples and grapes.  To them, strawberries are dessert!

Another point to realize: treats should not be a daily occurrence.  Save them for a certain night of the week, for a special occasion, for holidays.  There is no need for an adult or a child to eat sweets or salty snacks every day.

Desserts are much more special when they are anticipated, not expected.  They are also much “healthier” if you make them from scratch and control the ingredients (I will have a whole post on healthy ingredient swaps).  This is another way to build the anticipation and make a treat more special: make them yourself.

You can donate (or return) any unopened packages of chips, desserts, candies, and anything else you realize won’t fit into your new healthy lifestyle.  Involve your kids in throwing away open packages and talk about why you are making these changes. If you can’t bear to throw things away, give them to a friend or hide them away to pull out at agreed upon times, but I don’t recommend this and here’s why:

Sugar is devoid of any nutritional benefit.  Examples of refined sugar are white sugar, powdered sugar, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose.  And I know this from personal experience, refined sugars can cause addiction.  I used to think I was hypo-glycemic because I would have headaches and exhaustion when I did not eat every few hours.  If I didn’t have a daily piece of chocolate I would think about it all day.  When I started the weight-loss challenge I’m in and only had one day a week that allowed sweets, I was miserable for the first week.  On the day of my grandpa’s funeral I allowed myself to have a few desserts over the course of the day.  Not worth it as I CRAVED chocolate in the 3 days following.  Plain and simple, I was (and am) addicted to sugar.

Artificial sweeteners are even worse.  The most common are Sucralose, aspartame, saccharin.  Beyond the dangers of cancer, birth defects, headaches and diabetes, they are devoid of any type of nutritional benefit.  At least sugar provides energy.  They are finding that those who consume items that are artificially sweetened actually weigh more than those that consume regular calorie items.  It is probably because your body is expecting energy when it tastes sweet, though some artificial sweeteners may have long lasting effects on your body including your digestive system and how it metabolizes your food.

Salt is important, but most people consume too much.  Salt is added to most processed and packaged items you buy at the store.  Sodium levels are very high in foods purchased from restaurants.  Some of the dangers of too much salt include water retention (bloating and extra weight), high blood pressure, gastrointestinal issues and heart failure.  So cutting out the excess salt from pre-packaged junk food and meals can make the biggest impact on your weight and overall health.

So instead of nutritionally devoid sweets, treats, snacks and desserts that only provide an energy spike; focus on nutritionally dense foods.  Ideas to get you started while clearing out your cabinets are to fill your refrigerator with fruits (and veggies). Put a big bowl of fruit out on the counter where anyone can grab something if they are hungry.  Most fruits are sweet, full of fiber, contain substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals, and provide energy.  And there are so many more to choose from than the typical apples, grapes and bananas!  So get a little creative in the produce aisle, and try something new as you start making a change to a healthier eating lifestyle.

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