Monday, May 14, 2012

Simply Healthy Eating Part 2

Welcome to part 2 in my little series on Healthy Eating.  If you missed part 1, click here.

I remember visiting my friend Carol in Washington over 10 years ago and she taught me about using whole grains and honey as a sweetener. I remember going home and making several changes. Amongst losing the white flour and white sugar for the most part, I began incorporating small changes like switching from Jif peanut butter to an all natural type, and baking my own whole grain bread. 

Then, a huge change came from reading The Gold Coast Cure after a dear friend was diagnosed with MS a few years after that (I recommend the book wholeheartedly with one reservation - I don't agree with the author's view on soy). Wow, that was enlightening. I started to see the strong link between nutrition and health, and realized that our diet was unhealthful (and high-inflammation to boot, which is linked to much illness). I went on a rampage through my cupboards and chucked TONS of stuff. Along the way, I've read other interesting books like Super Foods, Juicing for Life, and the Coconut Miracle. Two of the best books on food are The Omnivore's dilemma and In Defense of Food (I highly recommend both). I've viewed Fat, sick and nearly dead and Forks over knives (pretty enlightening). I've also taken advantage of the world wide web to learn as well. Now, I would say we eat the best we ever have, but I'm still interested in learning more and improving more. I certainly haven't "arrived" and know that I could do even better. Some of the above books are definitely humanistic but have valuable insights. 

It's quite simple. It's not a "diet." It's not low carb, no carb, low fat, high protein, or anything like that. It's a lifestyle change- a way of eating. There's no magic formula - you just need to eat right to be healthy.  Basic, right? And eating right includes eating what God made. It's not so much about what I weigh, but eating what is right and being healthy. 

I now basically just work off the premise that whole foods are best, eating a food as closely to the way God created it. All natural is my criteria for everything. That means not buying much packaged, processed food (junky processed food that is; I still buy select packaged foods that have natural, wholesome ingredients, such as some crackers, certain potato chips, etc). We have made other gradual changes, such as greatly decreasing our animal protein and being sure our produce is clean (choosing organic or pesticide free). We have purchased a good juicer and Vitamix and are getting back into more juicing. We get a weekly farm box and I make sure we eat it all! Fruits and veggies are the mainstay of our diet nowadays. 

I was recently emailing with Carol and we were just dialoguing about some changes we are both making. I ended up compiling a list of what we currently eat, and it was helpful to see how simple it really is. I thought some of you might be interested. I know it took me many years to arrive at these conclusions and I thought some of you younger moms (or even older ones like me) might appreciate or be able to benefit from this. I am impressed by a lot of the young moms I see, what they are feeding their families is awesome, and I know I can also learn a lot from them! I am certainly not an expert, but wanted to offer this for what it's worth. 

So, to begin, here are some of the foods we keep on hand regularly and that are the mainstays of our diet: 

GREENS: I choose organic when I can. Lots of deep green leafy veggies - spinach, kale, romaine, arugula, mixed field greens - we usually have a good quantity/selection around. I like to saute spinach or kale, or use the greens in juicing. I also juice the greens of beets. Cabbage is good for you, so I try to make a coleslaw every now and then. I also recently discovered Amazing Grass Berry Green Superfood powder (3-5 servings of organic leafy green veggies/fruits) to put into smoothies. I have never been into powders, but we are hooked on this stuff! It's organic and contains the nutrients of 2-3 servings of greens, and it tastes great in a smoothie. I can even get Drew to drink it. :-) We also eat a lot of salads full of lots of veggies with homemade vinaigrettes. We have even been eating a lot more veggies with breakfast, too. 

RAW VEGGIES: Again, organic. Lots of carrots (also for juicing), radishes, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and red bell peppers are used for snacking or for lunch with homemade hummus or greek yogurt dip. Raw veggies are the most nutritious. 

VEGGIES FOR COOKING: Organic - we love roasted beets (I juice them raw, too), all kinds of potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, leeks, lots of garlic, eggplant, green beans, red bell peppers, and zucchini are some of our faves to steam, roast, grill, or saute with dinner. I don't think much of corn, even organic (low nutritional value) but we might have fresh corn in the summer. Frozen organic veggies such as broccoli are great to have in the freezer. TJ's and Whole Foods have a nice selection. 

FRUITS: I am big on berries! But I only do organic ones. I adore them fresh, but frozen ones are a great cost effective way to get your intake (Costco & TJ's both carry frozen berries). I treat our family to lots of them. We also usually always have apples, pears, oranges and/or tangerines for eating fruit out of hand. We are blessed to have a great orange tree that we juice regularly and so we consume a lot of that. Occasionally I buy seasonal fruit such as pineapple, kiwi, figs, mangoes or papayas, cantaloupe, and red grapes. We have stone fruit trees (peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots) so during the summer we get treated to lots of homegrown fruit. I keep the freezer stocked with frozen mango, pineapple (TJ's and WF have these- not organic but not as critical with those fruits) and bananas for smoothies, in addition to the frozen raspberries and blueberries. I always have a good supply of avocados on hand (more on those in the fats section below). We grow tomatoes in the summer and eat them by the boatload. 

GRAINS: Some people espouse that grains are bad for you (because they are wicked carbs) and that you shouldn't eat them. I happen to disagree. I guess it's just hard for me to think that one of the first and basic foods God gave us and spoke of often in the Bible isn't healthy. But I promise you when God referred to "bread" he wasn't talking about that white squishy stuff I mentioned in my last post. :-) That said, we do enjoy whole grains in our diet. 

I may have oatmeal or quinoa for breakfast a few days a week, or a piece of (whole grain, or sourdough, no white flour) healthy bread as toast. We usually choose brown rice or quinoa as our dinner grains. I really try to avoid white flour, if I do indulge it would be a piece of TJ's sourdough wheat bread or a nice bakery baguette, or a pizza crust. :-) 

If I bake something like a muffin, I use almond flour, whole wheat flour, coconut flour, wheat germ, ground flax, or oat bran. I don't buy commercial breakfast cereal - even healthy ones are highly processed (and not to mention, expensive)

It is imperative to prepare grains properly.  They contain phytates (or anti nutrients) and need to be soaked, sprouted, or soured before cooking for optimal digestion & vitamin & mineral retention.  I suggest reading up on this practice on a website such as this.  You can read more on sprouted grains here.  (By the way, I think a lot of people who are "gluten intolerant" are just experiencing issues from improperly prepared grains.)  Soaking is easy to do, and I buy my wheat berries (to grind into flour) already sprouted.

EGGS: Two words: love them. We make veggie omelettes, or eat them hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, or poached. We sometimes eat them for dinner over sauteed veggies (think: home fries with red bell peppers, onions and potatoes - yum). I have been buying organic eggs for awhile. Wish I had chickens and fresh eggs :-) 

DAIRY: All my life I consumed large quantities of milk. And I gave my children lots and lots of it growing up. Again, it was just the way I was raised, so without even thinking, I gave it to them. Because of the ultra-pasteurization & homogenization of today’s dairy products, I don’t see a great nutritional value in consuming them.  These processes destroy many of the healthy enzymes that help us digest milk, as well (hence "lactose intolerant"). Also, if the dairy products are not coming from a grass-fed cow, than their nutritional value is lower. Not to say that I don’t love a latte every so often or heavy cream in my coffee, and I will try to use raw organic products for those whenever I can (and always organic so they are not GMO-eating cows).  There are ways around dairy products if you try.  Just look for other options when possible such as fresh almond milk or full fat (canned)coconut milk, which you can dilute for a beverage

Our family likes yogurt, and since it does contain all those wonderful live cultures, I do buy it from time to time. Cultured sour cream is healthy, even if pasturized/homogenized because of the enzymes added back in.  We do love cheese – so I try to get grass fed cheddar (and raw as well would be optimum) – but we do eat Parmigiano, goat cheese, roquefort, and some fresh mozzarella. I am fond of the Kerrygold brand of cheddar cheese (Dubliner) which is from grass fed cows.  Kerrygold also makes an awesome butter which we use (and thank you Costco for carrying it!). A good rule of thumb is to look for cheeses that are imported, as most other countries do feed their cows grass. 

MEATS: Like I said, we have greatly reduced our animal protein intake. Again, considering what the bible says about eating (and specifically about meat) we find in Genesis 9:3 God telling us, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” However, like the Wonder bread, the meat God is speaking of here is definitely not what you find at your local McDonald’s or even the Ralph’s down the street for the most part. Please know that. We need to eat meat in the way God intended it to be. Not from animals fed an unhealthful diet or pumped with antibiotics and other things. 

We are eating less meat now because I am convinced more than ever that we don't need as much of it, but mainly because I feel that we should be eating more of a produce-based diet. I might have animal protein once every few days but I find I do get enough protein without it (did you know that quinoa has more protein than chicken?). I also have such a decreased appetite for it nowadays. I have reasoned that buying less meat means I can buy better quality when I do, which makes better sense. I now stick to organic air chilled chicken and buy wild salmon as our two primary meats. Yes, I do buy us a good steak occasionally and we love to grill hamburgers from time to time, but now it’s grass fed/no antibiotics. We also do like to treat ourselves to good (nitrate-free) bacon every so often. After all, life without a little bacon would be very sad. :-) 

Even though for some time I have avoided sandwich meats with nitrates, I have pretty much quit buying it. My hubby has switched to taking big salads to work for his lunch.  If I need it for some reason, I'll get the nitrate-free kind from TJ's, WF, or Sprouts, as it seems to be the least processed/junky. 

I am not sure of the value of eating great quantities of animal protein but for with God’s view in mind I have a hard time being totally against good meat. Again, I do know we don't need as much as we think (or as much as our Western diet has promoted), and we need to definitely watch the quality of the meat we are eating. I have made a pledge never to buy beef that is not organic/grass fed.  This may sound uppity to some, but it's really just the most natural way.

FATS: I’m now a firm believer in getting plenty of the RIGHT fats and avoiding the WRONG ones. How I shudder when I think of our “low fat” or “fat free” days and how we avoided even the good fats. I think people now know to avoid deadly trans- fats, but are people getting the healthy oils their bodies require? Our bodies need good fats daily to rebuild cells, and to maintain the health of our cardiovascular, metabolic and immune systems. We need two types of essential fat: omega 3 and omega 6, which means we must eat nuts, & seeds, and fatty fish like salmon,. We take a good quality fish oil supplement to ensure this as well.   I have heard cod liver oil is a more excellent supplement. 

We also need monounsaturated fats like olives, olive oil and avocados. After reading The Gold Coast Cure, I got rid of all oils except olive oil. Most other oils, like canola or vegetable oil, due to processing (they are refined at high temperatures and “deodorized”) have zero nutritional value. Several years back, I added in coconut oil (SO good for you!). 

We eat avocados, raw seeds, nuts, and nut butters daily, cook and bake with coconut oil, and use olive oil in our salad dressing. Flax oil is also great for your salad dressings.

SWEETENERS:  We all need a little sweetness in our lives.  :-) I do try to avoid white sugar. I mainly use organic raw honey these days. Rather, I should say, I mainly spoon raw honey directly into my mouth these days! I am kind of an addict but it is quite healthy. Other than that, I do keep organic brown sugar for my oatmeal, and I use real maple syrup for pancakes or waffles. I keep organic evaporated cane juice for baking, but do not use Agave (click here for more info on that). I still think raw, unprocessed, unheated honey (sorry, not the stuff in the honey bear) is the healthiest sweetener. 

I strictly abide by NO artificial sweeteners. I think Aspartame is deadly. It seriously makes me cringe to see people drink diet soda. I've never gotten into stevia, I don't really find a need.

OTHER PANTRY ITEMS: Our pantry contains assorted canned beans, canned tomatoes, organic veggie broth, full fat coconut milk, AK Mak crackers, Kettle chips, Organic tortilla chips, canned salsas, and a BIG jar of nutella (I know, it's about as healthy as a Snickers bar, but we need it in our life). 

We use tons of herbs and spices, and love condiments such as artichoke hearts, olives, sun dried tomatoes, pickles, flavored balsamic vinegars, etc.  

Often, the kids go to the pantry looking for snacks and declare that there isn't anything, which is pretty true.  I feel bad because it was me who trained them to find the snacks there.  But nowadays, "snacks" are the fruits and veggies in the fridge.  :-) I also try to keep hard boiled eggs and hummus for a fast energy snack.

So, that’s basically what we eat… what about you? 

Tune in next time for a few closing comments and an answer to the question, "Why eat healthy anyways?"

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Laurie said...

Karen, thank you for this. It comes at a good time for me. I will be "digesting" your post slowly. With Gary, I especially want to be sure he is eating as healthy as possible. I still have much to learn and am excited to read more on this.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Karen, you have nailed it. Finally someone who is saying it like I would have. I have been there, done that. I read both this & other posts.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post. I think it's sad that even 5-10 years ago, not too many people really knew about organic food, dangerous pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics in food. It's sad because that wodiaas in the food that most people were eating. So, even if I ate a ton of veggies and fruit as a kid, maybe it was bad because of all the pesticides? :( Thankfully, I believe in the sovereignty of God and no amount of organic produce or grass fed, free range, hormone/antibiotic free protein can stop His will. Of course, I now eat healthy and try to eat only organic produce and protein. I pray that organic goes mainstream and is available everywhere to ALL people. :)

Anonymous said...

Two years ago cancer rocked my world...not that I was terribly unhealthy before BUT there was room for improvement. Now it's gotten to the point where I NEED to know our food sources more intimately than our doctors. My backyard is now a veggie garden, chicks are next. Great post!

Deidre Johnson said...

Thanks Karen! Reading this post is making me miss your fruit trees!! I think we're going to plant blueberries here, but no citrus! Do you buy your almond and coconut flour at TJ? Would you use those flours to make lemon bars or cookies? Thanks for your helpful insights!!

Katherine~ said...

This is really great, Karen! I love that this conversation is opening up, and stereotypes are beginning to break down! I love your balanced approach and recognition that there's so much to learn and implement... it's a process that takes time. Cheers to an improved quality of life!

Anonymous said...

Hey mrs. Harasick!
I'm Trina kortcamp's niece and I stumbled upon this post from following the brannon's blog. AMEN to all that you shared! I have been learning lots about the real whole food lifestyle vs. crash dieting craziness. Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to eventually reading some of those recommended books!
P.s. we have been enjoying your Natural candles and soaps, they were a wonderful surprise from my aunt:)

-Bree Martinez

Laurie said...

This week I watched Forks over Knives and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. VERY INSPIRING! I'm gonna have to adjust the budget to buy more organics. Cutting the meats back will do it I think.