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Why I’m doing this…

I get ALOT of requests from people asking me how I eat or what my philosophy is about nutrition.  I’ve been trying to answer those many requests in a blog for a while now but, to be perfectly honest, it is such an overwhelming thing to try to explain.  For 2 reasons:  1)  I’m incredibly detail oriented and I tend to be overly wordy which results in needing ALOT of time to write about it…which I don’t have these days.  And  2)  I don’t just want to say “you should eat this and not that” – I want to explain WHY. That’s the overwhelming part about it.  How do you condense so much information into a blog post?

But if you know me personally you know I’m crazy passionate about being healthy and sharing that knowledge with others.  I think that’s because I struggled for SO long because I didn’t have the knowledge.  Now that I have the knowledge, I just want others to know how easy, tasty, and satisfying eating healthy really is!

So…I’ve seen two movies about food, nutrition, and the food industry that have completely fired me up about this issue.  The first one was Food, Inc. and the second I watched last night… Fed Up.  Fed up says, in such a way that anyone can understand, exactly what I want people to know about food and how what we are eating is killing us as a country.  So…if you’re reading this I beg you to go watch the movie.  Don’t just assume you know what it’s about.  Don’t assume it’s going to tell you to eat organic (pretty sure the word organic never comes up in the film).  And don’t assume that you can’t afford to eat the way you should.  Just go watch it.  The thing the movie does, so perfectly, is to explain why and how this food crisis has developed and the significant things in our history that contributed.  It’s full of lots of really really interesting things.  It even explains why we are the most active generation in history…we are the generation of the fitness revolution…and yet we are fatter than we’ve ever been.  Have you ever wondered that??!!  The film is gripping.  For a documentary that’s saying alot.  Watch it!!!

My Story…

So before we get into the “how we should eat” part of this blog, you have to understand my own personal history to really fully grasp how I arrived at the place I’m at now.  I was overweight my entire life.  Even as an infant.  My mom even wrote in my baby book about how the pediatrician said I was “obese” and I had to be put on a diet when I was still on formula.  I think 2 things contributed to this.  1, I was on soy formula which was filled with sugar (especially back then) and 2, my mother was of the generation that when babies cry you stick a bottle in their mouths.  Once I was off of formula I slimmed up a tad, especially when I began walking.  But then the weight came back on.  Ferociously.  Now…I’m going to tell you some things about how my mother fed me.  Not to shame her but to illustrate how habits are formed and how parents make choices about what to feed their kids.  Before her divorce from my dad things were maybe a bit easier.  Once I got on baby food and solids I believe she made these homemade from fresh veggies.  I think this contributed to helping me slim up as a toddler.  But then my mother became a struggling single parent.  And, as you’ll learn in the film, food was different when she was growing up.  Around the time I was born in 1980, processed foods took off like a rocket.  So many of the things I ate as a kid weren’t around when my mother was growing up.  She had a grandmother that lived with her her entire life and cooked fresh food from their garden every single day.  However, I don’t think my mother was ever taught about nutrition.  She just ate was was provided.  When she became a single mom she had to focus on what was cheap and easy.  Fast food was cheap and easy.  I ate alot of the Wendy’s hot bar…y’all remember that?  Lord I do.  And things like ice cream sandwiches, pop tarts, hot pockets, cereal, etc.  Don’t get me wrong, my mom LOVED to cook and she often make lots of healthy, fresh meals…but that was on weekends and it was usually a big deal.  So we stuffed ourselves…again not really setting a good example.  Mom also drank alot of sodas, so I did as well, and she loved bagged cheesy popcorn.  As I got older I was a “latchkey kid.”  I came in every day from school and watched Oprah and ate a snack.  This was usually a pop tart (toasted with butter because that’s the best way to eat them), popcorn, cheese puffs, ice cream…whatever I wanted.  All processed and full of sugar.  I got really fat now.  Mom was working alot.  We didn’t sit down and eat meals together.  She still would do a big batch of something on the weekends but during the week it was whatever we could grab.

I was such a lonely kid.  I hated myself.  People made fun of me.  I even overheard a family member talking about my weight when I was 8.  I remember that moment so vividly.  I was so so crushed.  I’ve never mentioned it until this moment.  Kinda sad.  On top of my weight, we moved…alot…so I was always the new kid.  If the new kid is well dressed and cute, the new kid can make friends easier.  I was poor and fat and didn’t dress well.  I was a tomboy and I was insecure so I wore baggy boys’ clothes.  I was a target.  It was miserable.  Then we finally settled down in one place when I was in the 6th grade.  Mom got married and started cooking a meal every night.  That helped.  I was still overweight though because I was in the habit of eating sugary, processed foods.  Sugary cereal at breakfast, starchy/sugary foods at lunch (and don’t even get me started on school lunches), and possibly a healthy dinner which was usually followed by something crappy for dessert.  Still going to have a weight problem obviously.

In the 7th grade I saw an infomercial for Susan Powter who was one of the faces of the Fat Free movement.  Her “Stop the Insanity” program became all the rage.  I never ordered her program but I decided I would stop eating fat.  Like at all.  I knew nothing about healthy fats or proper nutrition.  All I knew was that Susan Powter said “fat makes you fat, not calories” so I never concerned myself with calories, sugar, fiber, sodium, etc.  All I did was count fat grams.  Around this time I decided (no idea why) to stop eating all meat but fish.  Maybe because beef was fattening.  Who knows.  But for dinner I would usually eat fish and veggies.  I also started taking lunches.  The fat free thing worked initially.  I dropped alot of weight really fast.  It was the summer between 7th and 8th grade.  I went back to school and all of a sudden boys were interested in me, I was getting invited to more parties, friends treated me differently.  It’s true. But the thing about the fat free thing is this…I was starving myself.  I became pretty obsessive.  Not only did I obsessively count fat grams but I drastically reduced my intake of food.  That was fueled by how good all of the newfound attention felt.  But…I couldn’t keep this up for long.  I eventually became really hungry and missed “treats”…

Simultaneously as the fat free craze took off, there were a TON of products hitting the market that were so conveniently Fat Free.  Fat free fig newtons were a fave, fat free cereal (all the sugary ones for sure!), pasta was fat free, fat free cool whip, fat free pudding, fat free yogurt.  And of course they started making fat free cheese, fat free sour cream, fat free salad dressing, fat free crackers.  Remember all those green Snackwell’s boxes? I ate my weight in these devil’s food cookies.  I could eat ALL THE AWESOME NEW FOOD BECAUSE IT WAS ALL FAT FREE!!!!  So what happened?  I went from eating real food to mostly processed food – tons of carbs and sugar.  And what happens when companies take out the fat, they add in sugar.  These foods are PURE SUGAR.  Go compare full fat milk to fat free milk, compare full fat cheese to fat free cheese – what do you see?  The sugar is doubled.  So…what happened to me?  I put the weight back on.  With a vengeance.  And then I started to yo-yo.  For the rest of high school and college I would put weight on, starve myself, lose the weight, gain it back…over and over.  I didn’t understand what was happening.  I thought “fat made me fat” and I wasn’t eating any fat.  So why was I gaining weight back?  It seems so stupid now looking back, but I didn’t have the knowledge that I needed to be healthy.  And neither do most Americans.

So in my 20s I began having some health issues and gastrointestinal issues that prompted me to learn more about what I was consuming.  I won’t go into all of that here because this blog is going to be long enough.  But in a nutshell, I decided to learn how to be healthy in order to try to fix all my health issues.  I didn’t just adopt another diet.  I learned about food and exercise.  I lost the weight, I got healthier, my stomach issues went away, etc.  And I kept it off.  Now when I go to the doctor they always comment on my incredible blood pressure and low resting heart rate.  I have energy.  I sleep well.  I don’t get sick…

How to Eat

So what have I learned?  I’m going to try to break this down as simply as I can.

  1. Eat real food, mostly plants.
    That’s it.  Eat food from nature.  Eat food the way it comes.  Meats, vegetables, beans, eggs, nuts, etc.  Vegetables, beans, nuts all come from the earth and they are perfect.  They provide vitamins, nutrients, protein, healthy fats.  They fight disease and cancer.  They boost our immune system.  God put them here to feed us and nourish us.  Processed foods are not foods.  They are fake substances made in factories and labs.  They are nothing but carbs, sugar, and chemicals.
    About meat…I eat meat.  Fish and chicken.  But not alot.  Maybe twice a week.  I have found that my body feels better when I don’t consume meat.  My husband isn’t super hung up on meat either so we eat alot of vegetarian dishes.  Some people just really like meat and that’s cool.  But buy organic and grass fed when you can.  And please, if you’re a heavy meat eater, watch Food, Inc.  Please.  You’ll be amazed at what you learn.
  2. Avoid processed carbs.
    So this means breads, white/wheat pastas, crackers, white rice, cakes, cookies, etc.  If I eat carbs I do so only at lunch or breakfast  I try to eat all my carbs in the beginning of the day so they can be burned off.  I try to focus on carbs that aren’t refined and processed.  And I try to eat gluten free grains.  This isn’t difficult.  I avoid white and wheat flour.  That’s it.  So, again, grains the way they come.  So pretty much the only grains I eat are brown rice, oats, and quinoa.  I also get carbs from beans, sweet potatoes, and starchier/sweeter squashes like butternut and acorn squash.  These sources of carbs, unlike white/wheat processed/refined carbs provide fiber and nutrients.
  3. Avoid grains after lunch.
    We just went over this in number 2 but I’ll elaborate.  I try to only get carbs at dinner from beans or vegetables.  So no grains at night.  I don’t need a rice, pasta, or bread to complete a meal.  Neither do you.  And it isn’t necessary.  We have VERY filling meals with meats, vegetables, and beans/peas.  We are getting nutrients and protein.  That is all you need.  You do not NEED grains.  I occasionally do brown rice or pasta with dinner but that’s not often.  If I do it’s very little and it’s a meal that’s heavy on other things…like a veggie/shrimp stir fry served over a very small amount of brown rice or buckwheat noodles.  If you’re eating a ton of carbs and sugar you will be unhealthy.  You might not be fat, but you will be unhealthy.  Additionally, I PROMISE you that if you cut out processed carbs and sugar you WILL lose weight.  And fast.
  4. Avoided added, refined sugar.  Just avoid sugar.  Period.
    One thing you’ll learn if you watch Fed Up is what sugar does to the body and what too much processed, refined sugar does to our metabolics and our liver.  There is a safe and healthy level of sugar but it’s low.  I ONLY get sugar from fruit.  Added sugar is in everything.  EVERYTHING.  Even those “healthy” wheat thin crackers.  Even tortilla chips.  Even pasta sauce.  Added sugar is put into everything.  And it’s not necessary and it’s detrimental to your health.
    *  The first thing you need to do to avoid sugar is learn all of the names for sugar.  HERE is a great list to get you started.
    *  Read labels and avoid things with any of those names.
    *  Use stevia.  If I need to sweeten things I use stevia.  Stevia is a plant that is naturally sweet.  It is dried and ground into a powder.  I try to avoid chemical sweeteners such as equal, splenda, etc.  These still metabolize in the body as sugar…stevia DOES NOT.  The main things I sweeten are my oatmeal in the morning, and plain yogurt.  All flavored yogurts have somewhere around TWENTY GRAMS of sugar in them.  In that little itty bitty cup.  So I buy the plain, add a little stevia and fresh fruit and I have a super awesome snack.  If you can’t afford a good quality stevia I would recommend Truvia.
    *  Let me say this…as you eat less and less sugar, you will crave it less and less and your taste for it will change.  Honestly.  Same with salt.  As you stop eating foods with added sugar and salt you’ll find that a little goes a long way and things start to taste naturally salty or sweet without anything added.  It’s so nice how our bodies do that!!!  Once you detox from sugar you’ll notice a HUGE difference in how you taste sweet things.
  5. Think of food as fuel.
    I like to think about what my food is giving me.  My kale is giving me tons of potassium and vitamin A.  My morning oats are giving me magnesium and fiber.  My broccoli and butternut squash give me tons of Vitamin C.  My salmon, avocados, and almonds give me healthy fats.  Our body needs a balance of these things to be productive.  Our BRAINS need these things to be focused, attentive, and to retain information.  We need them for energy and also to sleep.  God gave us these things to fuel our bodies and our lives.  God did not give us Cheese Its and Twinkies.  God gave us fish and broccoli.  You might also consider your ADHD child and their diet.  Just a thought.  I won’t even get off on that soap box here.
  6. Not all calories are equal.
    You’ll learn about this also in the film but here’s a crazy thought…weight loss is not about “calories in versus calories out.”  Crazy right!?!  200 calories worth of almonds is not the same as 200 calories of soda.  This is because of the nutritional value of the almonds versus the soda, as well as the how your body responds to the sugar rush it gets from the soda and what this does to your liver.  Large amounts of sugar flood the liver causing it to produce insulin which stores the sugar as fat.  These are called “empty calories.”  When I got really deep into this whole nutrition thing I realized that I lost the most weight and felt the best when I gave absolutely NO consideration whatsoever to calories or fat grams.  I just ate real food with nutritional value.  Food from nature.  Food without added sugar.  Period.

So what does this look like? 

Well….something like this…
(lots more info past the pics – skip this part for now if you want)

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Shrimp and veggie thai curry

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blueberry, oat, flax muffins. gluten, dairy, and sugar free

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Spinach and turkey meatballs served with sautéed broccolini and sundried tomatoes

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Pan roasted chicken, “cheesy” sautéed spinach, oven “fried” okra (dredged in gluten free flour)

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Sauteed broccolini tossed with white beans and sundried tomatoes, topped with fried eggs and avocado.

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Veggie soup!

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Gluten free pizza crust topped with marinara, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, bell peppers, vegan cheese

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Veggie soft tacos

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Broiled salmons with summer succotash

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Salmon and spinach omelet over succotash

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Oven roasted pork tenderloin with cinnamon apples. Roasted veggies. Mashed butternut squash.

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Broiled salmon. Sauteed kale with white beans and sundried tomatoes. Homemade remoulade sauce.

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Red beans with peppers, Cabbage. Okra. Tomato with dollop of mayo!

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Roasted zucchini sticks with marinara for dipping. Sauteed kale with white beans.

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Super crispy oven “fried” chicken, sauteed kale, creamed rutabaga.

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Eggplant “parmesan”

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Super fast homemade “sick soup” – broth, kale, brown rice, white beans, dash of garlic and cayenne.

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“cheese” zucchini casserole, sautéed kale

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Cajun okra succotash

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Salmon cakes over salad.

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Grain free, sugar fee, dairy free peanut butter cookies!

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Pan fried snapper, sauteed veggies

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veggie soft tacos, spicy braised red kale, refried beans

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Moroccan stuffed acorn squash

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Veggie stirfry over brown rice

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Veggie soup with grilled cheese

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Another healthy pizza – this one with veggies and turkey sausage

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Chicken corn chowder – dairy free!

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Tofu and veggie stirfry over rice noodles

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Veggie plate from the Whole Foods hot bar!

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Pan seared scallops with roasted brussel sprouts and roasted asparagus

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Another veggie soup.

Now…keep in mind this isn’t all of what I eat.  I just went through my phone and found some pics for examples.  These are very heavy on the kale and the white beans – which is like my favorite combo ever.  ha.  But we eat a huge variety.  We obviously eat alot of vegetables.  We like them.  We do alot of italian and mexican type things with them.  We also do some indian/asian dishes.  We also do alot of chili which I didn’t have a picture of.  I use 2 chili recipes that I love.  One is a veggie chili with lots of peppers, onions, and 4 types of beans.  The other is a typical chili but I use turkey instead of beef.  I also use diced tomatoes instead of stewed in my chili because stewed tomatoes have sugar added.  I also use the Publix Greenwise canned kennedy beans because regular kindney beans have sugar added…like alot of sugar added.  No other beans have sugar added – just kidney.  No idea why.  So stupid.

Also keep in mind that almost every single one of these meals took 30 minutes or less to prepare.  Cooking actually takes less effort than people realize.  We’ll get to that later on.

Snacks…
I eat alot of nuts.  Especially almonds.  I eat the raw almonds or the roasted and unsalted ones.  If I get hungry in the afternoon at work I munch on some almonds.  They curb the appetite and also boost energy.  I also love hummus and guacamole for snacks.  I dip raw veggies in them – carrots, broccoli, slices of bell pepper, etc.  For sweet snacks I will do plain, unsweetened greek yogurt (this is the only dairy I eat).  I sweeten it with stevia and add either fruit or I mix in some almond butter.  I also eat dark chocolate dipped in almond butter.  Or a sliced apple or carrot chips with peanut butter is like my all time fave snack.  However…peanut butter has a TON of sugar added.  Buy either the Publix brand natural peanut butter or the Smucker’s natural.  Both have no added sugar.  It might taste odd at first because you are SO used to the sugary sweet taste in peanut butter but you adjust, trust me.  What you discover is that peanut butter without all the added oils and sugar tastes AMAZING!!!  And why do you need to add anything.  It’s freaking ground up nuts for crying out loud.  And some of you might be surprised to know that my absolute favorite peanut butter is the Publix natural.  It’s the cheapest one and the best tasting.  Because it doesn’t have sugar added, the oil separates from the nut butter.  When you initially open it stir it very well with a butter knife then keep it in the fridge and it won’t separate back out again.  It’s well worth the effort – trust me.

Breakfast…
My go to breakfast is oatmeal.  I buy the big canister of the publix brand quick cooking oats.  I mix 1/2 cup oats with 1 cup of water and microwave for 3 minutes.  Then I stir in a dollop of almond butter or chopped up almonds, stevia, a dash of salt, and a little cinnamon.  Sometimes I add blueberries or peaches.  Just depending on my mood.  I prefer to buy the organic oats when I can but the publix ones are cheaper obviously.  That’s a carb and fiber filled breakfast to give me energy for the day and some protein as well.  If I have time I sometimes make eggs.  I love eggs.  Scrambled, fried, or I make omelets.  If I have time I love spinach omelets.  I eat turkey bacon but I buy the one that is uncured and nitrate free.  There are a few cereals I will eat but only on occasion.  I just like a hot breakfast and you can’t beat oatmeal in my opinion.  If I’m going to eat cereal it has to be with no sugar added – those are hard to find.  Publix carries a rice crispy cereal made from brown rice that doesn’t have sugar added.  I add stevia to sweeten.

What I don’t eat…

*Deep fried foods
*Sugar
*Dairy products other than organic plain greek yogurt
*Raisins (dried fruit in general), grapes, and other high sugar fruits
*Beef
*Glutenous grains

..when you look at it this way…it’s actually not very limiting is it?  That’s a pretty small list.

I try to balance each day with some protein, veggies, and healthy carbs.  I don’t do all this in each meal – just over the course of a day.  If I eat carbs for breakfast and a ton of veggies for lunch, I’ll do a protein heavy dinner.  I try to get two servings of leafy greens a day – that’s not hard for me as much as I love kale, spinach, arugula, broccoli, etc.

Avoiding dairy isn’t something everyone has to do.  I just find that I feel better when i don’t eat dairy.  If you do eat it, I would choose full fat dairy to avoid the added sugar and over processing.  I would also limit it as much as you can.

Foods we buy alot of…

  • broccoli or broccolini
  • spinach
  • asparagus
  • almonds
  • walnuts
  • blueberries
  • arugula
  • avocados
  • tomatoes
  • sundried tomatoes
  • carrots
  • butternut squash
  • zucchini
  • kale
  • all kinds of beans and peas – usually canned – pretty much any bean or pea you can think of
  • canned diced tomatoes
  • brown rice
  • quinoa
  • quinoa pasta (I like ancient harvest brand)
  • Publix tomato basil marinara (my fave and no added sugar)
  • fish (the publix frozen fillets are great)
  • organic chicken breast
  • ground turkey breast or ground turkey
  • canned salmon and tuna
  • oatmeal
  • brussel sprouts
  • bell pepper
  • rutabaga
  • eggplant
  • gala apples (my absolute favorite variety)
  • plain unsweetened greek yogurt (I like the whole foods 365 brand or Stonyfield)
  • eggs
  • Almond Breeze unsweetened almond milk (the best tasting brand by far and they have it everywhere – make sure to look for the pink ‘unsweetened’ label at the top)
  • Lily’s brand stevia sweetened chocolate bars (these have a small amount of dairy I think but not much.  I bake with these also)
  • Frozen or fresh okra
  • Almond butter (unsweetened – I love the 365 brand)
  • Daiya cheese – this is the dairy free cheese we use.  It’s amazing.  Other dairy free cheeses suck.  Don’t even try them.  This one is used at several restaurants around town – it’s AMAZING.  Buy the mozzarella.  This is technically a processed food because obviously it’s made and doesn’t grow – all cheese is – but  I know everything that is in it and can pronounce it.  It’s not full of chemicals or sugar.

With the exception of the oats, rice, and pasta, I pretty much only shop the perimeter of the store.  Isn’t that nice?!?  Also I hope you noticed that I use alot of store brand stuff…the Publix brand and the Whole Foods brand of canned organic beans, marinara sauces, nut butters, and things like that are wonderful and often cheaper than the sugar filled crap.

 Let’s talk about cost…

I get really REALLY sick of people telling me they can’t afford to feed their families healthy food.  I’m always like “what exactly does that mean?”  Does that mean it’s too expensive to serve your family REAL food?  Meats, vegetables?  So…you prefer to feed your family processed, fake foods?  You feel good about that?  You want to feed your family out of a box and feed your children chemicals and sugar and essentially give them metabolic disease?  Okay.

Actually, I don’t think that’s what people are saying.  I think they are just confused about what “healthy food” is exactly.  I think everyone thinks this means all organic.  Of course, I prefer to buy organic when possible, but the only thing that I absolutely insist on being organic is the dairy yogurt I buy.  I try to buy organic for Ritter but, again, I’m not always able to.  I believe that feeding him real vegetables, even if they have some pesticides on them, is better than feeding him processed crap.

Now…the movie does a good job of illustrating that REAL food isn’t actually more expensive than fake food.  But even if it WAS more expensive…what is your alternative?  I think that when you do the research and understand what those foods are doing to your body and to your children’s bodies, you will be highly motivated to find a little extra in your budget somewhere.  And you know you can.  I think the reason I get so much pushback from some people about this is because they are scared.  They want to ignore this issue because, honestly, it’s overwhelming.  It’s confusing and scary.  And when you really dig in to what has happened in our food industry, it is mind boggling how we got to this place.  If we stay on the current path we’ve been on, in 20 years 95% of our population will be overweight or obese.  That is not an exaggeration.  That is statistical fact.  And 1/3 of our country will have diabetes.  So…when you are faced with big change and alot of stuff you don’t understand, you want to bury your head and say “oh it’s too expensive” or whatever other excuse you use.  Because facing the challenge of re-learning and re-thinking how you shop, cook, eat, pack lunches, etc is really really overwhelming.  But my god is it worth it.  I mean, if people would cut out video games, that new pair of expensive shoes or handbag, or all the freaking money spent on eating out…I think they could find it in their budget to buy some damn broccoli.

Let’s talk about cooking… 

I am so so so so so thankful to my parents for teaching me to cook.  Even though I was an overweight child who succumbed to the “fat free” craze and was allowed to eat ice cream sandwiches for breakfast, even though they didn’t always make the best choices in what they fed me, they TAUGHT ME TO COOK.  They taught me about REAL food.  Food that comes from nature.  Food that doesn’t come from a box, bag, or can.  I think the biggest mistake my mom made was not educating herself and just letting me make my own choices in food, without setting boundaries or limits.  If I wanted ice cream for breakfast she let me have it.  Now obviously that was stupid and there were alot of other issue going on there…but there was little supervision and no limits.  And she had alot of guilt about being a working mom so she didn’t like to say no to me.   Looking back now I don’t know how you could see my weight and not try to encourage me to make different choices about food – but I think at that time, her focus was elsewhere.  I see parents with kids in the grocery store and I look in their carts and I get SO angry..but I have to remind myself that they just simply don’t know better.  Even if they know the foods they are buying are not healthy, I don’t think they understand what they should be buying – or how to prepare it.

So…back to cooking… once I gained the knowledge about how what I was eating was causing me to be overweight and unhealthy, I had a foundation in cooking that was critical in my success in becoming healthy.  After my mom remarried she became super committed to cooking a meal every night.  I also became obsessed with the Food Network at that time and I would get in the kitchen with her and try different things.  I learned how to broil, roast, sauté, bake, poach, etc.  I learned how to “chop, dice, and slice” as my mom likes to say.  I learned how to get veggies perfectly ‘al dente’ so that they weren’t a nasty mush but an explosion of flavor and texture.  Doesn’t all of this sound fun and exciting?

Why don’t you learn these things too…and let your children learn with you?  Cook together.  Get online and find recipes together.  Get them out of their rooms and off of their devices and cook a meal together!!!  Cooking is lost.  Did you know that there is no cooking equipment in school cafeteria kitchens anymore?  ALL school lunch food comes processed and frozen and all they have to do is heat it up.  Everything kids eat in school is from a box, bag, or can.  No one cooks anymore.  It absolutely kills me.  I work with alot of families and I often suggest cooking as a quality family activity.  The kids always get super excited.  They go home and get online and find recipes and they can’t get their parents to get on board.  Alot of parents are tired, or lazy, and just don’t want to put forth the effort. But let me tell you something…you shouldn’t have a freaking choice.  Get your ass up and cook.  Once you get in the habit of doing it you will be motivated to keep it up because you realize that a) it’s not as much effort as you thought and b) you FEEL better.  Plus…you should do it for your freaking kids!!!!!  If not for yourself, save them.  Learn for them.

Resources and Tips…

  1. So obviously the two movies I mentioned above – Food, Inc. and Fed Up.
  2. Pinterest is a great resource for recipe searching.  I search alot of paleo recipes – even though I hate to ascribe to any particular diet.  I think the main difference between me and paleo is that I eat beans.  But otherwise it’s very similar.  I have a ton of pinterest boards with recipes!  Check them out here.
  3. I also like Food Network’s website and the Whole Foods website. Both have great recipes.
  4. Google – do a search for “whole food recipes” – you’ll be amazed at what you find.  I love this one… My Whole Food Life.
  5. Remember…if you find a recipe you want to try you can always tweak ingredients.  I often buy versions of ingredients that don’t have added sugar or just omit sugar altogether if possible.  Or substitute stevia.  Baking is another issue.  You can’t just sub with baking.  If you’re wanting to do gluten/sugar free baking I suggest just searching for those specific recipes like “gluten free and sugar free brownies.”
  6. I LOVE Michael Pollan.  He’s the leading expert on these food issues and he’s written alot of really good, simply stated, books.  Here’s a list of them with descriptions.
  7. Bob Harper’s book Skinny Rules  – it’s full of simple instructions on how to eat.  You can also do a google image search of “bob harper skinny rules” and see a cheat sheet of these for quick reference.  The book obviously has alot more info.
  8. Your local grocery store… go to the produce section and familiarize yourself with it. Learn about foods you didn’t know and google the best ways to prepare them – or message me 🙂  Whole Foods is amazing too – even if you can’t go often – just go and explore.  You’ll be amazed at what you learn.
  9. Your local farmer’s market.  I can go to Pepper Place market on saturdays and buy our produce for the week at half the price I buy at Publix.  We have tons of farmer’s markets around here.
  10. Me!  My blog has alot of recipes but I definitely need to get back into the habit of posting more.  I also put alot of stuff on my Instagram.  And I’m always available for questions.  Message me.  I want everyone to learn how to be healthy!

So…this blog post was a huge undertaking.  I hope I provided good information and didn’t make it too confusing.  I am sorry it was so long but i just felt it needed to be.  I will probably post a Part II of this blog about what processed foods I DO eat, how to read labels, and some sample menus.  I would also like to do a blog about how to feed picky little ones this way!  I also hope to post a blog soon about EXERCISE 🙂  Yay!!!

UPDATE 9/29/14

I keep thinking of things I want to add.  So I’m going to just keep updating as they come to me!  In no particular order…

  • Salads.  I love salads.  I load them up with veggies, nuts and proteins.  I also use olive oil and vinegar for dressing because all dressings usually contain chemical preservatives and sugar.  And all restaurants and salad bars always have oil and vinegar!  My favorite salad bars around town are at Jason’s Deli and Whole Foods.
    Here are some of my favorite salad toppings…get creative with them!
    *  grilled veggies  (zucchini, eggplant, squash – they always have these on the WF bar)
    *  tomatoes
    *  sunflower seeds
    *  almonds
    *  sundried tomatoes
    *  boiled egg
    *  chicken or salmon
    *  broccoli (raw or roasted)
    *  roasted butternut squash
    *  sweet peas, edamame, garbanzo beans, or black beans
    *  salsa
    *  hummus
    *  guacamole
    *  raw zucchini
    *  cucumber
    *  walnuts
    *  sprouts
    *  carrots
    *  raw or grilled onion
    *  grilled green beans or asparagus
    *  artichoke hearts
  • Favorite restaurants for healthy eating while on the go. 
    *  Brio – they have tons of entrees that are just simple grilled fish with veggies.  They also have gluten free pasta and awesome salads.
    *  Whole Foods – I mentioned their salad bar but they have an incredible hot bar as well that’s always full of tons of veggies and meats.  Also, each item has a card above it with the ingredients listed so you know exactly what you’re eating.
    *  Makarios – this is our favorite local mediterranean place.  They have the most amazing grilled chicken.  They also have tons of veggie sides and the best grilled veggies in town.  A HUGE plate of grilled zucchini, squash, carrots, peppers, and onions is only like 3 bucks.  They have awesome salads and entrees.  And each entree comes with a side and you can get the grilled veggies.  They make all of their sauces and dressings homemade and will tell you EXACTLY what’s in them.  I’m obsessed with their tahini sauce on my salads there…it’s like this magic mediterranean creamy ranch but it has no dairy or sugar!
    *  Jason’s Deli – you can check their nutritional info online I believe and they also have a book in the store they will show you that shows everything that’s in all of their products.  I tend to stick to the salad bar but I believe their chili and veggie soup are pretty good also.
    *  Chinese – so this one is easy – you just order chicken and broccoli, or mixed veggies, or whatever “stiryfry” you want.  You order it steamed with no sauce.  OR…if you’re not worried about gluten you get the plain sauces with no sugar added.  But when you’re out for chinese ALWAYS request NO MSG!!!  And most chinese restaurants are serving brown rice now!  P.F. Changs’s is my favorite for chinese because they have so many healthy options.  I can’t possibly list them all here.  They also offer gluten free soy sauce which I love.  My go-to meal there is the Ginger Chicken and Broccoli with no sauce and a side of the GF soy sauce.  They also have a steamed salmon dish and a sea bass dish I love.  And they always have the most amazing brown rice!!!  Their lunch bowls are great too and not expensive at all!
    *  Lots of chain restaurants like Ruby Tuesday and O’Charley’s offer pretty healthy options.  I usually opt for grilled fish and veggies.  Sometimes it comes with a starch and a veggie and I just opt for double vegetables.  I order them with no butter and olive oil instead.  Sometimes they won’t accommodate but I try.
    *  When it comes to fast food I like Wendy’s (surprisingly) and Chick Fil A.  Here’s what I usually do.  At Wendy’s I get the chili.  It’s actually pretty low in fat and calories.  It has beef which I usually don’t eat but I literally get fast food like twice a year.  It is mostly just beef, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and beans.  I can’t find the actual ingredient list but I found the nutritional info online and it’s not so bad – just a tad high on sodium.  This is my go-to meal on gamedays when we are going to tailgate and I don’t feel like packing up food.  I just stop and get this on the way into T-Town!  I usually take along a bag of my gmo-free tortilla chips to crunch up in it and viola!  I also really like their side salad.  I always keep a mini bottle of olive oil in my car for that occasion.  At Chick Fil A I usually get a side salad and a grilled chicken sandwich without the bun and put the chicken on the salad.  I also will occasionally get their chicken salad.  I think it’s just chicken, mayo, celery, and onion.  Not 100% sure tho.
  • While we’re on the subject…let’s talk about mayo…
    I go back and forth with mayo.  The ones you buy in the grocery store all have sugar in them.  It’s ridiculous right?  I mean all mayo is is eggs and oil.  WHY do you need to add sugar?  There is one that I buy at whole foods that doesn’t have sugar added.  But mayo is still high in fat.  I will get on a kick and buy the organic, no sugar mayo for a while and then I’ll go back to this eggless/vegan mayo because it’s so low in fat and calories.  There are a ton of vegan mayos at the grocery store – you can experiment.  My whole thing is this..I eat eggs and I eat oil so I don’t see a reason to not eat mayo.  However, I don’t like the ones with added sugar and I prefer for it to be organic.  I think the bigger issue is moderation – obviously we don’t want people eating tons and tons of mayo.  I literally put a dollop on a sliced tomato about once a month and I will get a jar to make sandwiches at the beach on my gluten free bread.  So…like all things…I would say use mayo in moderation and opt for a healthier no-sugar one if possible.  We don’t want people eating mayo slathered sandwiches every day…we want people eating whole foods – but occasionally it’s okay.
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