You Know My Family Hasn’t Always Eaten Healthy, Real Food – Right?

When people read about the way I feed my family now, many assume I’ve known about healthy eating forever and that nothing about this is difficult for me.

Not true.

Several years ago (when my blog was a baby) I wrote a series sharing my family’s healthy eating journey. Ugh, was it ever a journey. It still is.

All the fears and unknowns that many of you feel when you start reading about what is healthy and what isn’t – I totally get it. I’ve been there. Sometimes I’m still there. I haven’t arrived at perfect eating and never will. I’m pretty sure it’s not even possible.

So to encourage you to take some baby steps and to reassure you that you are not alone – I’d love for you to go back and read through this series of posts: Our Healthy Eating Journey. If nothing else, you’ll enjoy reading about how I  became completely convinced that I should be eating organic food and free range everything, but like a crazy lady, I still guzzled down a Pepsi to go with my meals. (I told you. I get it.)

healthyeatingjourney

Our Healthy Eating Journey

If you’re interested, we have put together a simple eCourse to walk you through some steps to begin your Real Food Journey. You can tailor make this to fit your family’s needs. It’s called You Can Do This! Because truly, you can, do this. :)

What are some steps you’ve taken on your healthy eating journey?

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What to Eat When You Need to Lose Weight. Or Gain Weight. Or Maintain Weight.

My appetite has been silly for about a month now, many thanks to the rounds of flu and whatever else that has hit our household this winter.  (Yes, I realize that it’s now spring, but until I can plant a garden…)

I’m not the only one with an abnormal appetite.  None of the boys felt like eating when they were sick, and a couple of them caught two different varieties of the crud.  All that to say – some of us are on the scrawny side right now.  It’s not a big deal.  We’ll be back to fighting weight in no time.  But while thinking about what foods we should focus on eating as we gain strength, this occurred to me:

When people ask me what foods they should be eating in order to lose weight – and when people ask me what foods they should be eating to gain weight – and when people ask me what foods they should be eating to maintain weightmy answer is the exact same.

What to Eat

How can this be?

This can be because I always recommend eating real food.  I always suggest that we focus on eating many fruits and vegetables.  That we focus on eating plenty of healthy fats like coconut oil and butter.  That we eat plenty of good proteins like eggs, meat, and nuts.  That we eat nourishing broth and a few whole grains.  That we avoid empty foods that don’t contain nutrients.

So those are the foods I recommend people eat when they need to lose weight.  Or gain weight.  Or maintain weight.  How about that?  When eating the right amount of the right foods, in balance, according to your body’s needs – most of us will find our healthy weight.

Now, there are other things to consider like allergies and body types and exercise and age and chronic health issues and what size shoe you wear (except not really about the shoes).  Not everyone loses or gains weight in the same way and not all of us can eat the exact same diet.  I’m not trying to write a perfect prescription for perfect weight for all.

I’m just saying that intentional nourishment is the biggest key to helping each of us find a healthy weight.  Not dieting.  Not binging.  Not depriving oneself.  Not being extreme.

So let’s all eat real food.  No matter what size you are or need to be.  Real food is tasty, satisfying, nourishing, and you can spread butter on it.  It’s a win, win, win, win.  :)

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Hey, quick reminder about this great eBook deal, which expires Monday, March 23 at midnight.

Heavenly Homemaker’s Guide to Gardening and Preserving ebook
with FREE Eat Your Fruits…and Veggies Too eBook

$5.00

Add to Cart

 

(When you put the Gardening eBook in the cart, it automatically comes with the Fruits and Veggies eBook too!)

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Delicious and Healthy Ways to Use Coconut Cream – Your Ideas?

I picked up some coconut cream concentrate about 8 years ago because I heard it was really good for us.  But it was early in our healthy eating journey, so I really didn’t know what to do with it.  Coconut oil was still new to me at that time, so coconut cream concentrate?  What was I supposed to do with it???  I was actually a little bit afraid of it.  So I left it on my shelf until it expired – like really, really expired.

During the past few weeks, I’ve come across several articles sharing delicious recipes we can make with coconut cream.  I told myself that the next time I found it on sale at Tropical Traditions and it is a free shipping weekend, I’m going for it.  

That weekend is now.  I just ordered myself two 16-ounce jars of Organic Coconut Cream Concentrate for half price, and I paid $0.00 in shipping.  Next week, this will arrive at my house:

coconut cream

What do I plan to do with this coconut cream?

For starters, I’ll be putting some in my coffee as a super-healthy coffee creamer.  I also plan to spread some on my toast (like butter or peanut butter).  Then I’m going to play with some healthy treat ideas using this high-nutrient food.

If you need to eat dairy free, you’ll want to add this to your safe and healthy food options.  Even if you can eat dairy, I think you and I will still enjoy this food.  And we’ll all benefit from the high fiber content and healthy fat it provides.

If you’ve been using coconut cream concentrate for a while, I’d really love for you to share how you use it. Have any great recipes?  

If you’re able, take advantage of this great BOGO deal with free shipping at Tropical Traditions.  I’m looking forward to my order coming next week!

Order Details:

Find two jars of Organic Coconut Cream Concentrate for just $20 and add them to your cart (before midnight Sunday). If you shop through that link (which is my referral link) and you are a new customer with Tropical Traditions, they will throw a free copy of Virgin Coconut Oil Book in with your order.  Use the code 31516 for free shipping to apply.  This code is valid through Monday, March 23.

I look forward to adding this great product to our diet and hope you’ll share your ideas so we can all learn more about using it!

This post contains affiliate links.

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Build a Fruit Salad Bar

Create Your Own Fruit Salad

Sometimes fruits and veggies just need to be served in an exciting way to make them more appealing.  That – and some people in my house just won’t eat bananas.  If there are bananas in the fruit salad, one of my kids will refuse the apples, strawberries, and pineapple too.  “I’ll just put the bananas on the side,” thought I, as I prepared to make a fruit salad for dinner.  But then I got the better idea to put everything “on the side” so each person could fill their bowl as they like.  Fun!

As it turns out, I got all the boys involved in prepping a fruit.  The result was a beautiful spread of choices that everyone was excited to dig into.

Build a Fruit Salad Bar

Justus (our 15 year old) built his salad and took this picture.  Beautiful!

There’s nothing complicated about this:  Simply slice or chop whatever fruit you have on hand and set it out for people to pick from as they fill their bowl.  Lay out shredded coconut, dried fruit, and nuts if you like.  Real whipped cream or cottage cheese added to the spread wouldn’t hurt my feelings.

This was a perfect side dish with our pasta and mixed greens tonight.  I’m thinking it would be fun to serve for breakfast some time soon, too!

What are your favorite fruits to add to a salad?

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Quick Note!

I made a mistake on yesterday’s Visit Omaha giveaway post.  Durham Museum IS NOT free.  my bad  It’s the Joslyn Museum that’s free.  I made the correction on the giveaway post, but wanted to make sure you got the update!

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Because This Will Make You Want to Eat Cucumbers

So you say you don’t like cucumbers?  Ah well.  I know exactly how to help this situation.

Zebra Cucumbers Taste Better

See?  You peel stripes out of the cucumber and then you slice them and then they become adorable stripy zebra cucumbers which will then make cucumbers perfectly irresistible.  Mmm-mmm yummy cucumbers.

I personally think stripy zebra cucumbers are more fun to eat than non-stripy, un-zebra cucumbers.  (Let’s be clear that I’m calling these stripy {long i} and not strippy {short i} because there’s a difference that I’d rather not go into here.)  I think stripy zebra cucumbers look pretty on a plate.  That’s why I had to take a picture to show you how fun these are.

But what if you just really, really don’t like cucumbers?

I like cucumbers.  Yay, me.  But try as I might (and trust me, I really did try – more than thrice), I cannot make myself like jicima.  We got two lovely jicima in our Bountiful Basket last week, so even though I don’t like them, I tried making jicima sticks for easier dipping.  Also, doesn’t it just sound fun to say, “Yum! We’re going to snack on some jicima sticks!”  (In case you’re not sure, the “j” in jicima is pronounced with an “h” sound.  It’s not a jicima, it’s a hicima, like hiccup, even though it’s spelled jicima.  It’s just that you need to say it right when you exclaim, “Yum! We’re going to snack on some jicima sticks!”)

jicima and rose

This is a jicima.
I took a picture of it beside the rose we got at
Asa’s basketball Senior Recognition night because who doesn’t like
jicima and rose together in the same picture, and also because
the rose is in its final hours and I never got a picture.

I talk all this semi-nonsense about zebra cucumbers and jicima sticks to tell you this:

I give you permission to not like every fruit and vegetable in the grocery store, farmer’s market,and garden.

Now if you haven’t tried it, you don’t get to say you don’t like it.  But if you’ve really, really tried (and even cut it into zebra stripes or dipping sticks) and you really, really don’t like it – you can just not like it.  Guilt free.

So I don’t like jicima.  So what?  I love and eat close to 50 other fruits and veggies (aka freggies), so I’m probably okay without the important vitamins and minerals obtained from eating jicima.  This is a very good thing since I didn’t even know jicima existed until about three months ago.

But what about you?  Is your fruit and veggie palate growing?

You need to know that it has taken me years to develop a taste for a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.  (What can I say?  I liked Pepsi and chocolate chip cookies better.)  But as I learned the importance of nourishment, I was open to trying.  I tried hard.  I forced myself at first to eat vegetables I only thought were “so-so.”

I went from liking and eating only – I kid you not – four vegetables (green beans, carrots, peas, and iceburg lettuce) and one fruit (apples) as a young adult to LOVING dozens of different fruit and veggie varieties.  It took time.  It took being intentional.  I know my palate will still grow.  (Who knows?  Maybe one day I’ll even like jicima.)

Sooooo, I encourage you to try your least favorite fruits or veggies from time to time as truly, our taste buds do change.  But I also know I don’t need to feel bad about not liking every fruit or vegetable out there.  Just be sure you continue to make freggies a priority.

Now tell me: What fruit or veggie have you tried multiple times but just can not make yourself like it?

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Do We Need To Be Eating So Much Bread?

breakfast_cake_muffins_1

My grandpa always held a slice of bread in his left hand while his right hand held his fork.  A meal was not a meal to my grandpa unless it included my grandma’s homemade bread.  He often used his bread to sop up gravy.  Or he would slather his bread with Grandma’s homemade jelly or applesauce.  If there was no bread – well, there just always had to be bread.

Let’s pause now to give three cheers to my grandma who had nine children, the tiniest kitchen I’ve ever seen, and never failed to provide homemade bread at every meal.  She was a rock star.  Grandma made bread like a boss.  (They’re compliments, Grandma.  Really.)  

I also grew up with bread served at every meal, likely the result of having a dad who had lived with a dad who always needed to hold a piece of bread in his left hand – we’ve already been through this.  Thus, I began our married life always including a side dish of bread with our meals, which Matt held in his right hand – if you can possibly imagine (because yes, my husband is a lefty).

Now, of course, there are all the experts who suggest we eat “low-carb” and others who insist we all need to go “grain-free” and someday soon like tomorrow there will be a new diet claim that suggests that if we all avoid eating (fill in the blank) we will all be healthier, skinnier, and have a perfect complexion.  I am not interested in a one-size-fits-all diet, fad, or bandwagon because I believe in eating real food, in balance, in its whole form, according to an individual’s needs, for the sake of nourishment and good health, all the time. It’s not a diet.  It’s a lifestyle.

We interrupt this post for some important disclaimers before I share my overall thoughts on eating bread:

  1. Some truly need to avoid all grains.  If that’s you, then do it.
  2. Not all grains agree with everyone.  This is a real thing.
  3. My grandpa probably needed more carbs (and food in general) because he was a farmer, doing hard physical labor for many hours every day.  Most of us don’t work that hard on a daily basis anymore.

Now these thoughts:

Do We Need to Be Eating So Much Bread

I do not believe that bread is evil.  

However, many of us eat more bread (and cookies and cakes and muffins and donuts) than we should.  To say nothing of the empty (negative) calories we consume in white flour products which do very little to nourish us – I would suggest that many of us even eat more whole grain products than our bodies actually need.  Especially if we compare it to the amount of other nutrient-rich food we are consuming – like fruits and vegetables.

Oh, you knew I would bring up the fruits and veggies.  The good ol’ F&Vs.  May as well shorten it to save time since we talk about it so much around here and simply call them freggies, don’t you think?

Bread (and pasta and rice) can really fill us up, leaving little room in our appetites for other necessary foods that our bodies crave.  (Like freggies.  There.  I’ve used it twice, so that makes it a real word.)  Sometimes we even load our families with grainy foods in an effort to save money as they appear to be an inexpensive, filling food choice.  I totally get it.  I feed five hungry men 3 meals plus snacks every day, and they definitely like grain based foods.  These foods have their purpose and they are filling.  But…

As  you think about the food you plan to put on your table, consider the variety of nutrients in the meal.  A spread of spaghetti, corn, and bread offers little compared to a meal of spaghetti, salad, green beans, and cantaloupe.  See the colorful and nutrition-packed difference?  If we’re already serving rice, pasta, or potatoes at a meal, we probably don’t need bread, rolls, or bread sticks too.  But an extra side or three of veggies along with a delicious bowl of fruit – well now our bodies are happy.

Fruits and vegetables are the most important part of our meals and snacks.  The other parts are important too – we just need to make sure we aren’t going overboard with the bready stuff and neglecting other important food groups.

So less bread, more freggies.  What do you say?

No seriously.  What do you say?  What are your thoughts on eating bread?  And also – what do you think of the word freggies?  I am so going to start saying that now.

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Go Drink Some Water!

It’s beginning to be a joke around our house. It seems that this is my answer for everything.

Go Drink Some Water

When the kids say, “My stomach hurts.”  I tell them to go drink some water.

When they say, “My head hurts.”  I tell them to go drink some water.

When they tell me, “I’m tired.”  I tell them to go drink some water.

When they begin to get grumpy with each other – I tell everyone to take a break from what they are doing and go drink some water.

When they have been running around after church and their faces are red – I tell them to go drink some water.

When they come tell me that they are bored and can’t figure out what to do – I tell them to go drink some water.

When they tell me that they are out of clean socks, can’t find their math book, or don’t like what I am fixing for dinner  – I tell them to go drink some water.  Actually, I tell them to go start a load of laundry, look under the couch, and eat it anyway (socks/math/dinner).  If only drinking water really did solve all of life’s problems. :)

Why is “Go drink some water!” the first thing I always tell my kids when they have a complaint? Because typically, it really does help! When we aren’t quite feeling right, need a “pick me up”, feel sluggish, or start getting edgy – a refreshing drink of water often gives us just what we need. If it doesn’t, then I know to move on to the next idea. But I have been amazed at how well this little trick works. And at the very least, I know that a drink of water certainly won’t hurt us and that often it is a great distraction from whatever it is we’re are frustrated about.

I have personally learned that if I’m not hydrated well I get head-achy, grumpy, tired, sluggish, and in general – I just don’t feel right. Getting a drink of water is an easy first thing to try, and almost always, I find that a nice drink of water is just what I’ve been needing.

I figure if I need it, and it works for me, then “Go drink some water” is the first thing that should come out of my mouth when it seems that my kids need a little something. They tell me what’s going on, and I say, “Go drink some water.”  Then they say, “I knew you were going to say that.”  And I just grin, wondering when they will learn to just automatically go to the water instead of complaining to Mom first.

That’s okay though. My day may not be complete without hearing 43 complaints. At least “Go drink some water” is a no-brainer answer, right? Hmm, maybe I should shock them sometime when they complain and tell them to “Go lay down and take a nap.”  I bet they’d come back with, “Nah. Shouldn’t I just go drink some water?”  Yes, good idea.

Just you wait. I may get into such a habit of answering questions with “Go drink some water” that the next time you email me asking, “I can’t find your recipe for Mac and Cheese!” – I’ll reply with “Go drink some water….”

 

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Let’s Talk About Eating Out – I Need Your Input!

Let's Talk About Eating Out

I’m working on a new project that I’m hoping will:

  • Save you $$ by helping you avoid falling back on take-out as frequently
  • Save you $$ by helping you avoid unnecessary trips to the grocery store
  • Save you time by helping you easily prepare tasty meals for the freezer which can be thawed and cooked with little effort
  • Save you even more time by making your dinnertime meal prep take 10 minutes or less
  • Save your energy when you’re tired at the end of the day
  • Make your family meals times a blessing

I want to equip you with everything you need, from grocery list to check-list.  And of course, I’m playing with new recipe ideas that your family will love.  My men happen to love this part of my job.  ;)

Before I get too far into this project, I’m hoping you’ll answer these questions for me:

  • How long do you spend cooking dinner each evening?
  • How many nights per week do you “not feel like cooking?”
  • How often do you throw your hands in the air and say, “Forget it.  Let’s go out.”
  • About how much money do you spend for your family to eat a meal at a restaurant?
  • What kinds of recipes would help you eat at home more instead of resorting to going out?

By the way, you’ll receive no judgement from me about your eating out habits. :)  As you know, our family eats out here and there when we’re on the road and shucks if I don’t love me a good burger and fries as a treat when we splurge like this.

But since you and I are working together to become healthier, to feed our families well, and to save money and time while doing so – I think we can all agree that eating out should be a treat, not the norm.  Not to mention the deliciousness of home-cooked food.  Melt-in-your-mouth goodness, that’s what it is.  Thus, we will all benefit from this new project I’m working on.

Thank you in advance for helping me by answering any or all of the questions above.  :)

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Watch That “No Sugar Added” Label!

Sometimes a “No Sugar Added” label on a container of food or drink means that all that is included in the package is 100% fruit or juice.

Sometimes.

It is very important that we read the fine print and read the list of ingredients!   Unfortunately, “No Sugar Added” almost always means, “We didn’t add sugar.  Instead, we’ve added artificial sweeteners like Splenda, Sorbitol, or Aspertame.  It could be that we added all three.  Don’t worry though.  We didn’t add sugar.  Sugar is bad.”

Packages of fruit and juice with a “No Sugar Added” label are especially deceiving.  See these Mixed Fruit Cups?

no sugar added 1

 

The “No Sugar Added” label makes you think that all that’s included in those mixed fruit cups is fruit.  But read the ingredients:

no sugar added 2

Along with your fruit, these cups also contain Sorbitol, Natural Flavor, and Sucralose (which is Splenda).

Sorbitol, for the record, is a sweetener made from pulling the glucose out of fruit, which then goes through a chemical process to produce a “sugar alcohol” by adding hydroxil.  (I don’t know what hydroxil is.  Please add it to my fruit cup and tell me it’s healthy, because yay, “no sugar added.”)

Sucrolose (Splenda) is also made in a lab in which three chlorine molecules are added to a sucrose or sugar molecule.  (Mmm, chlorine added to my food.  Please pass me a fruit cup.)

By the way, why are we trying to make fruit sweeter than it already is?  I do not understand this.  But back to the point of this post…

Please, please, please don’t buy into the lie that artificial sweeteners are healthier for us than sugar.  And please don’t be deceived by a “no sugar added” label.  Our bodies don’t know what to do with artificial sweeteners and in the long (or short) term, they can make us very ill.  Too much real sugar isn’t good for us either, but at least our bodies recognize it.

As always, I advocate for eating real food and for eating on purpose for the sake of nourishment.

Nourishment.  Real food.  It’s what our bodies crave.

Now go eat a naturally sweetened, God-made-perfect piece of fruit.  Apples, pears, oranges, and bananas are “no sugar added” foods, but there’s no need for a label because they come pre-packaged and contain all they were ever meant to contain because they are delicious pieces of fruit for goodness sake.  (Subjects like this often inspire me to write run-on sentences.)

It would seem as though eating well is not nearly as complicated as our culture tends to make it, wouldn’t you agree?

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How to Easily Add Fruits and Veggies to Your Meal

It’s not hard, it’s not hard, stop making it hard, I’m telling you – it’s not hard.  It’s also quite easy.

I used to just serve one fruit or vegetable with each meal (if that).  This might have been enough for our nutritional needs, as long as we were getting some fruits or veggies at snack time too.  But when all was said and done, I think my family was only getting 1-3 servings of fruits or veggies each day.  That is just not enough.  Our bodies need more – more variety of nutrients, and a larger quantity too.

Putting a big variety of fruits and vegetables on the table with each meal is something I’ve been improving on through the past few years.  I hope you’ll join me in this endeavor.  It isn’t nearly as difficult as I used to believe it was.  In fact, I’m learning that fruits and vegetables are probably the easiest food there is to make and serve.  Truly!

Below you’ll see an example of a meal I made recently.  Notice the simplicity.  Also notice that I rarely put our food in serving dishes – we just eat them right out of the cookware.  :)

Easily Add Fruits and Veggies to Your Meal

See the big pot of Tuna Casserole?  Easy as that was to make, it was the most time consuming meal item I prepared.  All the fruits and veggies on the side were a piece of cake.  Actually, they were fruits and veggies, not cake, but you know what I mean.

To go with the tuna casserole, I cooked some frozen peas (which took about 3 minutes), washed blackberries, sliced a cucumber, and opened a bag of petite baby carrots.  That made a total of four super easy fruit and veggie side dishes that we enjoyed.  The apples, bananas, pears, and clementines you see in the weren’t actually for our meal.  Those just sit out on the table as a center piece and for all of us to grab for snacks as needed.

This practice of setting out several different lightly cooked and raw fruits and vegetables to go with our main dish has become the norm around here.  Once you get into the habit, it really is easy.  Actually, I’ve found that it’s even been a fun challenge to see how many different kinds of fruits and veggies I can put on the table with each meal!

groceries 2014

This is a typical grocery shopping haul for the week, plus I have many fruits and vegetables in the freezer.

An added benefit of setting out a wide variety, beyond the obvious fact that we are getting a great bounty of nutrients with all the different types of goodies out there is this:  If one of our boys doesn’t love all the types of fruits and vegetables I set out, they will at least like 2 or 3.  I do it this way on purpose so that everyone will have something they love.  While we don’t all fill our plates with every single item, we do fill our plates with what we like…which means there is no fighting at the table to get my kids to eat their veggies.  Hallelujah!

And one more thing.  Crunching and chewing on these fruits and vegetables as side dishes has been filling up my boys’ hollow legs.  If I covered my table with a bunch of grains and carbs, they’d certainly fill up on those, but would not be gaining as much nourishment.  We still eat plenty of grains around here (especially at breakfast), but I’ve found that we’re feeling better by trading heavy amounts of bread for larger quantities of fruits and vegetables.

And another one more thing.  If fruits and vegetables is what you serve, that is what your family will learn to eat.  If you don’t serve them, they won’t eat them.

Okay, one last one more thing.  I still have to push a couple of my kids to fill up on fruits and vegetables.  It is getting easier, but just like most kids –  mine would rather have a donut with a side of potato chips.  Keep encouraging, keep serving, keep providing – the love of fruits and vegetables will come.

How’s it going at your house?  Have you found easy ways to add fruits and vegetables to your table?

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