How to Adapt a Recipe to Make it Healthier

How to Adapt a Recipe to Make it Healthier

I’m often asked how much Sucanat to substitute for white sugar, or if whole wheat flour can be substituted one for one with white flour.  I decided to share a little bit about how I adapt “regular recipes” to make them healthier!  Please know that when I say “healthier”…I’m not talking low fat.  To me, healthier means real, whole food.  Click on the following links so read about how I feed my family and why I love real, whole foods!!  Be sure to also check out this entire series on Simple Steps Toward Healthy Eating.

Fats


  • If a recipe calls for vegetable or canola oil I switch it out one for one with melted coconut oil or melted palm shortening.  It’s a little bit tough to measure out solid coconut oil to an exact needed amount.  I just kind of “eyeball it”.  If a recipe calls for 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, I make my best guess at how much 1/4 cup of coconut oil (or palm shortening) is while I’m scooping it out…then I melt it down in a small saucepan on the stove.  If you are new to cooking/baking…you may prefer to melt it, then pour it into a measuring cup to be sure you  have the correct amount.
  • If a recipe calls for margarine (I gag and then) I switch it out one for one with real butter.  This means that if the recipe calls for 1/2 cup margarine, I use 1/2 cup of butter.
  • Usually butter and coconut oil can be used interchangeably.  For instance, when I make muffins…sometimes I use coconut oil and sometimes I use butter.  It depends on what I have on hand and what sounds good at the moment (coconuty goodness, or rich buttery flavor).  If you are unable to eat dairy, you can substititute coconut oil for butter in most recipes.
  • I almost always use melted palm shortening to fry foods (like french fries, onion rings, homemade corn dogs, etc.).  Palm shortening does NOT create the same freaky effects from frying that vegetable or canola oils create.  This means that foods fried in palm shortening (or coconut oil) are NOT unhealthy!
  • I use olive oil if a recipe calls for just a few teaspoons or Tablespoons of vegetable oil.
  • You can read more about the fats I prefer and why I prefer them here!!

Sugars


  • Sucanat (or Rapadura, which is the same thing…just under a different name) can be substituted one for one with white or brown sugar.  This means that if a recipe calls for one cup of white sugar…you can instead use one cup of Sucanat.  However, I generally cut the Sucanat down just a hair because the flavor is stronger…and because it is more expensive…and because wow…do we really need that much sugar?  :)  Sucanat, by the way, is dehydrated cane sugar juice and the healthiest form of cane sugar I’ve found.  You can read more about it  here.
  • Honey can be substituted for white or brown sugar, but I usually use 1/2 to 2/3 the amount the recipe calls for.  This means that if a recipe calls for one cup of white or brown sugar, I only use 1/2 to 2/3 cup of honey.  Honey has a rich flavor and is sweeter than sugar.  I have not found that substituting honey causes much difference in the consistency of a recipe, even though honey is a liquid and sugar is not.  If anything, I find that honey makes quick breads, muffins and cookies more moist…and that’s never a bad thing if you ask me!
  • Real Grade B Maple Syrup can be substituted for white or brown sugar, but I don’t often bake with it (ooh, except for Coconut Macaroons!).  I use maple syrup for liquid treats like Chocolate Milk and Smoothies and Ice Cream.  If a recipe calls for corn syrup, I use Grade B Maple Syrup instead, substituting it one for one.
  • You can read more about the sweeteners I prefer and why I prefer them here!!

Flours

To make things a little bit easier…I created a free printable “Healthy Recipe Substitutions” download.  Click the following link, print it off and keep it in your kitchen as a handy reference!

Healthy Recipe Substitutions

How do you feel about adapting recipes?  Are you good at making substitutions…or do you prefer to follow a recipe exactly?

This post was originally published March 9, 2011.

The Benefits of Eating Out Less

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If you’re looking for a simple way to save money while eating a healthy, real food diet, I thought you would be inspired by this comment left this week by Sile.  Once she read my Eat Out Less post, this is what she had to say:

We didn’t eat out for the entire month of October. My husband thought it was to save money. While that was half my goal, the other half was to give him a taste of REAL food without the distraction of all the horrid stuff you can get from restaurants.

I will admit to having cravings for burgers and fries. However, I soon found that making a meatloaf and baking some potatoes fulfilled the craving! (and meatloaf freezes great even after cooking!) Just one month out and I really don’t miss eating out. Sure, cooking everything from scratch at home is more work, but I’ve been endeavoring to do extra cooking on the weekends to alleviate some stress (since I’m still working until the babies start coming). Mostly it’s just been getting breakfast food cooked and frozen (mostly whole wheat carrot waffles), but at least I don’t have to rush to make us a breakfast in the morning. It’s great that my husband hasn’t even reached for cereal in a long time. He was such a cereal junkie. One more thing to cross off my ‘let’s not buy that anymore’ list.

But I’m rambling. Not eating out = saving money + eating better!

I love this!  Thank you Sile for sharing your experience with this, and kudos to you for taking on (and sticking with!) the challenge of not eating out during the entire month of October!

Homemade Pizza saves money, tastes incredible, and is much healthier!

How often do you eat out?  What challenges you most when it comes to eating out (or rather, eating in?!)

Be Intentional about Eating (and Serving) Fruits and Vegetables

While we’re in the middle of talking about Simple Steps Toward Healthy Eating, I just want to offer a little bit of encouragement and motivation once again in the area of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.  I think this is one of the most well known and understood aspects of healthy eating and still one of the most difficult for many people.

If only corn chips or french fries counted as a serving of vegetables. I’m not saying, “don’t ever eat corn chips or french fries”.  I’m just saying they don’t offer much in the way of vitamins and other nutrients our bodies need.

We really need a lot of fruits and vegetables.  I know this.  You know this.  (Right?  You know this?)

I’ve talked about this here quite a bit, and I tend to bring it up during the times I feel like I myself am in a fruit and veggie rut.  Writing this is my little way of kicking myself in the pants (which takes an incredible amount of talent; please feel free to picture me attempting this).  I’m also hoping to kick you in the pants (which of course is easier, but not nearly as nice, so please be aware that I am only using that term figuratively, and also you don’t have to worry because I’m not very strong and don’t kick very hard).

All kicking aside, we all need to veggie up.  Yes?  Do you agree?

farmers_market

So how do we do this?  How do we make fruits and vegetables more of a priority?  How do we ensure that we are eating enough and feeding our family enough fruits and vegetables?

I’ve thought long and hard and come up with a detailed checklist for us to live by as we focus on eating more fruits and veggies.  Are you ready?

  1. Buy fruits and vegetables.
  2. Eat them.
  3. Repeat.

Did you catch all of that?  Go back and re-read the list as many times as you need to.  Take your time.  Let it all soak in.

I think that list sums it up quite well.  If we don’t actually purchase fruits and vegetables, they are very hard to eat.  Ever noticed that?  But don’t just buy them and think they look pretty in your fridge or freezer.  You’re going to need to actually eat them if you want them to benefit you the way that they should.

And don’t just serve them to your kids.  You need to eat them too.  Eating them in front of your kids is highly recommended.  Saying lots of things like, “mmm this tastes really good” while you eat them in front of your kids is also a very good idea.

If you don’t really like many fruits or vegetables I’m going to go out on a little limb here and kindly and gently say, “Get over it and eat them anyway”.   You’ve got to eat fruits and veggies whether you like them or not.  Start with the ones you do like, then keep trying and adding new ones to your diet.  I’ve learned to like all kinds of new foods as I’ve gotten older and as I’ve actually given good foods a fair chance.  Sure, maybe I like chocolate better than artichokes.  I can have chocolate too…I just need to focus on the veggies.  I think not eating vegetables because we “don’t like them” is kind of silly, because we are grown-ups, are we not?  I’d say “don’t get me started” but I guess I already got myself started.  See what happens when I start trying to kick myself in the pants?

Here’s an older post I wrote, the first in the Simple Steps Toward Healthy Eating series I’ve been writing, encouraging you to eat more fruits and veggies.  You’ll find several ideas to encourage you to eat more of these colorful foods, so I very much encourage you to go read that post.  I also want to remind you that eating fruits and vegetables does not have to be expensive and is very worth the money.

Now, let’s chat together and motivate each other to eat lots and lots of fruits and vegetables.

My favorites are broccoli, green beans, fresh spinach and other leafy greens, carrots, frozen peas, asparagus, tomatoes, apples, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, grapes, cantaloupe and probably some others I’m forgetting at the moment.

What are your favorites?  Do you ever find yourself in a veggie rut?  What will help you out of that rut?

 

 

Switching to Whole Wheat Flour – making the transitions easier

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I want to take some time to address some of the many whole wheat flour questions I receive from those of you making the switch from white to brown.  So many of you email me to say “I wish we liked whole wheat flour…we just don’t.  What ideas do you have?”  or “When I bake with whole wheat flour, my food often feels and tastes heavy and grainy.  My kids won’t eat it.”  or “Laura, you look really good with flour in your hair, what’s your secret for getting it right there on your bangs?”  Just kidding about that last statement.  Thankfully.

My suggestion (and hear me out on this, because I think I know all of your arguments) is…okay actually I have two suggestions:

  1. Use a Grain Mill to grind fresh flour.
  2. Use Hard WHITE Wheat.

Here’s the deal:  I have NEVER liked store-bought whole wheat flour.  Still don’t like it very much.  The idea of switching to whole wheat flour to me was NOT appealing and I DIDN’T want to.

Until I had a piece of my friend’s bread made with freshly ground hard white wheat flour.  That was all the evidence I needed.

I really didn’t believe her when she said that the bread was 100% whole wheat.  It didn’t taste whole wheat.  It didn’t look whole wheat.  It didn’t feel whole wheat.  Oh, but did it ever smell and taste good.

It was at that moment (after she answered more of my questions and after I talked it over with Matt of course) that I decided that I would save any extra money we had toward getting my own grain mill.  The problem was…we had NO extra money to save toward a grain mill. 

What I Did:

I started buying Hard White Wheat and letting my friend grind it for me.  She was so sweet to do this, and it worked, but it certainly wasn’t convenient.  I then began making these soft pretzels to sell at our local farmer’s market to save for my Nutrimill.  It took just a few weeks before I had enough money saved.  I ordered my Nutrimill right away!  That was five years ago, and I’ve gotta say that saving up for and buying my Nutrimill was SUCH a great investment.  My whole family thinks so. 

Why Freshly Ground Flour Made from Hard White Wheat is Different (and tastes so good):

Well, fresh flour is…fresh.  It’s amazing the difference in taste you’ll notice when you eat bread and other goodies made from flour that has been freshly ground.  The whole wheat flour from the store is a little on the old side and is likely even to be rancid.  It is usually often made from RED wheat.

Which leads me to my second point about why freshly ground flour from hard white wheat is different and tastes so good:  White wheat is lighter in texture and color than red wheat.  Whole wheat flour made from Hard White Wheat produces lovely bread, tortillas, pizza crust, muffins…everything you need flour for.

The Question of the Hour:

But Laura, doesn’t white wheat turn into white flour?

Ah, I didn’t get that at first either.  But NO, it absolutely doesn’t.  Hard White Winter Wheat is simply a different variety of grain.  Hard Spring Red Wheat has the same nutritional value as Hard White Winter Wheat…but white wheat makes (in  my opinion) a nicer and more palatable whole wheat flour.

I think you’ll notice a big difference.

(White flour that you buy at the store, by the way, is flour made by sifting out the bran and germ after the grain has been ground.  This was originally done to give it a longer shelf life.  Now, unless otherwise noted, the white flour is bleached to make it whiter.  Yum.)

What Do I Suggest?

See if you can find someone who has a grain mill and will let you try out freshly ground flour made from hard white wheat.  Hey, if you come over to my place, I’ll let you try some of mine!  (I may even share my secret of getting flour in my hair.)

If you like it (the freshly ground flour…not the flour in my hair), I recommend doing a little something to save up for a grain mill.  I love my Nutrimill!!!  Here’s a video of me showing how to use the Nutrimill.  I love Paula’s Bread as your go-to source for purchasing a Nutrimill.  She offers great prices and offers wonderful customer service.

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And…you may want to look into this online Bread Class offered by Lori.  She teaches you to use freshly ground flour to make a perfect loaf of bread…and other great baked goods too!  It’s a very helpful class!

Lastly…I will recommend that if you just aren’t able to grind fresh flour right now, try to find store bought whole wheat flour made from white wheat, labeled, White Whole Wheat.  King Arthur has a nice variety.  It’s not quite the same (because it isn’t fresh), but it’s the best store-bought flour I’ve used.

Those of you who’ve been grinding your own flour…share what you love about it!  How were you able to make the investment to get a grain mill?  Which is your favorite grain mill and wheat to grind?

(You’ll find more posts I’ve written about grinding grain, where I recommend getting grain, which grain I recommend and ALL kinds of grainy questions answered in this section!)

Disclaimer:  No one here is going to force you to grind your own flour, eat white wheat or get flour in your hair.  If you like flour make with red wheat, enjoy!  If you can’t afford a grain mill, this is not a guilt trip.  I’m just answering many readers’ questions.  Hopefully you all found it helpful.  And hopefully you are much cleaner bakers than I am.  Not only is there flour in my hair, it is also on my kitchen floor and counter tops.  I need to go clean my kitchen. 

Healthy Fats

simplesteps

“Don’t eat saturated fats…Saturated fats are fine…Margarine is much better than butter…Margarine is made of plastic…Eat low-fat….Eat lots of fat…Don’t eat fat at all…. Avocados are a good source of fat…Fat causes heart disease…Fat keeps your cells healthy…Stay away from real butter….Eat all the butter you want…Cream is for when you want to eat naughty….Never deep fat fry anything…Drink skim milk…Raw cream has many healing factors…You can’t eat fat and stay thin…Be sure to feed your kids low fat yogurt and cheeses…”

In honor of all the big fat contradictory fatty information out there, I’d like to ask us all to pause and have a moment of simultaneous screaming.

{aaahahhhahahaaahhhhhahahhahahhhhaaaaahahhhahhhhhhhaaaaahhahhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!} 

{ahahhaahah.}

{ahh.}

Thank you.

I get very weary of hearing fat information that contradicts.  I used to think fat was bad. I used to feel terrible guilt anytime I ate anything with cheese or butter and heaven forbid if I ever indulged in french fries.

So, what’s the truth?  IS fat bad?

Well, that depends on who you ask…and it depends on which fats you’re talking about…and it depends on which research was done to prove that the fat was good or bad…and it depends on who’s trying to make money by telling you the information and it depends on…

{aaahahhhhaaah!!}

I’m just going to share where I’ve landed on the matter and of course I am of the opinion that I am right.  :)  But as we all know, I am a normal (and often scatterbrained) mom who often carries her own light saber around for protection.  I’m not a fat research specialist…so you can take this information or leave it.

From what I’ve read, heart disease and obesity did NOT begin to be a big problem in the US until right about the time we began to switch out butter with margarine and our whole fat with low fat.  The less saturated fat we have eaten as a nation, the unhealthier (and heavier) we have become, even though saturated fat is blamed for bad health.  Most vegetable oils (those low in saturated fat) sold in the store are rancid before they even make it to our kitchens and rancid oils tend to freak out our insides.  These are the  oils that most restaurants use.

Oh and also, most low fat products have quite a few artificial flavors and lots of sugar added to make up for the taste that is pulled out along with the fat.  Hmm.

So are fats bad for us?  Yes, some of them most certainly are.  But does that mean we should all “go low fat”?  Choosing the right fats for our health is important.  In fact, my research often tells me that eating a nice amount of fat (the good ones) is actually necessary for good health.

So which fats are the good fats?  Here are my favorites and the fats I feel best about eating and cooking with:

Butter -  I’m talking about real butter, not margarine.  People interchange the names of the two, but margarine isn’t butter, it’s nasty, so just make sure you know that I’m talking about BUTTER here.

I love that butter is pure with only one or maybe two ingredients:  Cream and Salt.  I’d recommend that you buy the “Unsalted Butter” but watch out because unsalted varieties usually have other additives labeled as “flavorings”.  Grr, don’t add flavorings (aka MSG) to my butter!!!  Give me the pure stuff!!  So, if I can find an unsalted butter that is ONLY cream, I go for it, otherwise I go with salted.  Butter made from raw, pastured cream is THE BEST EVER for your health if you can get your hands on some.

Butter is great for baking items such as cookies and biscuits.  Plus of course, butter is also great spread on bread or waffles or pancakes or muffins…

Coconut Oil – When it comes to healthy oils, it doesn’t get much better than coconut oil.  Find out here how to receive a free book about the benefits of coconut oil.  There are two main varieties of coconut oil:  Unrefined and Virgin.  Both are good for you, especially when you buy them from a good source like Tropical Traditions or  Mountain Rose Herbs.  Unrefined Coconut Oil has a very mild taste and does not taste like coconut, which makes it good for frying (when you don’t want your chicken nuggets to taste like coconuts).  Virgin Coconut oil has a fabulous coconut flavor and is great for baking!

Coconut oil does not go rancid when heated to high temps, so all that stuff you hear about “never deep fat frying anything”?  It’s true…except for when you fry foods in Coconut Oil!!  Or when you fry it in…

Palm Oil or Palm Shortening – I am so excited to find that Palm Shortening can be used to make a fabulous and healthy pie crust!!!  I often melt some palm shortening into my electric skillet to fry donuts or french fries.  There is no flavor in this shortening so your french fries taste like french fries…only better!   Yeah, who doesn’t love a french fry that tastes better than a french fry!!

Olive Oil - Of all the controversial fats, Olive Oil stands up to the test on both sides of the fence.  I use olive oil to stir fry my veggies, to cook chicken and to make salad dressings.  I prefer organic, and always try to find it in a dark colored bottle as the sunlight does compromise it’s quality.

Full Fat Dairy – Oh yes, bring on the whole milk and rich cream.  More about dairy another time, because wow, this post is getting long isn’t it?

What are your thoughts on fat?  What have you learned and what has your research taught you?  Do you find yourself screaming about the controversial fat information out there like I do? {aaahahha!}

Eat Less Sugar

simplesteps

You know why I’m writing this post?  Because I need to hear it.

While our family has made huge strides over the past few years in Our Healthy Eating Journey, my one major struggle remains:  I really like sweets.

Yes, I’ve given up all forms of soda and have switched to healthy beverages.  Yes, I’ve switched from white sugar to sucanat, honey or real maple syrup.  So in those ways, of course I’m eating much healthier.  But still, while these are healthier sugars and are much better than processed sugar…they are STILL sugar.

Too much sugar (in any form) can suppress our immune systems, mess up our blood sugar and insulin levels, make us feel sluggish, cause depression.  Sugar can cause heart issues.  Sugar can make us gain weight. 

Sugar tastes really, really good.

And sugar is addicting.

I’m not really convinced that any one of the Steps Toward Healthy Eating is more important than another.  I truly think that each little (or big) thing you can do to improve your health is a step in the right direction whether it’s eating more fruits and veggies or switching to whole grains But doesn’t it sort of make sense that if you make all kinds of healthy changes, but you’re still eating a lot of sugary foods…you’re kind of taking some steps backward health-wise?  Our bodies are busy trying to make good use of all the healthy foods we’re feeding it, and sugar sort of sets us back one sweet morsel at a time.

Am I saying that we need to give up sugar altogether?  Good grief, I hope that’s not what I’m saying. 

No indeed, I just had a meeting with myself and I have decided that we do not all have to give up sugar entirely.  In fact, while giving up sugar entirely would be good for us in some ways, it may cause us to have an “all or nothing” mentality as in…eat no sugar for several days or weeks, then finally cave in and eat a whole bag of chocolate covered sugar with sprinkles, and a side of ho-hos.

I think that if we can achieve a healthy balance when it comes to sugar, our bodies will thank us, and so will our sweet tooth.  

  • If you are in the habit of eating sweets during a certain time of the day, make a conscious effort to DO SOMETHING ELSE during that time period.  Pray, read your Bible, call a friend, play a game with your kids, exercise, paint your nails…anything to distract you from your habit of sugary temptation. 
  • Eat fruit to satisfy sweet cravings.  Fruit tastes so much better when your palate isn’t covered in sugar.
  • Instead of cookies and cakes, make sweet treats that are lower in sugar like muffins or a biscuit with a little honey drizzled inside.

Allow yourself some of your favorite treats every now and then.  But you’ve gotta make those sugar calories worth it.  Don’t settle for sour gummy goobers if you don’t even like them.  Say NO to the sweets that you aren’t really big on and savor your favorites every once in a while.

So…what are your thoughts about eating less sugar?  Is eating too much sugar a struggle for you?  What tricks have you found to eat less and find a healthy sugar balance?

Be sure to read the other posts in this series: 
Switch from White to Brown; Eat Out Less; Invest Money in Good Food;
Healthy Beverages; Drink More Water;
The Decision to Eat a Healthy Diet; Eat More Fruits and Veggies

Switching “from White to Brown”

simplesteps

In last week’s podcast I mentioned that another great step to make in your journey toward healthy eating is to make the switch “from white to brown”.

And what, you ask, does it mean to switch “from white to brown”?  In three major areas, I would suggest starting to move away from refined, highly processed, nutrient void ingredients…and instead choose unrefined, unprocessed, nutrient filled ingredients.  These three major areas would be:  Rice, Sugar and Grain

Yeah, because guess what?!  White flour, white sugar and white rice have pretty much NO nutritional value.  When we eat them, they fill our bellies…and that’s about it.  Our body really can’t do anything with them since the nutrients have been stripped out of them…which is why they are called “empty calories”.  In fact, because our bodies crave nutrients in order to function properly, these “white ingredients” can also be “negative calories” – as in the nutrients stored as reserves in our bodies are then sucked out to help our body function, leaving our reserves depleted.  And then what often happens with the white stuff?  It turns to fat.  Well, no wonder.  It’s bored and has nothing else to do.

In addition, once our bodies are depleted of nutrients, we are much more likely to get sick.  Did I mention that eating these nutrient void ingredients can even cause depression?  OUR BODIES NEED NUTRIENTS!!!

Now that I’ve made this suggestion…I am also going to reassure you that it really is okay to take one step at a time as you start replacing white ingredients with brown ingredients in your kitchen.  This switch “from white to brown” takes a little effort.  It may take a while to adjust your family’s taste buds.  You also may find that it adds a little more expense.  (Remember though that you are investing in REAL whole food - an investment in your health and the health of your family that is well worth the cost and effort!)

But I believe in the end, you will LOVE making this switch. 

Want to know a little secret?  Brown ingredients actually have flavor!!  It’s amazing what nutrients will do to food – it makes them taste good!!  Go figure.  :)

Here are some tips to help you transition “from white to brown”:

  • Make the switch gradually.  You can make a mixture of white rice and brown rice to help get your family used to it.  You can do the same with white flour and whole wheat…white sugar and sucanat.  Mix it up a bit…literally.
  • Read through the suggestions about the sugars I recommend here.  There are several different “healthy sugars” that make fantastic treats!
  • Try to find whole wheat flour made from hard (or soft) WHITE wheat.  White wheat is a variety of grain that has the same nutrition as red wheat…but white wheat makes a lighter, fluffier flour that is not as hard to get accustomed to.  We love hard white wheat at our house.  And…I know I’m telling you to switch from white to brown and white wheat is white…but really…white wheat makes brown flour.  Really it does.  :)
  • Cook your brown rice in chicken broth to make it taste awesome - yum!  (I’ll try to post a tutorial on how to easily cook brown rice sometime soon.)
  • Whole wheat pasta really is tasty!  Our favorite whole wheat spaghetti is bionaturae.  This brand works great for my Creamy Mac and Cheese recipe!

 I’d love for all of you to pipe in and share your tricks for making the switch from white to brown!  What works for you and your family?  What have been some of your biggest challenges in making the switch?

 

Eating Out Less

simplesteps

Here’s what I’ve decided as I’m writing the Simple Steps Toward Healthy Eating series:  These steps can be taken in any order.  There is not necessarily one step that should come before any of the others (except perhaps deciding that you need to take steps??!)

If you find yourself stumped as to where to start on your healthy eating journey, read through the Simple Steps posts I’ve written so far…and just pick something.  You might start with drinking more water (and less soda or juice).  You might start by eating an extra piece of fruit each day.  You might start by eating out less (like we’ll talk about today).  The point is that you start.  Pick something, set a goal and work toward it.  Once you’ve accomplished that step, take another step.  Go at a pace that works well for you.  You can do this!

Okay, now let’s talk about eating out less

I did actually address this topic quite a while ago, so I would like to suggest you go read what I wrote previously too!  The thing is…eating out is addicting.  I have found that the more I eat out, the more I want to eat out.  Or should I say…the less I eat out, the less I want to eat out.

I used to crave it.  I used to sit at home dreaming of french fries from my favorite restaurant.  I used to go out of my way to find a chance (or a few dollars) to eat out.  And of course, I’d take big time advantage of the free Pepsi refills!!!

It’s amazing how the additives in fast food restaurants (and beyond) make your body crave more.  And I don’t think I need to tell you that food from restaurants is hardly ever good for us?  Do I need to say that?  Okay, here I’ll say it:  The food from restaurants is usually rancid, poor quality, full of MSG, fried in nasty oils…  Should I go on? 

How about expensive?  In my experience, eating out costs more than eating at home, no matter what kind of value menu you order from or coupons you use.  If you’re having a hard time figuring out how you can afford to eat healthy foods, you may find you have extra money for good groceries if you eat out less.

Now, am I suggesting that you don’t eat out at all?  No, of course not.  Sometimes it’s a necessity.  Sometimes it’s a treat.  Sometimes it’s fun.  Our family enjoys the very occasional dinner out…and sometimes I go out and have a nice lunch with a girlfriend.  Eating out isn’t evil…I’m just suggesting that as a step toward healthier eating…you may want to look into eating out less often.

You’ll save money and I promise that even if you aren’t eating the absolute best foods at home, eating at home is still better for you (generally) than eating out.

Okay, those are my thoughts.  What are your thoughts about eating out?  Do you find yourself wanting to eat out often?  Have you ever craved certain fast food or restaurant food?

Investing Money in Good Food

simplesteps

As our family was making our way toward a more healthy lifestyle in the beginning stages of our healthy eating journey, one of the biggest obstacles I had to work through in my brain was that I had to actually spend money on groceries.  I didn’t like spending money on food.  I had figured out ways to use coupons to get almost all of our food practically for free so spending money on food seemed crazy to me. 

I’ve done a complete about-face on that issue now.  Not that I don’t work hard to keep our grocery spending low…I do.  I work VERY hard as a matter of fact so that our family of six can eat a healthy whole-foods diet on a limited budget.  But I’ve changed my way of thinking now about spending money on food.  And…I’d like to encourage you to do the same as you make some simple steps toward healthy eating.

I see money spent on food as an investment.  I understand now that food is meant to nourish us…not just fill a hole and satisfy hunger.  I feel like when I spend money to buy top knotch food, I’m actually investing in a healthy future for my family.

I’d like to challenge your thinking just a little bit if you fall into the category of one who thinks that “you can’t afford to eat healthier”.  You may not have much extra in your grocery budget, but that doesn’t mean you have to feed your family unhealthy foods. 

It does mean you may have to work a little harder to find good, whole foods.  You may have to change some of your habits.  You may have to cut some other unnecessary spending out of your budget.  But you don’t get to cop out with excuses about not being able to afford healthy foods.  (I know this first hand as our family was barely scraping by a couple of years ago, yet we did not have to compromise the quality of food we ate.  We just had to be creative!)

I’ve just about come to the conclusion that eating real food costs less than eating processed food if you go about it the right way.  Now, does grass fed beef and free range chicken and raw milk and organic produce generally cost more than the “regular” beef and chicken and milk and produce from the store?  Sure.  (Although I’ve found many ways to save on those items too which I’ll address later on in this series.)  But just hear me out on this.  My boys and I did a little research one day when we were out shopping.  Then we came home and did the math.  We were shocked at the results we found!

The reason, by the way, that we did this little experiment is because I’m tired of people telling me that fresh produce is too expensive.  So instead of giving their kids fruits and vegetables, moms (the ones complaining to me about “expensive” fruits and vegetables) fill them up on “cheaper food” like crackers and fruit snacks.  I wanted to see if indeed crackers and fruit snacks were cheaper than fresh produce.

My boys and I went down the snack aisle, writing down prices and ounces of some popular snack items.  Then we wrote down prices of some of our favorite fresh fruits like apples, watermelon, pineapple, bananas, oranges, peaches…

The cost for the best in-season produce averages to be around $1.00 to $1.50 per pound (or even much less in many cases). 

But check this out: 

  • The cost for a box of cheese crackers…$3.20/pound (yes, we actually calculated how much the cost was per pound!)
  • The cost for chocolate sandwich cookies with the white filling inside that you lick out and dunk in milk (yeah, you know what I’m talking about)…$3.84/pound
  • The cost for an off brand of fruit snacks…$2.56/pound
  • The cost for a box of granola bars…$4.18/pound

Now, I know this price comparison isn’t apples to apples (literally!).  I recognize that you can use coupons to cut the cost of the boxes of snacks.  I realize that when you pay for a watermelon, you’re paying for the rind that you cut away, so that part shouldn’t really count when you’re figuring cost per pound.  Yes, I realize all of the variables that make this experiment not exact.

But I hope you kind of get the idea that when you break down the cost of processed foods (that do practically nothing to nourish us) compared to the cost of fresh produce (which do quite a bit to actually nourish us)…you aren’t really right on track if you think that buying “cheap” boxes of snacks is saving you money.  Produce, if bought in season, is really quite reasonably priced. 

Alrighty…this post is getting long!!  I’ll stop there and we can talk more later about all kinds of other things you can do to save money as you switch to a healthier lifestyle.  There’s so much to talk about as we break down Simple Steps Toward Healthy Eating!

But do give some thought to your mind-set about spending money on food.  Are you looking at it in the right way?  Are you really saving money when you avoid some of the “more expensive” healthier foods and instead buy “cheaper” food?

And what about the long term effects of not eating healthy now?  Will health care costs outweigh what we might be saving in groceries?

Healthy Beverages

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I’ve encouraged you to knock out the soda/pop/coke…whatever you call it.  I’ve encouraged you to drink more water.  But is there anything you can drink besides water that isn’t bad for you?!

First, I need to remind you that if I can kick my Pepsi habit…anyone can.  I used to drink a ton of the stuff.  While it’s super hard to give it up…I can testify that it is 100% worth it. 

Now I mostly just drink water or raw milk (more about raw milk eventually in this series!).  But occasionally I do have a few other drinks that I consider to be treats:

  • Iced Green Tea   I don’t drink tea very often, but I love it as a treat if we ever eat out…or occasionally I’ll make it at home.  I drink it straight…I am not a sweet tea kind of girl.  I do like the occasional lemon wedge.  (See, I just sometimes like to go ALL out, huh?)  If you do like your tea sweetened, you might try liquid stevia or honey as natural alternatives to sugar.  Also, I’d think putting a little bit of 100% juice into the tea might be fun.

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  • Homemade Lemonade or Limeade  Ooh, this stuff is refreshing and SO delicious (uh, if I do say so myself).  It can get a little pricey though since it’s sweetened with real maple syrup.  We have this very infrequently…definitely not often enough according to my children.

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  • Mineral Water with 100% Juice   Okay, THIS is what gives me my “soda fix”.  You know what I miss most about my Pepsi?  The burn.  I just love the fizzy burn of soda.  Loved.  Past tense.  I loved the burn of soda.  I miss the burn. Sometimes now I splurge on mineral water and put in just a shot of 100% juice (grape is my favorite).  I usually mix about one part grape juice to 4 parts mineral water.  Ooh, the burn is so good. If you’re used to drinking soda, this mixture will likely not taste at all sweet enough for you.  However, if you haven’t had soda for a while, you may find that this is just the treat you’ve been looking for.  I even find now that the less juice the better.  Of course…I’m really just going for the burn.  ;)

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  • Kombucha    I’ve just recently fallen in LOVE with kombucha!  It kinda took a few weeks to make myself like it…but now I love it!  It’s a little bit fizzy and really refreshing on a hot day.  And it is a super healthy, probiotic drink! Right now, a friend of mine and I have a lovely arrangement worked out:  I buy the supplies…she makes the kombucha and shares it with me.  We both win!  Eventually (although I make no promises that it will be any time soon), I’ll try to go take pictures of her making it and share the process with you.  It isn’t hard…I’ve done it before.

Now, I am excited to share a wonderful comment that my friend Serenity left on a post several months ago.  I thought it was so awesome to read about how her husband gave up coffee…and to hear about how much BETTER HE FEELS!!!  Here’s what Serentity had to say…

My husband is an RN and had a coffee addiction for YEARS. He finally quit this winter when he got the flu and I can not believe how it has changed him. First, he is no longer tired. He was drinking coffee to stay awake (he works nights) but he has found that without caffeine he is actually much more alert and less tired. Second, right after quitting coffee he felt so good that he started exercising. Now he runs 3 times a week for 4-5 miles and lifts weights twice a week. He looks AWESOME! For the first time in our marriage he jumps out of bed each morning ready to conquer the day. For the past ten years I had been bringing him a cup of coffee every morning to wake him up and I would have to coax him out of bed. I am loving my energetic, motivated husband :)

What are some of your favorite, healthier drinks?