Simple Steps Toward Healthy Eating, Part 1

simplesteps

When I finished telling you about Our Healthy Eating Journey, I told you I wanted to begin a new series to help break down some specific things you can do if you would like to begin your own journey toward healthy eating.

You may already feel great about where you are on your healthy eating journey.  You may already be eating a wonderfully healthy diet.  If so, great!  I hope you’ll still join us during this series, leaving your own helpful comments and ideas on each post!

But, if you are just beginning your journey toward healthy eating and would like some practical tips and attainable advice on how to make this journey simple and do-able…stick around.  I don’t promise to write this series very quickly.  I may only be able to post a new “simple step” once every few weeks or so.  But, that may be just the pace you need to begin making changes in the way you and your family eat and think about food.  If you want to move faster, that’s just fine…but making too many healthy changes too quickly may be overwhelming to you and can certainly make a husband or child want to run away to find the nearest Cheeto. 

Take small steps.  Take simple steps.

But do take steps. 

It is important for your health and for the health of your loved ones that you start taking some simple steps toward healthy eating.  Our bodies need nourishment.  Start doing what you can to fill your bodies up with great nourishment!  It isn’t as hard as you think!  You can do this!

Here is what I am going to suggest as a first small step toward healthier eating:  Focus on eating more fruits and vegetables.

That’s it.  All I’m asking you to do is eat a grape.  See?  I’m totally reasonable and practical.  Nothing weird.  Nothing freaky or icky.  Just focus on colorful fruits and vegetables.

Here are a few helpful tips and ideas to encourage your fruit and vegetable intake:

  • Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables are the most nutritious.  Canned is better than none at all.  Organic is best, but if that isn’t a step you’re ready to take yet, don’t worry.  Just eat fruits and vegetables. 
  • Look for fruits and vegetables that are on sale…but try very hard not to focus on how difficult it might be to spend money on produce.  I’ve heard people talk about how they just can’t stand to spend $3.50 on a fresh pineapple…but they’ll turn right around and throw a big bag of potato chips into their cart that costs the same amount.  Let the fruits and vegetables replace some of the processed snacks that you normally buy and you won’t even feel the financial difference.
  • Stock up on your favorites.  I personally can’t stand red delicious apples from the store.  They taste grainy and nasty to me, so if all I have in the house are red delicious apples…I will not eat them.  BUT put gala apples in the house and I’ll eat three.  Each day.  I LOVE gala apples.  Get your favorite fruits and veggies, get your husband’s favorites, get your kids’ favorites.  You are all much more likely to eat them if you love them.
  • Try something new.  Have a little fun trying fruits or vegetables you’ve never tried before.  Try fixing your old favorites in a new way.
  • Hide them.  If you haven’t tried these Strawberry-Peach Slushies (that secretly have raw spinach in them) you are missing out.  My whole family devours these slushies and never think twice about the fact that there is something green hiding within. 

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Focus on how packed full of vitamins and wonderfulness fruits and vegetables are!  Work on eating them as an incredible way to improve your health and the health of your family!  What a perfect first step toward healthy eating!

So tell me…what are your favorite fruits and vegetables?  Think you can challenge yourself to eat just a few more?  (Nod your head yes.)

Right before publishing this, I asked my husband what HE would recommend as the first, most important step a person should take toward healthy eating.  I found his answer so very interesting and insightful…as well as completely different from what I was thinking.  Want to know Matt’s advice and idea for a great first step?  I’ll write about that next in this series!

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Comments

  1. says

    Serve your steamed veggies with lots of butter. It will taste better, and the fat in the butter is good for you and aids your body in the absorption of all the vitamins from your lovely green things.

    Sautee it in butter. I love collards, kale, cress, and chard sauteed in butter. When you serve them, have some raw apple cider vinegar to drizzle on the top, they will be sweet and buttery and slightly tangy from the vinegar. Also lovely sauteed: carrot sticks, broccoli (try it with bacon!), tender young peas in the pod, fresh snap beans.

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  2. says

    You’re so right – eating vegetables/fruits of any sort is much better for our health than constantly snacking on cookies or crisps. Can I just enter a slightly different opinion on one point, though?

    Depending on where you live, frozen veggies are often the most nutritious (and fruits canned in natural juice with no added sugar). We know that a fruit/vegetable loses more nutrients the longer it is separated from its source of food (plant). I live in an inland city, surrounded by sheep farms, and most of our fresh produce has to be trucked in. It often spends days on a truck, and then who-knows-how-many days on the store shelf, before it comes into our home and can sit in the fridge for a few more days before being eaten. Also, they are usually picked before they are completely ripe so they will travel better (no bruises.)
    Thanks for the series, Laura.
    Frozen veggies and canned fruits, on the other hand, are often picked when ripe and then snap frozen or steamed in the can within 36 hours which seals in much of the goodness. They are most often cheaper than fresh produce too.

    Obviously there are recipes that won’t be possible to make using frozen or canned goods. But for stews, casseroles, side-dish vegetables, or fruit for cooking/baking I always use frozen/canned variety.

    Of course, if you live close to a farmers market, produce-growing area or are lucky enough to have your own garden then fresh is certainly best!

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  3. says

    Great advice! I am all for a mindset that promotes eating more of something and not less of something. For me, it’s just easier to try to eat more veggies and fruits. That way, I am fuller and have less room for the other, less healthy foods.

    My favorite veggies are carrots, asparagus and peas but I definitely have room in my diet to try new ones! I have been searching for artichokes for a grilled recipe I have, but so far none of the grocery stores in my area carry them.

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  4. carmen says

    I was making smoothies with spinach that I loved but my kids weren’t too crazy about. Then, one day we were in costco and this guy was giving samples of smoothies. They were green and my kids loved them!! So, I asked what he put in his. Spinach, banana, pineapple, orange, 100% white grape juice concentrate, and “organic sweetener” (I think it was agave). So, we came home and I started making them mostly the same. Sometimes I use fresh pineapple, sometimes canned, sometimes a little oj concentrate instead of the orange and sometimes grapes instead of the grape juice. I also add ice and some water. At first I was adding a little honey but one day I forgot and no one could tell so now I don’t even add that. The kids drink these all the time.

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  5. says

    I am lucky that we do eat a variety of fruits and veggies over here. I even ordered Door to Door Organics, which will deliver them right to my house. They eat them even more after I did this. I think it’s the thrill of receiving a box every week. I personally LOVE broccoli, cukes, gr peppers, and gr apples. WOW! I never noticed that like some many green veggies/fruits. :)

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  6. Jennifer says

    I love Gala apples too! They are my favorite. My husband really likes Granny Smiths, I think eating a granny smith is like eating a lemon, but I buy them for him :-) If people say they don’t like apples, they should give them a second chance because there are just so many varieties out there.

    I don’t think I have ever met a vegetable I didn’t like. The hardest part for me is all the work that is required to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables. I find that if I take 30 min to chop up a few veggies to snack on during the week I am much more likely to reach for raw veggies and dip than say…chips or cookies. Smoothies are also a great way to get fruits (and sometimes veggies).

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  7. says

    Yes, yes, yes! I’m so looking forward to the rest of this series, and so in agreement about the sale point. I was in the grocery store last week and watched a woman who had a cart full of Dorito’s, frozen pizza and Mountain Dew complain that bananas were too expensive. Bananas! They were 47 cents a pound and I am still in shock.

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    Amy Floyd Reply:

    Last time I was in Walmart, I was standing in a long line for quite some time. I spent my time looking around at the shopping baskets. I was in the food section, so the buggies were full of foodl. I felt that after that experience that (1) nutrition (or lack thereof) is DEFINITELY the reason for our chronically sick society and (2) Americans have a love affair with sugar, of all kids. I don’t really recall seeing any fresh anything amidst the cases of soda and bags of chips and frozen meals. Ugh. Alas, my buggy has been like that in the past…

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  8. Lois says

    I prefer fruits to vegetables. Raw veggies are boring, and I hate cutting them all up. I enjoy salads, but dislike making them. Lettuce never gets used up before it goes bad, and I feel I’m wasting food. I agree with the lady who said frozen vegetables are the way to go. I can heat up enough peas, corn or beans for our family to eat without any waste. Naturally, out of the garden is best, but it’s hard to keep up with it all, either eating or canning. I did have a juicer before we moved and I sold it because I didn’t use it enough, but I liked a combination of carrot and apple juice plus a little whatever else. Usually it turned out an ugly color so the kids didn’t like it, and it always separated for some reason. But give me a colorful fruit salad, or a piece of fruit and I’m a happy camper.

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    Carmen Reply:

    Since there are only two of us in our household (God-willing, three in December), what we have done sometimes in the past is stopped at the deli section of our grocery store and picked up “salad” that way. We buy enough to make two large salads for us and we don’t have to worry about leftovers or waste. If you stay away from the heavy items (like tomatoes), either by skipping them altogether or purchasing separately, you can get salad fixings rather inexpensively in just the right amount. For example, we’ll get lettuce, mushrooms, and cucumber slices – but we almost always have tomatoes, cheese, croutons, frozen peas, and salad dressing at home so we don’t need to buy those.

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  9. Amy Floyd says

    When we first began our healthy eating journey a few years ago, I reconciled the cost of fresh produce with my idea of the “price per pound.” Bananas are 49 cents per pound. Apples are $1.99 per pound (at Whole Foods, which is where I shop). Potatos in the bag are just over $1 a pound. Responsibly raised, healthy meat is $3 and up a pound. This, for some reason, really helped me. First off, when I had this mentality, I just compared the cost per pound, and bought the stuff that gave me a better value per pound. That satisfied my frugal nature.

    The other thing that really helped me was to write down a menu plan IN DETAIL, which will help me write my shopping list. This would include the veggie/fruit that would be included at a meal. In our family, I make kefir smoothies near daily for 6-7 of us. This requires about 3 bananas. On my shopping list, I will write down 21 bananas(!) For lunches 3 days a week, I will slice up an apple for us to have with cheese and crackers. So on my shopping list, I will write down 3 apples.

    This year, I am going to bit the bullet and buy some of our favorite fruits in bulk at the peak season price to freeze: blueberries, strawberries, peaches.

    I have also started to move away from serving a starch (potato/rice) with a meal and instead serve a side of veggies. Last night, my husband and I had fried cod with a side of fresh green beans cooked in chicken bone broth.

    Great series! I look forward to sharing and to gleaning new ideas!

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    Stephanie Reply:

    I love the idea of “21 bananas” – that would make it sooo much easier
    to buy enough, without leaving a lot of room for waste. Thanks!!

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    Ann Reply:

    I buy a 4-5 bunches of bananas at a time and have my kids peel them
    and break them into chunks to freeze. I freeze them on trays, then
    transfer to (re-used) ziplock bags. When I’m ready to make smoothies,
    I just grab a new bag from the freezer.

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  10. Erin says

    I am a mother of three and work full-time. I found an easy to get veggies into our diet by preparing all the veggies on the weekend as soon as I bring them home. I clean all the veggies so they are ready to go. Tear all the lettuces and put them in a special container so they are ready for salads. Peel and chop carrots, parsnips, celery, etc… Some of this I steam and puree for baby food and some of the puree I reserve to sneak into other things for my three year old.

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  11. DorthyM says

    I love this! I have low iron so one of the things I’ve been doing is adding a handful of frozen spinach to my scrambled eggs. I usually saute the spinach first in butter and then add the eggs and scramble away. Even my super picky son eats it. It helps if I sprinkle on a bit of cheese. And omelets can be a way of getting in a few more bites of veggies than my son would normally eat.
    Having some fruits and veggies cut up and ready to go in the fridge makes it a lot easier to snack on during the day or cook with (the snack part only works if “someone” (okay, me) didnt go crazy in the snack aisle and buy chips or cookies. Guess which gets eaten first? But like you said, one step at a time. We’ve eliminated sodas, now to work on this step.

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  12. says

    For years I’ve tried adding a 2nd vegetable at dinner. I knew that having veggies was so important, but honestly it was so hard to get one vegetable on the table let alone two!

    Recently, I stopped baking as many homemade goodies so now I have TIME to focus on the veggies. I focus on the veggie, then the protein, and then the fruit. For a snack, it’s now a piece of cheese or peanut butter with a fruit (apple or banana). If I wash veggies and leave them out we eat a LOT more!

    It’s hard to make the switch, but I have found it gets easier over time.

    I look forward to this series!

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  13. says

    I am new to eating healthy but have learned a few things to help increase fruit/veggie intake. First, my girls are little so raw veggies are just too hard for them to eat. I try to serve soft cooked veggies with every meal so we get enough. Second, I try to avoid any prepackaged snacks and use that money to buy lots of fruit. I buy what is on sale or what is seasonally available. Then I put it on a divided tray with lid in the fridge so it is available whenever they want a snack. If you don’t have the convenience snacks, you will take the time to peel and slice an apple. Like another poster said, if you stop baking so many snacks, you will have more time to prep fruits and veggies. And they will eat it if they don’t have anything else to eat. I try to add new fruits whenever I can. I freeze my bananas when they start to go bad to use in smoothies. I keep frozen fruit and veggies in freezer for convenience. If I make the smoothie just right, they think it is a special treat, like ice cream! The frozen veggies help me to get more than one veggie on the table and keeps me from wasting the produce. Great series! Can’t wait to read more!

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  14. Valerie says

    Ok, I’m loving this info. Question though. Do you have a VitaMix? If not, what type of blender is everyone using for your smoothies? I’m about ready to invest in a Vitamix. I’d love to be able to make my own smoothies and the idea of being able to make my own flour is very intriguing. We are just getting started on this healthy eating journey. Well, we’ve always tried to eat healthy but we are ready to go hard core. Anyone watch Food Inc? Pass the veggies please.

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    Johnlyn Reply:

    I don’t have a VitaMix. I bought a blender from a thrift store and it’s been working fine so far.
    I think you have to get an older mixer though because the newer ones aren’t quite as powerful.

    I have thought about a VitaMix because of the flour grinder capability, but the more I read the more I doubt we should be eating very many grains anyway.

    Food Inc. I’m with you – Yucky stuff! We bought a side of beef from a local rancher because of that movie.

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    Laura Reply:

    I just use a regular ol’ cheap blender from Walmart for our smoothies.

    Food Inc. made me NEVER want to shop at a regular grocery store again!

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    Danielle Reply:

    I don’t even want to know! We don’t have a whole foods around here, and I despise Walmart! So I’m stuck w/our organic aisle at our local grocery store.

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  15. Heather says

    One way we have found here in Utah to eat more produce is to buy with a co-op. There are a few produce co-ops here in Utah and the one we use is fabulous! For $25 I get a basket of fruit and a basket of vegetables – the only downer is that organic is offered only every other week. I have found since doing this that when my kids ask me for a snack I just tell them to look in the produce drawers in the fridge – they are just as happy eating an apple, orange, kiwi, etc. as they were eating crackers or chips. I have also had fun trying different things – last week we got fennel, a few weeks back it was artichokes. I’m excited to read more from this series!

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  16. Janeen - triplet Mom says

    Excellent info Laura! Looking forward to the rest of the series! I recently have made more efforts to get more fruits and veggies into myself and my family. I, personally, feel awesome and love just about every fruit and vegetable there is. We love to eat a nice variety of colors!

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  17. says

    I love to make fruit smoothies, and I would eat them at least once a day (w/ spinach thrown in, too) if it wasn’t such a hassle to gather all the ingredients. So, I finally got smart. I made little baggies of frozen fruit, a variety like blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, mango, peach, whatever, and stashed them in the freezer. That way, when I’m craving a smoothie, i just pull out a baggie of fruit, add some spinach, plain yogurt, a splash of O.J. and a banana, and sometimes wheat germ, blend it up, and YUMMY! A snack my kiddo and I both love!

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    Laura Reply:

    SO smart! Such a good idea!

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    Cassy Reply:

    This is a great idea! I often buy the yoplait smoothies that are
    prepackaged because I too hate gathering the stuff to make the
    smoothies. But every time I buy my rounds of smoothies I cringe at the
    prices I am paying for convenience! This would be a great way to help
    me save money, eat a bit fresher and organic, AND have my great
    smoothies…however I’m going to pass on the spinach if you don’t
    mind! :)

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    sally Reply:

    Oh Cassy — yes, try it w/ real fruit. I promise if will taste so
    much better than the Yoplait version. I’ve tried that one, too, and I LOVE yoplait yogurt, but I wasn’t impressed w/ the smoothie.

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  18. Shannon says

    Hi Laura, SOOO, this is slightly off topic but a little relevant. In thinking about healthy eating, would you care to share what you recommend or did for your boys as you transitioned them to solids? I am a first time mom to an almost 4 month old, very healthy (read, chunky!) little guy. Looking online, there seems to be lots of varying info on what to introduce when. He is breastfed currently and quite honestly, most of what I’ve read seems to suggest rice cereal as a first food. But, that doesn’t actual seem that healthy or even natural to me. Any tips?

    Thanks for this series. It is such a journey. My new favorite way to get in more fruit is smoothies. Yum, yum.

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    Laura Reply:

    I completely recommend skipping the cereal. It’s not the best first food at all and can potentially wreck a babies digestive system.

    I breastfed mine exclusively for six months, then started feeding them homemade baby foods, specifically sweet potatoes, carrots, mashed green beans and the like.

    Then, I worked them into pureed food…just ground up the food we were eating for dinner.

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    Shannon Reply:

    Thanks so much Laura. Guess I need to trust my instinct a little more. And making my own baby food sounds way more fun than buying cereal.

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    Crystal Reply:

    I breastfed my son exclusively until 6 mths and then began intruducing pureed foods. He wasn’t interested and really didn’t get the hang of it for another month. I think I began with banana and did similarly to what Laura mentioned. He sounds like he’s doing great on Mommy’s milk! And for the first year that’s the best thing for him!

  19. elizabeth says

    This was a great post. Very informative for people trying to make the first steps. I have started buying organic items little by little and it IS expensive. BUT my grocery bill has only gone up about $10 a week, if that. I have cut out other “junkier” foods and it almost balances out. Also I have started buying more and more frozen veggies. We got some frozen organic asparagus at Whole Foods last week for under $2 and it was yummy.

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  20. Danielle says

    Oh gee.. been on here all day and I forget to list my fave fruits and veggies!!! (pssssst… Laura, maybe you should list the question at the top of the post).

    Hmmm my fave veggies? I REALLY think I have an aversion to veggies. Since I really only like TWO. And one really isn’t a veg! Those two are corn and potatoes. lol Ok maybe neither of them are veggies, depending on who you ask. I was never forced to eat veggies growing up… so now at my old age of 34 lol… I don’t eat a lot of veggies. I do try tho!

    Fruit???? LOVEEEEEEEE fruit!! My fave? strawberries! Followed by bananas. I have a lot of fruit right now. And i bought some all organic fruit puree juice. No added sugar, or preservatives. It’s EXCELLENT! I just wish it wasn’t $3.19 for ONE liter!

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    Carmen Reply:

    I’d say keep trying different veggies. Your tastes change as you get older and you may find some you like. If possible, head to a farmer’s market this summer and maybe try one new vegetable each week? month? You’ll get the freshest vegetables that way, and if you’re lucky they might sell tiny amounts to you if you tell them you want to give it a try.
    I love peas – picked fresh from the vine and eaten raw from the pod. They are so sweet!

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    Danielle Reply:

    Well.. I bit the bullet last week and tried broccoli! And guess what? I LOVE it!! Wel it was also in chicken and broccoli, my now fave Chinese dish! (bad I know but, I neeeeeeeeeeeeeded some Chinese)

    so now, I’m on a search to find more dishes w/sauces I can use broccoli in!

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  21. Carie says

    I’ve been working on waiting for local fruit. Our Oregon strawberries are worth the wait, freeze nicely and have a much smaller carbon foot print. I never seem to “save” enough blueberries to make it to the next season- working on hubby to find a spot for a deep freezer! We are always up for new veggies to try and hiding them never hurts either! Thanks for sharing on all the topics!

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  22. says

    I love veggies! I really couldn’t sit and name them all! Sauteed I like: squash, zucchini, onions, green beans and cabbage… I love cooked peas, like butter peas, purple hull, black eyed.. Raw, I like carrots, cucmber, tomato and broccoli, either alone with veggie dip or in a salad! Sunday night we grilled asparagus and it was so good too! I also love asparagus roasted.. as well as potatos and carrots. My kids especially like roasted carrots drizzled with a little olive oil and honey! So yummy! I could go on and on!

    My kids aren’t as veggie crazy as me… they like carrots and corn. They’ll only eat potatoes when I make oven fries. Although, my youngest did love the onion rings I made last week! They do love fruit though and will eat just about any kind of fruit I put on their plate! Tonight they were eating blueberries like candy! :)

    We live in an area where organic is just not available as far as produce. So, I just have to do what I can. My daddy does grow a big beautiful garden and we reap the benefits of his hard work!

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  23. says

    Thank you so much for doing this series. I read some of your other series last week and this is another breath of freshness for me. We do eat a lot fresh veggies and fruit. However, the other junk jumps in the basket and we are trying to shop trader joes and get more organic foods. We are able to buy organic chicken and we are also growing a garden again this year. Lets hope we don’t get tomato rot again this year. Too much water is not a good thing. I also had eczama as a child as well as still having asthma. I am still working on my husband to get the mill and by the hard white wheat to grind and us that instead of the white stuff. I really enjoy cooking and baking etc. Let’s hope he will see the light. For now will work at getting the healthy things into the body. Not to sure about the smooth thing. It is about the texture thing. Thanks for all your doing.

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