Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Getting Real - Food

In My Resolution post, I shared that we are getting real in our house. If you follow me on twitter or are friends with me on facebook, you know I've been mildly (or not so mildly) obsessed lately with health documentaries and researching information about processed foods, what's in our water, nutrients, and so much more.

Forget fad diets and counting calories. Those simply are not sustainable long term. Not for me and not for MOST people. The more I learn, the more I'm convinced that to be truly healthy, not to mention a more responsible citizen of our planet, we must consume more food that is unprocessed and resembles what it looks like in nature. Real food, not food like products. Real food, not food coated in chemicals and preservatives.

There is a lot of information out there for you to research yourself, but at the core of this "Real Food" movement there is basically a lot of common sense. Put simply, our bodies were designed to function a certain way and to need certain nutrients. These nutrients are the fuel for our body. If you put something in your body it wasn't designed to process or digest, it seems a logical conclusion that our bodies will malfunction. Considering the vast majority of the "food" we consume as Americans comes in a box or can, with chemicals and preservatives and huge amounts of refined sugar (which is NOT a real food - it's found nowhere in nature), it's no wonder we are so sick, tired, out of shape and overweight!

So, we are making changes around here. The 100 Days of Real Food blog has been a great resource for me in taking the plunge towards an unprocessed life. I highly encourage you to check it out. Now, I'm not saying I'm perfect or that we don't eat ANY processed food anymore. In fact, there is macaroni and cheese in my pantry, and I fed my kids frozen waffles from a box this morning (they were partially whole grain...but that's only partially helpful). I will still choose to eat fast food from time to time and won't be picky when eating at others' homes. I'm not about to analyze another's cooking with questions like, "Is this bread really whole grain or is it made from enriched white flour," and "Is this cheese organic and local or did you buy it from Wal-Mart?" There are some things that are just out of our control and it's not my desire to disrupt other people's lives because of choices I'm making in my own.

In my opinion, getting real doesn't mean being perfect and never having a doughnut. To me it means decreasing the amount of crap and increasing the amount of real nutrients I put in my body so that when I do eat a little crap it's not nearly as detrimental. At least...that seems logical to me! So we're slowly making small changes.

Replacing the Staples:

Rather than dumping out everything in my fridge and pantry and spending a buttload of money on new products, I am slowly making better choices as we run out of staple food items. Also, I figure that even if I don't replace everything in our diets with unprocessed options, I can at least replace the things we eat the most of. Here are some examples:
  • Bread. I do not buy store bought bread any more. Even the most healthy looking (and expensive) brands contain sugar, dyes, high fructose corn syrup and unnecessary additives. I now make my own bread at home from real, natural ingredients. All toast, bread and butter, kids sandwiches are from this bread. One of these days I'll do a separate post on the recipe and how I do it step-by-step. For now, ask me if you're interested!
  • Coffee Fixin's - Coffee is a daily must for me. I used to use flavored creamers in my coffee which have partially hydrogenated oils, sugar and corn syrups in them (among other things) which are b.a.d. I now use real dairy cream or half and half, with local honey (I use Cheatwood's, made in Sapulpa) or 100% Pure Maple Syrup for sweetener. 
  • Granola - The kids are still not psyched about it for breakfast, but I snack on it often. I've shared my mama-nola recipe before and it's the same one. On greek yogurt or alone it's a great alternative the sugary overprocessed boxed cereals in the grocery store!
  • Kids' Breakfasts - We are eating more plain oatmeal, homemade real food waffles or pancakes, eggs and toast and fresh fruit. 
  • Lots of Fresh Fruit and Veggies. Not canned, but sometimes frozen. Yes, my kids eat salad. No, they didn't used to. That took work, time and patience. Not very long ago, my littles would gag and vomit at the dinner table if I put "leaves" on their plates. But I stayed steadfast, kept putting it in front of them and basically told them if they didn't want it, they didn't get dinner. They've gone to bed hungry many nights, but now ask for SECONDS on salad and other veggies! My fruit bowl stays full of apples, bananas, pears, oranges and the like and the kids know that they can help themselves to it whenever they want! Me too!
  • Butter and Real Fats - Yep. NO more margerine or spray butters. No more refined oils like canola oil. Butter and Olive Oil are real, minimally processed fats that are actually nutritious. I do try not to overdo it on the fats, but incorporating REAL, healthy fats in our diets is very important for absorbing other vital nutrients!
  • Reading Labels - This is really the starting point for everything, and it's still tripping me up. I should know better by now to trust something that says "natural peanut butter" without reading the label. I recently bought commercial mayonnaise, dry roasted peanuts and peanut butter thinking it was safe, only to find they all had TONS of other "stuff" in them. The more you read labels, the more you will find hidden sugars, preservatives and fillers that have no connection with the perceived food you are purchasing. Reading labels helps you learn what is real food and what is a food substitute!
I have found as I've started eating this way, I feel better. I lose weight without trying. I gain weight back and start feeling bloated and tired when I start letting processed foods creep back in. When I eat real food, my body shape looks better, my skin looks better and it's harder for me to get sick. In November and December, when my family went through a massive bout of illness, I remained the healthiest by far (though I did have a few days with a cough/cold, it was definitely minor compared to everyone else).

It's still a journey, and I'm learning, and I will share more with you along the way!

Here's to happy and healthy eating!

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