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In my two previous posts I spent some time explaining how living a natural lifestyle, and eating real food, can become an idol. It is easy to worship the god of comfort and security when we falsely believe we can control the length of our lives. As Christians, we should strive to glorify the One True God with all aspects of our life, while keeping unity among believers. We must learn to flee from idolatry, as it’s easy to make any good thing a “god” thing.
My heart with this series was to build a foundation on Scripture before divulging details about my diet. Like I mentioned in part one, eating real food can quickly become divisive, and my heart is not to stir things up. I have hope that my experiences may be able to encourage, and possibly benefit, some who may be seeking a change in their eating habits.
Keep in mind that I am not an expert, or a doctor, so please don’t make any drastic changes in your diet without consulting a professional. This is just my personal experience. What I have found to be helpful may be ineffective, or even detrimental, for the next person.
Two years ago I made some big changes to our diet. It was early in the summer, and I had just begun visiting our local farmer’s market every Friday afternoon. I fell in love with the fresh eggs (laid that morning!), and the most beautiful variety of fruits and vegetables I had ever seen. As I began to build a relationship with the various farmers, they would generously throw “extras” into my bag. Let’s just say that my culinary skills grew as I learned how to cook with things like kohlrabi, garlic scapes, and beets. It was so fun, and I loved supporting our local hard working farmers!
As I dug deeper into my research of real food, I learned all about pesticides and organic vegetables, GMO’s, and factory farms where animals lived in squalor and were pumped with antibiotics. I watched the documentary Food Inc. (which I highly recommend), and read the book The Maker’s Diet, and knew I would never look at food the same way again.
Like I mentioned in my first post, researching this stuff can be overwhelming. You start reading, and clicking through the Internet, and all of a sudden everything you consume is trying to kill you! Our diet needed to change, but it took me a while to get to a point where my heart was content with the specific changes we could do on our budget.
Here’s what I decided would be best for us, and what has worked for us so far. It’s truly an ever changing process as we listen to our bodies and decipher what they may be telling us. This may look different for you, so I encourage you to do your own research, and figure out what your needs are.
I want to keep this simple, and not terribly long, so here is a list of the main food groups we have added, or eliminated, from our diet. These are the most consistent elements below.
Added: More vegetables. A lot more. Like 50% of our meal are typically veggies. If I can afford organic, I will buy it, but I usually try and stick to the “dirty dozen and the clean fifteen,” and don’t stress out about some conventional produce in our diet. During our summers in Pittsburgh I would buy as much local produce as possible through our CSA (community supported agriculture), or local markets. I found that the prices on local produce were often cheaper than the grocery stores!
Added: Eggs! Lots and lots of eggs. We eat eggs for breakfast almost every morning. They can be a very frugal lunch or dinner as well (frittatas and egg casseroles are big in our house). While in Pittsburgh, I would buy our eggs from the local farmers market, or grocery store, where they had local eggs available. The shorter the distance the eggs have traveled, the more fresh, and nourishing, they will be. If the chickens are truly able to roam wherever they please, are getting a lot of sun, and are able to peck at lots of bugs, the eggs will be very high quality!
Added: Chicken and beef that are free from hormones and antibiotics. The price tag on pastured/free-range chicken and grass-fed beef are a little steep for our budget, so I only purchase them occasionally. It tastes better that way anyway! However, being close to a Trader Joe’s now, I have noticed their grass-fed ground beef and free-range chickens are quite affordable compared to some other stores!
Added: Good fats! This is one of my favorites, and I believe one of the most important. I’ve read a lot about how our bodies need good fats (even saturated fat!) to operate at optimal health. I won’t try and explain it all here, but you can read about healthy oils here and here. Mainstream medicine has told us for years that all fat is bad, and that’s just not the case. There isn’t evidence to back that up anymore, and many doctors are catching on and changing their views. For me, I found that adding virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and pastured butter to my diet have done wonders for my health. I believe that the coconut oil directly contributed to healing my winter “blues” and also contributed to some weight loss. Yes, I lost weight when I added more fat to my diet! Google “benefits of coconut oil” or something similar, and you can read all about it. It’s pretty amazing what this special oil does!
Eliminated: Bad fats, which include hydrogenated oils, all forms of margarine, vegetable, cottonseed, soybean, corn and canola oil. These fats are not natural, and have been highly processed by man as a cheaper option to olive oil. Once I started reading ingredient labels I realized how difficult it is to avoid these types of bad fats, and gave me more reason to cook meals from scratch with the good fats listed above.
Eliminated: Refined sugar and refined flour. This is how I lost a lot of weight, and I believe was the biggest factor towards reducing my headaches as well. Sugar is incredibly addictive and is in everything. Seriously, everything. I have a very strong sweet tooth, and have always found it difficult to resist baked goods. Once I started listening to my body, I discovered that I felt bloated, sluggish, and icky after eating things like pasta, bread (white and whole wheat), baked goods, and anything in that family. Food is supposed to energize and nourish us, not make us feel terrible! Once I started eliminating these two ingredients, I quickly felt better, looked better, my clothes fit better, and my headaches diminished.
Added: I still don’t eat much pasta, or bread, but I do react ok to rice, and sprouted grain bread like the Ezekiel brand. I won’t go into detail about sprouted grains here, but essentially, grains that have been soaked and sprouted the traditional way are much healthier, and easier to digest, than the modern wheat we find in most food today.
Added: Local raw honey. It’s delicious and I think has helped keep my occasional seasonal allergies at bay for a few years. This is my natural sweetener of choice, along with local maple syrup when available.
Currently up for debate: Dairy. I love cheese. I love grass-fed butter (and I don’t plan on giving that up anytime soon), and I love organic half and half in my coffee. If we’re going to eat dairy, I prefer it to be full fat. We tried raw milk for a few months, but found the drive to the farm (in PA) unsustainable, and too expensive. There are a few health issues we are working through, and eliminating dairy completely may help, so that’s why it’s up for debate. I see how it can be both beneficial, or terribly detrimental. That’s why we’re currently working through this in our home.
Added: Coconut milk, or coconut cream. Since we’re trying to stay away from dairy, coconut milk is a fantastic substitute to satisfy that creamy taste we crave. It’s great in curries and soups, and a nourishing source of fat!
One last note: I don’t count calories. Ever. I also rarely weigh myself. I eat until I’m satisfied. Not bloated, or overly full. Just satisfied. When you eat food that is truly nourishing, and high quality, you will feel full on smaller quantities, while hopefully getting the nutrients your body needs. I have learned to listen to my body, and have figured out which foods are unhelpful to me personally. I am now able to easily maintain a healthy weight just by choosing the foods I know are best for my needs, while avoiding the others.
There is a lot of good that mainstream medicine offers, but I personally believe there is always a more natural (and less expensive) option available. I love trying out natural remedies for various ailments, and get so excited when I find one that works! For example, lavender essential oil has helped me sleep peacefully over the past eight months. Raw apple cider vinegar has relieved allergies, bellyaches, and bloating. And eating raw garlic has fought off countless colds and flu’s. Just don’t get too close to us during the winter months (we stink!). Sometimes I feel like a detective/scientist/crazy weird hippie woman….but when money is saved, and a doctor’s visit is avoided, I count it a huge win!
When we started this real food journey, I went all in and changed pretty much everything at once. I probably wouldn’t recommend doing that, unless your family is extremely flexible, willing to try some crazy things, and loves any variety of food. It’s probably best to make one change at a time, and see how your family reacts to it. Take it slow, and don’t get discouraged by the loud, and sometimes overwhelming, voices about food. Remember, God knows your end from your beginning, and you can’t extend your life by even one moment, even if you eat a perfectly clean diet. There is so much freedom when we trust that He is in control. Enjoy Him, and enjoy the freedom we have to eat yummy, nourishing food!