I have re-started my health journey recently in order to teach my son the value of nutritional food and be an example. We can not instill any value in our children unless we truly believe in it. And I am a firm believer that Mother Earth gives us everything we need to stay healthy and strong. I also believe that science is good but sometimes we get carried away and forget that we are only nature's children. As a full time employee and a full time mom I often took shortcuts that science gave me to make life easier. But life became unhealthy, or at least for me. I've always provided my son with healthy nutritious food, chemical free detergents for his clothes, toxin free washes and creams for his skin, and herbal medicine for his aches. But as often as I did it for him, I neglected to do it for myself. The pounds kept going up, multiple aches and pains started sneaking on me, the constant fatigue, sleeplessness, mood changes. Thyroid and adrenal problems started. It was easy at first to blame the fact that we had a newborn , and eventually went back to full time hours at my job. But my son is almost two now and I had to face the facts. Changes needed to be made and it was all up to me. I am the one that buys food, cooks the meals, so practically I am the one responsible for my family's well-being and their health.
I've been going through my expanding library of books on nutrition ( really thankful for my Kindle ) and I've been trying to figure out the common denominators. Here is what I've summed up as the basic steps on the journey to health:
- Cut out all processed foods - It is very important to eat foods that are closest to their natural state, like raw fruits and veggies, whole grains, raw nuts and seeds, grass fed meats and pastured eggs. Giving up all processed foods doesn't mean giving up everything we love, it doesn't mean eating only raw salads ( which is a great thing if you are up for it), or giving up condiments and delicious crusty breads (for example). There is a wonderful book called "Nourishing traditions" and it is a great starting point for anybody who wants to return to basics and embrace the "whole foods" way of eating. I look at modern processed food as a chemistry experiment and I have decided not to take part of it as much as possible. I like to eat food that eventually spoils and that I can make at home. If I can't pronounce the ingredients I don't eat the product.
- Eat your fruits and veggies - It is so simple it almost seems like there is no need to mention it. Still, there is people that have never tasted a lot of what their grocery store offers, not to mention that there is even more people that have never been to a farmers market. There is also the big controversy about going all organic and avoiding all non organic produce like poison. I think that both those are extremes and we can find an easier path to healthy nutrition when we educate ourselves. In our house, we try to follow the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 rule. If it is on the Dirty Dozen list , we buy organic or local ( which is often grown organic but the farmer has not been through the expensive process of getting certified). If it is on the Clean 15 list , we can buy the items from the grocery produce section. Snack on fruit and have fresh or steamed veggies with each meal and you will be on you way to health in no time.
- Meat , Dairy and Eggs - The opinion here is again divided into two points of view : vegetarians/ vegans and followers of diets like Atkins. For me, it doesn't matter which one you choose . What matters is the quality and the nutritional value of the products we put in our bodies. Choose grass fed and pastured meats, pastured eggs, organic, non homogenized milk ( or raw milk if you have access to it). Use nourishing bone broths for soups and stews.
- Fermented foods - Fermentation is a natural process and is a traditional way of preserving food without the use of fancy equipment. Fermented veggies, like sour kraut , kim chi, pickles, carrots, and others, make great condiments and are full of probiotics. Homemade yogurt, kefir, kombucha , are an amazingly easy additions to our diet that can keep us healthy and "doctor" free.
- Know your grains - There is such a great variety of grains out there. Experiment. play it safe at first and use some barley or brown rice instead of white rice. Add some quinoa to soups and stews. Try buckwheat pancakes for breakfast. Use spelt flour for baking. I love using almond meal and coconut flour for making muffins and loaf breads. It is delicious, grain- free option. My family didn't know until I told them, and they are still pretty excited, since muffins are now something we have at home all the time.
- Sweeteners - Forget all that zero calorie, made from sugar, but not sugar, stuff. Use real healthy , unprocessed sweeteners like sucanat (evaporated unprocessed cane juice), honey, maple syrup( not pancake syrup, the real stuff), dried fruit and molasses. They not only sweeten your food but are full of vitamins and minerals.
- "I can not afford to eat healthy" - I feel like this is the number one excuse for people not to eat healthy. In our house we spend a good portion of our income on food. Produce is expensive, but we try to buy things in season, which are often on sale. So, we won't eat strawberries all winter and go for a pumpkin desert instead or use frozen berries for muffins and smoothies. It is still healthy and delicious and it does not break the bank. Pastured, grass fed meats and eggs are expensive but we try to make veggies the main event in our meals and use broths to make soups and stews. This still brings the nutritional value of the meat into our diets. Basically, think about how much nutrition you get for your dollar and spend some extra time in the kitchen. If you spend some time planning and prepping when you have the time and energy , you can be eating healthy foods all the time, even when exhausted after a long day at work.
What are some ways you keep your family nourished and healthy?