Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Steps We've Taken To A Healthier Diet

I made a new friend at the retreat I attended last weekend. It didn't take long to realize that we share similar views in health and nutrition. I have yet to meet many  "in real life" like-minded friends as far as nutrition goes, so this was a rare treat for me!

In one of our hurried and quick conversations in between sessions and after meals, she asked me what baby steps I've implemented so far. I thought this would make a great blog post since I haven't covered this type of list in a while.

First off, I need to clarify what I consider to be a healthy diet.  For us, this means Real Food. Real Food that is as close to the way God made it as possible. I'm baby-stepping my way into a more traditional way of cooking which tends to coincide a lot with The Weston A. Price Foundation's way of eating as well as the book Nourishing Traditions. Lots of good fats, pastured meats, full-fat dairy(preferably raw), pastured eggs, soaked grains and plenty of fresh fruits and veggies are what I aim for in our diet.

While I continue to make strides towards good nutrition, I have in no way arrived. And sometimes, I slide backwards as the bag of white sugar in my kitchen cabinet is shouting right now! Baby steps, baby steps!

So far, the changes we've made towards a healthier diet are:

1) Organic peanut butter with only peanuts and salt. Peanuts are highly sprayed so I like to buy organic.Costco is a good source for this.

2) Using olive oil and coconut oil instead of canola oil.

3) Switching to real butter instead of margarine. This was so difficult for me at first because of the price! Now I don't even think twice about it.

4) Buying local grass-fed beef.

5) Sucanat  and raw honey instead of refined sugar. I still go back and forth a little on this because of cost and availability. Also, some baked goods, such as sugar cookies and frostings just aren't the same with sucanat!

6) Buying the best chicken I can find. Earth Fare and Costco both carry some organic and better varieties than the traditional grocery store chicken. I hope to find a local source for pastured chickens and make a bulk purchase as I have been able to do with the beef.

7) Maple syrup instead of the fake HFCS variety from the store. Again, the cost made me gulp, but I've found ways to make it stretch and there is no comparison with the taste! I've been buying a non-organic jug at Costco but since have discovered an online source for organic syrup direct from a farmer for only a few dollars more, which I would like to try.

8) Purchased a Nutrimill and began grinding fresh flour for all of my bread and baked goods. Yum!

9) I've gotten my feet wet in the world of soaking grains. I routinely make soaked whole wheat bread and have also begun soaking my muffins and pancakes. Soaking grains and legumes such as brown rice and oats before cooking is really easy and I've begun doing this pretty consistently. Planning ahead is key to being successful in this area!

10) I make my own yogurt. My husband thought I was nuts when I first started to talk about trying this. Really, who makes their own yogurt? I started off using a small yogurt maker from the thrift store. Since then, I've switched to using my crockpot. Homemade yogurt is so easy to make and contains wonderful probiotics. We've gotten used to the plain yogurt so now when we eat the little tubs of store-bought yogurt (that we used to love so much!), they don't taste good at all to us. Instead, they taste very artificial. We really like the homemade plain variety much better! I eat mine plain or with some frozen berries and my husband still likes his with a drizzle of honey and some fruit. He isn't as fond of the tartness as I am! If I buy yogurt, we like the Stonyfield Farms really well, especially the French Vanilla flavor. Yummy!

11) We've pretty much eliminated High Fructose Corn Syrup from our diets. I say "pretty much" because it does seem to creep in occasionally. The main culprit for this has been ketchup, barbecue sauce and salad dressings. I've been buying organic ketchup which is HFCS-free which works well. We are not big ketchup eaters; the main thing we use ketchup for is to make homemade barbecue sauce. And that takes a lot of ketchup! Last week I purchased a bottle of Earth Fare organic barbecue sauce which was really good. Unless I can find a much better deal on ketchup, I might be better off just buying good barbecue sauce and then keeping a bottle of ketchup around for the occasional hamburger or hot dog.

As far as salad dressing goes, I've had a difficult time coming up with a homemade version that we both are fond of. I've tried quite a few recipes and most were ok, but not good enough to cause my husband to ditch his beloved creamy blue cheese dressing with all the bad ingredients! He makes a simple honey mustard dressing that's quite good and I tried a lemon-garlic oil dressing last week that we both seemed to enjoy so that's a possibility!

12) I make my own bone broths with either chicken bones/skins or beef bones. Even though I began making my own broth out of frugality, I now realize how healthy it is! I use my crockpot for this, too.

13) I buy organic produce whenever possible. Costco carries some organics at very good prices so I often get my organic salad greens and carrots there.

That's all I can think of right now. :-)

A couple other baby steps I'd like to pursue are:
- Good quality local, pastured eggs. I haven't been able to find a consistent source for eggs. When I can get them, I do and otherwise have been using regular grocery store eggs. I know, gasp!
- Local, pastured chicken.
-Sprouting grains to make my own sprouted flours.
-Organic butter.
-Choosing only raw milk. I have a good source for it but often forget to call ahead and order.

So that's where I am at right now with nutrition.

What about you? What baby steps have you made towards better health? What is your biggest obstacle in choosing better foods for your family? Please share!


hondo3777 said...
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gail said...

good for you! those are great steps and i'd say you are way past baby steps. we have been using butter only for years now. its been one of the best decisions we've made. we don't do alot of organic just cuz we can't afford it at this point. but we've switched to honey and i try to limit our high fructose corn syrup consumption as well.

do you save any money making yogurt yourself? we eat alot of it. that might be something i should try.

Mary Ann said...

We can't afford all organic either. I do what I can and try not to worry about the rest. I'd love to do organic butter but so far it's way out of my price range!

I use half a gallon of milk for a batch of yogurt and the yield is 2 quarts of yogurt. If using raw milk($6 a gallon) I use $3 worth of milk and when using regular milk( approx. $2.70 a gallon) , I use about $1.35 worth of milk. I then use most of a small cup of plain yogurt as starter which costs me anywhere from about $.50 to $.89 depending on what kind I get. So my cost for 2 quarts of raw milk yogurt is approx. $3.75 and about $2.00 if using regular milk. For me, that's a pretty good savings!

Thanks for asking!

The Working Home Keeper said...

Great steps Mary Ann!

Have a Blessed Easter,

Mary Ellen

Anonymous said...

Mary Ann, I really enjoy reading your blog! Although I do lots of cooking and baking when I can, I also work full time. To that end, I recently bought a crockpot. Could you blog about making your own stocks with the crockpot? I'd love to know how you do it!
Many thanks!

Mary Ann said...

Thanks, Mary Ellen!

Willow, I'll be glad to post on how to make chicken and beef broth in the crockpot. It may be a few weeks though, since I need to buy a chicken so I'll have bones for broth.:-)

Thanks for asking!