My Nutrition Revolution

I thought it might be interesting to explore my nutrition revolution. That is, how I became interested in nutrition and how I revolutionized my own health. I was never sick. Never overly overweight (an extra 10 pounds). But I have definitely become healthier in many ways that one can’t see by looking at me.

I grew up a kid of the late ’70’s eating some processed foods. Oreos. Frito-Lay snack packs. Ice cream. That sort of thing. Nothing out of the ordinary and nothing outrageous. My mother cooked a nice, homemade dinner most nights of the week. I took a piece of fruit in my lunch to school. But beyond that one piece of fruit and whatever vegetable was served at dinner, I didn’t think to eat anymore, nor was I informed I should.  I ran cross country and track in high school and would come home famished before dinner. My snack of choice was a few oreos, some chips, anything that was easily accessible that I could snarf down. Fruit? Never. Vegetables? Never. I just didn’t know. Nor was I educated in nutrition. I don’t think my parents were either for that matter.  Until my  late 20’s I thought of food as a way to fill my belly and keep the hunger pain away. I didn’t think of it as a way to fuel my body and keep me healthy.

Off to college in 1994. Dining hall. Eat anything you want and as much as you want. Actually I really didn’t overeat in college. That has never been an issue for me. But I seriously lacked fruits and vegetables, and consumed to0 much processed foods, grains (carbs), dairy, and sugar.  After college I headed to Colorado to be a snowboard instructor. Every day for lunch we had pizza. Every. Day. Seriously. I didn’t give it much thought nutritionally. I love pizza. However, by the end of the season I was quite sick of eating it and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead. Not much better. Had I known then, what I know now, I would have brought my lunch to work. At night I worked in a restaurant, so in the hour between jobs I came home, showered, and ate something quick and easy, such as Easy Mac. Remember that? I don’t even want to think about it. The thought of it now totally sickens me. While living in Colorado I did take a nutrition course at a local college, as I was interested in nutrition even then. However, looking back that class really taught me nothing except what calories were and how to calculate them. The old school way of looking at nutrition.

I moved to California in the fall of 200o after I suffered a neck injury from a car accident in CO. I wanted to be far from the snow capped mountains and snowboarding since I was sure I wouldn’t be able to snowboard the following winter due to my injury. I had a very difficult time finding work in San Diego. Restaurants wouldn’t hire me because apparently 2 years of restaurant experience wasn’t enough. And I had a college degree….in psychology, not waitressing/bartending…. but still, you’d think they’d take the fact I was college educated into consideration. I ended up working as a nanny for about 6 months. However, that barely paid the bills as it is expensive living in San Diego. I ate cheaply. I made the decision to pursue an entry level’s masters degree in athletic training, which was something I was interested in during college, but Saint Michael’s didn’t offer that degree.

So, after surviving the 6 months in San Diego I moved back east and waited for graduate school to begin in the fall of 2001. I learned how nutrition affected athletes. How eating certain foods fueled the body. I began looking at my plate differently. I added more fruits and vegetables to  my diet, and limited processed foods. I even lost some weight at this time without thinking much about it. I had my first child in 2005 and my second in 2007. I maintained my weight, but I still didn’t necessarily eat as healthy as I do now. What prompted more of a change?

After 8  years of living at our current boarding school, 7 women associated with the school (faculty/staff or spouses) were diagnosed with breast cancer, and 2 or 3 men were diagnosed with another type of cancer. Within the same time frame I knew women in town (not associated with our boarding school) that were also stricken with breast cancer and even members of my own extended family, one of whom was only 34 at the time she was diagnosed.  I began asking, “What the hell is wrong? Why are all these folks getting cancer?” That is when I began actively researching how nutrition affected disease. I began reading books and viewing food/disease/nutrition documentaries and from those I made the decision that many of today’s diseases can be prevented (maybe even cured) simply by eating certain foods and avoiding others.

While processed foods may be quick, cheap, and easy, they are laden with chemicals and preservatives. The body has a difficult time digesting/processing these foods and therefore, they become stuck in our body adding bulk and wrecking havoc on our system. Think about the difference between a homemade brownie vs. a packaged brownie. Even if you leave a homemade brownie in plastic wrap or tupperware on the counter, it will get moldy or stale in a few days. If you leave a packaged brownie on the counter it will last for years! What exactly goes into that brownie to preserve its “freshness”? Nothing I want to put in my body!

When buying foods I stick to minimally or non processed foods. We eat vegetarian within the household 99% of the time, and I try to limit dairy when I can. I try to make most of of my family’s  baked goods/desserts, rather than buying them. I can make cookies with just a few ingredients vs. buying a box of Oreos that contains around 20 ingredients, including titanium dioxide, a chemical used to whiten the cream in Oreo cookies, as well as numerous other uses in the manufacturing of paper, plastic, and paint. Seriously? Who wants to put titanium dioxide in their body?

I buy lots of fruits and vegetables. I try to buy organic when it’s available, but I think it’s more important to have a diet high in fruits and vegetables despite them being organic or not. With minimally processed foods and plant sourced foods, the body takes in what it needs nutritionally and eliminates the rest. Nothing gets “stuck” in the body and causes issues. My husband, kids, and I hardly ever get sick. Not once did one of us get the nasty stomach bug that was rampant in this boarding school or the public school my children attend. I can’t think of one cold any of us had this winter. Yes, both kids had flu shots this year, but neither my husband nor I got inoculated. I swear the reason for our good health is due to what we eat and what we limit. Even in the last month I have found that eating more “real food” and limiting grains, dairy, alcohol, sugar, and processed foods that I have had less stomachaches and headaches. Smoothies have been my friend in the last month, as I am not a huge fruit eater. Even my daughter has been asking for a smoothie at breakfast or after school. If I could convert my son to drinking smoothies I’d be ecstatic and I know he would feel better (have less stomachaches).

Speaking of children, we need to start educating them now about healthy choices, healthy lifestyles. Now is the time to explore healthier options with children even though they may prefer the processed junk like granola bars, chips, cookies, etc. It is easier to start healthy habits as a child, than as an adult. Rather it is harder to break unhealthy habits as an adult, than as a child. One of the ways I do this is at snack time. I ask them to choose a fruit or vegetable first. When they finish that I let them choose something else. Since we don’t keep much processed junk in the house the choices usually are graham crackers and milk, pretzels, or a strawberry cereal bar (minimally processed foods). Hopefully this will aid them later in life to make healthy choices and not be a struggling adult trying to figure out how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

What are the ways you teach your children about healthy living?

 

DISCLAIMER: My family and I do eat pizza, ice cream, meat, Oreos, Doritos, etc. Just not on a daily basis. Those are “treats” for us. I am amazed at folks who stick to their non-processed, non-dairy, non-gluten, non-meat, non-sugar, and so on “diets” and never stray. But I like to live a little, and enjoy life while maintaining my health. Everything in moderation. That is the key.

 

 

Real Food 30 Day 1

I have never strictly followed any sort of nutrition program. I don’t like living like under such rules and I highly believe in moderation, variety, and enjoying treats here and there. So after much thought and a good night’s sleep I have decided to come up with my own program. Real Food 30. No processed foods/packaged foods for this girl. I still bought a few packaged things for the kids, but a lot less than usual. Until my half and half runs out, I plan on having that in my cup of coffee every morning. I just came back from Trader Joe’s and the fridge is stocked. Well, at least the two crisper drawers are and my hanging fruit basket! The pantry does  not have much more than yesterday, except for a few more cans of beans, olives, salsas, nuts, tomatoes, lentils….that sort of thing. For the next 30 days I will be chronicling this process.

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Breakfast:

Vegan Pumpkin Bread from OhSheGlows. I have been making this recipe for a couple of years now and the whole family LOVES it! However, I do make some changes to it. I reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup, left out the walnuts, and did not make the buttercream icing, which is divine. If you do make that it is more of a dessert! I made two loaves of this bread a few weeks back and froze them. So luckily we had something to eat for breakfast this morning since I still hadn’t been to the grocery store. I also had  my cup of coffee with half and half and a little liquid Stevia.

Snack:

I was hungry when I came home from Trader Joe’s since I only had a small piece of the pumpkin bread before I left, so I made a bowl of European Style Plain Full Fat Yogurt with a handful of various nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, and macademia), a teaspoon of chia seed, handful of blueberries and raspberries, and a tablespoon of toasted coconut. Not bad. Not great. But I definitely could get used to it. I should note, however, that I never measure anything. I just eyeball it when I am cooking/preparing meals. Baking is about the only thing I measure ingredients for!

Lunch:

BIG SALAD with spinach and romaine, carrots, pepper, white button mushrooms, handful of cashews, scallions, and 1/2 of an avocado. The dressing I made and used atop the salad that my husband and I shared (and we have enough left over for a small side salad for dinner tonight) is actually a Moroccan dipping sauce.  My husband also ate a banana and peanut butter with the salad. I ate a handful of nuts I mixed up earlier (almonds, hazelnuts, and macademia). The kids had some cheese and crackers, grapes, and 1/2 apple. Normally, I would have given them more to eat, but it was already 2:30. We are clearly still on vacation mode. I had them each try one of the nuts, and peanut butter on one cracker. My 6 year old son did not like any of the nuts or peanut butter. He spit all the nuts in the garbage! Guess it is going to have to be black beans for him at lunch since he doesn’t like any other source of protein! My 8 year old daughter ate everything without complaint, but she did not like the nuts. She did mention she would eat salted almonds! OK!

Snack: Cherry Pie Larabar (the only packaged food  I plan on eating until I can come up with my own recipe)

Dinner: Crustless quiche cups with spinach, onion, mushrooms, and pepper. I added ham and cheese to the kids. For a side I attempted at making hash — zucchini and sweet potato hash! I didn’t mind it, neither did Marc, but neither kid was very fond of it. They ate it anyway. Marc ended up finishing the salad from lunch, and I finished the chickpea dish from last night. The kids had some graham crackers and milk. Clearly the quiche cups and hash was not enough food for any of us.

I am just not sure this Real Food 30 Challenge I have set up for myself is going to last. I might just have to concentrate on breakfast, lunch, and snacks for myself, and go back to our regular vegetarian family meals for dinner. My stomach feels good. Although I do still feel hungry. Maybe I’ll have another handful of nuts or blend some Greek yogurt and frozen berries later.

Real Food

I have been wanting to switch my entire nutrition towards eating “real food” for some time now. I would to seriously limit processed foods, and limit sugars, grains, dairy, alcohol, and gluten as much as possible. In order to begin eating this way, I was thinking about completing the Whole 30 program as my sister had glowing remarks about how much better she felt after completing it. I am interested in this “resetting” process or “cleanse” as I see it, but I just think it’s too hard with a family in which I am the main meal preparer. My husband did offer to help more with meal preparation, which I appreciated, but I am hesitant. Not only do I get really anxious having someone else in the kitchen helping with meal prep, I really want the entire family to also adopt eating real food, but I don’t feel it’s fair since we are already a vegetarian family within the home. The children are allowed to eat meat outside of the home. I just won’t prepare it in our home. Friends and family might be thinking, “how could she possibly limit the children’s variety of kid friendly food than she already has?!!” But, it is possible.  I know that I feel better when I eat real food, and I also notice a huge difference in my son’s behavior and how he feels when he eats a diet richer in real food. He has more energy, less stomachaches, less tantrums when he is tired. Yes, kids can burn off the calories of all the “kid friendly food” such as donuts, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, pasta, chicken tenders, french fries, but it’s not about them gaining weight or being out of shape. It’s about them feeling good inside (their stomachs…..they, too, experience gassiness or bloating that us adults do) and learning healthy eating habits at an early age. I personally would prefer it if restaurants got rid of children’s menus so that my children would order off the adult menu. The chefs could make the meals “kid sized” or we could take home the leftovers. I am sick of the restaurants that only offer hot dogs, mac and cheese, hamburger, pizza, and chicken tenders. Thankfully more restaurants are adding healthier side options such as applesauce, carrots, and broccoli instead of just pairing the main kid meal with FRENCH FRIES! But I digress…..

We have been in Florida for a week. Vacation mode meant a lot of eating out. Wine. Beer. Dessert. I figured it’s a good time to start over since our fridge and pantry are almost completely bare and therefore, have to go grocery shopping. But first I need to have some sort of meal plan in mind before I shop. I have spent the better part of the day pouring over websites such as Whole 30 and 100 Days of Real Food, and other blogs and sites trying to get meal ideas that the whole family would enjoy. But it is so  hard and time consuming. Besides unpacking and cooking lunch and dinner, I literally have been sitting at my computer since we got home around 2 pm and it is now 10 pm. I plan on transitioning slowly to give everyone time to adjust. I also don’t plan on committing to this nutrition lifestyle 100%, but there are some definite changes that need to be made. Of course it will take more work on my part since real food definitely takes more prep work. I hate meal planning!

Don’t believe me about my pantry and fridge? Here, take a look.Somehow we managed to make 2 meals out of what was left in the freezer (unfortunately packaged foods/frozen foods……mahi mahi burgers/veggie burgers/frozen corn/edamame) for today’s lunch and dinner. I, however, decided to try something new and sauteed up a can of chickpeas with a can of fire roasted tomatoes with green chilies. I added some spices (garam masala, cumin, and coriander) and at the last minute added some edamame and corn. It was delicious! Everyone else turned up their nose up at it, but I love meals like that. I just would like to get my family on board as well!

Bare Pantry

How about that one lime in the crisper drawer! Ha.Bare Fridge