I’ve seen these articles lately popping up in my email box: “What is clean eating?”, “What Diet is Best”, “The Truth About Sugar Substitutes”. It seems that everyone WANTS to eat right, but not a lot of people know what eating right looks like. Even now, I hear people talk about avoiding meat, or eating “lean meats”… and others talk about “draining the fat off of meat because that is where the toxins are stored” and still others talk about eating “tons of meat and fat”. How can you decide who is right?
What’s true? Should you eat low fat or no fat or all the fat? Should you eat fruits? What should you not eat with other things? What type of oils are best to cook with? The truth lies within educating yourself about foods, nutrients/nutrition, and cooking methods — and listening to your own body for what you need. It really is a science and a topic people should be researching on their own… because our schools don’t teach it, and most of the “associations” are teaching false information that has been disproved by research.
For example: I tried to eat way less meat and was hungry all the time, so after I let my gut heal from colon surgery, I began to slowly increase my meat intake and grain intake. I now allow myself one or two servings of whole grains a day (preferrably quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, or other ancient grains like einkorn wheat, teff, faro or barley). I also have either an egg or animal protein serving or two each day – or every other day if I feel like I’ve had too much (trying only to avoid eating meat at dinner). Part of eating healthy is just listening to your body.
Does everyone have to refrain from meat at dinner? Certainly not – some people have really healthy colons and no family history of colon cancer. Beef is one of the best foods when it is grass-fed and organic. Happy cows are yummy cows. Some people are more active and need more protein. I eat chicken, fish, and eggs because although I love beef and pork, I know they aren’t good for MY body. Beef is probably my favorite meat, aside from pork bacon. I don’t eat pork at all any more; setting it aside for turkey bacon has been good for my health. I don’t eat beef except for rare occasions. I find ways to replicate it with lentil and pea-protein “meat”, and even just asking Chipotle to put the grass-fed Barbacoa “juice” on my veggie taco (yes – the fat and drippings for flavor). It holds me over. I eat a veggie burger now and then with all the fixings and have a bite of my husband’s burger if I just CAN’T RESIST. It really isn’t that awful giving things up when you know your body is thriving without them.
Things that have been a huge BLESSING from my cancer diagnosis last year (aside from being cured and saved from DYING in my 40’s): mindfulness about what is going in my body each day, knowing that I am eating WAY MORE VEGGIES, having veggies on hand for the boys and them eating healthier, getting off of coffee and learning to love tea (which has been super for the pocketbook), the wealth of information about foods and health that I’ve internalized from research since last year… etc.
Being a one-year, stage-three cancer survivor (my one-year anniversary of the surgery to remove my cancer was August 4th), I may eat differently than some, but for the most part, clean eating to me is: eating as free of pesticides, artificial additives, preservatives, trans-fats, or any other unnatural fillers. Not just that, but clean eating is also buying foods that support the kind of farming/producing that is best for the planet, animals, and insects that pollinate. I want the cows and chickens and bees as happy as I am. I want to know they frolicked in the grass, roamed freely, ate what God intended for them to eat, and enjoyed the sunshine on their backs. I want to know that there weren’t poisons or antibiotics in their system. I want to know my food is REAL and SLOW.
I am not afraid of doing a little more work for quality calories. I’m going to pick the whole buckwheat grains up and soak them on my counter to blend into pancake batter… rather than buy a boxed gluten free flour that has fillers like potato starch and the like. There’s a place for gluten-free flours (rare treats), but it isn’t on a daily menu.
Paired with a few boxed, frozen, Applegate turkey-sausages (since I’m not a turkey farmer), my buckwheat pancakes are a hit:
It takes a little more work, but once you do it a few times, it’s just as natural as pouring a bowl of cereal out of a box (which we still do in my house – for the boys… we just buy the least sugary kind with the best ingredients possible). I don’t want to make it sound like we don’t cut corners sometimes. Shoot… a week or two ago, I paid 47$ for gluten free pizza for my men and boys. I vowed that I wouldn’t do that again for another six months afterwards; but it happened, just the same. I might not eat hard cheeses (bad for my colon) or processed meats (pepperoni made with pork), my guys have some every now and then.
The trick for me with staying on board with eating healthy is planning ahead (which saves not only time, but money). If I do this, my guys eat pretty much what I eat and they feel better, too. With all our crazy since this May with mom’s death, cleaning out her house, dealing with all the legalities and paperwork, car issues, bills, and then my son moving away and daughter moving home – THERE HAVE BEEN CHEATY DAYS, PEOPLE. You can’t be perfect all of the time.
I know I’ve said this before, but you have to allow yourself grace and be OK with the 80/20 rule. As a cancer survivor, I’m more of a 90/10 girl, but that’s just me. I’m always aiming for 100%, aside from a little bit of daily REAL sweeteners like honey or maple syrup (in my husband’s almond butter brownies or REBBL drinks). My family says my taste buds have died because of the vegetable juices I drink. Maybe they are right, but it’s been worth it to get to be here with them and escape having to suffer through chemo or radiation. I’m leaning hard on #JesusandJuice and planning to stick around.
So many of my friends say they would eat better if it was cheaper and easier. I won’t lie, it does require a bit more time in the kitchen up front. It calls for more planning, too. Initially, it costs more, but after a while, the grocery part of it is about the same; especially if you eat at home and curb eating out. This is a small sacrifice for avoiding hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of medical bills later on, and/or ending up meeting an untimely demise. Plus, you’ll reach a state of culinary Nirvanah where you can taste whether REAL food is used in restaurant dishes and you don’t think its worth it any longer to waste money paying for a restaurant to feed you frozen junk, nasty rancid fats, and sugary yuck. I’m ever so picky with restaurants now. I’d rather cook things myself, unless I’m just dog tired and can’t… and even then, I sometimes just get frozen things from Natural Grocers instead of eating out. It’s cheaper and usually, they taste better!
Just in case you think I’m super-human, think again. I want EASY just like the lot of other moms out there who feel chained to the kitchen. I’m a busy homeschool mom. I admit to buying some boxed and packaged things. I regularly buy Amy’s gluten free mac and cheese for the boys in the freezer section. Let’s discuss this, shall we? The ingredients are as follows: ORGANIC RICE MACARONI (ORGANIC RICE FLOUR, WATER), ORGANIC LOWFAT MILK, CHEDDAR CHEESE, GRADE AA BUTTER, ORGANIC RICE FLOUR, SEA SALT, ANNATTO. I am not eating milk, cheese, or white rice, but my boys can! Having this as a once a week treat to make them happy and save me a lot of time in the middle of a hectic day is oh, so worth it.
We also buy Alexa cut fries and Pacific brand gluten free breaded wild-caught fish sticks for days when we are busy with school projects and I just can’t stop to cook even a fast meal. I figure this is a small trade out that will keep me from spending more at the drive-thru line and keep the boys from eating trans-fats and sugar-soaked fast-food fries. Yeah, they soak their fries in sugar solution … that’s why they taste so good. I won’t name any companies here…
So how can you make healthy eating easier? I have one simple answer for those of you who live near a Natural Grocers (Vitamin Cottage): Shop there! I wish I was a spokesperson for them, a brand ambassador, even a paid blogger – I would work for coupons. I’ve been trying to get my 18 and 20 year old “big-kids” to work for them because I love them so much (and who couldn’t love a discount on their AMAZING FOOD and supplements)… but NO – lest you are wondering – they aren’t paying me to say this.
My husband used to think — “it’s so much more expensive to shop there”. Then we discovered that kombucha cost more at our local grocery store. Almond butter cost more at our local grocery store AND the local wholesale store. We eat a LOT of Almond Butter. Even the bulk spices are cheaper at Natural Grocers. I kept trying to price-compare to show him the light… and then Whole Foods moved in to the area and we REALLY got a taste of what expensive groceries look like. Now, he’s much more likely to shop at good-‘ol NG, even when I am not in the car begging him to stop for me! His favorite thing there is the water machine, and he swears that the water from Natural Grocers tastes better than the Ice stop near our house. I’m just happy to have clean water to make tea with in our machine from Lowe’s that heats and cools it so I get my daily intake of herbal tea and water each day.
10 Other Reasons to Shop at Natural Grocers:
1. They have free classes to teach people about vitamins, health, and grocery shopping each month.
2. They have anniversary parties (like the one today from 4-6pm) where they serve samples for free (today is an ice-cream social) and offer massive discounts.
3. They have incentives and coupons for frequent shoppers (I get 5$ off today because I spent over 60$ in the past week there) – and a free chocolate bar!
4. They are a SMALL STORE – which means no endless wandering through a labrynth of mazes to get just a few things… I can’t tell you how much I hate going in to Costco or Walmart or even the mega HEB stores packed full of people and baskets and walking to the ends of the earth and waiting in long lines with little kids. It’s like a special kind of torture.
5. THEY ONLY SELL ORGANIC PRODUCE.
6. They only sell eggs, milk and yogurt from well-treated animals.
7. They have almost all the supplements I need (and have sales on them that sometimes even beats buying wholesale at Vitacost online).
8. CLEAN EASY TO ACCESS RESTROOMS.
9. Sugar-free candy. Like chocolate. Lots of it. I would never have been able to get off sugar without it. Thank God for Lily’s.
10. Friendly staff. I have yet to meet a NG employee I didn’t like.
OK, so I know I sound like an advertisement… but I want them to flourish so I can always count on them to be there – because they are truly my very favorite grocery store. Until the day (which probably will never come) when I can sustainably farm all these yummy foods myself to know EXACTLY what is in them, I trust that the people at NG are working to ensure the foods I buy are quality in their stores. So far, I am so impressed by their selection and even more so by the things they REFUSE to sell. You’ll never find a bag of Cheetos there, and they’ll always keep trying to educate you on the plight of cows and chickens. Once they even recalled all their yogurt and set up a TV to show people why they had to discontinue selling certain brands because of the conditions the cows were living in. I’m tellin’ ya – NG goes beyond capitalism to compassion and responsibility. They educate consumers! Does your grocery store do that?
So I better run… I have to make it to the ice-cream social in 30 minutes and get my free chocolate bar. My Google calendar just beeped at me.
See you at “the little store” (as my mama so fondly called it).
*post update: I just got back. They had samples from cookies, chips, hot sauces, granola, vitamins… and they had two massage therapists giving away free 30$ massages and a free in-store massage. Trust me, it was worth making my three wiggling boys (my little guys and their friend) sit still for a second. Don’t worry – they got ice cream out of the deal!