Thursday, March 17, 2011


So I think I mentioned that now that the "food challenge" is over, that we'd be eating grains, infrequently, and only if whole grain, and only if prepared by soaking to neutralize phytates and other harmful antinutrients they contain. (at home.....anywhere else, almost anything is fair game) is extremely difficult to get anything good to come from 100% whole wheat flour! I tried soaked biscuits (tough, crumbly......almost a waste of jam) I tried sourdough bread, and while the flavor was excellent, the texture of the loaf was, well - bricklike. Not exactly desirable for a loaf of bread! The banana bread I made was pretty decent, actually, and really, the whole wheat sourdough waffles were super good - but even if it all tasted amazing and it all had perfect texture....I'm actually not convinced that grains really DO have a place in our diet!

Surprised? Me too.

Because on every day that I consumed whole wheat, I was exhausted! I mean, ready for bed at 7pm, take a nap in the morning while the kids watch cartoons, and maybe even sneak a nap in the afternoon! This is not me, people - I had not taken a nap in I don't know when.

I sure wasn't expecting to find that my 24 hour, buttermilk-soaked, whole-grain baked goods were making me sleepy and lethargic, but that's what happened.

I can't really imagine any special occasion where a breakfast of sleep-inducing waffles is a good idea. I mean, for most special occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, or whatever) you have plenty of other things other than eating and sleeping planned, right? If eating grains makes me sleepy, which it appears to, I really would be wise to avoid the stuff, altogether.

Too bad, I was really hoping to enjoy an occasional whole-wheat baked good. But really, I'm not sure if the words "enjoy" and "whole wheat" really even belong in the same sentence. If I'm going to eat grain, give me unbleached all purpose white flour. At least I can make some amazingly delicious biscuits and sausage gravy with the stuff. Occasionally, and only on days when I don't mind if eating breakfast makes me sleepy. ha!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Food Challenge Menus Posted in February

For reasons not quite understood by me, when I posted the week-by-week recount of what we actually ate during February, rather than posting in March, it dropped the posts in February.

So if you're considering giving no grains, no legumes, no sugar a try - and want to see what my family ate for Breakfast, Snack, Lunch, Snack, Supper - for 28 days, just scroll down a bunch, and you can read that stuff. Otherwise - I'd skip it - it's pretty boring stuff!

But, I do recommend giving this a try. I'd say it was a very healthy way to lose some extra weight, we noticed great alertness and energy levels, and greater intestinal comfort.

We're making every effort, even after the challenge, to significantly limit consumption of grains, legumes, and sugar. In general, we intend to go without it, except for specially planned treats, or as guests we will gladly eat what is offered.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Food Challenge Summary

For the month of February, my family challenged ourselves to eat no sugar, no grains, plenty of healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, meats, and drink unsweetened beverages.

It went quite well.

  • We tried a lot of new recipes, which for the most part were very tasty.
  • We gained a new appreciation of what it means to have "dessert" - as an occasional treat, not a daily occurance, and even then, being super-sweetened isn't necessary.
  • My husband who's been accustomed to drinking sweet tea every day of his life, has switched (happily, even) to unsweetened tea - and has plans to continue this!
  • I've become more aware of the importance of consuming fat - for cellular health, for being able to use fat-soluble vitamins, and the realization that without consuming fat, your body senses the need to store it. Not to mention that plenty of healthy fats are essential, necessary, vitally important to raise healthy children. I'm also more aware of how various fats and oils are produced, and have a better understanding of which ones are most healthful to use.
  • My husband and I have lost inches off of our waist and hips. Effortlessly - we did not increase our exercise levels in the slightest.
  • I've been motivated to source whole milk for our family, and have begun milking our goats.
  • We now notice how SUPER sweet a soda pop is. Maybe even sickeningly sweet....before it was just a normal, every now and then drink.
  • Fruit salad tastes sweet without sugar.
  • I'm very excited about the gardening season so I can grow and try new vegetables to get a variety in our meals. Brussels sprouts, beets, asparagus, kale, chard - I'm actually looking forward to preparing these veggies, and eating them!
  • I've become a better meal-planner, and become better at sourcing the least expensive, yet high nutritive value foods.
  • There are probably more, but these are the ones I can remember easily. Both myself and my husband have talked about the changes we made, and felt glad for having done it.
Will we continue eating the same way? In a word, no - but there's more to it than that. We did notice digestive and energy level upset when we consumed sugar or grains. We are absolutely going to minimize the frequency of consuming those items, and change the methods we use to prepare them, but not rule them out on a regular basis. Even for the duration of the challenge, we still ate those things when we were offered them by others, either as guests or if given gifts of food - and we'll certainly continue that.

Some basic changes we plan to put into place:
  • eating grain and sugar free at breakfast throughout the week, but enjoying a serving of special things on the weekends, but in smart quantities. Maybe on Saturday and Sunday we'll have a slice of banana bread with our fruit and sausage and eggs, or maybe a cinnamon roll. We'll no longer eat only cinnamon rolls for the entire breakfast meal!
  • when Lent begins, I intend to stop drinking coffee for the rest of the summer - although I'll carefully consider starting back up in the late fall when cold weather returns.
  • when we consume baked goods, they'll be prepared carefully - soaked for 12-24 hours to neutralize phytates and enzyme-inhibitors, and they'll be eaten with moderation.
  • I'll aim to avoid white sugar altogether - we have real maple syrup, honey, and stevia to use as sweeteners when the natural sweetness of foods isn't enough.
  • We're now using olive oil, lard, butter, and coconut oil - avoiding canola, corn, and vegetable oil. Sally Fallon's book, Nourishing Traditions, explains why this is a good idea. The next time we take a fat calf in to butcher, I'll ask if we can get the beef tallow.
  • I'm learning to make real stock on a near-weekly basis, and incorporating it into our meals. It's not that hard, but seriously nutritious and delicious!
  • I'm going to learn how to make whole grain sourdough bread!
  • I intend to donate all the unopened pasta boxes that we have in our pantry - those foods have no place in our regular diets. I think pasty pasta might nearly be the definition of empty calories. Yes, we'll still eat the opened packages, but very infrequently.
  • We'll continue to carefully plan out menus, and I'm going to work hard to try to preserve as much as possible over the summer in the freezer to help with the cost of eating this way.
And honestly, I can't ignore the benefits of eating the way we did in February - we're going to try to eat no grain, no sugar as much as possible, though we will also incorporate properly prepared beans, rice, and whole grains as special treats, maybe 2-3 meals/week. Yes, we lost a lot of weight going without grain and sugar - but that was not our main goal, and coming up this summer we will be much more active and will need more sustenance! I have penciled in to do a repeat of the February challenge from November-January to minimize weight gain over the winter, and maximize health during a timeframe that's typically filled with unhealthy (although delicious) holiday treats.

And just in case anyone else reading this is curious about our results, and wants to know what it looks like to eat that way for 28 days, I did keep track of what we consumed. I'll post them in 4 separate posts, by week. Admittedly, they'll not be particularly interesting to the majority of readers - but if you're considering giving this type of thing a try, it might help you see how we did it. I tried to keep track of how we felt physically and psychologically (cravings) day by day.

I'm glad we did it. It has helped us change our eating habits, I believe for the better.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fourth and Last Week of the Food Challenge

This is an incredibly un-interesting post, as it details everything my family ate for the 4th week of the food challenge. But it may be helpful for someone who is curious about our results, and wants to know what it looks like to eat without grains, legumes, and sugar (although there were some meals where we just ate whatever we were presented, with thanks!). I tried to keep track of how we felt physically and psychologically (cravings) day by day.

Day 22:

Breakfast: Banana Pancakes, topped with butter and triple berry mix. I also poured in a tiny bit of raw goat's milk in my coffee. Still not ready to feed it to the kids - the jury's still out on "to pasteurize or not to pasteurize", but until the decision is made, I'm just getting the frisky goats used to the process, keeping the milk in the fridge to feed to the dogs and maybe a bottle goatbaby.

Snack: oranges and walnuts

Lunch: pork bbq

Matt's Lunchbox: pork bbq, grapes, applesauce, tea

Snack: pumpkin nut muffins. When I made the first batch it only called for 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree....but there's about 1.5 cups in a I made a double batch and froze the ones we didn't snack on.

Supper: leftover beef and broth - I'll slice up some mushrooms and simmer them, and we'll have "cream of greens soup" from the PB cookbook

Day 23:
Breakfast: pumpkin nut bread - I poured some of the batter into a loaf pan - it turned out fine that way, too.

Snack: there was a tiny bit of triple berry blend in the fridge, so finished that off plus some babycarrots

Lunch: ate at grandma's and had chicken and noodles with crackers - sooo good! Peaches for dessert

Snack: I ate a couple of pumpkin nut muffins with butter because I was ravenous. Then when Matt got home we all had girl scout cookies. Those are sugar and grain free, right? Ha! We each had half a serving of trefoils, and half a serving of thin mints. They were good, but not nearly as delicious as I had remembered them to be.

Supper: Meatballs with spaghetti sauce with mozzarella cheese on top. Yum!

Snack: 6 trefoils right before bed. it had been a stressful evening...

Day 24:
Breakfast: smoked sausage, orange/pineapple/strawberry/coconut milk smoothies

Snack: girl scout cookies

Lunch: leftover party chicken

Snack: pumpkin nut muffins, then white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies and lemonade at a friend's house

Supper: Ham, leftover cream of greens soup, peaches

Day 25:
Breakfast: smoked sausages, smoothies, I've been drinking goat milk in my coffee for a few days now, Matt and Cora today started "enhancing" their 2% pasteurized, Nesquik-ed cow's milk with whole, raw goat milk.

Snack: pumpkin nut muffins with butter, we all snuck a few bits of ham while I put it into freezer bags for another day

Lunch: hot dogs, pickles, spinach


Supper: pork bbq

Day 26:
Breakfast: bacon, sausage, potato, egg scramble

Skipped the snack

Lunch: cream of potato/cream of celery soup, mixed greens salad with peachy chicken salad on top, pumpkin oatmeal cake sweetened with sorghum molasses

Snack: more cake

Supper: cabbage, carrots, onions, smoked sausages

Snack: each had a half serving each of trefoils/thin mints. We watched Charlie Brown's Valentine's movie - don't valentine's and sweets just go together? (excuses, excuses)

Day 27:
Breakfast: leftovers from yesterday

Skipped the snack

Lunch/Snack: Went to the Maple Syrup Festival for the first time. This was so much fun! The family operated sugarbush is the largest Maple Syrup producer in the state, and they have 2 festival weekends to give tours, live music plays, fun kids' activities, and of course, maple syrup! We had a FABULOUSLY delicious meal: 1st adult meal included 1/2 BBQ chicken, cole slaw, baked beans, dinner roll, drink, ice cream (with choice of apple, strawberry, blueberry, or maple syrup topping), 2nd adult meal included 2 maple grilled pork chops (soo tender) cole slaw, baked beans, roll, drink, ice cream with toppings, then the kid's meals were either a pancake or a waffle with the same topping choices as the ice cream, plus drink and a sausage patty. All of this for only $19!! Cora earned a tiny bag of free maple cotton candy (very tasty!) by collecting all the items in the scavenger hunt. We were able to sample maple cream on cubes of bread, different grades of maple syrup, and maple tea (wow! made with partially boiled-down sap poured over a tea bag, not quite syrup, but not pure sap either) We bought a 2 quart bottle of Grade B maple syrup for baking. We learned that grade A syrup comes from the early season sap which is higher in sugar, lower in mineral content, while Grade B syrup comes in the later season with less sugar, more mineral content and a higher maple-y flavor. It'll be easy to make the decision to go back next year!

Supper: leftover meatballs with tomato sauce, green beans

Snack: Matt brought home some vanilla ice cream, which we had chocolate sauce on top.

Maybe we didn't do so good on the no sugar, no grain thing today.

Day 28:
Breakfast: orange/triple berry/peach smoothie, sausage patties

snack: apples, tiny piece of the pumpkin oatmeal cake with butter on top

lunch: beef and mushrooms, peaches

Matt's Lunchbox: leftover smoked sausage and cabbage, baby carrots, apple, tea

snack: special reward treat - Walnut Meal Brownies from the Primal Blueprint Cookbook

supper: bacon-wrapped, spinach, garlic, onion, and mozzarella stuffed chicken breasts (baked at 350* for ~40 minutes, then put under broiler just until bacon crisped up! delish, and oh-so-fancy looking!

Thoughts: We've just been really impressed with how easily we've lost weight/circumference over the course of the month. Especially considering how low-activity we are in February - we did absolutely NO FORMAL EXERCISE at all. And really, we have not felt deprived - we've been eating delicious meals, making sure we're fully satisfied. Yes, sometimes we've craved sweets or breads and missed some of those things, but in general it wasn't that bad to "go without." Now of course, we did have plenty of "cheats" but by and large we did pretty good.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Third Week of the Food Challenge

This is an incredibly un-interesting post, as it details everything my family ate for the 3rd week of the food challenge. But it may be helpful for someone who is curious about our results, and wants to know what it looks like to eat without grains, legumes, and sugar (although there were some meals where we just ate whatever we were presented, with thanks!). I tried to keep track of how we felt physically and psychologically (cravings) day by day.

Day 15:

Breakfast: smoked sausages, applesauce

Snack: the kids had deviled eggs and truffles. I had 2 truffles

Matt's Lunch: pork chops, broccoli, carrots, apple.....I forgot to make tea yesterday, so the poor man will have to drink water :-(

Lunch: leftover "hamburgers" with ketchup, cheese, and grapes

Snack: Luke had part of an apple, I ate the other half, then he was still hungry and ate 1/2 a banana. Cora had an apple and some walnuts.

I found out I had to return the Primal Blueprint cookbook to the library at the end of the week, so ended up hurriedly planning the rest of the week's menu, and rushed to the "healthfood" store in the next town before they closed. I wasn't hungry but knew it was going to be a while before I got home to supper, so brought a 100 calorie pack of almonds and walnuts and a piece of all-fruit fruit leather and a big bottle of water. Then I immediately ate it in the car and was hungry the rest of the night. Go figure! I also might have purchased an 85% cacao bar and eaten part of it on the way home....but I'm not telling. One thing I know is that I bought enough food that we won't have to go grocery shopping for the entire rest of the month.

Supper: I laid out all the ingredients for the PBCookbook's Bison Chili....only we used ground beef. Matt (sweet man that he is) fixed supper while I was gone. Everyone loved the chili, even the kids ate it right up. We had grapes, and a couple of kiwi, but they weren't quite ripe.

Snack: I ate a few of the truffles we'd made. I guess I haven't really changed my chocolate-snacking habits yet...but at least the chocolates I'm choosing aren't too sugary.

Day 16:
Breakfast: Matt and kids had smoked sausages. I made a "bahama mama" smoothie with strawberries (not stemmed) pineapple, ice cubes, and a can of coconut milk. The boys tasted it but wouldn't drink another drop, and Cora only had a little...but then she'd eaten her sausage already and probably wasn't hungry.

Snack: I had the rest of Cora's smoothie, and 2 bites of leftover sausages. Cora and Luke snacked at Grandma's. Matt skipped a snack.

Lunch: Were all invited to grandma's for chili (with spaghetti and beans and crackers and velveeta). It was delicious. We had some vanilla ice cream for dessert. Almost immediately after eating I felt sooo sleepy! I went ahead and took a nap, slept about 2 hours! As I was falling asleep, I noticed my tummy gurgling alot, but it didn't hurt - just making funny noises.

Snack: I didn't snack, just wasn't hungry. Luke and Matt had fudge rounds and twinkies and sweet tea with grandpa and it was soo warm outside we didn't need hats! Cora slept so long, I finally had to go wake her up from her nap around 4pm so she wouldn't miss the nice weather. She had a drink of water but wasn't hungry.

Supper: Seafood chowder - onion, celery, dill, black pepper, diced bacon, tiny cubed potatoes, chicken broth, a little water, cooked until the potatoes were soft, then added canned salmon (with the weird bones removed....I can't handle their texture!) a can of minced clams, and a pound of lightly sauteed scallops. I added a cup of milk and a cup of heavy cream, brought it to a boil and it needed salt but it was GOOD!

Day 17:
Breakfast: pumpkin nut muffins from the PBCookbook

Snack: Cora and I shared the leftover smoothie and an avocado, and she and luke shared an apple.

Matt's Lunchbox: leftover transylvanian stockpot, tea, apple and banana

Lunch: Leftover transylvanian stockpot, with a tiny 85% chocolate bar with walnuts for dessert after the kids went down for their naps because I have no willpower...

Supper: Coconut Curry from the Primal Blueprint Cookbook - everyone liked it!

Day 18:
Breakfast: Banana Pancakes and butter

Snack: Cora ate an entire avocado, plus an apple, and was still hungry. I had an avocado

Lunch: Leftover chili

Matt's Lunchbox: chili, other stuff (I can't remember anymore I'm trying to recall this info from day 20)

snack: cora helped herself to a piece of fruit leather, I had some frozen triple berry blend (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries)

supper: Had friends over for pork bbq, applesauce with cinnamon, green beans, mashed potatoes with butter, some homemade bread (our friend brought it - it was delish!) and some corn chips and home-canned salsa (that another friend brought - yum!) Dessert was the triple berry blend with whipped cream: 2 cups cream, whipped until made soft folds, with a pinch of stevia, and a teaspoon of vanilla.

Day 19:
Breakfast: Zucchini Casserole from the Primal Blueprint Cookbook - very good!
Snack: didn't get one, were too busy outside and didn't get hungry before lunchtime

Lunch: leftover pork bbq, plus some fruit salad with kiwi, strawberries, pineapple, grapes, and oranges cut up together with whipped cream on top

Snack: kids had fruit salad or grapes, adults skipped snacks

Supper: Slow Cooker pot roast from the Primal Blueprint, sooo good! fruit salad with whipped cream for dessert

Day 20:
Breakfast: assorted leftovers from the previous week, bananas
Snack: skipped it!
Lunch: I'd boiled a chicken in anticipation of needing some broth/stock for recipes in the following days, so I picked meat from the bones in fairly large chunks, added shredded italian style cheese, italian seasoning, capers, and a can of artichoke hearts, and a bit of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Baked it until the cheese melted - it was good, but I added too much salt. I also made a vinaigrette from EVOO, apple cider vinegar, stevia, basil, 2 garlic cloves, basil, and drained canned tomatoes, which we put on was almost like my hubby's french dressing that he loves, Catalina - but a bit too vinegary for his taste. I just really don't care for salad dressing!

Snack: fruit salad for all, except Luke, who only wants the grapes!

Supper: Leftover seafood chowder

Day 21:
Breakfast: clean-out-the-fridge breakfast bake: had some leftover sausage and bacon crumbles, some cheese, some chopped onion, green peppers, and olives, some salsa, and eggs with salt and pepper.

Snack: oranges

Matt's Lunchbox: leftover chili, green beans, fruit salad, and tea

Lunch: leftover coconut curry chicken

Snack: sliced pears, Luke and I shared a chunk of the 85% cacao bar. mmmm!

Supper: clean-out-the-fridge stew

Snack: I might have also possibly sneaked in another chunk of the 85% cacao bar while Daddy was giving the kids their all the chocolate is gone again, I'll have to rely on healthier things.

Impressions from the week: Overall, both Matt and I have been noticing increased leanness, and I can make it from Breakfast to Lunch to Supper without HAVING to snack in between, although I am very hungry by the time lunch arrives if I skip snacks, I'm at least not all shaky and weak. Also noticing definite fat melting away. It is totally effective at dropping the extra "padding" - clothes are looser, I'm getting bruised more easily (due to being bonier around the hips and elbows!) and I get cold/chilled faster. Not sure I like all of those parts, especially considering I was more or less satisfied with my weight before.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Salt, anyone?

So I think it's a given to take another person's words with a grain of salt, right? Meaning, listen carefully, realizing that you can't always take what someone says as absolute truth - whether this is in conversation with a friend, or when reading blog posts on the internet, or yes, even when reading published books!

Right now I have checked out from the library 3 books on nutrition:
  • Mark Sisson's The Primal Blueprint Cookbook - based on the premise that we should eat as our evolutionary ancestors did
  • Laurette Willis's BASIC Steps to Godly Fitness - a guide to fitness and food choices based on Biblical principles, I get the impression that it's primarily geared towards those who are heavily overweight
  • Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions - suggesting that the food processing industry has created products that are non-nutritive and even harmful, and that we should all return to the way people ate before hydrogenization and white flour and table sugar, complete with recipes for doing this

In all of these books, the theme is healthy eating - but they all differ as to what is the best way to do that: one says grains are bad, the other says be sure to include whole grains; one says drink only cultured milk products, one says drink only raw milk, not pasteurized, and I've heard elsewhere that only pasteurized milk is safe and raw milk is dangerous; one says peanuts are beneficial, another says peanuts are harmful.......and so on, and on, and on. Full of contradictions. How can a person choose which to believe?

Now, one theme that is common to all of the books I've listed in this post is: Eat organic, or die! (this may be a slight dramatization). And this is where it gets difficult for me to find words to explain the rest of my post - I mean, why would anyone listen to some blogger's words over a published author???

On page 51 of Willis' book BASIC Steps to Godly Fitness, she writes:
"As you can imagine, the cattle in biblical times were not subjected to living in overcrowded feedlots, fed moldy grain, or injected with antibiotics, growth hormones, and steroids as are today's cattle."
Okay, folks. This paints a picture that is NOT truly the plight of today's cattle!! This sentence (and similar ones found printed in many other books, magazines, newspapers, posted on blogs, and tossed around in conversations) asks readers to imagine the worst possible scenario, and then makes the assumption that these are the conditions that all beef producers intentionally replicate! This is not the case. And it's not just Willis' book - Sisson's had misleading information about the way poultry are raised, and Fallon's was filled with quotations from other's indicating the downfalls of modern agriculture. It's as if the people pushing organic intend to make others feel guilty for consuming conventionally raised foods - and this is a problem.

Those who raise animals for meat production do it because they LIKE animals. It is hard work. You can't call in sick. It doesn't matter if it's -3 degrees, sleeting, and all the water hydrants are frozen and there are inches of ice on the water tanks and it takes many times longer than normal to take care of the animals. It doesn't matter if you've made special plans to go out - when you've made the choice to raise animals, their needs come first! And if it's a cow having trouble calving, or the silo unloader has stopped working, or whatever it is - those emergencies come first!

We raise our cattle conventionally, though on a smaller scale than some others. We take their needs seriously. We need them to be healthy! We do what is best for them to keep them in good health and growing well.

Our feedlots are not overcrowded.

We do not feed moldy corn.

We give antibiotics only to the occasional sick calf, to help them get well.

We do implant our calves to help them grow optimally.

They're well-cared-for, never worry about running out of feed, hay, or water.

Do I think that anyone who believes the sensationalized, emotionally charged message that "conventional farming is evil, organic is perfect" will listen and hear the typed words of one blogger, over published authors? I don't know - but I hope so.

I've been thinking about interviewing my father in law (who does the majority of the day to day work with the cattle) about exactly how we raise a calf from birth to finishing. The way we raise cattle is not much different from the way the large feedlots and ranches do, aside from scale - and I think the good quality care the cattle really do receive may surprise some readers. Please know, in the meantime, that we take our animals' care very seriously.

Organic is fine, but conventionally raising livestock is not the evil that some will make it out to be.

The point is, you can't believe everything you read. I've taken away some great information from each of the three books - I'd actually recommend any of them! But when it comes to how animals and crops are raised, it's best to go to the source - the farmers and ranchers who take care of the livestock and produce on a daily basis, to see how things are really done. I applaud the movement for folks to become more aware of where their food is coming from, and it's not the grocery store! But take it one step further than the books you read - visit a farm or dairy or feedlot - talk to those who are actually doing it because that's the only way you'll really know.
Whose word do you want to believe? The producer who works day in and day out with the animals, or the outsider looking in?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Second Week of the Food Challenge

This is an incredibly un-interesting post, as it details everything my family ate for the 2nd week of the food challenge. But it may be helpful for someone who is curious about our results, and wants to know what it looks like to eat without grains, legumes, and sugar (although there were some meals where we just ate whatever we were presented, with thanks!). I tried to keep track of how we felt physically and psychologically (cravings) day by day.

Day 8:

Breakfast: Pumpkin spoonbread except I multiplied the recipe and put it in an 8x8 dish. And I left out the raisins and nuts because my husband won't eat them. Turned out, he didn't eat it anyway. I thought it was good - but if you were expecting something sweet it certainly wasn't that. Gave Matt milk with cocoa powder again and instead sifted the cocoa powder, but for some reason he couldn't drink it because of the texture.

Snack: Apple for me and Cora, she also had another helping of the pumpkin spoonbread.

Matt's Lunchbox: unsweet tea, banana, leftover beef stir fry, home canned peaches.

Lunch: leftover chicken salad, oranges.

Snack: pumpkin spoonbread "granola" (put it in a 225*oven for hours until it crisped up....not bad!) Fruit leather, raisins. And here's the thing - I was never *hungry* this afternoon.......I just ate because it was habit. I'll need to work on this. My kids, however, seem hungry all the time. Maybe need to add whole milk as their primary drink rather than water? I'm sure they need more good fat than adults. Maybe I need to be more strict with them about no candy, no flour. I've been pretty lax with them when we're away from home, so maybe it's taking them longer to get used to not constantly having carbs?

Dinner: (are you ready for this??) Beef tongue! Boiled it for three hours with a diced onion and garlic. Peeled it, sliced it, added some frozen leftover beef roast to help trick my mind into thinking we were just eating beef, then spooned the gravy/souplike mixture over potatoes mashed with plenty of butter. It was actually really good. Just be sure that you and your dinnermates are having a very important conversation to help distract from the fact that you're eating TONGUE! lol. We had green beans too, and pickles.

Day 9:
Breakfast: Banana pancakes, Matt has reverted to drinking milk with quik. I can't stop him.

Snack: kids snacked at Grandma's. I ate a banana pancake.

Matt's lunchbox: leftover beef and potatoes, oranges, unsweet tea

Lunch: chicken alfredo with penne.

Snack: pumpkin spoonbread granola

Supper: lemon butter fish filets, lettuce and spinach salads, Cora and I shared an avocado, Matt and Luke shared green beans.

Snack: kids snacked at Grandpa's while Matt and I went to a church meeting, and on the way home had to stop at the grocery store and got some snack sized pepperoni bites.

Really, this challenge is going very very well. Much better than I anticipated. The only real drawback is how badly I do want some chocolate!! And I'm having a bit of a difficult time getting everyone filled up and satisfied at each meal. And I'm very glad I made sure to add the part about eating whatever we were served if we were guests, I just feel that's right.

Day 10:
Breakfast: Sausage, salsa, egg and cheese scramble. Similar to the muffins I made before, only fried in a skillet rather than baked. Since we don't need the on-the-go convenience factor the finger food muffins provide, the skillet and fork method suits us just fine.

Snack: shared avocado for Cora and I. Luke had pumpkin spoonbread granola. He loves it!

Matt ate out for lunch, he had some errands to run over his lunch break.

Lunch: smoked sausages, oranges.

Snack: walnuts for me. walnuts, prunes, and a glass of milk for Cora. Either that girl's going through a growth spurt or she's not getting enough to eat - she's always hungry! I'm thinking how can I add healthy fats to her diet? Maybe whole milk? I am completely seriously considering milking a goat or two to get raw, whole milk.

Supper: I never know what to call what I fix! Why do meals have to have names? Anyway, I chopped an onion, melted butter (should've added olive oil right away, but I ended up adding it later) browned about a pound and a half of deer burger, diced a green pepper, sliced mushrooms, minced garlic and sauteed that. Then I added salt and pepper and oregano and basil, and 2 drained quart jars of tomatoes, brought it to a simmer, then added about 1 cup of chicken broth. It was good. It was a lot like chili, maybe Italian Deer Chili. There we go, it's got a name now! It was filling, but Cora goofed off, said she didn't like it, and didn't eat it. Told her she could either eat it tonight or for breakfast in the morning.

Snack: I had a glass of fiberwise drink.

Day 11:
Breakfast: Matt had leftover sausage/salsa/cheese/eggs, I had leftover banana pancakes with butter, Cora had Italian Deer Chili (in case you were wondering how last night's dinner turned out). Luke slept through breakfast. You see, the boy has been waking up at 4:30 am every single day for the past 2 weeks plus. He will happily nurse back to sleep, then leave me to try to decide whether to try to fall back asleep in the 20 minutes before the alarm clock goes off or just stay up. Oy! But I thankfully have not felt the urge AT ALL to take a nap in the afternoon....whether it's the food we're eating or the vitamins I'm taking, or the combination - I'm not sure.

Snack: Carrot sticks and the last of the spoonbread with butter for the kids, I had just carrot sticks. I wish I'd have had some good fat dip so I wouldn't have been so hungry in between snack and lunch!

Matt's Lunchbox: Leftover Italian Deer Chili, carrots, tea

Lunch: leftover Italian Deer Chili, then I ate a small handful of walnuts after the kids went down for their naps.

Snack: kids had the last of the pumpkin spoonbread granola. I wasn't hungry, so I didn't eat!!! This is unprecedented, people!

Supper: slow-roasted pork BBQ, applesauce, iceberg lettuce salad - Matt and Cora had red french dressing, I had oil/vinegar/garlic/herb dressing, even though usually I don't like dressing. Didn't like it this time, either! Cora told me I should've had the red dressing, it was good. haha

Day 12:
Breakfast: Sausage crumble-diced bacon-diced fried potatoes-egg scramble

Snack: late breakfast so no snack

Lunch: Transylvanian Stockpot from The Primal Blueprint Cookbook, grapes, kiwi, strawberries, and some little debbie snack cakes (oops!)

Snack: chocolate truffles from The Primal Blueprint Cookbook

Supper: Meatloaf, potatoes, green beans

snack: tortilla chips, salsa, cheese dip, and a small pineapple juice/coconut rum over a game of euchre

the chips, salsa, and cakes were valentine's gifts from grandma and grandpa. We didn't specifically announce this whole crazy eating thing where we are giving up grain and sugars for a month, so we felt it only polite to induldge a bit! We enjoyed the treat!

Day 13:
Breakfast: omelets - everyone picked out what they wanted on from: mushrooms, olives, green peppers, onions, sausage, bacon, tomatoes, cheddar cheese

Snack: Cora had a chocolate doughnut with chocolate milk at church, Luke had a doughnut hole, I had coffee.

Lunch: leftover pork BBQ, applesauce, the rest of the fruit salad, baby carrots, potato chips, deviled eggs

Snack: chocolate truffles

Supper: Warm again, so Matt grilled pork chops and smoked sausages, and we also had broccoli, and apples

we were all exhausted. Maybe because it was Sunday night and we'd been active all day (I'd been spring cleaning the kitchen with my mom, Matt was working on our pop-up camper, moving hay, etc with my dad) or maybe it was because we were noticing the effects of our chips and lil debbies?

Day 14:
Breakfast: leftover sausage/bacon/potato/egg scramble

Snack: Apples

Matt's Lunchbox: leftover meatloaf and mashed potatoes, tea

Lunch: smoked sausage, deviled eggs, grapes, a few truffles

Snack: deviled eggs, bananas, walnuts

Supper: "hamburgers" consisting of ground beef, ground deer (with a little bacon mixed in) and ground beef heart. pickles, cheese. Pretty weak as far as vegetables! Oops! Oh, and we had one package of little debbie cakes - Cora and Luke each had half of one heart-shaped cake, Matt and I split ours 1/3, 2/3 - he took the big half, because they're more of a treat for him than I. Then I had a few of the truffles we'd made from the PB cookbook.

This evening I also went ahead and ordered some goat-milking supplies! I'm very excited to give whole, raw goat's milk a try.

The second week had much fewer sweets cravings, but now I'm starting to lose inspiration for what to fix. I can't really get too excited about planning the next week's menu. But that's pretty typical for me in general, I get into a groove of being awesome at meal planning, then kind of fall off the wagon....

Friday, February 4, 2011

Why, oh why am I doing this??

Why have we chosen to stop eating grains and legumes and sugar, and reduce our dairy consumption for the month of February? I have to keep reminding myself that there are only 28 days in February, we haven't necessarily chosen to change our eating habits forever.

Right now, just a few days in I cannot believe I would tell myself no to a small handful of chocolate chips. Saying "no" to chocolate has certainly been the most difficult thing for me about this entire thing, so far. One batch of brownies each week, or even every 2 weeks, couldn't be that bad, right?

But the truth is that we'd gotten to the point where we ate a sweet snack (cookies, brownies, etc.) twice a day. I'd often sneak in a few extras here and there, if no one else was in the kitchen. So I was eating sweets as a large portion of my daily diet. Not particularly nutritious!

For quite some time I would have to eat every 2-3 hours all the time or else feel all shaky and trembly. Like, I can't go from breakfast to lunch without eating, from lunch to dinner.

I had become a slave to food, in particular sweets. In truth, it was getting out of hand. I don't want to raise children to have eating habits like that. So things were getting pretty unhealthy, and in my house, I do all the grocery shopping, and all the cooking, and if we eat out, it's only because I wanted to. In short, I came to the realization that I pretty much control what my family puts in their mouths. Do I want to provide empty-calories or nutritive foods? Do I want to raise my children to not give much thought to the food they eat, or impart to them healthy eating habits?

Well, I think every parent wants to feed their children healthy, nutritious meals, and for them to grow up with healthful habits. But the problem is that children learn by watching their parents. My daughter pretty much only wants to drink chocolate milk, because that's the only way her daddy will drink milk. She also has become a candy her mother. It's just very difficult for my husband and I as adults to change our eating habits - because we're used to eating the way we've always eaten. For instance, how do you have soup without crackers?? Well, we adults can realize that crackers have very little nutritional value, and therefore leave them out! And if we leave them out, our children will not automatically associate crackers with soups. So we're changing the cycle, choosing only foods that are obviously beneficial. Not that crackers once in a while are necessarily harmful for a healthy digestive system.....but they certainly don't have much nutritive substance to them.

Anyway....enough rambling. Here is a short summary of the benefits I'm expecting us to reap from this February Food Challenge:

  • Gain a greater awareness of what food choices we are making
  • Learn to only eat when I'm actually hungry - I've read that this type of diet (diet meaning the food we eat, not some faddish weight loss program) can help reduce hunger pangs - without the addictive power of carbohydrates (which to the body are really just sugars)
  • Retrain my tastebuds to recognize natural sweetness. I clearly remember a couple of summers ago my sister being horrified that I was putting sugar on grocery store strawberries. I told her they were tart compared to the ones we grew at home....but the truth is, we put sugar on the homegrown ones as well.
  • Give our bodies a chance for optimum health. If we choose to only put beneficial foods into it, it won't have to work as hard to remove the harmful things: sugars, phytates, enzyme-inhibitors...and it won't have to work as hard in digestion.
  • Taking on a relatively short, 28 day timeframe empowers us to make significant dietary changes without feeling "trapped" into forever. It will give me time to re-evaluate what to put on the grocery shopping list, and what to leave off. And with a 28 day time period we're well on our way to forming a new habit in our food choices!
  • Greater energy levels - not wanting to just lay on the couch, because I just ate a heavy meal that makes me sleepy.
I may add to this list as time goes on. If it's true that "you are what you eat" then there are in truth many more good reasons to keep a watchful eye on what's on your plate, in your pantry, in your grocery shopping cart. And please notice that I didn't place on my list a desire to lose weight. In general, I'm pleased with my body. I'm strong enough to do the things I need to do, and I fit in my clothes, and my husband thinks I'm pretty good-lookin' - that's all I need. I am not doing this to lose weight for looks - but both my husband and I have been creeping up in weight to more unhealthy levels, and I would really like for both of us to be around for a long time - the healthier our body weights are, the more likely we'll experience long term vibrant health.

Already we're noticing that the food we're eating is still delicious, it's filling, and at least for me I'm not ravenous between meals. I still eat snacks out of habit, but not because I have to because I'll start to get the shakes. But since we only have good foods in the house, it's okay!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Shepherd's Pie

The February Food Challenge *is* underway. I'm keeping track of how things are going but I think I'll wait a while to publish those posts.

Last night I made Shepherd's Pie. It was so good, and really pretty easy and I wanted to share how I made it. Now, hardcore primal eaters won't eat white potatoes (too high in carbs), nor would they eat peas (legumes) but I see them both as more of a vegetable, and I'm not a hardcore primal eater, so therefore this meal counts!

I really don't like to cook in a messy kitchen, so I always start by making sure the dishwasher is ready to put dirty dishes in, and that the stovetop is clear, and that I have a clean countertop to work on.

Are you ready to make Shepherd's Pie??

1. Put 1 pound of thawed hamburger in a skillet on medium heat and with a spatula, chop it/spread it around until it covers the pan. Leave it alone.

2. Chop off the ends of an onion and peel the dry papery stuff off. Slice it in half from end to end, then put the cut side down on the cutting board and slice in about 1/4" sections, so when the onion is separated, you have half-circles. Dump the onions in the skillet with the hamburger, and give it all a stir.

3. Take a few cloves of garlic and mince them, add them to the skillet. Add several shakes of pepper, and about a teaspoon of salt. Stir.

4. Slice enough carrots to make 1.5 cups of carrot bits, roughly the size of peas. By now the hamburger should be browned (keep stirring every so often to make sure it's cooked evenly) Add the carrots to the skillet on top of the meat, and add 1/2 cup of water, then cover and simmer on medium/low - just hot enough that it bubbles. Leave it alone.

5. Grab 4 large potatoes, peel and slice into small, evenly-sized chunks. Put them in a pot, cover with water, and turn it on high heat.

6. Stir the contents of the skillet, then add 1.5 cups of frozen peas, and put the cover back on again.

7. Once the potatoes start to boil, turn the heat down a little so the pot doesn't boil over, then set the timer for 15 minutes. Now you can read a book to your babies, or fold some clothes, or whatever, but try to keep half an eye on the potato pot so it keeps boiling but doesn't boil over!

8. When the timer goes off, check the potatoes with a fork to be sure they're tender (if not, let them boil a bit longer). Stir up the skillet again, then pour 1/2 cup of milk over the contents and let it simmer. Pour most of the water off of the potatoes (leave a little in to help keep them creamy) add a half stick of butter, and mash away!

9. One last time, stir the skillet, then spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the top of the hamburger/veggie mixture. Dot butter on top, and enjoy!

This was a yummy, satisfying meal which the whole family enjoyed. I'd say it made enough to feed 4 adults. We fed 2 adults, a 3 year old, a 1 year old, and had enough for one leftover lunch. Let me know if you try it, how you liked it!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

First Week of the Food Challenge

This is an incredibly un-interesting post, as it details everything my family ate for the 1st week of the food challenge. But it may be helpful for someone who is curious about our results, and wants to know what it looks like to eat without grains, legumes, and sugar (although there were some meals where we just ate whatever we were presented, with thanks!). I tried to keep track of how we felt physically and psychologically (cravings) day by day.

Day 1:

Rather than drink chocolate milk for breakfast, Matt had semi-sweetened tea. He had a breaded porkchop (leftovers from supper). When the kids woke up, they and I shared 2 avocados, and we each had a piece of cornbread (also leftovers). I drank coffee, no sugar, but with a splash of milk.

Snack: Everyone had an apple. Luke also had a piece of a homemade dinner roll.

I packed another leftover breaded porkchop for Matt, and semi-sweetened tea (I'm gradually adding in unsweet tea to the pitcher of sweet tea as I pour cups out of it. When this pitcher of tea is gone - it's going to be completely unsweet for the rest of the month.) The kids and I ate leftover enchiladas and applesauce for lunch.

Snack: Carrot sticks

Supper: I was able to check out on interlibrary loan Mark Sisson's cookbook for recipe ideas, as I needed hints on how to eat without grain! No noodles? For the first night, we had the Smoked Sausage and Cabbage recipe in there. It was very good! We polished off the majority of it between the 4 of us, Matt was still a little hungry though, but that's normal for him! Luke couldn't really chew the cabbage, but Cora ate it very well. The kids had some raisins, and we drank some fiber drink, too. I've read that part of the "carb flu" comes from yeast in your body dying off, and that plenty of fiber can help clear that out and help feel better faster. Can't hurt to try!

After supper we all played together in the living room and really had a fun evening, pushing, pulling, throwing, lunging, leaning, flopping, tickling, bopping a balloon all around. It was a really fun way to spend family time.

Matt and I are both feeling somewhat uneasy over trying to eat this way. Which is exactly why we've only committed to trying for one month! The thing is, today we totally ate plenty of grains, and Matt had sugary tea - so I guess we're going at this slowly. I just didn't want to waste any food! We're also keeping a close look at how much it's costing to eat this way. Staying on budget is important to us, so we'll just wait and see how that turns out. So far though it's not so bad. We measured our circumferences at belly button and hips. It will be interesting to see if there's much difference from the 1st and 28th days.

Day 2:
Breakfast was a concoction of 9 eggs, salt, pepper, a little milk, cheddar cheese, 1 cup of drained home-canned salsa, and a pound of mild breakfast sausage. Poured most of it into muffin cups, and fried the rest. Everyone ate it, and liked it! Even Matt who really doesn't like eggs :-)

Snack: I had an apple, the kids went to grandma's and ate whatever they wanted (and I'm totally good with that, actually!) I packed an apple for Matt.

Lunch: Matt had leftover breaded porkchops again, and a little container of corn. I went to grandma's and ate with the kids, we had sloppy joes (I have never eaten bread with my sloppy joes, prefer eating just the meat with a fork) peas and carrots, and mac 'n cheese. Applesauce for dessert. I said from the beginning if we were guests at someone's home we'd eat whatever we were offered and I'm sticking with that. The food (and the company) was great!

Snack: Carrots and raisins for me and the kids, just carrots for Matt

Supper: Shepherd's Pie - you saw my recipe I posted at the beginning of February. Other than coffee in the am, I drink water all the time. Matt's the same way except his "vice" is tea. He probably drinks 4 glasses a day.

I had a meeting at church and as I was getting into the car I spied a bag of prepackaged animal crackers in the passenger seat. Oh, my - how I wanted them! I threw them to the very back of the car so they'd be out of reach, then ran in the house to grab a couple of packages of dried fruit
snacks.....not "fruitsnacks" these are actually made of just fruit, and fruit juice! I sipped on decaf coffee with a shake of cinnamon and a splash of milk on the way.

After the meeting, I had to stop by the grocery store for a few things for the weekend's menu, and as I walked into the checkout I saw the display for the Cadbury eggs! Normally I would grab two, and eat them both on the way home. This time, I left them there.....but could not stop thinking about eating them. You the past, if I wanted chocolate, or cookie dough, or whatever - I'd grab a handful of chocolate chips, or mix up the dough, or brownie batter, and eat it! In fact, in ridiculous amounts - I'd eat a cookie each time I walked through the kitchen. But I really couldn't get the notion of eating chocolate out of my mind, so I grabbed a handful of pecans, put them in a bown, and tossed them around in a pinch of powdered cocoa. It actually tasted good! But I wished I'd have just gone to bed, cause then I had nuts all stuck in my teeth then had to brush. This is truly a food CHALLENGE, and so far, at least when it comes to sweets - we're winning!

Day 3:
Breakfast: Matt had leftover sausage egg "muffins," the kids and I had Banana Pancakes (bananas, eggs, almond butter - with nothing but butter on top). Matt's coming down with a runny nose, which is looking like the starts to a sinus infection. Hope he can avoid that!

Matt's lunchbox: leftover shepherd's pie, baby carrots, unsweet tea, and he still hasn't eaten the apple I gave him on Tuesday.

Snack: Cora and I shared an avocado - we each had half, and she wanted more! Luke apparantly doesn't like them - he kept spitting out whatever I gave him. Each child got a sucker, but Luke only ate part of his. We're almost out of the halloween candy - when it's gone, it's gone and the kids won't get anymore candy for a while!

Lunch: kids and I shared leftover Smoked Sausage and Cabbage, and they each got a half of a deviled egg, and I ate a whole one. I was very very full after lunch.

Snack: For me, one more deviled egg (2 halves) 1/2 an apple, and snitches of the chicken I was pickin' for supper. For Cora, an apple. For Luke, some unidentifiable quantity of an apple (a large portion of it was shredded on the floor allllll around him).

*A side note about the baby: Lest anyone is concerned about how much my 14 month old is eating (cause it doesn't really sound like much) he still nurses quite a bit, probably 4-5 times a day, mostly when he's just woken up, or getting ready to sleep for naps or bedtime. It's such peace of mind to not have to coax him through meals - if he's hungry, he'll eat - otherwise I can count on him getting his nourishment through my milk.

Supper: I cut up a chicken, boiled it, removed the pieces from the broth and let them cool, then I picked the meat from the bones, returned the rest to the pot and simmered it for another couple of hours. I poured the liquid and bones and skin through a strainer and into a bowl. In the stockpot I added EVOO, a whole mess of veggies, seasonings, 1/2 of the picked chicken pieces chopped into tiny bits, and some broth. This made a very yummy soup! No noodles required! I reaaallly wanted a hot dinner roll to dip into the broth, but I was quite full without it even after just one bowl. Luke didn't eat hardly any - I think he's teeth coming in are bothering him a lot. Cora ate really well, and Matt took seconds, and polished off what Luke didn't eat. Matt commented that so far all the new recipes we've tried have been very good. Hooray!

Comments: I could NOT stop thinking about chocolate, specifically brownie batter. Oh how I wanted to make some!! But I didn't. Matt said it really wasn't that bad to get used to unsweetened tea. I'm so glad - that was one of my biggest concerns with this whole thing - the man practically lives off of sweet tea. If he hasn't drank enough sweet tea, he is grumpy - no kidding! So I am very glad that part hasn't been too hard on him.

Day 4:
I woke up in the morning feeling all shaky and trembly. Are these withdrawal symptoms? Or had I just not drank enough water? It was terribly cold overnight and the heater ran a lot, which left me with a very dry mouth due to low humidity - so maybe it was just dehydration. That does happen sometimes.

Breakfast: A smoothie. I was the ONLY one who liked it. :-( But I hadn't used a recipe because I couldn't find all the ingredients to the recipe I know is delicious. I just threw in a handful of fresh spinach, a small can of pineapple juice, a banana, some frozen fruit mix (had pineapple, strawberries, grapes.....other stuff too) and I also blended in an avocado in there. Matt ate maybe 1/2 cup of the stuff, so the poor man essentially went without breakfast. Cora did come back later saying she was hungry and finished hers, so it must not have been that bad.

Matt's lunchbox: Leftover chicken soup. Tea. Apple. Banana. I bet he comes home hungry.

Snack: Apples, and deviled eggs. I had two halves, kids each had one half.

Lunch: Leftover chicken soup. Didn't sound appealing, but we ate it anyway. Who says you have to LOVE everything you put in your mouth?

I am absolutely craving chocolate. I am not even remotely hungry (maybe thirsty) but all I want to do is figure out how to eat some chocolate without breaking the "rules".

Snack: carrots and raisins

Supper: Slow-cooked pork shoulder, green beans, boiled potatoes, applesauce

Day 5:
Breakfast: Leftovers of 1 sausage "cupcake," 1 banana pancake, applesauce

Snack: Didn't have a snack! Was busy all morning, didn't even want one!

Lunch: Tuna salad on fresh spinach

Snack: carrots

Supper: kids ate spaghetti at grandma's, Matt and I went out for dinner. I was all nervous we wouldn't be able to find anything to eat that followed the "rules" but it wasn't a problem. Ate at the buffet and had fish, pork chop, fried chicken (breading removed), "california blend" vegetables, green beans, salad, mashed potatoes. Almost shared a scoop of vanilla ice cream but decided against it!

Day 6:
Breakfast: leftovers just like the day before, except Matt drank milk with cocoa powder, said it didn't taste any less sweet than nesquik, except the texture of the cocoa powder was all chunky and weird

Snack: Cora had a doughnut and a Push Pop with her Sunday school class. I had a small glass of orange juice instead of a doughnut! We stopped at Aldi for groceries, and Matt and I each had a "100 calorie pack" of mixed walnuts and almonds, and gave Luke a piece of fruit leather to chew on. Cora was till working on her push pop.

Lunch: Beef, cabbage, broccoli, onion, garlic, sesame seed, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce stir fry over cauliflower rice. It was good!

Snack: Matt and luke and I had apples. Cora had real fruit fruit snacks.

Supper: First "warm" day we've had all winter - it was above 40 degrees so Matt offered to grill steaks. Yum! He also grilled a few smoked sausages because he thought that'd be easier for the kids to chew, and they loved them. We had steamed broccoli with cheddar cheese melted on top as a side. For dessert we had a grape, kiwi, and strawberry fruit salad. For "dressing" I ran two peeled oranges through our kitchen-aid mixer's food processing attachment and stirred the mix together. This was amazing!

Day 7:
Breakfast: 1/2 pound of bacon and fried potatoes, Matt drank milk with Nesquik

snack: leftover fruit salad

Matt's lunchbox: apple, fruit salad, leftover chicken soup, leftover stir fry, unsweet tea

Lunch: Me: leftover tuna salad on spinach, 1/2 smoked sausage, 1/2 avocado. Cora: smoked sausage, 1/2 avocado. Luke: 1/2 smoked sausage, still won't eat avocado.

Snack: apple

Supper: Chicken salad

Snack: Raisins

First week reflections: Not too bad! The food's been good, energy levels have stayed good, haven't been hungry, and we have lost inches off our waistlines. Really!

Biggest problem is dessert, and not drinking milk. Beginning to consider how difficult it would be to obtain whole-fat, raw milk for it's many benefits over pasteurized....hmmm....

Monday, January 17, 2011

What are the Rules?

So I've introduced that my family is going to do a February Food Challenge, where we primarily will follow the primal diet.

I'm having some difficulties however in formulating our "rules" for this, especially considering I don't wholesale buy in to the philosophy behind the primal diet. And if I don't completely buy in to it, why on earth are we going to try it at all?? Good question! I first heard about this (admittedly somewhat crazy) primal thing from a fellow blogger. She gave it a try, posted that she found excellent returns for her efforts in health and physique and overall wellness. She's also a great researcher, and has posted compelling evidence that this particular diet can help ward off certain diseases, such as cancer. To me, it's worth giving it a try. Please take the time to read some of her posts. So that's where I heard of it, I am convinced it's worth a try. This blog also points to another, and it sure sounds like the owner of that site may be the "inventor" of the primal diet. Read this article from the which highlights some of the perks of the primal thing - I particularly resonate with reason number 2 - if I don't eat something every 2-3 hours, I get trembly. It would be nice not to have to deal with this.

Now, this is not going to be easy. Overall, we do eat a pretty healthy diet, at least compared to someone who's eating out, drinking their calories (we only drink pop with pizza, which we make at home, 3-4 times per month), or otherwise eating more or less a junk food diet - we really do stick to more wholesome choices, and I prepare in my own kitchen the bulk of it. We even quit buying bread at the store - I bake it myself. But we still eat pretty much a "standard american diet," which, compared to a strictly primal diet means that we have a looooong ways to go! So I'm working out recipes and planning out our meals for February so it truly feels like we're indulging in healthful meals, rather than missing out. But what rules will I come up with for what Primal means to our family?

  1. We will eat primarily vegetables, and a variety of them
  2. We'll also eat fruit, but try not to go overboard, because they're higher in sugar
  3. We'll eat plenty of meat. But I am not afraid of conventionally raised meat....we won't be falling for the "organic" stuff.
  4. Something about healthy fat here.....not real sure I quite comprehend the primal-thinking on this one.
  5. We'll drink a lot of water. And UNsweetened tea. Black coffee?? I already drink it without sugar, but do I really need to get rid of dairy??
  6. If we are invited as guests to dinner - we'll happily eat what we're offered. But we really don't get out much, so this shouldn't impact the experiment too much, I think.

  1. We will cut out sugar - including white and brown sugar, molasses, honey, artificial sweeteners - no sweets in February!
  2. We will cut out grains. In February. Not sure at this point how long that will last - In March we'll likely start again to eat the corn we put up in the freezer, we'll likely try some soaked grains, including oatmeal - maybe we'll try some gluten-free bread recipes? But we'll do it slowly, one at a time, and see the results. And most likely sparingly - probably only when we know we're going to be working hard outside. But we'll stay strictly without for the duration of our food challenge.
  3. We'll cut out legumes. Although I struggle with whether Peanut Butter, peas, and beans are really all that bad for you.
  4. We'll reduce dairy as much as possible.
  5. Continue to focus on keeping toxins out of our environment and off of our skin. (more on this in a future post - not sure it's really a "primal-ism")
  6. We'll focus on the idea that this food challenge is NOT about going without, but about intentionally choosing what we eat.
Obviously, this is a work in progress. The blog I mentioned earlier has some delicious-looking recipes posted which we'll try, and I've been combing the web for more gems. I'll post up our menus when we get them finalized, and keep posted on any results.

The biggest thing that will be a challenge is the "carb flu" I've read about - the primal people say that when you stop feeding your body lots of carbohydrates, and replace it with fat as fuel, it takes a while to get used to. But that once you do, you no longer feel hungry every 3 hours (like I do now...) and will come out of that feeling and looking healthier. Based on the amount of biscuits and breads and cookies and brownies and noodles and pot pies that we are now used to eating, I'm actually wondering whether just one month going without sugar and grains will be enough to get past this so-called carb flu. We'll see - maybe we'll extend it if we have to. Life is a work in progress, and I've learned not to be ashamed if experience says a change of plans needs to be made.

Friday, January 14, 2011

If you watch this clip, PLEASE read the rest of the post, too!

Have you heard of the Primal Diet? No? Curious? Watch this video clip, I think it sums it up pretty well:

Oh, where do I begin!?

First, I will say that this is the basic diet that my family is going to follow from February 1st-February 28th.

Does it sound crazy? Yes, it sort of is, but I'm picking out recipes that really sound delicious, and so that way it won't seem like we're going without grain and sugar, but instead intentionally choosing only meat, vegetables, fruit, and the like. We'll do it through February, a February Food Challenge (FFC), and see where it goes from there.

I've read convincing evidence that there are things in grains that can be very bad for the digestive system, and I've known sugar (and sweetener) is bad for you, but it's hard to stop myself from baking cookies. So this February Food Challenge will remove the grains and sugars, and then in March we may gradually add back some grains to see if that has any effects. We'll try really hard to stay away from sugar, even after the FFC (February Food Challenge) is complete, maybe use honey or molasses instead. So, it's a 28 day food experiment, basically, and both myself and my husband are on board and looking forward to seeing what happens.

Here's the thing - while I pretty much think that there's a lot of merit to this whole "Primal Diet" I also think that it's based on some premises or assumptions that I don't agree with. My issues with the Primal Diet are: Evolution of Man (and his diet), and the belief that Scientific Advances in Healthcare for Humans is Good/Scientific Advances in Agriculture is Bad.

First, on the Evolution point I'll just quickly summarize - I hold a Biblical worldview, and I believe that God created the world in 7 normal days. I believe God created livestock and wild animals right from the beginning (Genesis 1:25) which debunks the whole notion that man had to domesticate everything that is now domesticated. Also, Genesis 1:29-30 says: Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground- everything that has the breath of life in it - I give every green plant for food." And it was so. So, I just can't believe the notion that Adam and Eve didn't eat corn, wheat, soybeans, oats, and other grains and legumes from the beginning. Have you ever seen how beautifully green those crops can be?? So anyway, on this point - you'll either agree automatically or disagree automatically - either you believe in Creation or Evolution.

That said, I know that raw soybeans (if ingested in large enough quantities) can be toxic. However, it's safe to eat cooked soybeans, because it destroys whatever enzyme or phytate or whatever the compound is that makes them harmful. I think that it's totally possible that after The Fall and the curse of Adam (Genesis 3:17-19) when the ground was cursed, that the curse included making the grains somewhat toxic. I mean - blackberries taste really good, but they have protection in their thorns to keep them from being eaten up. Some caterpillars don't have a defense mechanism per se, but they are highly toxic to birds - that's their defense mechanism in their toxicity. It's possible (maybe even likely) that wheat and corn and soybeans and other grains all have their defense mechanism in a slight toxicity - and from what I've read, it seems that the phytates, certain enzymes, and gluten in many grains is harmful to the human body. However, I've also read some convincing words that indicate that (similarly to how soybeans can be safe to eat if they've been cooked) the harmful substances in many grains can be "processed" out by soaking for a certain timeframe in an acid medium such as lemon juice, or cultured buttermilk. Since I don't believe the evolution portion of the Primal Diet, in March, we'll be pursuing the notion of soaking grains, which I think will not be as time consuming as it sounds. But first, the FFC where we totally remove grains and sugars may well be eye-opening and I'm really excited to see where it may take us in terms of energy levels and having healthy weight.

So that pretty much covers the evolution thing, and the fact that while I do believe God's given us the freedom to eat as we choose, I also don't think it will be harmful to temporarily remove grains, and certainly not harmful to remove sugars.

Now, onto the part of the Primal Diet that indicates that Scientific Advances in Healthcare for Humans is Good/Scientific Advances in Agriculture is Bad. I pause here, because this is a touchy subject. I think we've come a long ways in improving healthcare, we have eliminated certain diseases from our population that used to be common through vaccination, there are skilled surgeons doing amazingly complex things to save lives, and prescription medications have saved lives. With the advent of great infrastructure and safe, well-paved roads, and the automobile, and therefore, the Ambulance, we are very fortunate in terms of this. Of course, some abuse these helpful things, so we have drug dependency and other problems that came along with the big money involved with the Pharmaceutical companies, and I've said in my last post that I disagree with the amount of immunizations recommended for babies, but by and large - we can agree that Scientific Advances in Healthcare for Humans has been good! Yes, it has, and it is, and there are many more humans living today that would not have survived without the modern healthcare and technology we're now accustomed to.

So with all these lives being saved through modern medicine and technology, comes additional mouths to feed. I read an article yesterday that said that American Agriculture feeds over 3 million mouths. That's a lot of hungry people that need to eat. 100 years ago, there was enough land for each family to have a garden and raise their own cow, keep a few chickens, and a good number of the population had a farm of some sort. Today, less than 3% of the US population are farmers. So how in the world is that small group of Agriculturists feeding that huge group of hungry people? How has this become possible?? Well, similarly to how science and technology has improved healthcare, Agriculture has come a long way.

  • Equipment - 100 years ago, tractors weren't nearly as popular as a team of horses (if they were even around.....sorry about my lack of citation and true fact in this'll have to admit that the video clip I posted had none of that, as well - if I had the time I could dig up citations and real numbers to back up what I'm writing) and as much as I like horses, they're not particularly efficient, time-wise! My husband is the tractor and farm implement smarty - he could probably tell you not only what year the first tractors came out but also the model, brand, horsepower, and other tidbits. So the modernization of equipment, which allows one man to do much more work for his time.
  • Seed Varieties - Seed companies have developed many different varieties of seeds which are bred or hybridized to perform well in a variety of situations, from drought conditions to clay soil and so on. Even the advent of BT corn, while controversial, has improved yields. Personally, I am not afraid of BT crops, or GMOs (genetically modified organisms) because I know the way the digestive system breaks up proteins, which is what genes are made of. I'm much more concerned with hunger than the biotechnology of the seeds used to plant a field to increase yield.
  • Herbicides - Herbicides are not used unless they become necessary. It is not possible to pull weeds out of an entire field, so how do you control weeds? There's cultivating, which is possible when the crop is still very short. But what if you get weed pressure after the crop is a certain height? Well, then you spray with herbicide. Not just for fun, but otherwise, the weeds will choke out the crop. We had a field this year that grew too tall for even the tall sprayer to apply without knocking down the corn - so it didn't get sprayed even though we knew the weeds were beginning to choke the crop, but at that point there was nothing we could do. An otherwise great crop had terrible yields, much much less than the average for that field just because of the weed pressure. If you eat a crop that at one time in the growing process had been sprayed with herbicide, it's not like licking herbicides off the plant! Farmers don't spray unless it becomes necessary to protect yields, and again, the benefits of increased yield far outweigh the scientifically unconfirmed dangers of eating food from a treated field.
  • Pesticides - As far as I know, we don't use pesticides on our conventional rowcrop operation. We do use pesticides on our garden if it becomes necessary. Annually, we plant green beans, sweet corn, tomatoes, and potatoes, along with some other garden varieties. We watch carefully, and if our green beans' leaves start to get eaten up and holey from insects eating them - we do not hesitate to apply an insecticide to our crop! Here's the choice once the bugs show up and start eating: we spray and then get to eat the crop, or we don't spray and the plants die. I choose judicious spraying!
  • Hormones in beef cattle - We castrate all the bull calves born on our farm, for the main reason that intact bull calves are more dangerous to each other, to fences, barns and equipment, and tougher to handle than a castrated steer. A castrated steer does not produce the same level of hormones that an intact male would, and studies have shown that a calf that has been implanted with hormones uses less feed, and fattens out faster, making them much more efficient. We also implant the heifer calves that go to the feedlot, as well, but choose not to implant heifers that will be saved back as replacement cows. I think that the benefits gained from implanting a calf with hormones outweigh the possible problems involved with eating the meat - I don't believe any studies have proven a health risk involved with eating such meat. Not to mention that I believe that the amount of artificial hormones used in agriculture is minute compared to the amount of hormonal birth control that soooo many women are taking. If we're having issues with synthetic hormones, we should look first to those that are actually going into humans by mouth or patch or injection, rather than the tiny quantities ingested by eating implanted meat.
  • Grass-fed vs. Corn-fed - This is going to go back to my Biblical worldview - but in the story of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) it says in verse 23, "Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate." I've never been to the Holy Land, but I'm pretty sure it's an arid, desert-like region. Probably didn't have much grass in the area, and certainly not enough to fatten an animal the size of a calf! That calf almost certainly ate grain, and if a grain-fed calf is good enough for the Bible, it's good enough for me!
  • Pastured vs. Confined Feeding - The "natural" lifestyle of a pastured animal is pretty dangerous. There's the threat of disease from wild birds or wild animal attacks, the fact that temperature is highly variable outside from freezing to high heat and humidity, and really - livestock did not thrive in the outdoor conditions! In a confined feeding operation building, the animals are fed at several regular times daily, constantly have access to fresh water, the temperature inside the building is regulated to not drop below or rise above a certain temperature - these are conditions that allow the animals to experience greater health and much less mortality compared to those living in a pastured situation. Some animals even get the benefit of not having to compete for food and water because they're given individual pens. Chickens, for instance, have been known to suffocate in a thunderstorm in a group setting because they'll pile up on each other, and the birds that end up on the bottom can't get air. Sows will lay on their baby pigs and suffocate them, which is why gestation crates were designed. These modern adaptations to agriculture are saving animals lives, and making their quality of life better. The fact that conditions are so controlled inside a confined feeding operation makes it possible to medicate less often, because the animals are healthier.
So those are some of the modern advancements agriculture has made that has made it POSSIBLE for the small number of farmers to feed the people that it does. These technologies are applied judiciously, and none are done unnecessarily. Without the current technology, many more people would be going hungry! I for one am extremely grateful for the advancements that science and technology has made possible in agriculture, for without it we would not be able to feed the people who are reaping the benefits of advanced medicine and surviving, myself included! I just feel that it's important to share some of the reasoning behind some of the technologies and changes that have been made, because 100 years ago, nearly everyone either had a farm or had a close relative who lived on the farm - people were very close to the origins of their food. Today, many people have no connections to a real farm, and many don't even plant their own garden. This is why I feel it's important to share this side of the story, that there are valid reasons for using some of the modern agricultural practices that are dismissed as bad in a definite one-sided way.

The video clip does not mention all of the chemicals that many Americans use on a daily basis in their homes and on their skin and the harm that they are doing to their bodies and the environment. The phosphates and harmful chemicals that are in most laundry and dishwashing detergent are wreaking havoc on our bodies and our environment, even though there are safe, environmentally friendly brands available, many of the leading brands are toxic. Shampoos and other cosmetics frequently have dangerous levels of formaldehyde and other chemicals that are harmful to the nervous system! Yet these companies don't change their formulas for cosmetics and household cleaners to be toxin-free because it's cheaper to produce them this way. The impact on health and the environment would be huge if every household switched their cosmetics and cleaners to healthy, safe, non-toxic products. And there are products out there that are just as effective, and some I've tried even more so than their conventional, toxic counterparts.

Don't get me wrong, change needs to be made! Many of us Americans are far too cavalier with the choices being made, from the food that is consumed to the products they purchase for their homes and bodies. I just feel that when it comes to feeding hungry people, the minimal compromises being made to health by using modern Agricultural practices that are frowned about by the Primal Diet/Lifestyle pale in comparison to the benefits of providing FOOD, and compared to the impact that a few other lifestyle changes could make toward health in changing household cleaning products, cosmetics, and careful food choices, it just really bothers me that Agriculture is being made to look like an enemy, when the reality is quite the opposite.

Yes, companies are making money from the sale of medications and other technologies, but in addition to the monetary profits, there is an obvious benefit to society when it produces food more efficiently. The video clip does not mention all of the donations that environmental groups are getting for promoting their fearful message of the "evils of modern agriculture" nor the donations that animal-rights groups such as HSUS and PETA who are the ones spreading the false notion that confined feeding is bad for animals. Did you know that The Humane Society of the United States receives more money in donations than the American Red Cross???? This is appalling to me, especially considering the lack of assistance hands-on animal shelters receive from the HSUS (less than 1% of donations received by HSUS go to animal rescues). The HSUS is primarily a lobbying group that is working to keep people from keeping animals at all, and would love to see all people become vegan. They are taking money from people who believe that the HSUS helps dogs and cats, and getting rich off of spreading lies about how livestock care is done and farmers, who use responsible practices to provide safe food to the best of their ability at an affordable price are being blamed unfairly. These types of organizations benefit by sensationalizing the truth and leaving out important information, and dipping into people's emotions in order to dip into their pocketbooks for donations. Maybe agriculture benefits financially from using the technology they do, but so too do the special-interest groups who are spreading the unproven slander.

Still reading my epic post? Thanks for hearing me out.

By and large, I'm excited to try the primal thing for the month of February. There's just a few key areas that I take issue with, that I felt the need to clarify my viewpoint on.

Do you have comments? First, please be sure you read the whole thing. And please be kind! Remember, I am just a woman who fell in love with a farm boy, married him, and now I stay at home with our children. I'm not a scientist, but even so I think my point of view has some merit. I'd love to see some discussion about this.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sheep with a Different Beat

Strange post title, eh?

Yeah, that's kind of the point :-)

I've always been a little different than everyone else. Mostly I'm okay with that, even quite pleased with being a little odd. But at other times, it gets kinda lonely having a different take on things. It's nice to know that your close friends and relatives don't think you're completely off your rocker! Mostly I've learned to accomplish that goal by watching carefully others' reactions during a conversation - even a fool seems wise when her mouth is shut, and I'm getting better at keeping shut!

There are a lot of things that I don't just follow along with "what everybody else is doing" on. Most of these have come out in the last 3 years, since becoming a mother. Just a few examples: cloth diapering, breastfeeding (and allowing the child to self-wean), the food I choose to feed my family (more about that in future posts, still developing thoughts about that one), immunization schedules, what we tell our kids about Santa Claus, the way I choose to trim my horses hooves . . . the list could go on and on. Really, it could. I've got good reasons for why I've chosen all the things I've listed, and I'm very very happy for it and feel in each I've made the best choice for me, even though many will look at me funny when they discover the difference.

I've even questioned myself whether I choose to be different just so I can "be different." I've decided this is not the case, because being different than those around you really isn't very easy. It's uncomfortable at times, and sometimes trying to find information about each thing is tricky because usually I don't know anyone doing it the same way! So it often feels like I'm pioneering a new path all alone, which while this can be exciting and certainly a learning experience, it's truly not preferred.

But it really bugs me when I see others I care about just do things "the way they've always done them" just for the simple reason of "that's the way I've always done that" or "that's the way so and so always did that and they were just fine." Firstly, what does "just fine" really mean? Personally, I'd like to give myself a shot of having better than just fine. I also feel that recently (like in the last 3 generations) technology in all realms has changed nearly all facets of life at such a fast pace that life today is drastically different than life 3 generations ago, and I'm not convinced that all of the changes have been for the better. Of course, many of them (electricity, indoor plumbing, refrigeration, and so on) have been very very good and I don't want to be without some of the modern conveniences - but some other lifestyle changes I question, and really wish more people would.

I've read the word 'Sheeple' and I think this accurately describes the mindset many have. You may have heard about sheep, and the fact that they aren't particularly bright, and that they'll typically just follow the tail of the sheep ahead of them, completely blind to where they are going. I think of 'sheeple' people as sheep wandering after each other lost, sheep without a shepherd. I don't want to be like that. I'm happy to follow the sheep in front of me, but only after I've stopped to have a look around and try to see if that sheep is traveling in the right direction. Mostly, I've been blessed by being surrounded by some very wise sheep, so I'm glad to follow in their footsteps, but even so I try to take a step back and think for myself before just blindly following along. And I always try to remember that Jesus is the Good Shepherd - the shepherd's job is to protect the sheep from attackers that would do them harm, and to guide the sheep to still waters and green pastures. What a blessing, that Jesus would gently guide us in the right paths.

I'm glad to be a sheep with a different beat. Even if I do sometimes feel like I'm the only one I know who "_______" (insert weird thing here), I'm not alone - I've still got my Good Shepherd, gently guiding me.

I just pray for the wisdom to know the difference between being different for the sake of being different, and choosing the good path despite the fact that it's a little different.

*Oh, you're still reading?? I guess I could share bits of why I've chosen some of the things I highlighted.

cloth diapering - less diapers in the landfill, it's really not that difficult to wash them, I save a TON of money, fewer chemicals touching my babies' skin

breastfeeding (and allowing the child to self-wean) - I don't have to wash bottles, I know my child is getting the exact right nutrition at the exact right temperature, I love to cuddle up with my usually squirmy, not-so-cuddly active toddler and nursing offers a great opportunity for that, and I know that my baby will not nurse forever - they'll get ready when they're ready, and they don't even get all their teeth until they're much older than most people wean - so to me that means their nutrition would be lacking if I weaned them earlier. Besides, it helps me lose weight!

the food I choose to feed my family (more about that in future posts, still developing thoughts about that one) - we're going to do a "challenge" in February where we are very careful about what we put in our cups and on our plates. Not 100% sure what the "rules" will be yet, but I expect to see a big difference in energy levels and waistlines.

immunization schedules - I cannot believe how much the CDC recommends to inject into tiny, weeks or months old babies! Our kids still get all of the recommended vaccinations, but spread out over a greater timeframe.

what we tell our kids about Santa Claus - Santa is not real! It's a nice, pretend story - but Jesus is what Christmas is all about. And really - the story of a virgin giving birth to a God's only Son, in a barn, with Shepherds being told by angels, and the wise men coming because they saw a start - the true story of Christmas is miraculous enough, it doesn't need a fat man in a red suit to pass out presents too!

the way I choose to trim my horses hooves - I choose not to put shoes on my horse, and I try to trim so that her feet mimic what they'd look like if she were a wild mustang. This is healthier and more comfortable for the horse, and less expensive for me!

Oh, and I need to say this! Just because I'm doing things the way I do them, does NOT mean that I think you are wrong because you do things your way!! Your way may be perfectly right for you, please don't take me doing things my way as judgement about your way. I only ask that you make sure that you're doing things the way your doing them as a conscious choice you've made, not just because that's the way it's always been done.