*This is an excessively long post.*
But first, I feel the need to say these are personal choices that feel right for our family. What we are working towards is in no way a reflection of what I think everyone should be doing. I am not judging anyone's choices... this blog is about our life and what we are doing. Food choices are a big part of our family, but it's no longer only out of necessity due to of life-threatening food allergies; we're intentionally making different choices.
What am I talking about?!?
I'm talking about baby steps towards whole food living: whole wheat, unrefined sugars, organics, home grown food, removing preservatives and additives as much as possible... just to name a few. Eventually (HOPEFULLY!) raw milk, free-range organic eggs, keifer, and other things I had no idea about 4 months ago.
Really, this journey of conscientious food choices started with Witt's allergy diagnosis. When we found out he is anaphylactic to dairy (and allergic to eggs & peanuts), we went into survival mode. Our diet at the time was SAD (Standard American Diet). We ate out 2 - 3 times a week, had tons of prepackaged foods in the pantry, and drank 4 - 5 gallons of store bought, non-organic, pasteurized milk weekly... and I rarely read a food label.
The first year of Witt's allergy we ate out as a family about once a month (Witt was still breastfed or on jarred baby food and contained easily); we switched our prepacked foods from whatever we wanted to dairy-free egg-free peanut-free prepackaged foods, and drank about 4 gallons of organic soy milk weekly. Looking for allergens on labels had become our way of life.
Once Witt was more mobile and on table foods, we no longer went to restaurants as a family (although Jeff and I continue a weekly lunch date out). Prepackaged foods decreased a little as I found it was more economical for me to cook from scratch. Massive soy milk consumption continued. I started paying attention more to labels... not just the allergen info, but it became, "What in the world are these 27 letter long words???"
Late 2008, as I started searching for more and healthier recipes to replace our standard prepackaged foods, I continually ran across a highly recommended book: Nourishing Traditions.
I decided to check further into this book. I searched for it on Paperback Swap first to see if I could get it for "free". Nope. There were over 400 other members "wishing" for the book. So, I decided to get myself a Christmas present. :)
This was my much anticipated gift Christmas morning and I'll be honest... when I opened it and looked at all the recipes containing whey, milk, and eggs I was disappointed. I thought there was no way I would ever use this book, but I started to read it anyway as Sally Fallon had several chapters prior to the recipes regarding fats, vitamins, minerals, etc., and even a chapter on food allergies.
I was amazed at what I read regarding food studies, how big businesses are controlling what goes in our foods, and how all these refined foods are really just filling a void in our stomachs - not nourishing our bodies at all. Before I even got to read the chapter on food allergies, I was putting two and two together thinking, "It is no wonder there are so many food related problems today with all the artificial stuff we've been feeding ourselves these last few generations!"
About this time, I also started researching soy more heavily.
I had already read a few scary articles regarding the estrogen levels in soy. One in particular continues to stick out in my mind regarding boys that grew breasts, which was linked to soy consumption. Have you read your labels recently? Soy is in almost EVERYTHING and it has been linked to a lot of bad, bad things and is dangerous! We decided to stop drinking soy milk and we've switched to almond milk... which is absolutely delicious by the way!
So these baby steps bring us to today. I am, of course, nowhere near where I want us to be, but these things take time in my world. I'm slowly transitioning our recipes by replacing some of the refined ingredients with less or non-refined ones.
Here are the main updates to our diet so far for 2009:
- No soy milk (although we do use soy yogurt and cheeses from time to time)
- Whole wheat flour is replacing all purpose (unbleached) by 25% - 75% of the flour amount called for.
- Coconut oil is replacing dairy free margarine in all baked goods and sauteed foods
- Sucanat , maple syrup, honey and other natural sweeteners are replacing white refined sugar by 50 -100% of the sugar amount called for
- Making more baked goods from scratch for healthy breakfasts and snacks
- We have planted seeds to grow some of our own fruits, vegetables, and herbs this year (a first for us!)
- Making nourishing chicken broth from bones (I also did this with venison!)
Changes I want to see take place before the end of the year (Please note that I am not expecting these to be 100% complete changes... ie. I use the word "more" not "all")
- Buying more organics. Honestly, I currently buy few organics fruits & veggies because of price. Hopefully our garden will supply a lot, but we go through so much fruit!! This will probably be by far the most expensive change for us.
- Find a reputable free-range chicken farm. I know there are some around here, but I just haven't gotten to that yet. I hear they are delicious, though!
- Shop our local farmer's market once a month (ours is quite expensive, but those peaches are fantastic!)
- Introduce granola cereals (instead of using extruded cereals)
- Learn more about and attempt soaking grains
- Learn more about and attempt sprouting (and more sprouting)
- PRAY PRAY PRAY for a full removal of food allergies from Witt by his next testing in December 2009.
Benefits I have seen so far:
- 6 pounds lost this year with only the above changes
- Major reduction in sweet cravings
- Sodas taste and feel like corn syrup - I have no desire for them
- I don't feel the need to eat as much when I eat whole, unprocessed foods (seriously!)
- Just an overall sense of feeling better, whether it's all in my mind or not, I don't know, but I'll take it either way! :)
- Going from white flour to whole wheat flour is not very "kid friendly"in many cases - at least not for a 6 year old raised on white flour. (bless his heart...)
- I need to find a balance between altering and not altering recipes (ie. Jeff's not too excited about me putting whole wheat flour in his favorite cornbread. Some things need to be left alone and I need to respect that.)
- I'm having a really hard time staying within my $125/week grocery budget.
- It's all a little bit overwhelming at times and I need to continue to remind myself that baby steps are the way to go for our family.
- We currently can't get the benefits from raw milk or from eggs with Witt's allergies so we're only working within the boundaries available to us.
Where I've been going for nourishing information:
Heavenly Homemakers (mama to 4 boys! fantastic recipes!)
The Nourishing Gourmet (Dairy free, very informative)
Local Nourishment (down-to-earth, real tests and trials of this foody life; also has a daughter with a milk allergy)
Naturally Knocked Up (although I'm not and don't plan to be again! LOL!)
Team Bettendorf (12 kiddos! and a new milking cow!)
Keeper of the Home ( writes about what a woman's body needs nutritionally... among many other great topics!)
Passionate Homemaking (love this page of natural living info!)
Yahoo Groups: Discussing Nourishing Traditions
Weston A. Price Foundation
So that's the first of a few "big topic posts" I have mulling around in my head. The buzz word for our family this year is "CHANGE" - good changes, but big changes none-the-less.