It's easy to let yourself become lazy when following a healthier lifestyle, don't you think? At first you're all gung-ho and you get your family on a better track, but over time you slip in small areas here and there. It's not that we need to be perfect, none of us can eat a “perfect” diet, but it is easy to get busy, and then get a little lax over time.
It was spring of 2004 when I had what I call my “food conversion” (read the story at that link). Overnight the way I fed my family went from the SAD diet, Standard American Diet, to a healthier diet based on the principles I learned from the Weston A. Price site. It was pretty overwhelming at first, though, and if you or someone you know is at that stage right now and need a helpful tool to navigate this switchover, check out my book Real Food for Rookies. That's the resource I WISH I'd had back when I was learning! Want the whole first chapter, which is a grocery cheat sheet? Click here to join my “Kitchen Kop Krew” and get it free.
So it's more of a process for most people, but for us, the junk from our pantry and fridge was tossed out right away. How could I still feed my kids that disgusting food now that I knew the truth? From there I searched frantically to find better options. I figured out ways to consolidate trips to farms and health food stores via co-ops, cowpools, and good friends. (We call each other when we're headed to pick up some real food and see if the other needs something.) I kept reading and learning and with God's help, and help from many of you, we have come so far!
A few good habits have slipped, though, due to busyness mostly.
Thoughts of all the ways I need to step it back up have been poking around in the back of my mind in recent months, but it was my trip to Minnesota last week that gave me the new fresh outlook and motivation I needed. It was just the right nudge to fire me up again and help me commit to getting back on track. It was seeing things like…
- How Philip and Kay up and bought a farm a few years ago after Kay went to her first WAPF conference in Chicago — it was my first conference, too! Read more about that here.
- How they raise all their own animals for meat and eggs for them, their two daughters' families, and other relatives. I saw the way their animals are well cared for, out grazing on lush green pasture, fed a diet that keeps them healthy and those who eat that meat, and all butchered humanely and with gratefulness. Click here to see pictures of their gorgeous farm in my public thank you note. (There I also tell you all about our real foodie field trips, and how the kids and I were pampered like crazy!)
- How almost everything else they eat is grown by Kay's sister, Brenda, and husband Rick (and their friends) in their garden, or her friend Pam on her CSA farm. See Pam's farm and cheese making shop here, along with a little more about my trip.
There are things I probably WON'T do:
- I'm not going to start gardening more — we garden only a little, mostly on our deck, because of the hungry deer and other wildlife around us that sabotage our efforts!
- I doubt I'll begin canning like Brenda.
- And it's highly unlikely that we'll ever buy a farm and raise animals like Philip and Kay…
What I AM doing: 5 Ways I Have Recommitted to Real Food and Healthy Eating
These are the ways I CAN improve…
1. Get the kids back into the habit of taking cod liver oil. Kent and I stay fairly consistent (him more than me), but lately the kids haven't been taking it regularly, and it's so important for their immune systems, their ability to learn well, their behavior, and their long-term health! Here's more about which kinds to take.
2. Join a CSA. I was leery of doing this because of the pressure to use up all that nutritious food before it goes bad. I've got a lot going on here every day, as you do too I'm sure, and can't do it all! However, when we were touring Pam's farm and I saw all the work that went into making sure that others have nutrient-dense foods to feed their families, I was re-thinking things. When Pam was telling us about her CSA and I mentioned my thoughts on the pressure to not let food go to waste, she said, “But the farmers doing things the right way need your support, even if it’s only a half-share. You just need the right cookbooks on hand with enough ideas for ways to use everything.” Click here to see Pam's farm and which cookbooks she recommends.
So last week was our first week, and opening the box to see what was inside felt like Christmas! A friend joined as well and we're taking turns picking up every other week. So far so good — we easily used everything up in our first box. 🙂
3. Only buy meat from farms I have personally visited where I can see the animals and talk to the farmer face-to-face. I've been mostly following this rule, but have gotten a little lazy and bought a lot of our beef from a local farmer who raises his cattle off-site, at a location I've never seen. I know this farmer and he assures me that they're raised on pasture, not fed junk, etc., but I don't like that I can't go visit myself (it's out of state), so I want to get away from this. I have a friend who feels the same, so she and I are going to take a day soon to visit some farms in our area. (If you are too busy to go search out farms or can't find good sources for pastured meats near you, here's where I recommend for ordering safe, healthy meat online. I do know and trust the owner there, so if you can't go visit the farms, this is second best.)
By the way, a little side note… I know a lot of people buy their organic meats at Costco, assuming that it's at least better than the typical grocery store meats, and it may be, but how do you know? It also could be a lot more expensive for a product that is only barely any better. So when I was there today and saw the organic Coleman Chicken that they carry, I decided to do a little online research on my phone. (No wonder shopping always takes me so stinkin' long!) First I found the company's site where they said, “Our USDA certified organic chicken goes the extra steps to include an organic diet with non-GMO grains and free-range outdoor access.” All good so far, but then I found a blurb about them here:
The leading producer and distributor of USDA certified organic chicken is Coleman Natural Foods, a Perdue brand that markets Petaluma Poultry. Petaluma’s Rosie was the first USDA certified organic chicken brand. Rosie was “never administered antibiotics,” she was fed an “organic vegetarian diet with no GMOs” and she was raised “free range.” There are few standards of purity higher than “reared without antibiotics on an organic vegetarian diet.” But what does “free range” actually mean?
Rosie’s website features a close-up of a fluffy white chicken nestled behind a tuft of grass on a sunlit pasture. But it also mentions that the company had to start a recycling program with rice farmers to rid itself of the manure that piles up in the poultry houses. Under organic rules, farms are required to provide chickens with access to the outdoors. So if Rosie were really spending all of her time outdoors, would farmers have a problem with manure piling up indoors?
It turns out that the extent of outdoor access provided to organic, free-range chickens varies widely and could be anything from pasture to a dirt lot. The Animal Welfare Institute’s Food Labeling for Dummies warns about this claim: “The length of time the birds are required to have outdoor access, and how this must be verified, is not legally defined and therefore varies greatly from facility to facility. Crowding is not uncommon.”
Watch this video for more about factory farmed chicken: (It's pretty funny…but yet it's not.)
Back to my list of ways I plan to improve…
- Knowing how powerfully fermented foods build the immune system (by building up healthy gut flora), I'm going to buy more of my FAV fermented veggies
- Get my dairy kefir grains fired back up — which is made with our fresh, raw milk (for these superfood smoothies)
- Make more kefir soda pop
- And maybe try making kombucha again! (My friend, Hannah, has lots of good info on making kombucha here.)
- Homemade broth is great for digestion, and in the GAPS Diet it's used to help seal the gut lining — it's part of a whole healing protocol, that's how powerful it is! I use it a lot in recipes, but need to get better about making sure we have broth at least a few times a week. (See Nourishing Bone Broth for Rookies. Also, if you want to heal allergies, behavior issues, auto-immune disorders, skin problems and more, get the GAPS beginners kit. In addition, you may want to read: Gut Health 101: 6 Questions and Answers About A Strong Immune System and the GAPS Diet.)
5. Improve on sourcing more organic or natural products (beyond food). I think food should come first, but we've been making better food choices for a while and still haven't gotten around to replacing more of my natural care products. (We've replaced a LOT, like laundry soap, deodorant -or try this simple, affordable, DIY deodorant-, toothpaste, lip balm, and a few other things, but still have more to go.) It's expensive, so that's one of the reasons we've gone slowly in this area.
That's my top 5 list of ways I want to get back into the groove around here. 🙂
In the meantime I'll keep up all the other real food and healthy eating habits that we're still doing okay at, like eating lots of healthy fats, limiting sweets, taking my supplements (see The Four Daily Supplements Everyone Should Take), eating only fermented or sourdough bread, making almost all our foods homemade, etc.
What about you? What are the ways you've slipped a little, and how will you get back on track again? Share your plans with us! Also, which areas are you still doing pretty good in?
Posts like this take a lot of time so I have one favor to ask…. If you are shopping on Amazon, I'd appreciate you doing so through this link or if you are shopping for other items doing so through the links on my shop page — there's no cost difference for you, it just helps support the blog so I can keep going, and thank you! You might also buy my book: Real Food for Rookies!
Don't miss this time-saving idea…
An easy way to stay on track with healthier eating is to sign up for these simple meal plans, from my friends Antony & Emily. I was just chatting with Antony today on the phone and he was filling me in on all the user-friendly features they have built-in now:
- You tell it what you like to eat, how many mouths you feed and instantly it creates a personal meal plan catered just for you. Then if you don’t like something – you just change it with a click.
- As most of us eat a particular diet, Real Plans allows you to simply exclude whole food groups (like shellfish or nightshades). It also gives you the option to exclude specific ingredients too. And then, magically you are presented with a whole meal plan for your specific diet. (Paleo, traditional, gluten-free, etc.)
- Along with the meal plan comes a timeline and a shopping list. Both of these automatically change no matter how you switch around your meal plans.
- The timeline tells you when to defrost/soak ingredients and any other things you need to know about preparing the dish.
- The shopping list categories everything based on how you typically shop a supermarket. All the produce, spices, bottled goods are all grouped together. You can then check off anything you already have in the kitchen, add anything else you want to add to your list and then take it to the store.
- Real Plans allows you to print, email or open your shopping list on your smart phone. The mobile app lets you check off ingredients as you walk around the store – so you never miss anything.
- The plan comes with over 1500 Real Food recipes, all tested and photographed in the Real Plans kitchens and presented to you in a Recipe Box. It saves you time searching online for the right collection of recipes for your family.
See how it works here: