Natural Eating (and a recipe)

we have been making some big changes around here in the way we eat, and i thought some of you might find interest in it, so i’m gonna tell you a little bit about it today! and if you are not interested, that’s okay! but there’s still a recipe at the bottom of the post that you won’t want to miss.

i’ve been interested in our food choices for a few years now. it really started with our decision a few years ago to use freshly ground whole wheat flour to bake bread products. that was a good change, and has become a very normal part of our routine. (see here for why and how and see here for recipes made with whole wheat flour)

then with the start of our garden back in the fall, we began to become more interested in offering our bodies a better variety of nutritional foods. we began making these green smoothies, and eating more vegetables that we harvest from our garden.
but with the start of this new year, both jake and i decided we wanted to make a few more changes. i am usually the one to springboard these kinds of ideas, but this time jake didn’t need convincing. so i jumped at the opportunity of his willingness…

…and we began a new journey of cutting out all processed foods, and only eating what we call “real food”, or “natural food.”

i won’t get into the scientific reasonings or all the nitty gritty nutritional facts because:
1) i am not a dietician or a nutritionist
2) everyone knows that real, natural foods are good for you
3) i think all the details can be a little boring, so i honestly don’t know all the nitty gritty nutritional facts
4) you can get all the info you want on the WWW

i will just tell you this:
i am simply a normal, busy mom who cares about what goes into my family’s bodies, and realize that i play the most important part in making those decisions.

i’ll take a quick moment to say this though:
i think what we put into our bodies makes a huge difference! however, i realize that ultimately i am not the one in control (although i’d like to be, if i had to be honest!) we have a God who is Sovereign, Perfect, and Loving, and what He wills to happen will happen, regardless of what i eat or don’t eat.

however, He has given me a role that i take seriously, and that’s one of a wife and mom. and for me, i believe that a large part of my role is to take care of the needs of my family, nutrition being one of the large needs!

so as i began doing some research, i came across this book…In Defense of Food:

i am still in the process of reading it, but its like all this stuff has finally clicked and now makes sense to me.

Eating should be simple. it should be logical. it should be a no-brainer. but we are often misled, so we become confused. we might have the best of intentions, but our own grocery stores become an exhausting hunt to figure out what really is good for us and what isn’t. our world is not set up in such a way to help us navigate this issue well.

so i did some research.
and then a friend told me about this blog:

and i was sold when i realized that these changes are totally doable for a busy family with young children.

so as it stands now, we are making the effort to cut out processed foods. which on a very easy basic level (cause that’s how i have to operate) means:
1) we are not eating anything enriched, only 100% whole grains

ie: no white flour, no white rice, etc…

2) we are not eating any refined sugar

ie: the only sugars we eat are natural sugars…so for us that means only honey, maple syrup, and fruit juice concentrate. good thing we already buy local honey by the gallon!

(there is some debate over Stevia…i’m not sure where i fall in that debate yet!)

3) we are not eating any foods that have ingredients that are not natural…
ie: ingredients that i do not know how to pronounce, that i simply do not know what it is, or ingredients that do not exist naturally, which includes anything with additives or preservatives.

and we try to limit the amount of ingredients in any one food product that we buy (5 is a good number, but that’s not necessarily where we stop, as long as all the ingredients are natural)

4) we DO eat any food that is a product of nature.

ie: fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, meat, nuts, seeds
(i like to think of this way…would someone have eaten this back in Biblical times, before we had factories and machines to process our food. if so, i believe it is to be considered a natural food)

(and FYI: whenever possible, we eat organic stuff, but that’s not always possible or in our budget, so meat, eggs and milk are always organic, as well as anything from our garden!! the rest is as much as we can afford or find.)

5) we do still enjoy treats, but only if i am able to make them myself, with all natural ingredients.

ie: french fries that i make myself, chicken nuggets breaded with whole wheat flour, treats such as the recipe at the bottom of this post, etc…

that might seem like it limits us, but let me tell you…i truly believe that it doesn’t!! i do not feel like i am missing out. i do not crave things i can’t have…(well…except for maybe Lemonheads…but i’m getting over it :) but i have been more satisfied than ever in my life with the food we are eating. and…i find that we are actually eating less, because we truly are satisfied with less. and i’m definitely buying less items, because there is just simply not as much to buy in the grocery store anymore!

but here’s where reality sets in…
i have 2 young children, who go to school, birthday parties, church functions, etc…
so in other words, this is not a fool proof plan!

just yesterday, Canaan had reached an academic goal at school, so he got to have a special lunch with the teachers. i packed his lunch using some of my kids’ favorite Real Foods:

(white cheddar cheese, triscuits (which you will be happy to know are made with only 3 ingredients, all of which are natural), sugar snap beans, all natural applesauce with a little cinnamon, and pistachios)

but at the end of lunch, the teachers gave him a surprise of ice cream as a treat, and he ate it. was i upset? NO! that’s real life. he’s gonna get treats. i’m not gonna expect him to refuse his special treat. i’m not gonna call the school and ask them to not give him any treats. in fact, i just love that he even thought enough about it to tell me. however, next time, I WILL give him options so he has another choice if he wants, like sending in a juice box to pour on his snow cone for his snow cone party next week to avoid the snow cone syrup. its not depriving him of something fun and tasty. its offering another option, a healthier option, so he can make the choice. i’m hopeful that my kids will start to see this as something they are choosing to do, rather than something we are making them do.

like this:
we were at a birthday party, and there was a beautiful spread of sweets, as there should be at a birthday party, and as i can assure you WILL be at my kids upcoming birthday parties. before beginning this journey, i would’ve given my kids free range to go to town. but this day i tried something new. i told my kids they could choose only one thing from the table….a cupcake, a marshmallow, or a few small pieces of candy. they could make the choice, but they could only have one thing. they each chose a marshmallow, did not complain, and happily enjoyed the party like any normal child would. i felt like that was a huge success!

so with that being said, my goal is this (for now):
95% of the time we will eat only real foods
5% of the time, on those special occasions, or when we simply don’t have a better choice in the moment, we will enjoy whatever it is we are wanting to enjoy!

and if we happen to have a lot of special occasions, or if we are traveling, that might get bumped up to 90/10%

basically, we are not going to be slaves to food, but we are going to be aware of what we are doing and why. and we are going to make the extra effort it takes to check labels, ask questions, and make choices. and we are going to push through the awkwardness that might arise as people notice we are maybe just a tad more complicated. and we are going to choose restaurants when eating out that offer choices that fall into our Real Foods plan. and we are going to go to friends’ houses for dinner, and eat what they serve, because we love them more than we love our “rules.” and we are going to celebrate birthdays with cake (and probably lots of it!!)

(Canaan’s 1st Birthday)

(Bella’s 2nd Birthday)

my take on this whole thing is that things aren’t a big deal unless you make them a big deal. my goal is for this to become so natural to us that it is normal. i’m convinced it is the “normal” way to eat anyway….we’ve just strayed too far from it!

well…there you have it! do i expect you all to be intereseted? not at all! do i think everyone should do this? NO! do i think i’m a better mom than those who don’t feed their kids whole foods? HECK NO!! (trust me…i really DON’T)

and if you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out about all this right now…hear me…I DID TOO!! AND STILL DO SOMETIMES! but its kinda like when you bring a newborn home from the hospital for the first time and you don’t have a clue what you are doing. but the more you learn, the more diapers you change, the more feedings you give, the more natural it becomes. you don’t even have to think about it, its just life!

the good thing is as we’ve started this journey, i have been blown away at the amount of tasty recipes i’ve found and tried!!! i’m also learning that i can take many great recipes, and most of my tried and true ones, and usually just sub a few ingredients out to make it fit our “rules.”so i will probably share with you things i’m learning along the way, because no matter what you do or how you eat, some of these recipes are just too darn good not to pass along!!!

so i’ll end with this one, because if you are like me, and if upon first glance of the whole “no refined sugar” makes you want to run screaming in the opposite direction, let me assure you that your sweet tooth will not be disappointed by eating only real foods.
this recipe is adapted from one i found here.
this recipe yields 12 mini cups.
combine coconut oil, cocoa powder, and peanut butter over low heat until melted. remove from heat and stir in vanilla and honey. keep adding honey until sweet enough for your taste.
add in a pinch of salt.
drop by small spoonfuls into mini cupcake liners.
freeze for 10-15 minutes. peel off liner and be prepared to taste a slice of heaven!

i truly had my doubts if these were going to taste all that good. i’m telling you…they taste just like the ones you buy in the store. in fact, i might venture to say they are better. i’ve discovered that recently…making things homemade do really taste better!
here’s a recipe card for you (just click on it and save, then print.)
(you can also use this recipe as you would use any melted chocolate. i just used it today to dip some strawberries for chocolate covered strawberries! it would be excellent as fondue, or over some homemade all natural ice cream.)
however, i must note that it would completely defeat the purpose of all natural eating if we ate these everyday. like all treats, they should be consumed in moderation. but they make for the perfect little dessert to satisfy a sweet craving, without filling our bodies with refined sugars and processed foods.

let me know what you think!

ps: just thought i should let you know that this blog isn’t going to turn into a food blog. Lord knows i don’t know enough about food or cooking for that to be the case!! but some of this will spill out every now and then, cause its apart of our life. so if this doesn’t interest you one bit, don’t worry! this blog will still be the hodgepodge of stuff its always been :)