Sunday, November 15, 2015

Eating to Live

This post is way past due. I have lots to say. But I'm going to try and keep it colorful and to the point!

 About a year ago our family completely changed our way of eating. While living with Jon's parents we spent the better part of the last couple years editing our diet consistently to include less salt and less red meat. I've also been as dairy free as possible for the past 5+ years. So when I took my first child development class last fall, and we talked about nutrition, I felt REALLY passionate about jumping into clean eating.
What does that mean? Well, let me tell you the main motivations: as I discovered my lactose intolerance years ago, I have become increasingly aware of food allergies, sensitivities, and really legitimate health problems that can arise from eating improperly, in both myself and friends. Especially with having little kids and Edwin about to start solids last fall, I felt like I have this responsibility to teach them how to take care of their bodies in the best way possible, and that starts with our example at home. I have also had friends and family dealing with cancer over the last couple of years, (like my cousin-in-law who is Jon's age and has three little kids, dealing the past couple of years with breast cancer. It is scary stuff!) and, as many of you know, when cancer starts to hit close to home, it's a wake-up call.

You know when you have a pair of pants that doesn't zip up easily and is so uncomfortable that you can hardly breathe? You know what I mean, that every time you sit down you unbutton them just so that you have a little bit of space, and of course each time you wear these pants you wonder why you even still own them? Well that's kind of how eating with a food intolerance feels. Except a million times worse. I get so sick when I eat dairy that it isn't even worth it to eat it anymore, and you realize that you would rather eat delicious things that you don't have to suffer through, or take pills just to digest, just like how it really feels so much better when you finally buy new pants that really fit.

I have noticed the same things with friends. I want them to enjoy social activities with us where food is present, and not feel left out, but also, nobody wants to be sick when they eat. Food should be enjoyable, but similarly, we don't LIVE TO EAT, as society often feels. We should EAT TO LIVE and enjoy the experience as a side effect of treating our bodies well.

With all of the research available these days on pros and cons of food and healthy eating, there is an overwhelming argument for every direction. It's really hard to know what is right, and what is a fad, and what is just made up.

So I'll just tell you what we ultimately decided on:
a whole foods, primarily plant based diet, dairy optional (sometimes Jon still likes it so I put it on the side), with no fillers, preservatives, artificial coloring, and refined sugars.

snack for the kids: homemade wheat bread, natural peanut butter, banana slices and blueberries

So I guess you could say we are 90% vegetarian, with 90% of that being vegan, a smattering of raw diet principles, and the remaining 10% or so is a once-a-month splurge on meat at a church activity, or group dinner (like when we go to a friend's house).

We still try to be flexible and understanding since not everybody shares our specific clean eating convictions. But when it comes to eating at home, we are as vegan as possible.


Dinners started to take on more color like this:

And the basic idea is: less processed, less sodium, more veggies, more beans, more grains, no preservatives, more homemade, and simple ingredients. We don't do "substitutes" for meat really ever. (no, we DON'T eat tofu and soy everything. In fact, we don't eat tofu at all.) Instead I find recipes that are meatless to begin with: black bean burgers, zucchini fries, Mexican quinoa bowls, butternut squash soup, homemade pizza (dough from scratch) with all vegetarian toppings like artichoke hearts, mushrooms, spinach or kale, fresh tomatoes, yellow onions, and goat cheese (avoiding cow's milk). I even made a slow cooker bbq red lentil "sloppy joe" recipe last month. It was fantastic and all from scratch! You soak and cook the lentils, and make your own bbq sauce in the slow cooker. This new food journey has been so satisfying and empowering.

We started by re-thinking the whole way we shop for food. We already had a good habit of weekly meal planning, so all we had to do was build up a repertoire of vegetarian/vegan recipes, and then started reading labels of EVERYTHING at the store. If we do buy anything already made, we go for simple, organic, and/or non-GMO products.

And it's not just because "the internet says so". The next time you go to the grocery store I challenge you to read every label on everything you buy. Really see what is in your food. Start comparing products and see which ones you feel better about eating. Besides that, more natural foods genuinely taste better! It is literally what we were designed to eat.

The main goal really is less refined sugar, less fake, less fillers and additives. Instead you're eating the foods as close to straight from picking it out of your backyard as possible.

 And aside from what some people might try to tell you, eating this way is not just automatically going to be more expensive. Some snacks and things are, but we do so much more homemade now that it really balances out.

We make our own bread, our own hamburger buns, and when your dinner is mainly quinoa, beans, and veggies, you can make a little go a long way. Instead of goldfish, fruit snacks, crackers and chips, the kids snack on oranges, kiwis, or other fruits and berries, natural fruit leathers, KIND granola bars, roasted chickpeas, Quinoa bites, and Larabars.

I have rediscovered salads for lunch! I load everything up with extra almonds (good natural source of calcium and iron), and raisins (iron), and mixed greens like spinach and kale (more calcium) with a base of romaine.

I'm starting to learn what foods are rich in what key vitamins, and how they work for your body. Vegan diets get tons of protein, plenty of iron and healthy fats, all without the negative effects of an overdose of animal protein and processed sugars. More of the good + less of the bad = balanced, healthy, happy humans!

So start investigating the food matrix. :) When you know how to mix and match your foods, you can come up with so many fun and creative combinations. We also live by the bulk sections of our grocery stores. My ideal-perfect-dream grocery store would honestly be the natural and organic food selection of Broulim's with the prices and bulk section of WinCo. *cue heavenly angels singing*

Peanut/almond butter, agave, quinoa, arborio rice, and rice pasta in bulk? Heck yes! (also, apparently my new food processor can do nut butters. I haven't tried making them on my own yet, but I am thrilled!) #foodnerd

I compiled all of my research into a helpful conversion chart for the fridge. It is simple and covers all of the first step changes that I felt our family could realistically do. I reference it every time I plan our grocery list for the week. Click here to view it! Feel free to print, save, pin, and use it all over the place :)

In the end, with a whole foods plant based diet proven to reduce the risks of heart disease, and cancer, why would you NOT be motivated to change now? We didn't want to wait until one of us became seriously sick and then were forced into facing a plethora of unpleasant treatments and having to figure this all out at the same time. It is a big life change and would be totally overwhelming if it were also in the face of battling cancer and/or other diseases.

raw, no bake, vegan brownies!

The best part is that now when we have friends who end up with food issues, I don't have to be worried about cooking for them. I know the snacks, treats, desserts, and meals that will work for everybody, and I'm not intimidated by my kitchen. While Idaho has been a bit of an adjustment (especially in the restaurant area), we eat primarily at home, so that makes this way of eating incredibly doable. Man, we were just so spoiled by Whole Foods, Sprouts, Pushkin's Bakery, and the Sunflower Drive-In back in Sacramento!

From an LDS perspective, here is what the scriptures have to say about healthy eating habits:

Doctrine and Covenants -- Section 89
10 "...all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—
 11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.
 12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
 13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.
 14 All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
 15 And these hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
 16 All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—
 17 Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.
 18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
 19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
 20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint."

Califia Farms almond milk
So Delicious coconut milk products (frozen "ice cream" and yogurt) if you like coconut, then you will be in heaven!
If you don't then Almond Dream is a great alternative. (although I don't always care for everything to taste so nutty).
Silk yogurt (soymilk, which I've only found at WinCo)

First of all, My Vegan/Vegetarian Pinterest board is an invaluable tool for weekly meal planning.
Here are some of our major tried-and-true favs (that you should absolutely make this week, without delay!)
BBQ Lentil Sandwiches
(made in the slow cooker. extra awesomeness.)
One-Pan Mexican Quinoa
(basically everything on DamnDelicious is exceptional)
Vegan creamy garlic pasta with roasted tomatoes
(Minimalist Baker also so so good)
Quinoa Chili has a southwestern twist.
(my husband is a chili purest and he LOVES this recipe)
And in case you're like, "show me the beans!!" we really enjoyed this three-bean slow cooker chili.

I could go on and on. If you have questions, please ask! We are so excited about this food adventure, and it just keeps getting better and better. Here's to healthier, happier tummies, and a world full of delicious food that doesn't make anyone sick :D

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