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Friday, December 30, 2011

The Great Food Overhaul

Fresh variety salad with homemade honey-mustard vinaigrette on whole grain Spelt tortilla.

Our New Year's resolutions got a head start this year. The Bagel family has officially overhauled its eating habits and I'm going to tell you, step by step, exactly how it happened. It's the most awesome thing ever! I'm excited about it every. single. day. And here I am, hopping up on my virtual housetop, to share the good news. I hope I can help inspire someone else to want to feel this way about food, eating, meals, and nutrition.  This is not a "diet" in the modern American sense of the word.  This is a complete change in lifestyle.  And what's more . . . it came easily!  So easily.  Read on to hear my sincere (but probably very goofy sounding) testimonial.  Ha ha ha.  I totally sound like an infomercial right now.  But I'm not!  I'm Liz.  Just Liz.  You know me (or most of you do, anyway).  I'm not paid for this.  It's just something I am suddenly passionate about.  And if you really do know me, you know that this *gushing passion* is typical behavior from Liz when she feels excited about something!  :D

It all began many months ago when we started watching Fusion Grain Cooking with Chef Brad on BYUtv. We were really impressed with the wide array of grains he used in his cooking, some that we had never even heard of (Teff? Farro? Kamut?), though they contain many more nutrients than America's typical staples (white rice, wheat, and corn).

Then a few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted a link to a TED Talks lecture by a woman (a medical doctor, no less) who cured her own MS (which is currently dubbed "incurable" by the medical world, by the way) after extensive research and a massive change in her diet. It was extremely interesting and enlightening. Watch it right here, if you like. It's short!

That same friend also posted a link to a website called The Kitchen Skinny. A brand new website that provides five healthy (really healthy) meal recipes each week for an entire year. Not only that, but they also provide your shopping list for the week. It's so awesome!

Then Dan and I watched Food, Inc., because another friend had posted her impressions about it (again, on Facebook - see how influential social networking can be?!) after watching it some time back. At that time, we didn't have Netflix anymore, so I was kind of bummed that I couldn't check out what it was that had affected her so completely. Then, in December, we got Netflix again to be able to watch some Christmas-y movies and I quickly added Food, Inc., to my instant view queue.

After watching that (and wanting to vomit . . . and vowing never to eat fast food again), I wanted more food documentaries.  I just couldn't get enough.  With the help of Facebook and the Netflix "similar to" tool, I found three more food-related documentaries to watch: Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead; Forks Over Knives; and Food Matters.  They were each immensely fascinating and so absolutely informative.  Watch them!  I guarantee they will change your lives forever!  I couldn't watch those, passively declare them interesting, and turn right back to my disgusting eating habits.  I just couldn't do it!

So Dan and I talked.  And talked.  And talked some more.  And we agreed that we needed to overhaul our eating habits for the sake of our bodies and our children's bodies and our quality of life and future quality of life.  But we also agreed that the only way to do that was to jump in with two feet and never look back.  We knew we didn't want to eat fast food anymore (that decision was all too easy), but our own home had a bunch of junk food, empty of nutrition and full of nasty things like preservatives - crackers, pretzels, chips, cake mixes, jello packets, canned fruit.  Our fruit and vegetable drawers in our fridge were nearly empty except for the usual apples and carrots.  Anything else put in there tended to spoil before we ever used it.  Knowing we were likely to be foiled in our goals by the contents of our own home, we set about cleansing our immediate food supply.  We filled boxes and boxes with food we vowed never to purchase or eat again.  We have eliminated dairy products, wheat, and sugar from our diets, and greatly reduced meat consumption (eating this sparingly - as in, maybe once a week, if that - and only buying grass fed beef and free range chicken/turkey).  After that, here's what we did:

1. We filled our new void with tons of fresh, organic fruits and veggies.  We don't have a cheese/meat drawer anymore in our fridge.  It's now our leftovers-to-be-used drawer (like for half an avocado or half a bell pepper).  We try to make each meal 80% veggies, 20% whole grains/beans.  Fruits we eat for snacks and desserts.

2. We also used our Amazon account to purchase bulk supplies of Quinoa and Spelt.  If you don't know anything about those two grains, look them up!  They are super foods!  We also got bulk coconut oil to use for sauteing veggies and fattening up hot breakfast cereals (and little babies no longer drinking cows' milk).  :)

3. We replaced our sugar supply with Xylitol, pure maple syrup, agave, and raw honey.  There are TONS of recipes online for making healthy treats with these natural alternative sweeteners.  We use them sparingly.

4. We cleared out the freezer and were reminded of our awesome raw nut supply in there.  Hooray!

5. We joined The Kitchen Skinny to help us out with more dinner ideas and planning.

6. We joined Morning Song Farm CSA for a continuous supply of local, in-season, organic, harvested-the-day-we-pick-them-up fruits and vegetables.  (So far we've had one box and we give this CSA two thumbs up!)

7. We purchased the following kitchen appliances that we consider to be "must-haves" for healthy eating (please understand that they may not actually be must-haves and many people probably eat healthily without them, but for us, these were essentials).

          ~ Vitamix high speed blender.  We use this to juice fruits and veggies every day (well, blend really, then Dan juices the blended product through a nut milk bag.)
          ~ Food Dehydrator (kale chips, anyone?)
          ~ Pressure Cooker (fresh beans, folks!)
          ~ Tortilla Press (makes yummy Spelt flat bread SUPER easy!)

8. We started collecting scrumptious recipes for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.  We've already got a wonderful collection and I'm going to start sharing them here.  They are AWESOME!  Who knew eating healthily could be SO. DANG. DELICIOUS?!  Not I, that's for sure.  I've watched too many people chowing cheerlessly through dry salad after dry salad, all while salivating over the goodies they've given up in order to lose those "last few pounds."  That is NOT the healthy eating we've found.  We are happily retraining our taste buds away from salty, sugary over-processed foods and toward the colorful, tasty, and fresh world of God's pure bounty.

For example, my kids LOVE this muffin recipe for a hearty breakfast along with their daily veggie juice:

Vegan Spelt Banana Muffins (adapted from this talented lady's recipe) 
1 1/2 cups spelt flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
3 bananas, mashed 
¼ cup Xylitol (or whatever sugar substitute you have on hand)
1 flax egg = 1 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp warm water 
3 tbsp olive oil 
1/3 cup maple syrup 
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans 
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 12-muffin tin with paper liners.
2. Stir the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. 
3. Mix the bananas, xylitol, egg, olive oil, and maple syrup in another bowl. Stir the dry ingredients in gently, being careful not to over-mix. 
4. Divide evenly among the muffin tins (it’s a pretty wet batter, so I use a cookie scoop to just drop it in the muffin papers), then sprinkle with some of the chopped pecans. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean (they’ll look pretty dark, but they’re not burnt!) Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Now, please know that doing all this was NOT cheap.  Not by a long shot.  Nor does it continue to be cheap.  By juicing every day (and even with our CSA haul), we are making trips to the health food store for more organic fruits and veggies every other day or so.  But one of the things that really resonated with Dan from Food Matters, was when the raw foodist expert dude said something about how we in America are adamant about spending tons of money for the best car, the best apartment, the best education, the best clothing, etc., but we always approach food, our body's absolute source of energy and nutrition, on the cheap.  Why?  Why do we do that to ourselves?  Cut back elsewhere!  Shop at Salvation Army for your kids' clothes.  Buy books and toys second hand.  Take a staycation instead of an expensive exotic vacation.  There are ways to make this work, we just tend to lack the willingness . . . until you watch those movies, anyway!  Dun, dun, dun . . . .  :P

One of the greatest things as a parent is to be able to look at your child and know, KNOW, that you are doing at least one thing right by them.  For me, this is that one thing.  We have been doing this for one week now.  Just one week!  And yet, in that week our kids have drunk veggie juice daily, eaten salads every day (with no dressing, I might add - their choice, not mine), and tried countless new breakfast, lunch, and dinner foods.  When there's nothing else in the house, it's not surprising that they tolerate it so well.  Karsten drinks his salads from a bottle all day long.  He LOVES his juice!  And last week, when we first started this, I would be making a salad and I would slip him pieces of tomato, cucumber, avocado, and bell pepper.  Every single one would find its way to the floor in a little wet lump after a lackluster taste test by the little man.  Today, he stood on a chair by me and ate and ate and ate those little veggie morsels up one by one.  I was SO SURPRISED when he kept wanting more!  He is the perfect example that with a bit of parental stick-to-it-ive-ness and tenacity, our kids can learn to love healthy food.  What a wonderful whirlwind of a journey these last few weeks have been.  For Dan and me, Christmas was definitely overshadowed by our passionately-paced food overhaul, but we couldn't be happier.  Dan has more energy than ever and, though I'm pretty tired all the time (pregnancy tends to do that to me), I do accomplish a lot more than ever before each day.

Scrumptious Juice Cocktail (also called Purple Pizzazz when we have beets and Mean Green when we sub spinach in for the missing beets):

1/2 cup water
4 celery stalks
2 apples
1 orange (peeled)
1 handful of grapes
1/2 cucumber (not peeled)
3 carrots
1 beet with greens (or generous handful of spinach if no beets are available)
6 leaves of kale
1 small piece of ginger
Generous squeeze of honey

If you have a juicer, alternate hard/soft ingredients.  When using a high-speed blender (we use our Vitamix), start with first 6 ingredients, blend, then add carrots, blend, then add last three ingredients in 2-4 batches.  Blend times are short to preserve nutrients as much as possible.  When finished, pour smoothie into a nut milk bag over a big bowl and commence squeezing.  Dan gets to do this part.  He's very good at it.

Our next New Year's resolution will be to incorporate adequate exercise into this lifestyle change.  We're still too sedentary for our bodies' liking.
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Anonymous said...

Is there a conspicious absence of any mention of The Wheat Belly which allows no grains whatsoever? I still applaud you for making the changes but you may be getting too much glucose from all the grains you are eating. Mom

Courtney Wilson said...

We bought. A juicer after watching fat sick and nearly dead. So inspiring. My favorite juice is kale, spinach and green apple. That simple.

We also got a Vitamix for Christmas and love love LOVE it!

Honeyvillegrain.com has five dollar flat shipping no matter how big the order (we bought our years supply of steel cut oats, vital wheat gluten and powdered eggs and only paid 5 dollars for shipping) and azure standard also has drop off points everywhere!

I may end up emailing you for recipes. I'm inspired but I just can't rid of my sugar quite yet. I don't have a lot of it, but sometimes I just need some ice cream :)

Has it helped with your morning sickness at all or are you over it anyway?

Liz said...

Hey Mom! Nah, if you actually read what I wrote (hee hee hee), you would have seen where I said that we are eating 80% veggies and about 20% grains/beans. We shouldn't have too much glucose in our systems. ;)

Liz said...

Great tips, Courtney! Thanks!

Definitely give xylitol a try as a substitute for sugar. It's amazing stuff.

And I was over morning sickness by the time we started this, so I guess I can't answer that this go 'round. :D

Daniel said...

What in the world is a flax egg? That can't be healthy. :) I'm going to get a Costco hot dog today. That's healthy, right? I start my no wheat diet tomorrow (one of my New Year's resolutions), but today I will eat a hot dog and finish my Texas Roadhouse meal from last night. I watched Food, Inc. and Food Matters, but I'm a skeptic. Most of the people who comment in those videos are fat, so I can't trust everything they say. I eat healthier than most people, and I exercise quite a bit too, so I'm happy with my lifestyle for now.

Way to go, Lizzie! Yes, definitely include some exercise. The body needs it. By the way, that last picture looks like Dan is squeezing a cow stomach. :) Love you! Happy New Year!

Jen said...

Sounds intriguing, but I'm with Dan, minus the no wheat diet! ;) I will def look fwd to your posts on your journey though, and who knows maybe one day, I'll change my mind. I am interested in the grocery bill differences though, it seems to me that healthy food always seems more expensive...of course here in Hawaii everything is so expensive, but healthy just always seem to be even more so. We do love quinoa though! ;)

Shonda said...

Way to go! Very impressed with your action plan! :) I bought a juicer after watching Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, but I haven't used it yet. I do have green smoothies almost every day. I put about 3 cups of spinach, 1 cup chard, 1 cup collards, 3 kale leaves, 1/4 raw beet, 1 apple, 2 cups blueberries and a chuck of lemon (peel and all) into my Blentec. I have been working my way up to more greens but it is slightly bitter to me still. The beet makes it taste a little "earthy" shall we say. Sometimes I put some agave in to sweeten but I usually don't. I am working on my own blog post of the changes I am doing right now. My motivation is my daughter that was recently diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. Oh, I found a great blog called 100days of Real Food and she has great recipes using no sugar. I also have found lots of great recipes using grain substitutes such as coconut flour and almond flour by searching Paelo blogs. I consider Paleo against the word of wisdom because of the emphasis on meat products, but they have great recipes for grain alternatives and fruit and veg dishes. Sorry for the novel! :)

emilia. said...

this is so lovely! and i'm so excited for your new baby!!! that is the most exciting!

Liz said...

@Ha ha, Daniel! A flax egg is TOTALLY healthy. It's just 1 Tbsp of ground flax and 3 Tbsp of warm water. So great! And just because those expert commenters on those videos know better doesn't mean that they have the will power to eat better. :D But if you watched Forks Over Knives, you'd know that the two guys who believe in greatly reducing (if not eliminating) animal product consumption actually follow their own diet recommendations and are EXTREMELY trim and fit and active (especially for their ages!).

@Jen, the grocery bill is DEFINITELY higher. Eating healthily has its drawbacks, but those are far outweighed by its benefits. Oh, and Dan made a garlic olive oil Quinoa pasta tonight with sauteed rainbow chard and halved grape tomatoes. It was TO DIE FOR! And the kids absolutely gobbled it up, rainbow chard stalks and all. I, too, love Quinoa. :)

@Shonda, thanks so much for all the great tips! I think I have that blog (100 Days of Real Food) in my favorites list. I need to go check it out again. My interest was superficial last time I heard about it, now it would be more genuine and urgent. :) And I'm glad I'm not the only one who has some reservations about how the paleo diet could possibly mesh with the Word of Wisdom. It just doesn't feel right for me, so I'm more intent on finding more healthy grain alternatives than America's regulars that are now devoid of nutritional content and full of human intervention. That and just eating WAY more vegetables than anything else. :)

@Em, thanks so much! We are definitely excited about having another little Bagel! :P