Thursday, April 28, 2011


You know how some days feel like this?


Tess is getting eye teeth, Audrey's just generally really sad, Hannah is asking for food every 5 seconds.

I would like a vacation from life, please. I'll come back tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What should I feed my kids? Part two...

I dealt with the specifics of what to feed your kids. The next question people usually ask me is, how do you afford it?

Honestly, probably by some standards we can't afford it. My husband and I both made the decision to attend private college, and since then we have been strapped by massive education loans. It really has effected our financial situation significantly.

The other big decision we make is for me to stay home with our kids. I have decided to stay at home because we want a big family and we want to homeschool. That means things are pretty tight around here sometimes.

I often get really frustrated with our financial situation. But we could eat the food of a Standard American Diet and I could go to work, and we could get 100% out of debt in just a couple of years. We could make that choice - it's within our power to choose that. You know what? It's not worth it to me! We have some health challenges around here, and I would rather have my health (and work through the health challenges of my kids), than be debt free and have lots of extra cash but still be sick (or spend thousands on doctor bills!). I would rather stay home with my kids and sometimes find it challenging to pay our bills than miss out on what we believe God has called me to in staying home with them. I'm not saying these decisions are right for everyone, but for us, they are. It is a sacrifice to eat healthy, for most people. But for us, at the end of the day, it is worth the sacrifice. We continue to work toward getting out of debt, we make slow progress, AND we also prioritize eating healthy.

So...that's the vision. What about the practical side? Here are some decisions we make that allow us to eat this way:

-We buy in bulk every time we can.
-We do not buy expensive cuts of meat. We mostly eat ground meat and whole chickens. Incidentally, I was buying ground turkey at Whole Foods the other day (it's a much better value than anything else I've found), and the guy asked me if I made dog food out of it. I guess that must be what most people do with it. Um, no, we eat it. Thanks though. ;)
-We were given our van and paid off our jeep years ago. No car payments, and no plans to trade them in for new cars.
-Most people's housing costs between 25 and 35% (or more) of their take home pay. Our rent is about 17% of our income.
-We do not waste food. We eat all our leftovers, or make them into new dishes. We rarely allow meat or produce to go bad in the fridge. I have to stay pretty close to home to do this. When I get too busy things go bad, in more ways than one. :) Being home allows me the time to plan well.
-We make EVERYTHING from scratch. Pre-prepared healthy foods are stinkin' expensive. (And often not all that healthy, even if labeled "organic.")
-I keep track of the prices of everything and pay attention to the best values. We cycle between a natural meat market and 2-3 different health food stores plus co-op bulk buying.

Don't misunderstand me here, I'm not saying you should go spend money you don't have. But, there is a faith aspect to this. Make some steps in the right direction. Talk with your spouse about it. Buy $5 of extra veggies. Look into what it costs to buy beef from a rancher and start saving toward it - remember that what you usually spend on beef in your weekly groceries will stay in your bank account, since you'll already have beef in your freezer!

Our freezer with 1/4 of beef!
Baby steps... How important is it?

What should I feed my kids?

I get this question, in multiple forms, on a regular basis. First off, I'm not a doctor or a nutritionist, or really any kind of authority and don't want to set myself up as one. Feel free to take or leave what I have to say. But, my family has experienced multiple health issues that we chose to treat through nutrition. Add to that my penchant for researching, and I do have some opinions on the subject. But again, please no picking fights. Take it or leave it. :)

1. Don't start with rice cereal. I know, I know, I did it too. Most people did. But think about it: rice cereal is pretty processed stuff. It bears no resemblance to "real" food. It is a straight carbohydrate, with no protein, fat, or appreciable levels of nutrients (unless it is fortified, which is also a problem because synthetic vitamins are not easily absorbed and often cause sensitivities). It causes constipation in many babies. The only thing it has going for it is that it is rare to have an allergy to it. But many other foods are non-allergenic as well, and provide much better nutrition serving-for-serving. Good first foods? Avocado. Homemade broth. Plain yogurt. Veggies like sweet potato, peas, carrots, squash. With these foods, they're getting healthy fats (did you know kids MUST have fat for brain development?), small amounts of easily digestible protein, vitamins and minerals. If you are determined to serve rice as their first food, at least make it yourself out of brown rice.

2. Give them a probiotic. Every day. 200 years ago, many of our foods had beneficial bacteria in them. Modern sterilization techniques have allowed us to ship foods for long distances and store them for long periods of time, but they've also had a negative effect - sterile food does not challenge our immune system, nor does it help fight nasty germs when we come across them. Raw milk, sauerkraut, sourdough, soaked grains and beans, and live culture yogurt are not foods most people eat regularly anymore, and you have to get those good "bugs" somewhere or your immune system will be very weak. The easiest way (unless you'd like to get into those probiotic foods, which is also a good idea), is to find a good dairy free probiotic and take it every single day. Do you get colds nonstop? You need probiotics. Struggle with yeast infections? Probiotics. Allergies? Probiotics. This is not an overnight fix. Drugs fix things overnight but often cause other problems. Nutrition takes awhile to work but makes you healthier overall. You change your lifestyle, and over time, your health improves.

3. Serve a vegetable with every meal. For many people, this is a good place to start. And actually, prior to starting the GAPS diet three months ago, I didn't even do this, and I considered us very healthy. Our society is very grain-focused in the way we eat. Try to move your emphasis more to good (ideally pasture-raised) meats, and fresh organic produce. Then you add grains as an afterthought. Also, if you tend to have difficulty controlling your weight, generally it's because you are eating too many carbs. (Food allergies and other health issues such as low thyroid can also play into this). Cut back the carbs, focus on healthy fats (again, the conventional wisdom is just plain wrong), and protein, and most people will see the pounds melt away with minimal effort.

(Soapbox moment: I am very thin. People often assume that I don't understand what it means to be overweight, and that I'm just "lucky" because I have good genes or whatever and they make me thin. The truth is, my family does have something to do with it, but it's not genetic. It has to do with the way I was taught to eat. Dave Ramsey likes to say, "If you want to be rich, do what rich people do." Well, if you want to thin, do what thin people do. I eat a TON of healthy fat (animal fat, coconut and palm oil, avocado. Vegetable oils are generally not healthy.). It is very satisfying. It allows me to eat small portions of food and not feel hungry and shaky and miserable between meals. I also eat large amounts of protein. Even before we started GAPS, carbs/grains never made up more than 1/2 of my meals, and they were always whole grain. Now the carbs I eat (aside from the carbs in veggies) make up less than 20% of my meals, and I feel even better. OK. Soapbox over.)

4. Buy organic produce as much as you can. There are (and probably always will be) debates about this, but here's the straight facts: organic produce is more commonly (though not always) grown in ways that renew the soil. They rotate crops and do other things to put minerals back into the soil. Non-organic crops are generally grown in the same soil every year and over time the nutrients become depleted and no longer offer the same nutrition that they used to. Also, non-organic produce is often genetically modified (GMO). GMO's are so new, that no one is quite sure what the long-term impact of them will be on our health. I'd rather not be a guinea pig, thanks. Also, many kids react to pesticide residue because their bodies are so sensitive to their environment. These pesticides are often known cancer causing agents. Why take the chance?

5. Buy meat direct from ranchers. This is good for several reasons. First, it's cheaper, though it is an up front investment. Second, you have complete knowledge of the way the meat is raised. You can choose which ranch you want to use. Do you want 100% grass fed, with no hormones? It's more expensive, but probably the cleanest you can buy. Or are you ok with some grain fed, but still raised cleanly, allowed to graze? (This is the choice I've made, by the way. It makes the meat have more fat. Grass fed meat is very, very lean, to the point that I don't think it's that good for us.)

6. No whites: sugar, flour or rice, except on rare occasions. This stuff is sometimes processed with chemicals, it causes constipation, it causes yeast in your system to grow too much, and it is empty calories that don't nourish your body.

7. Avoid unnecessary antibiotics. Did you know that most ear infections are viral, and antibiotics don't touch them? Did you know that taking antibiotics when you have the flu generally does nothing for you? Did you know that fever doesn't necessarily mean your child needs an antibiotic? Our culture has reached a point of absurdity over drugs. I'm grateful for antibiotics, but they are WAY overused. Most kids will recover from most common childhood illnesses just perfectly without antibiotics. Consider carefully before you give them. Every dose wipes out the good bacteria along with the bad. (See number 2.) Any time antibiotics are a must, give LOTS of probiotics during and after that time, to recolonize their digestion.

8. Don't buy processed, packaged foods. If you can't pronounce it, don't eat it. These foods are sometimes very cheap (some of these foods are government subsidized, and that is why they can afford to give out coupons that make them practically free, a la Extreme Couponing...), but they can make you fat and sick. Really, the money you save in groceries, you'll pay in doctor bills. It costs money to be healthy. And it's worth the investment! Plus, you can make foods from scratch that will taste much better, I promise!

Start somewhere. Pick one thing to change, and work on it. Every step forward is better than you used to be! I often walk through grocery stores and think about how a person could eat healthy on almost nothing, if they only knew how to shop.

Which of these is the hardest for your family? Do you have any tips to add? Where did you learn the things you know about nutrition and eating habits?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

7 Quick Takes

So, I've been feeling the urge to start blogging again. Here's my attempt to dip my toes back in the water...

1. My sister took art and gymnastics for years as a kid (in contrast to me; I couldn't ever do a cartwheel and never learned to draw), so I asked her to teach Hannah and Audrey those things. She agreed, and all she wanted in return was for me to organize her kitchen for her. We started this morning. I hung out with Tess and my nephew, and they went downstairs to learn somersaults and stretches. I was able to move things around in her kitchen to make more room and make it much more efficient. A good time was had by all. I LOVE organizing things, and my sis's kitchen presents some interesting challenges that I handled well, if I do say so myself. Now, to see if she'll be able to find anything...

2. I have been deterred from garden prep by repetitive spring snow storms. Just can't quite bring myself to bundle up to go work in the garden. Next week looks warmer. I'm hoping...

3. We are nearly three months into the GAPS intro diet. I have yet to mention this here, so the short version is: I got sick and tired of dealing with all our food restrictions, and decided to find something that would fix them. The diet is grain free and includes tons of comfort foods. It was hard for the first month or so, and it's still expensive and requires lots of time in the kitchen to make everything from scratch. But, we are seeing tons of improvement and I'm very happy with the results thus far. Audrey is a different kid!

4. Hannah turned 6 last week. I don't feel old enough to have a 6 year old, and yet, she is. She's 1/3 of the way to 18 already. She's missing her two bottom teeth. She doesn't miss a thing. She's already blowing us and her piano teacher away with her musical talent. She has covered the walls of her room with colored coloring book pages and is very protective of them. She loves to help me with Tessa. She takes her Barbie/Princess dolls very seriously. She's best friends with Audrey.

5. I came across two different websites in the past week, both of which I am terribly excited about. Good Morning Girls and Inspired to Action. Check 'em out. Sometimes you just need a kick in the pants to do the things you've wanted to do all along. Ahem! At least I do...

6. Found out last week that I get to lead worship for our church's women's retreat next weekend. It'll be a small gathering - 25 or so women, but I'm so grateful to be able to play for them! Trying to decide on a song to teach them. There are several on the new Bethel Church album that I LOVE.

7. Nick has been teaching guitar on Tuesday nights for awhile now. He had never taught before. It's been fun to talk music lessons with him. Just a few minutes ago he came upstairs between students, and said with a smile, "This gets really easy after awhile." It is so fun to see him doing things he's good at and passionate about. He got SO nervous at first!

Well, there ya go. Is anybody still out there?