8 Simple Food Changes with Big Impact
My “real food” journey has been going on a while. I’m not sure where the finish line is, but I’m on a daily adventure to put good things into my body.
I know it can seem overwhelming. I remember talking to a good friend many years ago. She had a houseful of children and did all her shopping at Whole Foods. I was still researching and learning and discovering at that time. It was overwhelming for me. I was just learning that much of the foods I was eating and feeding my family was in some way inferior (chemicals, preservatives, processing, hormones). I was learning that most of my food was a mess.
That friend said a couple of things to me I won’t forget.
One of them was:
“You can take this as far as you want to go.”
Boy, I think she’s right. Ugh. There is just no end. Even if you get to a point where you raise all your own food – are you processing it yourself? Even if you raise all your own veggies and fruit – how’s the quality of your soil? Do you get runoff from surrounding farms contaminatedl with roundup and other unwanted chemicals. Did I see an aluminum pot in your kitchen?
Don’t worry – I don’t care if you have an aluminum pot.
So, aside from living in a bubble or moving off the planet, we are always going to have to settle somewhere. Ya know?
I think we can all work toward making healthy choices each day.
I was listening to a radio program about a week ago and the person talking said, “No one gains 50 pounds in a week. It took many many days of poor choices to gain that much weight.”
“You’re not gonna lose it in a week either. Just like it took many days of bad choices to gain it, it’s going to take many days of right choices to lose it.”
This same “slow” approach has been how I ended up on a farm with gardens, pigs, chickens, cows and rabbits.
It started one day. It started with one thing. It started many years ago.
You can take this same approach. You may not end up on a farm, but you can still reclaim your food and know it is good.
Even if you only make a couple of these changes now, I believe it will matter. You don’t have to change your entire life in a day. You can implement bits at a time.
I went on a 101 day Homesteaders Food Challenge to see if I could raise, grow, harvest or gather everything I ate for that period of time. It was an incredible journey and I learned so much through the process.
It was also a bit on the extreme/radical side, and partially miserable.
When I went on the challenge, it was eye opening. I found so much health. My body changed. AND I thought I was pretty healthy before I started it.
Now that I’m here, on this side, leaner, healthier, better ….. I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to fall back into old habits.
If you want to make some changes that can remodel your health – this is for you.
There are some easy things you can do to improve your overall wellness.
Most normal people do not have the ability to raise everything they eat. Most normal people would not consider trying to raise everything they eat.
The good new is that you don’t have to.
Here’s a look at 8 simple changes you can make that your body will thank you for:
Healthy Change #1: Eat at Home
Before any of the other 7 changes can happen, you probably first need to start preparing and eating your foods.
It won’t make much difference if you are buying organic flour, grass-fed beef and coconut oil if you continue to eat your meals at restaurants. Unless you are eating at all organic establishments (which is pricey and hard to find around here).
Eating at home doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming. For me it means: just go home.
I’m not saying never eat out, I’m just saying if you want to reclaim your food and change your health, you’re probably gonna need to prepare some meals. 🙂
Healthy Change #2: Flour
Flour is in so many things I cook. It thickens sauces. It’s in bread, pasta, muffins, pancakes. Flour is a part of our meals & I don’t want to stop enjoying it.
If you are like me and want flour, it is important to know what is in your flour and what is not.
There are 2 choices to getting healthier flour:
- Grind your own wheat. Every 6 weeks or so I mill my own flour and bake 24-30 loaves of bread. Did you know that fresh ground flour has over 40 vitamins and minerals in it? Of the 44 known essential nutrients needed by our bodies, only 4 are missing from fresh ground wheat. It even has protein!
- I also use my fresh ground wheat for sauces, gravies, batter (on fried chicken, yes!), and whatever calls for flour.
- If grinding flour and baking bread sounds daunting or just insane – you can still improve the flour you are feeding your family.
- Buy Organic. Even though organic flour sold at stores will never be what fresh ground wheat berries are, they are definitely better than the “non organic” flours. What is done to “non organic” grain before it is ever ground into flour is enough to make a girl reach for the organic every time.
Here’s the overview of what happens to most (not organic) grain while it is being stored….. before it heads to the mill: (to keep critters out). You can read more about it here.
- They spray storage bin with insecticide before binning grain
- They apply a “protectant” (insecticide) on bulk grain before moving into the storage bin
- Then a surface “dressing” of more insecticides is applied to the grain at the top of the bin once it is full, to control surface infestations.
- If additional protection is needed fumigation can be used. This involves applying a gas to the grain to kill all insects on and in the grain.
THE GRAIN IS SPRAYED IN THE FIELD, SPRAYED BEFORE STORAGE, SPRAYED DURING STORAGE, GASSED DURING STORAGE, THE STORAGE BINS ARE ALSO SPRAYED BEFORE FILLING AND THIS WHEAT PROBABLY CONTAINS DEAD CRITTERS & INSECTS.
THEN IT IS GROUND, BLEACHED, AND PUT IN CUTE BAGS THAT SAY “FLOUR” AND SOLD TO US AT THE GROCERY STORE. WHO WANTS SOME PANCAKES? ANYONE? BISCUITS? CAKE?
Ugh. Not me.
To avoid all much of this nasty stuff – buy organic. I think it’s worth the investment.
Healthy Change #3: Sugar
I don’t eat a lot of sugar, but I need something sweet in my coffee every morning.
If you are like me and want a little something sweet one of the best ways to get some sugar without eating sugar is by using maple syrup or honey. Both are sweeter than sugar (so you will use less) and both contain less sugar than sugar (so you are consuming less).
Maple syrup and honey are not only lower in sugar than table sugar, they both contain vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants too boot.
If you happen to be baking a cake for your child’s birthday & need some sugar – a healthier option is to reach for the raw cane sugar (sucanat) instead of the white stuff. Sucanat hasn’t been through the over-processing of white sugar & even contains trace minerals. There are arguments that cane sugar is not “raw” enough. There are many “healthier” and “less processed” alternatives to sugar. Turbinado, rapadura or molasses are a few.
Remember, even “healthy” raw sugars are not “health foods” so they still need to be used within reason.
Healthy Change #4: Fat
If you cook, you will need fat. Sometimes some good old fashioned butter is the perfect solution. Other times (like in breads and baked goods) you need something lighter, like oil. Changing to healthy fats will go a long way to improving your health.
We eat around 3 pounds of butter a week. It completes me. Our butter is raw. It has not been homogenized, pasteurized, or changed in any way. I know this, because I spend part of every Sunday making it. It comes straight from the cows (in my front yard), it is never heated, treated or altered. Just churned & eaten.
My butter is a different color than the pale stuff at the grocery. It is yellow. This is because of vitamin K. Raw butter has all the vitamins intact, so it glows. The reason the butter sold at most stores is a creamy light yellow is because it is made from milk that has been pasteurized. The pasteurization process not only kills bacteria (good and bad) it also kills many of the vitamins. Color means healthy!
If you don’t have a cow and don’t want to make butter it’s OK. You can still purchase good butter. Look for raw butter, cultured butter or even Amish butter.
Another healthy cooking fat I love is lard (not the stuff from the store, only pastured, organic). Boy oh boy. If you haven’t yet heard me scream and shout about how stinking healthy pastured pig fat is, you should. It isn’t just “not bad” for you; it’s actually good for you.
More on pig fat:
The only other fat I use occasionally is grapeseed oil for baking bread. I make most of my bread products from scratch and they require a light oil for baking.
The truth is that sunflower oil, corn oil, vegetable oil, canola oil and cottonseed oil are all terrible for you. I do not have any of these in my pantry and avoid them like the plague. For more on bad oils go here.
Healthy Change #5: Eggs
The key word is “pastured eggs.” This is what you want.
Free range could mean they have a small outdoor area they never see. Cage free could mean 2000 chickens are crammed into a building instead of cages. Organic could mean the chickens were fed a diet (probably corn) that was organic. Omega 3 means the chickens were fed a diet high in Omega 3.
These are not the best eggs. The best eggs come from pastured chickens who are allowed to scavenge, scratch and peck for food. They eat a diet of bugs, grubs, green things and such.
Instead of yellow “yellows” pastured eggs will usually have bright orange “yellows.” The color of the yellow in the egg is a reflection of the quality of the hens diet. Hen’s who eat an insect rich diet will have the darkest yellows. Our chickens, which are literally all over the place, eat whatever they want. They have no cages, no yard, no boundaries whatsoever. This of course means they are in my flowers, eating my tomatoes, and pooping on my driveway. It also means I have some pretty healthy eggs with yellows that glow in the dark.
I have heard an argument that the reason free-range eggs have the brighter color yolk is because they are fresher. This is not true. When DH attempts to grow grass we always lock our chickens into a fenced in area. During this time, we feed our chickens a healthy diet of bagged chicken feed from our local feed mill. All the yolks turn pale yellow during confinement. All of them. Guess what happened when we let the chickens back out? The yolks went orange again.
So, it’s the confinement of the chickens that affect the color, not the “freshness.”
Pastured chickens eating a diet that chickens are supposed to eat lay the healthiest eggs in the world. When a chicken is caged up, it can’t get out and eat what it wants to eat. Someone has to provide the food… which usually comes in a bag… and usually contains lots of corn… which means the caged-up chicken eggs will probably be (GMO) corn fed eggs with pale yellows.
Healthy Change #6: Milk
We have 2 jersey cows who eat grass everyday. This is where our milk and dairy products come from.
If you live in a place where you can get your hands on raw, unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk you are blessed. These diary products are illegal to buy and sell in many states (including mine). Which is why I own milk cows.
If you haven’t heard of CLA the wonder-fat, let me introduce you. CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid ) increases muscle growth, decreases body fat, improves insulin sensitivity, it inhibits and prevents various cancers, enhances immune system, and lowers cholesterol. Top natural sources for CLA in the diet are meat and raw milk from grass-fed animals.
CLA alone is enough of a reason to drink raw milk from grass-fed cows. It’s a miracle. I have a friend who’s father grew up on a diary farm. That man drank raw milk his entire life. He has NEVER taken antibiotics. Never.
For more on the benefits of raw milk go here.
So many of the foods we prepare have some sort of dairy product in them. If you begin using healthier dairy products this one change will overflow into many of the meals you prepare.
Healthy Change #7: Pastured Meat
You don’t have to move to a farm and raise stinky pigs in order to eat healthy, pastured meat – you just have to find a farmer (or market) who does. 🙂
Raising pigs is an adventure. They have personality, are easy to raise and can grow from a 30 pound piglet into a 300 pound hog in 3-4 months. If you like dogs, you will probably like raising pigs. They bark, growl and want to play with you. Raising pigs is also a good idea if you like bacon, sausage, ribs, pork-chops, and ham.
If you can raise pigs, you should. If you can’t – just go buy some pastured pork.
There are good feeder pigs for sale if you want to find them. I see them at the sale barn. I see them on Craigslist. I hear about them at my local feed mill. Many farmers markets even have folks raising & selling pastured pork. If you do some looking, you will probably be able to purchase a pastured hog or 1/2 a hog for your freezer.
Possibly the best part of pasture raised pork is the lard.
Lard from pastured pigs is not the same as the stuff sold in cans at grocery stores. Lard from pastured pigs is incredibly healthy. It is high in cancer preventing nutrients, Vitamin D and CLA (or Conjugated Linoleic Acid – more wonder-fat!). It is very good source of monounsaturated fatty acids – that same heart-healthy fat found in olive oil and avocado. Once you have jars of lard (canned) in your basement you can use it for everything! Frying eggs, baking pies, french fries, chap-stick.
I think it’s worth the search and expense to invest in a healthy hog for your freezer.
We let our cow raise our beef for us. Our steers are raised on pasture and mamma’s milk. They spend their days grazing and napping on the soft grass in the sunshine. Research has shown that meat raised on pasture provides up to 5 times more nutrition than meat raised in confinement (like feed lots).
Finding pastured beef is even easier than finding hogs. If you have the freezer space, buying a cow or a half of a cow is always the cheapest way to buy steaks. Go here to learn how to buy a cow and what you’ll get.
A phone call to the local extension office may be all it takes to find a list of farms in your area raising grass-fed beef. Because of the growing demand, pastured beef is pretty much readily available.
Organic, pastured, antibiotic-free chicken is pretty easy to find these days. We raise our own meat chickens, but if I ran out I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase the good ones from the supermarket.
It just doesn’t get any more organic, natural, or chemical free than shooting your own meat in the woods. Fall is deer season here in Kentucky. Even before we moved to the country DH made it a point to find areas he could hunt. We were eating fresh venison for years before we owned our own land.
Healthy Change #8: Grow a Garden
One of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to obtain healthier foods is to start a little garden. It doesn’t have to be fancy or huge. It could just be a few vegetable plants added to your landscaping or a few pots on the back porch.
I love, love, love my garden. There are few places I would rather be. I enjoy growing food and preserving it too.
When you grow your own veggies and fruits there is no question how it was grown, what was sprayed on it, when it was harvested or how far it traveled to get to your plate. It’s fresh, farm-to-table food at it’s finest.
Imagine how healthy your meals, baked goods and even desserts would be if you only changed these 4 things:
- Fresh organic flour
- Honey or maple syrup instead of sugar
- Raw dairy
- Free-range eggs
You could eat chocolate muffins for breakfast & it would be healthier than just about any box of cereal.
A lot of work and expense goes into eating healthy. Although it is not an easy road, I think it’s worth the sacrifice.
Even just making a few changes can have a big impact on your health.
Start small, start today. You’ll be glad you did.