Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Basic Nutrition 101

Since I quoted from Sally Fallon yesterday, I thought I would continue along that line and share the Weston A. Price Foundation's Basic Dietary Guidelines. (Sally Fallon is the president of WAP.)

I find these 20 health suggestions really helpful. First, they were helpful when I was getting started and needed a solid foundation to build on. They gave me a place to jump in and begin my own research and investigation. Second, they have continued to be helpful as a resource to refer back to every now and again in order to refocus my efforts. So, here they are:

Dietary Guidelines
  1. Eat whole, natural foods.
  2. Eat only foods that will spoil, but eat them before they do.
  3. Eat naturally-raised meat including fish, seafood, poultry, beef, lamb, game, organ meats and eggs.
  4. Eat whole, naturally-produced milk products from pasture-fed cows, preferably raw and/or fermented, such as whole yogurt, cultured butter, whole cheeses and fresh and sour cream.
  5. Use only traditional fats and oils including butter and other animal fats, extra virgin olive oil, expeller expressed sesame and flax oil and the tropical oils-coconut and palm.
  6. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably organic, in salads and soups, or lightly steamed.
  7. Use whole grains and nuts that have been prepared by soaking, sprouting or sour leavening to neutralize phytic acid and other anti-nutrients.
  8. Include enzyme-enhanced lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, beverages and condiments in your diet on a regular basis.
  9. Prepare homemade meat stocks from the bones of chicken, beef, lamb or fish and use liberally in soups and sauces.
  10. Use herb teas and coffee substitutes in moderation.
  11. Use filtered water for cooking and drinking.
  12. Use unrefined Celtic seasalt and a variety of herbs and spices for food interest and appetite stimulation.
  13. Make your own salad dressing using raw vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and expeller expressed flax oil.
  14. Use natural sweeteners in moderation, such as raw honey, maple syrup, dehydrated cane sugar juice and stevia powder.
  15. Use only unpasteurized wine or beer in strict moderation with meals.
  16. Cook only in stainless steel, cast iron, glass or good quality enamel.
  17. Use only natural supplements.
  18. Get plenty of sleep, exercise and natural light.
  19. Think positive thoughts and minimize stress.
  20. Practice forgiveness.
These are straight from the book... without my additional comments added, although I could say some things about each of these.

If these guidelines present new information to you, please don't let them overwhelm you!!! I suggest taking small steps. Find a few that you could put into practice for the remainder of this year. Then re-evaluate the list at the New Year and select a few more for the next season. Allow each new practice to become habit before you add in more... but don't stop adding in more!

Off to run around like a chicken with my head cut off until bedtime...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Encouragement for Meal Planning

Yesterday I mentioned how important it is to create a reasonable meal plan full of nutritious and balanced foods... and then stick to it. Remember the adage: "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."?

For real, I know that putting healthy foods on the table for three meals a day can be very time and thought intensive. The good news is that most things will become habitual and lose a level of difficulty. However, even after eating this way for more than ten years, I still have to plan!

Eating healthy takes time and effort, but it pays off in energy, vitality and wellness. I find it very much worth the effort.

Today I'd like to share a simple tip with you that could increase your success... It is something I ran across in Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions. She gives a section of kitchen tips for those who need help getting started. In one of her tips, she suggests thinking ahead to the next two meals every time you prepare a meal.

This is how I have trained my mind to function over the years. But actually, I have found it helpful to think three meals ahead. So when I make supper one night, I can make sure meat is thawed for the next night. Or that beans are soaking so that they will be ready for the slow cooker the next morning.

When I make breakfast, I think ahead to lunch and dinner. At that point, I take the time to start grains soaking and I can also do any advance prep work that can be done to lighten the work load in the evening.

This is just a suggestion, but it works enough for Sally Fallon to include it in her book and it certainly works for me. I have discovered that I am greatly limited in what I can pull of if I wait until the last minute to plan and prepare supper. By waiting, I find myself with meat still frozen at the very least!

Do you have any tips on how to streamline meal preparation times in your home? I would love to hear your thoughts, so please share in the comments!


Monday, September 28, 2009

Pregnancy Update and Meal Plans

I am at the end of my second trimester! Things are going very well with this pregnancy... EXCEPT that I have been really tired lately. My doctor has evaluated my bloodwork, and I have talked at length with my midwife. Their final analysis: my fatigue is simply due to overloading my schedule and not getting enough rest.

Hmmm. I am glad it is nothing serious, but I don't know how to thin out my schedule... and napping doesn't really come easily in a house full of active children. We'll just have to see how I can fit in more rest... yeah, right.

But in the meantime, I know that my body (and my baby) would not appreciate me cutting corners and letting unhealthy convenience foods into my daily diet. These foods actually deprive us of energy because of the additional strain they put on our digestive and detoxification systems. In times like these, our bodies really need the right fuel to keep them operating at peak performance. (Which reminds me of a post I wrote a while ago about the proper fuel for our bodies.) The "right fuel" is real food... So I will keep pressing on with my "whole foods" meal plans and preparations.

Here's what I have planned for this week:

Monday: This quiche with Parsley Mashed Potatoes and a Garden Salad.

Tuesday: Make Yogurt in the morning.
Cabbage Rolls (from this cookbook) plus a Garden Salad. I have so much cabbage from my last produce box! I will make a double or triple batch of these and freeze them for future meals when I simply don't have time to cook.

Wednesday: This is our full-to-bursting day. So I will make Crock Pot Black Bean Soup (follow this link) and some fresh soaked flatbreads to dip into the soup. If I have time in the morning when I start to soak the flatbreads, I will also bake some Banana Nut Muffins.

Thursday: Crock Pot Roast, Oven Roasted Potatoes, Steamed Vegetables.

Friday: Chicken and Spinach Calzones with another fresh, crisp salad... full of all the wonderful raw food benefits we need to frequently take advantage of!

Press on dear readers... we all get tired, don't we? But what we eat really matters! Make a reasonable plan, then stick with it... you'll be glad you did!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Do You Ever Wonder...

Do you ever wonder why I recommend only Shaklee supplements and cleaning products? I mention why in my series on What Is Health Anyway? (Part I, Part II, Part III) and in My Personal Health Journey. But, I have recently found this video that summarizes my reasons (plus more) very nicely.

If you have ever wondered "Why should I choose a Shaklee supplement over a store bought or health food store vitamin"...

If you have ever asked, "Why is Shaklee a better value?"... please watch this seven minute video.

For more information on Shaklee supplements (or for purchasing) click here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Busy Evenings and Quick Meals

I feel like a broken record, as if the same thought keeps echoing in my head... "Things have been so busy here!" Have you heard yourself saying the same thing?

Our challenge is to keep providing healthy meals for our families despite the busy-ness. Be encouraged... It can be done! And, be encouraged... even if you have to get take out once in a while. I am positive that your efforts the other 97% of the time will still count for good.

So what do you do when you arrive home at 5:20 and have to be finished with supper by 6:00 for the next evening activity?

First, it really helps if you have some already prepared meat in the freezer that you can pull out to thaw the morning of a busy day. For example, you can brown a few pounds of beef, add taco seasoning and freeze it in one-pound portions. The morning of a busy day, you can pull a pound out to thaw and then make some beefy quesidillas and a salad for supper. (Try sprouted wheat tortillas!) With lettuce already washed and ready, you could make these two things in just fifteen minutes.

With plain ground beef already browned, you can use the thawed meat to make a quick spaghetti sauce. Finely chop onions, peppers, garlic, squash, zucchini, greens... any vegetable you have on hand... and saute them with the browned beef. Then, add two cans of Crushed Tomatoes and some Italian Seasoning for a fifteen minute spaghetti sauce to serve over whole grain pasta. Like with the lettuce, if you have already chopped veggies, you can really save time. I keep diced onions and peppers in my freezer and can pull those out and put them directly into a skillet to saute. (You can chop and freeze fresh onions and peppers without any other preparation.)

Or, have some cooked chicken in the freezer. I have gotten into the habit of cooking a few chickens at a time and then freezing the meat in meal sized portions. The ready-prepared meat and stock came in really handy yesterday! In the morning, I threw ingredients into a crock pot... and when I arrived home at 5:20, I had Arroz Con Pollo ready to dish up for supper.

So here's how I made Arroz Con Pollo, which might just be the easiest meal EVER. This meal serves 8-10.

Add each of these ingredients to your crock pot in the morning... I add them in this order:
  • Meat from 1/2 a cooked chicken. As I mentioned before, I like to make our meat stretch, so I just use half, but if you wanted this meal extra meaty, you could use a whole.
  • 2 diced onions
  • 2 diced green peppers
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. of Italian Seasoning (make sure you use a natural seasoning mix so that it contains no added, unwanted ingredients)
  • Cayenne Pepper... I just add a few sprinkles, but if your kids like spice you can add more.
  • One can of Crushed Tomatoes
  • One can of Petite Diced Tomatoes (on the tomatoes, it is preferable to use organic or home canned tomatoes, but use what you are able to buy)
  • 2 cups of brown rice
  • 1-2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 cups of chicken stock or fresh water

Give the pot a few gentle stirs. Then let it cook on low all day long... say from 8-5pm or 9-6pm, give or take, which is what is nice about crock pot meals. When you're ready for supper, you'll have a tasty, hearty, healthy meal for your family!

We will all have extremely busy days. If we think ahead, we can still put a nourishing meal on the table. Think ahead, work ahead... and next time I have a quick meal idea, I'll be sure to pass it along too.
Enjoy your days!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Don't Throw Away the Liquid from Cooking Vegetables!

While I really see the health value in eating raw vegetables and salads as much as possible, sometimes veggies are just better cooked. I'm thinking about eggplant, zucchini, and greens for example.

In fact, some veggies are even more healthy when they are cooked. For example, cabbage, broccoli, brussles sprouts and kale contain thyroid inhibiting compounds called goitrogens. Spinach, chard and beet greens contain oxalic acid, which blocks the absorption of calcium and iron. Cooking neutralizes both of these negative factors.

But what do you do with the leftover cooking liquid? Here is what's left from a pan in which I sauteed onions, rainbow chard and garlic. There's a lot of good stuff in that liquid!

But who wants to drink it??? (There are rare children like Spiderman who eagerly await the liquid from cooking beets as his choice beverage, but I understand he is a rarity. None of my girls want any part of it!)

Don't throw it out! Don't waste the extra nutrients! Instead, you can add the liquid to your store of stock in the freezer or fridge. Keep the stock plus vegetable liquid to steam rice or add to soup, spaghetti sauce, chili or almost any crock pot meal.

I usually have some chicken stock in the fridge or in the freezer. I pour this 1/4 cup of liquid in with it. By doing so, I add extra flavor and nutrients to whatever I use the chicken stock for. The possiblilies are endless!

Note: If you have a pint or quart of stock in the freezer, adding 1/4-1/2 cup of cooled vegetable liquid will not defrost the stock enough to cause a problem. If you are adding more than 1/2 cup, you may want to just freeze it by itself in leftover yogurt containers. Just think ahead to pull it out of the freezer before you make rice or soup. Or you can quick-thaw-it by leaving it submerged in a sink of cool water for a bit.

This works for me -- I hope it works for you too!

For more Works For Me Wednesday posts, visit We Are That Family.

Monday, September 21, 2009

New Blog Listing

What a full weekend! And what a Monday!!!! I'm about to get my produce box, so I haven't made my meal plan for the week yet... I hope to post that and get back to regular posting tomorrow. Until then, here is a fun tidbit for those of you who like to blog hop:

Health Begins With Mom has been listed in a blog link collection entitled "100 Best Blogs for Entrepreneurial-Minded Moms." The list is separated into subcategories from which it is easy to pick and choose what meets your interests. The categories are:
  • Advice and Support from other Mom-Entrepreneurs
  • Budget
  • PR and Marketing
  • Health
  • Balance
  • Parenting
  • Quick Recipes
  • Beauty, Fashion and Shopping
  • Helpful Resources
I, for sure, will be checking out the Quick Recipes blogs... looking for healthy ideas or recipes I can tweak to meet our whole foods standards. And I'm sure I'll check out the other health blogs, plus a few more.

If you like to see what other moms are up to, be sure to visit the link!

Happy Monday,

Friday, September 18, 2009

76 Reasons to Avoid Sugar

I recently received an email that included a list of 76 Ways Sugar Can Ruin Your Health. The list was compiled by Dr. Nancy Appleton, who has written several books about America's destructive affair with sugar. Her most recent book is entitiled Suicide By Sugar: A Startling Look at our #1 National Addiction.

Do you think that sounds a bit extreme? I thought so at first... but you've got to check out this list she compiled. Each has a corresponding published clinical study (or more) to support her claim. Pretty interesting stuff...

[AE's Note: I have the extra long list of medical journals and other scientific publications that corresponds to the endnotes for each of these claims. If you would like to know which journal to refer to for each item, please email me with "Sugar Notes" in the subject line and I will attach the file to send to you.]

76 Ways Sugar Can Ruin Your Health by Nancy Appleton, Ph.D

  • Sugar can suppress your immune system and impair your defenses against infectious disease.1,2
  • Sugar upsets the mineral relationships in your body: causes chromium and copper deficiencies and interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium. 3,4,5,6
  • Sugar can cause can cause a rapid rise of adrenaline, hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children.7,8
  • Sugar can produce a significant rise in total cholesterol, triglycerides and bad cholesterol and a decrease in good cholesterol.9,10,11,12
  • Sugar causes a loss of tissue elasticity and function.13
  • Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, biliary tract, lung, gallbladder and stomach.14,15,16,17,18,19,20
  • Sugar can increase fasting levels of glucose and can cause reactive hypoglycemia.21,22
  • Sugar can weaken eyesight.23
  • Sugar can cause many problems with the gastrointestinal tract including: an acidic digestive tract, indigestion, malabsorption in patients with functional bowel disease, increased risk of Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis.24,25,26,27,28
  • Sugar can cause premature aging.29
  • Sugar can lead to alcoholism.30
  • Sugar can cause your saliva to become acidic, tooth decay, and periodontal disease.31,32,33
  • Sugar contributes to obesity.34
  • Sugar can cause autoimmune diseases such as: arthritis, asthma, multiple sclerosis.35,36,37
  • Sugar greatly assists the uncontrolled growth of Candida Albicans (yeast infections)38
  • Sugar can cause gallstones.39
  • Sugar can cause appendicitis.40
  • Sugar can cause hemorrhoids.41
  • Sugar can cause varicose veins.42
  • Sugar can elevate glucose and insulin responses in oral contraceptive users.43
  • Sugar can contribute to osteoporosis.44
  • Sugar can cause a decrease in your insulin sensitivity thereby causing an abnormally high insulin levels and eventually diabetes.45,46,47
  • Sugar can lower your Vitamin E levels.48
  • Sugar can increase your systolic blood pressure.49
  • Sugar can cause drowsiness and decreased activity in children.50
  • High sugar intake increases advanced glycation end products (AGEs)(Sugar molecules attaching to and thereby damaging proteins in the body).51
  • Sugar can interfere with your absorption of protein.52
  • Sugar causes food allergies.53
  • Sugar can cause toxemia during pregnancy.54
  • Sugar can contribute to eczema in children.55
  • Sugar can cause atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.56,57
  • Sugar can impair the structure of your DNA.58
  • Sugar can change the structure of protein and cause a permanent alteration of the way the proteins act in your body.59,60
  • Sugar can make your skin age by changing the structure of collagen.61
  • Sugar can cause cataracts and nearsightedness.62,63
  • Sugar can cause emphysema.64
  • High sugar intake can impair the physiological homeostasis of many systems in your body.65
  • Sugar lowers the ability of enzymes to function.66
  • Sugar intake is higher in people with Parkinson's disease.67
  • Sugar can increase the size of your liver by making your liver cells divide and it can increase the amount of liver fat.68,69
  • Sugar can increase kidney size and produce pathological changes in the kidney such as the formation of kidney stones.70,71
  • Sugar can damage your pancreas.72
  • Sugar can increase your body's fluid retention.73
  • Sugar is enemy #1 of your bowel movement.74
  • Sugar can compromise the lining of your capillaries.75
  • Sugar can make your tendons more brittle.76
  • Sugar can cause headaches, including migraines.77
  • Sugar can reduce the learning capacity, adversely affect school children's grades and cause learning disorders.78,79
  • Sugar can cause an increase in delta, alpha, and theta brain waves which can alter your mind's ability to think clearly.80
  • Sugar can cause depression.81
  • Sugar can increase your risk of gout.82
  • Sugar can increase your risk of Alzheimer's disease.83
  • Sugar can cause hormonal imbalances such as: increasing estrogen in men, exacerbating PMS, and decreasing growth hormone.84,85,86,87
  • Sugar can lead to dizziness.88
  • Diets high in sugar will increase free radicals and oxidative stress.89
  • High sucrose diets of subjects with peripheral vascular disease significantly increases platelet adhesion.90
  • High sugar consumption of pregnant adolescents can lead to substantial decrease in gestation duration and is associated with a twofold increased risk for delivering a small-for-gestational-age (SGA) infant.91,92
  • Sugar is an addictive substance.93
  • Sugar can be intoxicating, similar to alcohol.94
  • Sugar given to premature babies can affect the amount of carbon dioxide they produce.95
  • Decrease in sugar intake can increase emotional stability.96
  • Your body changes sugar into 2 to 5 times more fat in the bloodstream than it does starch.97
  • The rapid absorption of sugar promotes excessive food intake in obese subjects.98
  • Sugar can worsen the symptoms of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).99
  • Sugar adversely affects urinary electrolyte composition.100
  • Sugar can slow down the ability of your adrenal glands to function.101
  • Sugar has the potential of inducing abnormal metabolic processes in a normal healthy individual and to promote chronic degenerative diseases.102
  • I.V.s (intravenous feedings) of sugar water can cut off oxygen to your brain.103
  • Sugar increases your risk of polio.104
  • High sugar intake can cause epileptic seizures.105
  • Sugar causes high blood pressure in obese people.106
  • In intensive care units: Limiting sugar saves lives.107
  • Sugar may induce cell death.108
  • In juvenile rehabilitation camps, when children were put on a low sugar diet, there was a 44 percent drop in antisocial behavior.109
  • Sugar dehydrates newborns.110
  • Sugar can cause gum disease.111
If you are still reading, you may want to consider a Sugar Fast. I gave six reasons your body will benefit from a Sugar Fast here.

For your health,

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Look Up Your Cell Phone's Radiation Level

I have not yet posted about Cell Phone Radiation. It's one of those things, you know -- things that have the potential to be dangerous, that have a growing body of negative research.
Yet, practically speaking, can we really prevent radiation exposure in our modern world? After all, if we were to stop using wireless, cell phones and the like, we would still live in the midst of unseen exposure from our neighbor's gadgets.

Up until now, I have just let this issue unfold as I gather more information. This week, however, I received an email from EWG with something truly helpful. They have come out with a compilation of cell phone reviews which will show how much radiation your phone (or one you are looking at buying) emits. This is good news for me since I am in the market for a new cell phone and can now choose one that is rated "low radiation."

Here's what EWG has to say about this new resource:

"At EWG, we... undertook a 10-month research review to understand the risks -- and our research is receiving a lot of attention. Turns out, cell phones do emit radiation -- enough so that scientists are concerned about potential cancer risks. We'd like to believe that cell phone radiation is safe, but no one can say for sure. Much more research is crucial for scientists to reach a conclusion.

Make no mistake -- at EWG, we are still using our cell phones. But we believe that until scientists know much more about cell phone radiation, it's smart for consumers to buy phones with lower radiation emissions. As a result, we have put together the most comprehensive online consumer guide to cell phone radiation, rating more than 1,000 cell phones marketed in the U.S."

Are you curious about your cell phone's radiation level? Are you thinking of buying a new cell phone? Check out this great resource here.

For your health,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Soaked Flatbreads

This is such a versatile recipe. We love Flatbreads in our family and would eat an entire double batch if I wasn't so firm about saving some for the next day. They are actually quite easy too. Here goes...

Soaked Flatbreads

Note: you will want to start this recipe either in the morning or the night before to allow time for the yogurt to fully predigest the wheat and neutralize the phytates. We call this "soaking"... read more about it here.

First thing in the morning, mix the following ingredients in your electric mixer:
  • 3 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of warm water mixed with 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp. non-aluminum baking powder
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4. cup of extra virgin olive oil
Knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball. I use my mixer for this and let it knead for about four minutes.

Cover the dough lightly with wax paper or plastic wrap, and leave it for 10 or more hours at room temperature. (Soaking is a process and if you can only let the dough sit for seven hours, that is definitely better than no soaking at all.)

When ready to make the flatbreads, divide the dough into 12 equal sized balls. (I double the batch and make 24.) Either roll the dough to a six inch circle or use a tortilla press. Here you see I use a tortilla press, but these are definitely not as thin as tortillas. To make thin tortillas, I would have to roll the ball out to ten inches, which can be done with a rolling pin.

As you can see in this picture, after pressing (or rolling) the dough flat, I throw the breads onto a very hot, ungreased griddle. I use a large griddle to cook six at a time... and yes, it is coated with teflon (!), but in an ideal world where I had lots of time at my disposal, I would cook these one by one in an ungreased cast iron skillet heated to high.

These breads only cook for a minute or two on each side. You'll notice that they start to get brown circles on them (like tortillas) when one side is done. If you let them get too brown, they will be on the crunchy side instead of all-soft.

Let them cool on a rack. Serve them fresh!

So what do we do with flatbreads? We love them filled with Gyro Meat (homemade without preservatives), Tzatziki Sauce and tomatoes. Or we love them filled with hummus and other chopped veggies. They are also great dipped in soups. Last night I served them with a salad made with Grilled Meat, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Garlic, Parsley and a Feta Cheese Dressing.

Tonight, I think I'll melt some cheese onto them and put some chili beans inside.


Baking Day -- Part Two

WHEW! Yesterday's Baking Day made for a long afternoon! I am so thankful to have my freezer and pantry stocked, but it was no small effort...

You can read about the first part of my day here.

For the most part, things progressed without huge detours. My children can not be considered detours... just part of any mother's day. But one thing I did not plan for was dipping out honey. You see, we buy honey in a five gallon bucket (and save a lot of money doing so). But, every so often I use a ladle to dip it into squeeze bottles for convenience. I didn't count on running out of accessible honey yesterday.

After I took care of the honey (and washed my sticky arms since I'm down to the bottom of the bucket), I started in on the Love Muffins. No problems there... While they were baking I made the Power Bars and put them in the fridge to set.

Then I got started peeling and pureeing my sweet potatoes. I am sad to say, but I got lazy here. Instead of washing out the muffin tins from the Love Muffins, I decided to just use bread pans and make Sweet Potato Bread instead of muffins. It didn't work out so great... the loaves wouldn't bake through and they got pretty brown before the inside was done. I think I'll stick with Sweet Potato Muffins next time around, since I know the recipe works that way.

While the bread was baking, I had to do a round of dishes. Then I started on the Granola. Once I spread it onto pans, I made the flatbreads and started supper. We ate late... but I half way expected that.

Here is a snapshot of my final results:

I froze half the granola and kept the other half for us to have for breakfast for a while. I left the Power Bars to cut and individually wrap in the morning. I bagged the Love Muffins in three quart sized bags of six, since my husband takes one with him every day for lunch. Two bags went into the freezer and one into the fridge. The yogurt went straight into the fridge. I kept one Sweet Potato Bread out for this week and froze the other one. (They are edible, though I wouldn't serve them to company.) There were only half the flatbreads left after we ate 12 for supper... And the crock-pot in the back has my beans soaking for Wednesday's supper.

So, in the final analysis... a Baking Day can be tedious, but it is hugely beneficial. Perhaps you could set aside this Saturday Afternoon and get a few things put up for next week. It helps SO much to have healthy food on hand!

Coming next... my Soaked Flatbread Recipe.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Baking Day -- Part One

Baking Day got off to a wonderful start this morning. Truthfully, I had not really been looking forward to it, even though I saw it as a necessary means to catching up. I am nearing the end of my second trimester with this pregnancy and have been feeling tired lately.

However, my heart was lifted as I read the Scriptures this morning. I read Proverbs 15:15: "All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast." I realized that if I approached the day with a defeated attitude, I would surely find trouble. Yet, if I embraced a merry heart, that cheerful perspective would redefine the day with all its "trouble."

Encouraged by these thoughts, I jumped right into my baking plans. I wanted to get things started first thing in the morning so that my grains would have time to "soak." (Soaking grains with yogurt breaks down the phytates, which are difficult to digest and prevent the absorption of grain's bountiful nutrients. For more on that, read here.)

My plans are to make yogurt, Love Muffins (which are wheat-free and do not need to be soaked), Flatbreads, Sweet Potato Muffins, Power Bars (also wheat-free), and Granola.

  • First, I started the half gallon of yogurt.
  • Then, I washed and started the sweet potatoes baking.
  • I milled my wheat for the day.
  • I started two batches of granola soaking.
  • Then I got a double recipe of flatbread soaking (recipe for this coming tomorrow).

That all took me about an hour. It was not a solid hour though, since my children were waking up and doing their chores and required some help from me from time to time.

A normal day for us means I give my children my undivided attention until about 1:30 or 2:00 when we have a Quiet Hour. In that time, I am online, my older two finish up their schoolwork, Witzy plays quietly in her room, and Tickle naps.
I plan on jumping back into my baking day when everyone starts bustling about again around 3:00. That should give me enough time to make everything. I'll start with the items that didn't need soaking and finish with the granola and flatbreads around supper time.
One note: I got started really early so that things could soak all day long. If I were unable to do this, I would have things soaking overnight.
More on Baking Day later!

Monday, September 14, 2009

On the Importance of Reading Labels

I was at the grocery store on Saturday morning. I was looking for our usual Kroger Brand Natural Peanut Butter. (I would love to buy organic, but we use multiple jars a week, which would paralyze my food budget!)

Everything was switched around on the shelves, so I couldn't just grab the jar I recognized. I had to find it first... and in doing so, I noticed that Jif now markets a "Natural Peanut Butter." I picked up the jar, just out of curiosity.

I noticed that in small print on the front it said, "90% real peanuts" -- or something very similar. I thought, what is the other 10% if it's not peanuts!?!

So I turned the jar around to read the label. It listed peanuts as the first ingredient. Then sugar. Then "less than 2%" of the following three ingredients: Palm Oil, Salt and Molasses.

Okay. So, I'm figuring that if it is 90% peanuts and less than 2% of the last three ingredients, that leaves at least 8% sugar. Hmmm... I'll be avoiding Jif's Natural Peanut Butter.

So I'm posting this whole scenario today just to remind us that it is necessary to read labels --even if the product claims to be All-Natural. Without reading labels, we may inadvertently bring home much more sugar than we want to! (I've got an interesting post on Sugar up my sleeves... look for it later on this week.)

Oh, and by the way, Jif's Peanut Butter and Honey product is not a good option either, even if we tend to think of honey as a natural sweetener. It actually lists sugar on the label twice... plus it contains "fully hydrogenated vegetable oils."

Catching Up and Meal Plans

Thank you all so much for your positive feedback from Friday's survey. (I never could get the poll to work so in any future polls, I will have to use a different poll service!) I will take all your comments into consideration as I plan for what is to come...

Also, I plan to undertake a reorganization of my labels so that tips, recipes and other health information archives are more easily retrieved. I'll do this in my "free time" this week. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

It has been a very crazy past two weeks! We have had multiple evening activities in addition to our normal goings-on. Our schedules have been flipped and flopped; we have been in a rush to finish supper to get somewhere; and I have had limited cooking time.

Somehow we have managed to stay afloat and eat healthy, if not well-planned, food. (Having a freezer stocked with bread, muffins, and already cooked chicken and stock was really helpful. So was cooking double meals for leftovers. I made double "Quick Chicken Curry" for two nights, "Salmon Fried Rice" for two nights, and "Crock Pot Beef Stew" for two nights. I made Calzones, Taco Salad, Greek Chicken Salad and Creamy Chicken Pasta Toss... all easy meals.) But I sure am glad that the week ahead is not so full!

Here's what I have planned for our meals this week:

Use meat pulled from a whole cooked chicken in Chicken Burrito Skillet. I cooked two chickens last Thursday so that I would have extra meat for a while. I learned how helpful this was over the last weeks!

This skillet meal is an all-time favorite with my children, and one that I often pair with a side dish that is less-desirable to them. In my last produce box (YES -- I am so pleased the co-op is operational again!), I got yellow squash. My children eat most veggies, but I have yet to find a way that they like yellow squash. I will saute it with Onions, Garlic and Red Swiss Chard. They will eat a moderate portion of it and then will be rewarded with seconds of the skillet meal.

I am going to have a Baking Day on Tuesday to get caught up on things. Hopefully, I will post the details and some recipes on Tuesday and Wednesday, but here is my plan:
Make two quarts of yogurt in the morning so it can culture all day. Also in the morning, soak dough for flatbreads, soak grains for granola and bake sweet potatoes for muffins.
Afternoon - bake Sweet Potato Muffins, Love Muffins (which are grain-free), Granola and make flatbreads. If things go well, I also need to make Power Bars.

Supper - I will use half of the fresh flatbreads for a twist on Gyro sandwiches. I have used the Gyro Meat recipe from this cookbook and love it. But this time, I will just use leftover grilled cube steaks. I will make a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, and onion with a feta cheese dressing and will put this and shredded romaine lettuce on our meat sandwiches. I anticipate having leftovers of the veggies from Monday, so I will lightly steam them to warm them up. The children will probably want sweet potato muffins as an incentive, which is just fine with me.

Chili Beans and Cornbread for our Frugal Family Night.

Salmon Cakes with Garden Salad and Sweet Potato Fries... yes, I got a lot of sweet potatoes in my produce box and the only two ways my children like them are in muffins and as "fries".

Homemade Pizza with another big Garden Salad and/or Spinach Balls.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Information Overload???

Okay, I'll say it. "Too much information" has the potential to be unhealthy. I do think humans have an amazing capacity for invention, understanding and creativity. But is there such a thing as information overload?

Have you ever thought that if you have one more thought your mind will burst?

So, in the interest of your healthy mind... let's talk about Health Begins With Mom. I don't want to be another source of superfluous chunks of information that only add to the clutter in your mind. I'd like for this blog to be sincerely helpful.

In pursuit of that goal, can I ask what you would like to read? What specific health topics would help you to lead a healthier life -- without overloading your brain? What do you hope to get from Health Begins With Mom?

I've created a poll to jumpstart your thinking. Of course, I would love for you to leave comments telling me specifics... so, please take the time to do that too!
[Note: I am not having success with this poll service AT ALL. If you don't mind, would you leave your thoughts in the comments if the poll does not work. I'll keep trying to figure it out...I am working on this crazy space here...]

What do you want to read more of here at Health Begins With Mom?
More recipes, please.
Tips... I need some health tips to make things easier!
More about Amy Ellen's daily health pursuit - with commentary.
More information about specific health issues.
More information about good (and not-so-good) food choices.
Weekly Meal Plans.
Links to helpful articles and websites.
Other topics (which should be specified in the comments!) free polls

Thanks for sharing your thoughts,

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Healthy Snacking Idea

Over Labor Day weekend, we spent some time with our Raw Foodie Friends. We hiked to a natural Rock Slide and let the children have Great Fun sliding down into the pool at the bottom. Of course, we ate together too. I was assigned to bring a sandwich-like food and a dessert.

In my plans, I was going to take the Chocolate Date Nut Balls from the recipe that Andrea shared with us here. But as I pulled out ingredients on Monday morning, I discovered I was totally out of dates. It is very difficult to make Date Balls without dates.

I love to improvise. Really, I do... and this mishap gave me the perfect opportunity. I decided to work with what I had: dehydrated apples. They turned out really yummy and I received compliments on them too!

The only drawback with improvising is that I don't always remember what I did. So this time around, I decided I needed to duplicate them without waiting so long that I couldn't remember. I made them last night for a Bible Study.

So, here's my recipe for Raw Apple Nut Snacks:
(This recipe makes 30 balls.)

Place the following ingredients in a food processor:

  • A packed 3/4 cup of dehydrated apples. (Mine are without chemical preservatives so they look brown.)
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts
  • 1/2 cup of almonds
  • 1/2 cup of sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly ground flax seed (optional)
  • a pinch of sea salt

Process until it looks like a fine meal.

Pour in maple syrup until the mixture sticks together. For me, it took 2-3 Tbsp of maple syrup.

Roll the mixture into 30 balls.

Cover in unsweetened shredded coconut. Chill until serving.

Voila! Pretty easy, healthy snack!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

With Natural Flavors Added

Whew! We had a weekend very full of socializing. Translation: "a weekend very full of food preparation and clean up." Homeschooling with my four is like taking a break from the holiday weekend :D

So I was at the grocery store on Friday afternoon in order to get ready for the weekend to come. We are all out of our grass-fed ground beef, yet I wanted to serve Taco Salad to our company that night. I thought I would just buy some beef from the store.

Well, I could either buy two pounds of regular ground beef or one pound of hormone-and-antibiotic-free beef for about $5. With my family of six, plus our company, I was leaning towards the two pounds. Then I picked up the package. It said: "100% Real Beef with Natural Flavors Added."

Hmmm... can it be 100% beef if you've added something? And what are Natural Flavors anyway?

When I got a moment on the computer, I did a google search, just to see what I didn't buy. (I opted for the real beef and decided to add an onion and black beans with my taco seasonings to make the mixture stretch.)

I already knew that "Natural Flavors" might mean MSG... but was there anything else to know about it?

In my search, I found links to the names for hidden MSG... which I included in this recipe post a while back.

Then, I stumbled across this video clip from a 60 Minutes program. It is about ten minutes long... and very interesting... especially the information about the Glutamate Association. Click here to watch a very informative 60 Minutes commentary on Hidden MSG.

Glad that we have REAL FOOD options,

Friday, September 4, 2009

In our efforts to be healthy...

In our efforts to be healthy, we also need to keep an eternal perspective. Rather than focusing all our energy, thoughts and plans on what goes into our bodies, let us stop to consider this proverb.

Proverbs 3:7,8
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the LORD and depart from evil.
It will be health to your flesh,
And strength to your bones.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this. How do these words apply to our present health? Please post a comment to share!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Avoiding Nine Hidden Toxins

I'm posting another link to a great article today. Have you ever visited Dr. Mercola's website? While I don't agree with 100% of what he says, he does present a lot of really helpful, well-researched information... like today he posted an article on bacteria in our homes. His comments are really helpful. You might want to check out his thoughts on keeping our homes clean... but that wasn't the article I started to post about :D

I subscribe to Mercola's weekly newsletter, which you can do on the front page of his website. I don't always have time to read everything, but I always open it up and scan the topics. Every once in a while I find an article that would be really helpful for someone who is relatively new to healthy living. Today I read a great one! Click here for the full article.

In the article, Mercola comments on a list of nine hidden toxins we would all do well to avoid. Then, he lists four additional hidden toxins he would have added to the list, with his supporting thoughts. Lest you be overwhelmed at the list... he gives this encouragement:

"Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more difficult to avoid toxins.They’re in everything from personal care products to furniture and building materials....But there’s still plenty you can do, and one of the ways to significantly reduce your toxic load is to pay careful attention to what you eat. And, as an added bonus, when you eat right, you’re also optimizing your body’s natural detoxification system, which can help eliminate toxins your body encounters from other sources."

That's encouraging, isn't it? While we can't avoid all toxins everywhere, we can prime our body for naturally detoxifying from inevitable toxic exposure when we eat right. Sounds like a good reason to feed our families well.

If the list is daunting to you, start with selecting two or three of the listed foods to avoid. Start with a few and find a healthy replacement in your family's diet for those few. Then go back to the list and tackle a few more. Baby steps, right? It's worth it!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pregnancy Tea

Have I told you much about my previous four pregnancies? I think I have mentioned that my first was born when we were vegans on a nearly all-raw diet. Rainbow weighed 5 pounds 5 ounces at birth.

We switched to a mostly Weston Price Diet next... and Spiderman weighed 7 pounds 7 ounces. At that time, I really thought I could get all the nutrients I needed from diet alone. He was born by Cesarean, which I don't think was related at all to my mention of diet and lack of supplements. He was a double footling breech, and that has nothing to do with nutrition.

I took Baby Me Now vitamins by Solaray with Witzy. She was born a healthy 8 pounds 8 ounces. Later, I saw my prenatal vitamins on a list of supplements contaminated with lead. Yikes!

Tickle was my first Shaklee baby. She was my easiest pregnancy by far and maybe my easiest delivery (except for Rainbow who was almost too small to notice and was delivered in just two hours). Tickle was by far my quickest recovery. She weighed nearly nine pounds.

Both Tickle and Witzy were VBACs. After my c/sec with Spiderman, I read mounds of information on the safety and risks of VBACs. Once I decided to attempt a VBAC, I wanted to give myself the very best chance I could to deliver without uterine rupture.

In my reading, I found information stating that Red Raspberry Leaf Tea would increase the integrity of the uterine muscle and give the womb a durability that could possibly lower risk of uterine rupture. I added this tea to my daily routine in hopes it would do just that.

I can't definitively point to the factors that lead to my VBAC successes (I am thankful to God), but I do think that this tea has been helpful during my last two pregnancies, deliveries and recoveries. It is a remarkable health drink for any pregnant woman, whether attempting a VBAC or not.

The ingredients of my pregnancy tea are:
  • 3 Tbsp. Red Raspberry Leaf, which strengthens the uterus, prevents hemorrhaging, and even curbs nausea
  • 1 Tbsp. Alfalfa, which is rich in Vitamin K, loaded with minerals, aids in detoxification and also curbs nausea
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Nettle, which aids in detoxification, helps with water retention and prevents UTIs
  • 1 Tbsp. Peppermint, mostly for flavor but also for digestion and nausea
  • (optional) 2 Tbsp. Green Tea, which is a gentle pick-me-up, also rich in antioxidants

*Note: I am just mentioning a few of the benefits of these herbs. Click the name of each to see a more lengthy description of what these herbs are known to do.*

I usually drink my pregnancy tea iced because I am always hot when I am pregnant! I make a gallon at a time. Here's how:

  1. Boil two quarts of water in a pot.
  2. Take the water off the burner.
  3. Pour in the herbs listed above.
  4. Let steep for about ten minutes.
  5. Then strain the leafy stuff out as you pour it into a gallon sized pitcher.
  6. While it is hot, add 1/2 to 1 tsp. of raw local honey per cup of tea.
  7. Then pour in two quarts of cool water.
  8. Serve over ice.
  9. Keep in the fridge.

If you want to make just a cup of hot tea, keep the combination of herbs listed above mixed together in a glass jar. When you make each cup of tea, use 1-2 tsp. of the dry herbs in a tea ball. Pour boiling water over the tea ball and let steep for 5 minutes.

If you add green tea, which I frequently do, you'll want to keep it separate from the rest of the herbs. I use a tea ball and put in two tablespoons of green tea leaves. I let that steep in the pot with the loose herbs, but pull the tea ball out after 2-3 minutes so that I don't get that bitter green tea bite. Then I just let the loose herbs continue to steep until I strain it into the pitcher.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Help For Your Children's Lunches

Have you visited Healthy Child Healthy World lately? Dr. Alan Greene has a fantastic post on his blog today. He writes to challenge parents to get healthier with their children's lunches.

First, he explains why. Why do our children benefit from organic foods? Then he explains how. What organic foods are nourishing and packable? He calls it the "Organic Lunchbox Challenge."

It is definitely worth your time. So whether you homeschool or pack a lunch for your child to take to school, take the time to read this blog post. I think we will all glean some helpful information from it!

While we are thinking about lunches, if you have any smart, healthy tips for nourishing children's lunches, please post your ideas in the comments of thsi post. Don't we all need a fresh idea every now and then?

For your children's sake,