As a foodie, I have very fond and sentimental attachments to memories involving food such as... Learning how to knead bread with my grandma... My brother and I making cut-out, frosted cookies with our mom (with red and green frosting, of course). The jello poke cake Mom made every year for my birthday because it was my favorite. In my teen years, I remember staying up late playing video games, eating a certain "chef's" ravioli straight out of the can or ramen noodles. I made countless midnight runs to fast food drive-thrus for cheeseburgers and fries. More boxed mixes, margarine, fake syrup, hot dogs, and frozen meals than I care to admit... In short, I grew up eating a pretty standard American diet. My mom did cook some things from scratch (like her to-die-for vegetable beef soup). And, Grandma made most things from scratch, so it had to be healthy right? Well, Grandma used white flour, white sugar, vegetable shortening, and food coloring... Maybe not so healthy after all? Yet, I knew her food was infused with love, no matter what she served. :) I didn't know any better until...
Someone Told Me What Was In My Food
You know the feeling — the one where the proverbial rug is snatched out from under your feet? When your entire world is turned upside down? That happened to me one afternoon while attending a seminar. It was a small affair, put on by some members of a real food grassroots organization. My bestie and I drove over an hour to attend it (and meet a real, live blogger). The subject was on nourishing our children. At the time, my first child was almost 9 and my baby was about a year old. I also had 3 older stepsons with bottomless appetites, as growing boys tend to have. Nourishing my children was definitely something that interested me. I wanted to do the best for them, of course! I sat there and listened to this blogger talks about all the things that are in our "food" that shouldn't be:
- Artificial flavors
- Artificial colors
- Chemical preservatives
- Synthetic vitamins
She went on to reveal all the nutrients that aren't in our food that SHOULD be. She explained that these nutrients are stripped out during the processing and then added back in (most often in synthetic form). That's assuming that they were really actually in the raw materials, to begin with — our soils are terribly depleted due to aggressive factory farming practices. She talked about things like ADHD, diabetes, obesity, and a host of other ailments and diseases that are often the result of poor nutrition. Poor nutrition! In the richest country in the world! I was so angry by the time I left that I wanted to go straight home and throw out all our "food". Like the MSG-laden ramen noodles, I had fed my baby. Recently, even. Throwing out all our food was not practical at all. We had made the choice for me to stay home with the kids, something about which I felt very strongly. As a one-income family, that meant the budget was often very tight.
When you know better, you do better.
After that rug-snatching, anger-inducing moment, I went home and cleared out some the pantry. I threw the worst offenders away — things I just couldn't bring myself to give to anyone. I boxed up a few items and gave them to a friend who was in a different place on her nutrition journey. The rest — such as taco seasoning, ranch dressing, and hot chocolate mix — were replaced when we ran out with homemade recipes I found online. I learned about healthy fats and oils and replaced the margarine with real butter (grass-fed when I could afford it). I learned about raw milk and of a local source of organic, grass-fed milk that was actually affordable. Coconut oil
and olive oil
became staples in my cupboard, along with tallow. White sugar and corn syrup were replaced with minimally-processed sweeteners
like Wildly Organic's Coconut Sugar
. I wish I'd known about coconut syrup back then (because I'm so in love with the caramel-y goodness of Wildly Organic's Coconut Syrup
!), but local maple syrup and honey also became mainstays in my more-real-food kitchen. I learned why it's important to soak things like beans, nuts, seeds, and grains. Which led to making a sourdough starter we affectionately named Jack, because sourdough flapjacks with butter and maple syrup quickly became a breakfast favorite. So did soak, baked oatmeal (topped with homemade yogurt). Once I started making rich, nutritious bone broths, I always had the base for almost any kind of meal handy at a moment's notice. With it I can:
- cook soaked rice and beans
- cook potatoes and make the best ever mashed potatoes
- make a nourishing soup (like this Dairy-Free Cream of Cabbage Soup)
- create a rich, creamy sauce for a casserole
- boost a hearty stew to make it even more nutritious
- cook vegetables in it for more nutrition and flavor
Learning about the benefits of lacto-fermentation meant kefir (both water and dairy
varieties) brewed on my counter. Now, I also include beet kvass (even thought I don't really like beets. Unless they are in this form: Roasted Garlic Beet Dip
). As I made changes in what we put in our bodies, we realized that the baby was quite sensitive to a lot of things. Gluten, dyes, and most additives really affected his behavior. It was truly an eye-opening series of lessons and experiences that opened up a whole new world of health and wellness for our family!
Are we perfect in our "Real Foodie-ness"?
Nope. I don't always plan ahead like I should. Sometimes take-out pizza wins. Hubby eats what I make but isn't necessarily committed to a Real Food lifestyle. The kids like typical kid things (though that baby is now a very conscientious 10-year-old who asks before trying foods when we are away from home). But, they also like broccoli and brussels sprouts, too! Any change is better than no change at all. Baby steps and setbacks are a part of any growth and transformation. I am confident that the changes we've made have had a huge impact on our overall health. We rarely get sick anymore. My husband is sick more often than any of us, but he's also still eating that Standard American Diet (SAD) most of the time.
Quality products have made it easier for us to eat Real Food.
A Real Food lifestyle starts with good, quality sources for food. Wildly Organic's products have been such a wonderful part of nourishing our bodies better! Here are some of my favorites and how I use them on a regular basis...
#1 — To Replace Unhealthy Cooking Oils
Wildly Organic's Coconut Oil is probably my #1 go-to product. I use coconut oil in everything! From frying anything to making my own chocolates
, this coconut oil can't be beat. I keep both the virgin coconut oil
and expeller pressed
on hand, because sometimes you just don't want to taste coconuts but want the benefits of coconut oil. Wildly Organic's Olive Oil
is my go-to for homemade salad dressing.
Additionally, olive oil replaces vegetable oil called for in baked goods. It's just easier, like in the winter when my coconut oil is hard as a rock! We don't notice any difference in flavor. Generally, you want to use olive oil at room temperature, but as long as the temp doesn't exceed 350 degrees you're not damaging the oil. Wildly Organic's Red Palm Oil
is absolutely the BEST for cooking eggs — fried, scrambled, or omelettes. It's wonderful for sautéing veggies, and so lovely in soups and stews — like this Hearty Paleo Beef & Mushroom Stew
. Red palm oil is also fabulous for making homemade cheese sauce look yellow (as well as imparting wonderful flavor and health benefits). If you have kiddos who are used to boxed mac 'n cheese and balk at your new, healthy, homemade version try adding a teaspoon or two. ;) Make an easy change to improving your health by tossing your rancid cooking oils and replacing with healthy oils
#2 — Grain- & Gluten-Free Baking
We follow a mostly gluten-free way of eating, and Wildly Organic's Coconut Flour and Almond Flour are staples in my kitchen! While it can be tricky to work with coconut flour (it's a VERY thirsty flour so a little goes a long way), when mixed with other gluten-free flours, such as almond flour, it produces a lovely crumb in baked goods. (Learn about the advantages of grain-free baking!) Both of these flours make gluten- and grain-free baking a cinch! I love baking anything chocolate, such as these Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes with Whipped Coconut Butter Frosting. My kiddos love them too, of course, and I can feel good knowing they are eating a healthy treat. Sweet treats like Pressure Cooker Mason Jar Berry Cobblers and Grain Free Cookies 'n Milk Cups, or savory mains like Grain Free Turkey Pot Pie With A Quick Crumble Topping are easy, tasty, and healthy gluten-free recipes you'll love.
#3 — Sweetness & Spiciness Of Life
Wildly Organic's Coconut Syrup
is a great alternative to commercial pancake syrups made with unhealthy high fructose corn syrup. My kids love this syrup on homemade pancakes! It's perfect anywhere you would use maple syrup or honey, too. Personally, our family prefers the caramel-y goodness of Wildly Organic's Coconut Syrup. In fact, we ran out once and I had to buy another brand at a local store... and we were all disappointed in the taste! Not caramel-y, kind of tart, almost a burnt flavor. Definitely not Wildly Organic! Next, salt! Wildly Organic's Pink Himalayan Salt
is the only salt we'll use. Salt gets a really bad rap these days, and the regular, white table salt most people use deserves it
. It's stripped of the essential trace minerals our bodies need to help regulate blood pressure, metabolism, and other important processes! Since I've mostly ditched the processed foods, I really don't worry about getting too much sodium. A pinch of pink Himalayan salt goes in my coffee in the morning (to cut bitterness), in my smoothies and kefir drinks, lemonades
, and pretty much anything I make. All to help make sure I'm getting at least some of those trace minerals on a regular basis. Salt also brings out the flavor of chocolate, by the way. ;) Wildly Organic Spices and Herbs — The Fab 4 in my spice cabinet are garlic powder
, onion powder
, and dill. I use these so often! From making my own taco seasoning and chili powder to just every day cooking, I am always reaching for these spices. My absolute favorite recipe using dill is this Dairy Free Saffron & Dill Salmon Chowder
#4 — Healthy Indulgences
Ladies, you know those days when other people breathing your air grates on your very last, frayed, about-to-snap nerve? Wildly Organic has the perfect remedies... Starting with Organic Raw Cacao Butter
— oh my word. Heavenly! Raw cacao butter is the basis for chocolate, and it contains substances that encourage the release of endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin, all of which substantially increase feelings of well-being. Eat enough of this nourishing, healthy fat and I can tell you (also from personal experience) that you'll soon not care one bit about other people breathing your air. In fact, you'll find yourself overwhelmed with love for them. ;) I discovered this while developing the recipe for Dairy-Free White Chocolate Coffee Creamer
. Taste-testing is important, of course, and I had a lot of test cups. To my surprise, at one point I found myself no longer irritated at all. I just wanted to hug all my people extra close because I just loved them so much! Of course, I love my people very much anyway. This magical food of the gods just made that feeling much more enhanced. Wildly Organic Raw Cacao Nibs
... are for the hardcore dark chocolate lovers (which I am!). Its deep, dark, loveliness is reminiscent of an unsweetened baking chocolate bar but far, far better. These little nibs don't melt like chocolate chips, so adding them to baked goods means little dark and somewhat crunchy bits in your muffins or cakes. I'm a total beast with these cacao nibs and eat them straight out of the bag. Mixed with a handful of your favorite nuts, they are a wonderfully healthy, quick, nourishing snack. Cacao nibs come in fermented and non-fermented varieties, and I love them both. What's the difference? Read this post to find out
. Wildly Organic's Coconut Butter
is super indulgent, especially when topped with cacao nibs and eaten off the spoon! Coconut butter is naturally slightly sweet, so I don't need to add any sweetening for this quick snack. It's also wonderful spread on warm, fresh from the oven muffins and quick breads
, made into a frosting
, or a creamy, dreamy, dairy free fruit dip
. Need more ideas? Here are 11 Ways To Use Coconut Butter
My transition to a Real Food lifestyle began with the realization that the stuff I'd been calling food really didn't bear much resemblance to the nourishment our bodies need. Replacing unhealthy products with natural, minimally-processed, whole foods took a bit of time and effort, but it was worth it. There was so much to learn (and unlearn) about nutrition, how our bodies work, and what foods are actually healthy. I still come across information that just makes me angry, but now I'm also well armed with knowledge and a source of healthy products for making the best nutritional decisions. My biggest regret? How I ate when I was pregnant. I had complications with both pregnancies, and now I understand that it was most likely due to nutrition. Rather, the lack of actual nutrition set me up for preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. By some small miracle, my kiddos are healthy, but I do worry about what their future holds. I didn't give them the very best foundation with proper nutrition in the womb! I simply do my best to make sure they eat healthy, nutritious foods now
. And you know what else I'm working on? Creating fond, food-associated memories with my kiddos centered around healthy, nourishing, real foods ;) Memories they can recreate with their own children as they teach them healthy eating habits that will have far-reaching effects.
Is my story similar to yours? What are your biggest challenges as you switch to Real Food?