With 38 years of eating, 6 years of studying clinical nutrition, and 15 years of feeding a family behind me, I feel like I’m only beginning to get a grasp on a truly healthy view of food.
I’ve long been a healthy eater by most standards, especially those I studied and taught in my former life as a dietitian. Yet much of what I built our family eating patterns upon has been up-ended as I’ve looked more to the specific needs of my children.
I specifically recall a conversation with an acquaintance in Ohio roughly six years ago. My daughters were 7, 4 and newborn at the time, and as I chatted with this mother of teenage daughters, she shared about her girls’ premature “development” and their family’s recent decision to purchase organic milk based on her personal reading about the hormones and antibiotics in conventional milk. I had always walked right past the organic section in our local Kroger, focused solely on keeping my monthly grocery budget in check. However, we decided that with four girls, the extra expense of organic milk would be worth it if the concerns were even remotely legitimate.
Ultimately, that conversation was what moved feeding my family beyond a simple financial decision in the grocery aisles and opened my eyes to the need to (re)educate myself.
Fast-forward to mid-2009, when the frustration of one daughter who has struggled with learning challenges and one who is plagued by constant intestinal issues drove me to tears. I prayed even more earnestly for direction in helping them where medical professionals and medications could not. The One who created them and loves them best is also my Counselor, and so I began to pour out my heart to God more regularly on behalf of my children. I also began to read and ask a lot of questions, slowly coming to terms with the humbling realization that I hadn’t learned much of practical value in graduate school after all.
The new learning curve was and is steep. Reading The Maker’s Diet and watching Food, Inc. have been helpful. Our best decision thus far has been joining a local meat-share program, which has provided a freezer full of grass-fed meats which I get to experiment with each week (a big shout out to Falling Sky Farm). I have to say I pretty much feel like a newlywed again, since only about half of my attempts over the past six months or so have gotten the “thumbs-up!” I am so thankful for the challenge, though, and how it is stretching me.
In 2010, I really wanted to make a major kitchen transition – you know, throw out everything you’ve ever purchased and never buy it again. My husband didn’t so much go for that, but in his wisdom offered to discuss what would be most beneficial for our particular family and our current stage of life.
These are the goals Chad and I laid out for 2010 in January, dubbing them “the four B’s”:
BREAD - We began making our own sandwich bread from freshly-ground wheat berries the first Saturday in January – one year under our belts now. Yeah! We’ve had some really “dry” weeks, where even the toast wasn’t so great, but overall it’s been a good experience and I think we’re moving toward
more consistently edible bread.
BUTTER instead of margarine – and more of it. While we were at it, we also got rid of all cooking spray and cooking oils, keeping only coconut and olive.
BREAKFAST - We became much more intentional about incorporating a protein source every morning. This has often been eggs, but we have counted whole milk yogurt, too. Mid-year we also did away with any and all breakfast cereals (read why here). I have to tell you, my kids (and husband) really fretted about this one for a few weeks. Now? Well, I made our traditional huge batch of sweet potatoes for a Christmas Eve dinner party, which needed a couple of cups of Corn Flakes on top. The remainder of it sat in the pantry untouched for two weeks without anyone even asking for it. They’ve really begun to enjoy baked oatmeal, yogurt with granola, homemade muffins, and such.
And, finally, BEDTIME - Believing adequate rest was probably the main thing lacking in our girls’ lives, we resolved to re-establish earlier bedtimes for all four of them. That lasted about a week. We’re not nearly as good at the whole bedtime thing as when we just had one child. Oh well!
The things that were added in along the way in 2010 were learning to make dairy kefir (used primarily for soaking oats and wheat so far) and kombucha in early summer. We made 6 quart-sized jars of the soda-style kombucha every week for about 5 months, interrupted by a family trip in December. My girls started begging to make it again – they were very glad to get back to it this month!
As for 2011, my thoughts are to branch out beyond bread and pancakes with the freshly-ground wheat (and to try other grains as well). This should be a little easier with my new Bosch – I never thought I would be so excited about receiving kitchen appliances from my husband for Christmas!
Another goal is to return to our pattern of hosting other families for supper 2-3 times per month. Actually, it’s not so much that we haven’t had friends over, but more that when we do host, I still serve one of several tried and true recipes adopted over the past decade. I need to figure out how to prepare and serve “real food” recipes that would be crowd-pleasers.
Finally, I would love to build on our weekly farmers’ market purchases of last spring, summer, and fall. Oh, how I miss the farmers’ market! I’m thinking the goal might be to double the amount of produce I choose each week in order to put some aside for winter. (Help! I have no idea how to do that!)
Thanks for the invitation to share our baby steps, Julie. Thinking back over our recent journey has made me realize how far we’ve already come. Now even the larger steps that remain ahead don’t seem nearly so scary anymore!
I am glad to report that we have enjoyed many opportunities to host in the past year and we have a deep freeze full of yummy vegetables from the surplus of our Kellogg Farms CSA (I highly recommend purchasing a half or full share for great produce all summer long)!
My teenage daughter has taken on full responsibility for keeping the kombucha going week in and week out, for which I am very grateful. She also keeps herself busy in the kitchen making homemade applesauce, salsa, and more whenever her schedule allows. What a blessing!
We are still failing miserably at the bedtime thing. I seriously need ideas to have at least a few people in this house asleep before 10:00 p.m. each night.
In 2011, we did find great new ways of using the wheat berries to make hamburger buns, cinnamon rolls, and more, thanks in large part to friend Johanna Gelatt, who gave a bread-making demonstration in my crowded kitchen last winter. If you're considering grinding your own wheat, get in touch with Johanna - she can share from a wealth of knowledge and experience!
Our food world was turned upside-down yet again when we took the plunge to begin the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) in November in order to address our 7 year-old's ongoing GI troubles (www.pecanbread.com and www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info). No wheat, corn, oats, potatoes, rice, or sugars here for the forseeable future, but we are thrilled with her new outlook on life thus far!
The added work in the kitchen to make the SCD happen would have been truly impossible even two short years ago - I would have been in a heap of tears on the floor, I'm afraid. Instead, by God's grace, we have taken baby steps which have led us to the place of being able to say "yes" to a radical change in eating that is proving to be very beneficial for our Caris. I am grateful!
The words I am focused on for 2012 are "simplicity" and "authenticity" - in relationships, in parenting, in life. They aren't specifically related to our eating, but I can certainly see how returning to preparing and eating whole, real foods is a simple way to live (not easy, mind you, but simple). The relationships that grow as we work together in the kitchen, defer to one another's needs while on the go, and invite others into our home are the biggest joy of all. . . and they're authentic! Win-win!