Monday, April 30, 2012

What Do We Eat Now? - Lunches

Much like with our breakfasts, for lunches we keep to a weekly menu. Every few weeks I make about four loaves of homemade sandwich bread which we use for all of our sandwiches. I got the recipe from a friend but have made so many changes to it I now consider it my own. So I will post that soon if anyone is curious. It is still a work in progress but is really tasty and very comparable to regular wheat bread (which if you have tried gluten free bread you know that is hard to come by!). The four loaves last us about three weeks since we don't use bread nearly as often as we used to. That makes me happy because it is a bit of work to make :).

Here are our lunches (gluten, dairy & citrus free as always):

1. Grass-fed beef hot dogs. I serve these with one slice of our homemade bread and with some veggie (either red peppers, cucumbers, carrot sticks or snap peas). Then I also make a green smoothie (made with apples, bananas, collard greens or kale, and coconut oil.

2. PB & Honey sandwiches. We use raw honey for these and they also get served with a veggie and a green smoothie. We do these twice a week because they are the kiddos favorite. If you veer away from peanut butter almond butter is a great alternative. Joel and I don't digest almonds well so we can't do almond butter very often.

3. Chicken salad. I make our own mayo for these because all conventional mayo has lemon juice in it (aside from often including oils we steer clear of). It is super easy to make thankfully! I also serve these with a veggie and a green smoothie.

4. Egg salad. I do this without the bread, just the egg salad. Once again we have veggies on the side and a green smoothie.

5. Scrambled eggs. I lightly scramble these and serve with veggies and a cashew mango smoothie. So this is one of our grain-free lunches and is super yummy!

6. I call this one our miscellaneous plate. We serve this on Fridays and I cut up whatever leftover veggies we have as well as apples. We have sunflower butter to dip the veggies and apples in. I also serve this with black beans and a green smoothie.

So there you have it. Those are our lunches at this point, though like the breakfasts I will probably change them up in a few months! Again, please share your favorite lunches - especially those that are kid friendly :).

Friday, April 27, 2012

What Do We Eat Now? - Breakfasts

I want to preface these posts on "What Do We Eat Now?" with a comment that the lists I am providing are in NO way meant to create a burden for anyone or put out there some expectation that this is how everyone should eat. Some of you will view what we eat and think, "wow - that sounds like a lot of work or so healthy." Others might think, "wow - we eat so much healthier than the Harrangs do - they have a lot of growing to do." And more yet will say, "sounds like how we eat. Nothing exciting to look at." It doesn't really matter to me which camp you are in. My goal is not to try to tell anyone how they must eat, but rather to share our journey and provide resources that can help you on yours. Just want to put that out there.

Now that our family has landed on a whole foods, dairy-free, gluten-free & citrus-free diet, you might be wondering what our meals look like. I am always so interested in what is served on the plates of other families for meals. This is partly because I am just naturally curious and partly because I am always looking for new meal and snack ideas. Before I give you the low down on breakfasts here in our home I want to mention a couple of things:

* Because I am pumping a whole lot right now to give my baby breast milk (that is a whole other story) I am currently unavailable in the morning to make breakfasts for my family. So breakfasts are being provided by my most amazing husband Nik. I just want to send out a huge thanks to him for stepping up and serving us in this way through this season. I love you honey!

* We have the same basic weekly breakfast menu. But a couple times a year I change things up either out of boredom or because of new things I am learning and implementing.

* Most of what we eat is organic with just a few exceptions. I feel like what we eat is pretty basic but it is more so the ingredients we use that make the difference in what we eat now.

So here is what we are currently eating for breakfast. We have four different meals that we eat either once or twice a week each:

1. Homemade granola served with a coconut milk smoothie. We have this once a week. I was serving gluten-free organic boxed cereal but was wanting to switch over to something a little healthier. I found this recipe and we have been loving it! It is actually very simple to make (I make a big batch every 2 or 3 weeks). I do add a bit of coconut oil to the recipe for needed fats for the nursing mama and little kiddos and I use pomegranate juice instead of the lemon juice and raw honey in place of the agave.

2. Eggs (usually cooked over easy) with Coconut Flour Muffins and a drink made with beet kvaas or this green food supplement. At some point I will discuss the kind of eggs we use as this too has changed with time. As far as the drink goes I use it to get greens into the kiddos for breakfast or the wonderful natural probiotics found in beet kvaas. If I ever need to do breakfast myself I will soft boil the eggs ahead of time and then this becomes a 5 minute meal! We have this meal a couple times a week.

3. Oatmeal served with chia seeds and raisins. Although we are in general gluten free, I have found that Joel can tolerate regular oats just fine, so thankfully we don't have to spend the extra money on GF oats. We usually eat this two times a week. We have also done a raw oatmeal made from oat groats which is a huge hit with the kids. I have veered away from this a little though because even though I would soak the groats overnight, oats are more easily digested if soaked and cooked.

4. Pancakes made with whole grain buckwheat. We make these in the blender. They are so delicious and I am serious, you would NEVER guess that they were gluten free (and they have no added sugar either!). This is a recipe I will share in the future. We have these twice a week and freeze the extras for snacks during the week.

So that is it for breakfasts. If you have any healthy and easy breakfast ideas, please do share!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Our Food Journey - part 3

Our precious son Joel Peter was born in 2007. For the most part he was an easy baby. He did suffer from mild acid reflux which caused him some problems. Not knowing any better, or what else to do, I got him on medication for it. Then right before his first birthday the real problems began. Joel got his first major cold and with it came a lot of wheezing. As the year progressed so did his health problems. He got a terrible ear infection in the spring that we simply could not get rid of. Again, not really knowing any better, I took the doctor's advice and put him on antibiotics. But they didn't work. He was sick for over two months with almost no break. Over the span of that year I think he was on antibiotics a total of 8 times! I was at my wits end, not knowing what to do or how to help my little guy. So many nights I would be on the floor of his room, after attending to him crying in pain from an ear infection, praying and crying out to God for wisdom for our situation.

Well, God provided the wisdom I was crying out for. I had a good friend who recommended looking into food sensitivities. She had a son with similar issues that were caused by a sensitivity to dairy. I took out dairy out of his diet, somewhat, but it didn't help. (I have learned since that it can take a couple months of complete elimination before getting something completely out of your system). Finally we went to a naturopath and had him tested for food sensitivities (different than allergies). He tested as EXTREMELY sensitive to all dairy, most gluten, and all citrus. WOW!

Thankfully I was already familiar with eating dairy free. I had also dabbled in the gluten-free world, so it wasn't too daunting to take that out of our diet. The citrus was actually the hardest to remove because citric acid or lemon juice is in a lot of food! But we figured it out and got in a new groove. Joel has only had one ear infection since (it's been three years), and it was actually after letting him have some onion rings which had a wheat batter. As you can see from the picture above, before we changed his diet, Joel had big puffy bags under his eyes. I never noticed that he looked sick until afterwards. Here is a picture of him the following year (about two months after changing his diet) and also one of what he looks like now. Big difference!

Going gluten, dairy and citrus free was actually quite a blessing in disguise. It has meant many challenges for our family, yet as a result I have been introduced to the big wide world of foods. There are so many different delicious foods to eat! But I also quickly learned that gluten and dairy free eating DOES NOT mean healthy eating. Many store bought prepared foods, and recipes, still use white starches and grains, and many use a lot of sugar to make up for what is lacking with the other ingredients. Maybe a year or so into our new diet I began to try to take out all refined sugars which required me making most of our foods from scratch. This brought me back to the Maker's Diet, only this time I made a bigger leap in sticking to the guidelines of the diet. I turned to the cookbook Nourishing Traditions for help. Raw vegan cuisine also caught my attention because it is a dairy and gluten free way of eating and I began trying some recipes in that genre. Our goal was to eat whole foods that had been properly prepared and to get out anything that was "processed". Last year we enjoyed our healthiest year yet!

We still are very much so on a journey. Last fall for example, with the birth of our fourth child, was challenging for several reasons and I was very limited in time. As a result I wasn't able to make many of the foods I had been cooking nor put the same effort into our nutrition in general. While I wouldn't say we were eating poorly, we felt the effects of it for sure. However, this is a journey. I have learned that we do the best we can given whatever stage we are at,and that has to be good enough. I have come to love health and nutrition though and am passionately pursuing research and implementation of what I learn to whatever extent I am able. This blog documents our journey and the many hours of thought and research that have gone into where we are at and where we are going.

For those of you who are curious or interested, I will be posting in the next few days what we currently eat for meals and snacks in our home...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Our Food Journey - part 2

As I mentioned in my last post, after getting married and once I got pregnant I made some changes to our eating habits that helped my digestion tremendously. At this point I was growing so much in regard to my interest in health and nutrition, especially with the birth of our daughter Elise. I kept hearing about a book called "The Maker's Diet" from friends of mine and decided to get it and take a look. This book took what I was already doing nutritionally to a whole different level. The author talked about eating foods in their most pure state, the way God intended. Some of it sounded easy enough, some of it involved a complete rethinking of how to prepare food, and some of it seemed completely impossible because of our financial limitations. It wasn't that we were struggling financially, but we simply didn't have $400-500 to spend on groceries for our small family of three. A lot of the changes I would have had to make to whole-heartedly do the diet also seemed way to complicated for where I was at at the time.

None the less, I began to implement some changes from the book. I changed the kind of eggs we bought to cage free, our chicken to free-range, and switched us to organic dairy (though the book actually recommended all organic food and raw dairy - but heh, it was a start). We started making soaked whole-grain organic waffles on a regular basis, which was my first experience with soaking grains. I had never heard of this before but the book discussed how doing so makes them much easier for our bodies to digest. And I switched us over to sprouted whole grain bread. I fed my daughter only organic once I started her on solids - at least until she got to be 1 year old. We still did some processed foods like mac'n'cheese, store bought crackers, etc, but we had made a lot of steps forward which I felt really good about.

We held steady at this place for about the next two years. But about a year into our first son Joel's life, it became super clear to us that more changes were needed, sigh. So we continued forward on the road to becoming more healthy as a family...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Our Food Journey - part 1, pre-kids

Growing up, I ate the typical standard american diet (SAD). While I didn't consider myself a junk food addict, I also wouldn't have said I was an ultra healthy eater. I ate all white breads, pastas, tortillas, etc. I loved sweets, though didn't overindulge too much. Fruits and vegetables? Well let's just say I wasn't the biggest fan. I got a couple servings a day, but rarely more.

Somewhere in college I gained a little interest in eating healthier. I took a nutrition class my first semester and learned to use a program that tracked what I ate and how I was doing nutritionally. I also had a suite-mate who motivated me with her massive salads for dinner every night. Living in the dorms my first two years, I tried to make healthy choices in the cafeteria. My biggest challenge though was that I simply didn't have a taste for "healthy" foods. 

When I got married I began to eat more spinach and made the switch from white pasta and bread to whole grain. At this point I knew I had a dairy sensitivity but had not given up on dairy completely because, well, I was in love! How could I live a life with no dairy?! Upon getting pregnant with my first child though I began to have lots of stomach and digestion issues. I got tested for allergies, had a colonoscopy and also got tested for Celiac disease. Everything came back normal but I didn't feel like everything was okay. So I did what I thought I could never do - I gave up the dairy because I at least knew the dairy was something I didn't tolerate well. I got more serious about taking out all white flour as well as processed sugar. The result? I felt SOOO much better! Just those few simple things completely revolutionized my digestion. And I even found that when I had those things in check, I could have dairy a few times a week or a sweet treat here and there and I tolerated it just fine. But if I cheated too much my problems began again. At this point I really thought we were eating super healthy, and I felt really proud of myself for the changes I had made. But I was soon to discover that this was just the beginning!