This is first in a food series I’m starting about the food choices we’ve been making as a family. I’ve already posted about our decision to cut out highly processed foods, but in these I’ll go into more detail about the science behind this choice. My hubby is joining me in this blog series by contributing to each post in his own words. The first topic we’ll cover here is SUGAR!
I have a sweet tooth.
Most people do.
Most people also know that sugar is bad for them. But what is sugar and why do we feel guilty after we overindulge in it?
What it is
Ordinary table sugar is scientifically called sucrose. It is made up of both fructose and glucose. Fructose is the same sugar that is in fruit.
High fructose corn syrup is a highly refined sweetener and appears in most processed foods. We’ve avoided HFCS for years, mostly because it signifies a cheap, low-quality food product and it has no nutritional value. But it’s important to understand that while avoiding HFCS is a good thing, the body handles both these sugars the same way: both will spike your blood sugar, both will give you a jolt of energy followed by a “sugar crash,” and both will leave you wanting more. More recently, we’ve made an attempt to reduce all refined sugar from our diet.
Why it’s bad
Aside from the sugar crash, sugar is addicting, bad for teeth, weakens the immune system, and excessive consumption can lead to obesity and diabetes. Every time we drastically spike our blood sugar, our body has to work hard to create insulin to regulate it. It’s all about balance.
And sugar is highly addictive. The more you eat, the more you want…but the reverse is also true: the less you eat, the less you miss it! There’s a lot of conflicting advice about food, from carbs to cholesterol to chemicals. But despite all the drama and debate, everyone seems to agree that lots of sugar is lots of bad. You don’t hear about scientific studies linking high sugar intake to high longevity. You don’t hear nutritionists promoting some new research about a traditional culture from the 1300′s that thrived on kilograms of honey and sugarcane. You don’t hear alternative bloggers touting their innovative six-packs-of-a-soda-a-day diet that revitalized their lives and made them feel 25 again. I (Josh) think it’s pretty interesting that people who disagree about so much agree about this.
- Pure maple syrup and honey – These are natural, unrefined, straight from nature. Get the best you can afford. While they are still processed the same in your body (all sweet things are), they are the same sweet things our ancestors found in trees and enjoyed on rare occasions.
- Coconut sugar – This is a lovely invention! It’s the evaporated sap of the coconut palm (also called palm sugar). It tastes like brown sugar, but has nutritious vitamins and antioxidants from the plant still intact due to its minimal processing. It also has healthy amino acids from the coconut. The best part is it’s cheaper than maple syrup and honey, and it’s a 1:1 substitute for sugar in baking!
- Stevia – I don’t use stevia personally because I think the aftertaste is a little funky, but lots of people enjoy this all-natural, super sweet, no calorie alternative to sugar. I would stick with the liquid or the 100% pure powder, as some have additives to make it less concentrated (it’s many times sweeter than sugar and should be used a drop at a time!)
- Fruit – Some fruit is very sugary. This sugar is fructose. I use it to my advantage. In the form of fruit (not juice, but the fruit itself) fructose is accompanied by vitamins, minerals, potassium, and fiber. Most recipes taste great sweetened with fruit alone. Oatmeal is fantastic with just some raisins or fresh blueberries as sweetener! Many desserts taste great with just a banana or handful of dates instead of sugar. Or try plain yogurt with frozen berries or mangoes mixed in as an ice cream alternative! Even when doing a week with strictly no added sugar, we allow fruits in our diet.
How to read a label
How to break the sugar habit
It’s hard to start, but easy to maintain a lower-sugar lifestyle. I (Emily) started by cutting sugar out of my coffee and tea. That was a big step, but the less you eat sweets, the less you crave them, and the more special they are when you do have them (made from scratch, with natural sugar substitutes!) I’ve found my threshold for sweet is much lower now, and I enjoy other flavors more as they are allowed to take center stage.If you’re trying to cut out added sugar, we’re here to support you!
Stay tuned! The next post is about fat!
Sources and further reading:
What to Eat – Marion Nestle
Skinny Chicks Eat Real Food – Christine Avanti
Salt, Sugar Fat: how the food giants hooked us – Michael Moss
In Defense of Food – Michael Pollan
During my recent pregnancy I followed my cravings and ate whatever sounded good…baked goods, chocolate, and sugared cereal everyday. I ate some good stuff too, but I definitely thought “hey if I’m gonna gain weight, might as well have fun doing it!”
In addition, I was under the impression that fat was bad and sugar (as long as it wasn’t corn syrup) was okay.
After having a baby, it’s great because you lose lots of weight no matter what you eat. Fun stuff!!
But after the initial “I just had a baby, I can eat whatever-the-heck-I-gosh-darn-want-to” period, it was time to get healthy again.
It sounded way over the top crazy hard to me at the time! But you can take these principles and apply them to your life!
What we’re doing:
No processed pre-packaged snacks or beverages (chips, granola bars, convenience foods, sugared cereals, or candy other than dark chocolate).
When buying pre-made things (some bars, bread, meat) the fewer ingredients the better! Try to stick with less than 5, or at least ingredients you can pronounce!
No refined sugar whenever possible (opt for sugars naturally occurring in fruit, honey, and 100% maple syrup). This was huge for me since I have such a sweet tooth! But I started small. I stopped putting sugar in my morning coffee / green tea. Didn’t miss it at all after a week. Now I don’t add sugar to anything!
No dyes, additives, or preservatives whenever possible. (This is hard, I know, but if you’re buying as few ingredients as possible, it will cut down on this!)
Realistic grocery store switches:
Instead of protein powder – Greek yogurt
When Josh started lifting weights, we read the labels on all protein powder and pre-made bars and found they have a lot of mystery ingredients and high sugar/sodium. So instead we make smoothies out of Greek yogurt, peanut butter, and milk that are about 30 grams of protein each.
Instead of processed sugar – 100% maple syrup, honey, dates, or bananas to sweeten.
Can be substituted in most recipes (I’ve been re-writing my whole recipe book with healthier substitutions! Haven’t used refined sugar in months…thinking about just tossing it!) We’re not huge sticklers if we go out or to someone’s house, but at least in our own house we’re not using it. There’s lots of great whole food dessert recipes online! (Mywholefoodlife, choclatecoveredkatie)
Instead of snacks or granola bars with lots of added sugar – unsalted nuts and dried fruit
Instead of ice cream – freeze bananas and make banana ice cream
Instead of frozen pizza – buy ingredients to make your own.
Or make easy meals like quiche from scratch and freeze them for the convenience.
Instead of refined salt – sea salt.
I just threw away two bottles of the nasty stuff. Lots of chemicals in that!
100% whole wheat flour instead of bleached white flour (and bread and pasta).
Can be subbed in pretty much any recipe. This is an easy switch! Just make sure it says 100% whole wheat or whole grain. “Wheat flour” is a vague euphemism food makers use to make white bread sound healthier…it’s just normal flour.
Instead of margarine – real butter.
Don’t worry about the fat as much as the chemicals and colors they use to make it “butter like!”
Instead of cheese-like slices – real cheese!
Again, get the full-fat real thing. Just don’t overdo it if you want to lose weight.
Instead of jelly or preserves – buy fruit and make your own.
You can easily make preserves with just 2-3 ingredients. Or at least buy one that’s sweetened with fruit juice instead of sugar (Trader Joe’s has a juice-sweetened super fruit spread).
Instead of deli meat which often has nitrates, nitrites, and very high sodium – buy raw chicken or pork in bulk, cook it in the crockpot and slice.
So much healthier, and this one is even cheaper!
Instead of vegetable oil- coconut oil (as much as possible).
Can be used for cooking, frying, baking, everything!
Instead of bottled salad dressings – olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
I just made my own ranch dressing with Greek yogurt, and it is way better than the bottled stuff!
It is my goal to make our own ketchup and BBQ sauce in the future also. For now we stick with types that contain no high fructose corn syrup.
Instead if sugared cereals – get good at making oatmeal.
We eat oatmeal or eggs every morning. On weekends we sometimes make pancakes or waffles from scratch. Have fun with this! Did you know you can make your own granola in the oven? With no refined sugar?! Sugared cereals aren’t healthy and aren’t nearly as satisfying as a big bowl of oats or homemade granola. I look forward to my breakfast every morning, and and if I add ground flaxseed, whole milk, and chia seeds, I don’t get hungry for hours!
Don’t stress about buying all organic or all grass-fed! If you can, great! But don’t let the pressure to eat “perfectly” get in the way of your eating “well.” Do the best you can that’s within your budget and available in your area.
Avoid things labeled “diet” as these usually are more processed to remove fat and have chemicals instead of real sugar.
Go crazy with veggies, fruits, berries, seeds and nuts!
Aim to eat fish at least once a week. They are the best natural source of omega-3s and are lean and full of protein.
The cost should even out. Because for every healthy thing you’re buying, there’s a lot of stuff you won’t be buying anymore. It’s all about replacing. And making things from scratch is actually cheaper! (Pasta sauce, salad dressing, tortillas)
Every body is different, but that’s what we’ve been doing. It doesn’t make sense to eat chemicals and things we weren’t designed to digest.
It’s not about dieting… You should never be starved while eating real food! (You should never be overfilled either.)
Increasing our protein intake, cutting out refined sugar and reducing sodium helped josh and me reach our goals. We both gained muscle and I lost more than all the baby weight.
Stop worrying about fat.
Don’t count calories.
Focus on eating real things and let your appetite guide you, not your salt / sugar cravings.
To learn more about the science, check out some real-food books at the library. I enjoyed this one a lot.
If you’re serious about making some food changes, let me know so we can support each other! Even if you chose a different variation, (grain-free, paleo, vegan, etc) I love talking about food in general!
When everything you make is natural / handcrafted, you enjoy it more!
Real food actually tastes better!
You can buy some nice plates or jars if it helps. Take pictures of your beautiful creations! Host dinner parties as an excuse to make better food. Savor those morsels, every flavor in its fullness! Enjoy!
Filed under: Spirituality | Tags: Christian, Happiness, optimist, positive, power, thinking
I’ve been thinking a lot about how happiness is a choice.
Contrary to popular belief, happy people aren’t stupid.
They aren’t necessarily oblivious to the world.
In fact, happy people are often more engaged than others.
They take the time to notice the small things, like a child who stops to watch the smoke rising from a chimney, or stops to wave at the passing train.
(Doesn’t Jesus point out that we’re to be more like small children?)
The book “The Power of Positive Thinking” is better than I thought it would be. While a little old-fashioned, it’s a great reminder of how to “make it a habit to be happy.”
This is accomplished through constant prayer, being aware of your inner dialogue, and tapping into God’s strength.
Happy people don’t all have easier lives. In fact, some of the happiest people I know live in very, very hard circumstances.
Happiness and energy can be achieved regardless of income, social rank, job title, marital status, etc.
Do I think all people everywhere are called to be happy?
No, I think we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.
Jesus was a man if sorrows – not inside-outside-upside-downside-happy-all-the-time.
However, I believe Christians are called to be the light in the world, and not let small everyday things bog us down. People should be able to tell that something’s different about us and look to God to find it. (Matt. 5:16)
Lately I’ve found myself getting stressed over the smallest everyday chores such as getting dinner ready and doing dishes.
It was bad enough…then our dishwasher broke!
Rather than let a broken dishwasher get me down, I’ve realized that dishwashers are a huge luxury item and it’s actually not that bad to just wash dishes by hand.
God certainly speaks through the small things…
I often hear the phrase: “You’re having too much fun to be at work.”
To which I reply, “No such thing!”
Whether I’m at work, in traffic, or spending time with my family, I want to chose to walk in happiness.
The truth is, I benefit from it.
The truth is, it’s contagious.
The truth is, the world is a messed up place but my hope isn’t in this world.
I didn’t think I’d ever do a post on nursing. I think it’s really awesome but I try not to talk about it a whole lot…until this happened!
Yesterday I was very discreetly pumping in my car at work.
I was parked way on the side of the building, in the backseat, with the pump UNDER my shirt, windows partially cracked.
My head was down, texting my husband while I ate an apple…great multitasker, right?
A group of two or three people walked up to the car parked right beside me. I heard laughter and I heard a man day “Oh my God. Dairy! Dairy!”
I ignored it; didn’t even look up. A young woman was there, and made a comment like “He’s running from it like a 12 year old.” But she was laughing also.
The man took it a step further as he was getting in the car, as if to get my attention, which had not yet been caught. He threw what was left of his melted ice water at me, right through my cracked window. I remained head down, looking at my phone. I’m proud to say he didn’t break my concentration or even disrupt my letdown!
“Haha, it’s raining!” he remarked before getting in the car and driving off. I suspect he was trying to get a response from me, and when he didn’t that was all he could think of.
My mind has gone all over the place ever since, about things I could have said or done. They range from telling him my legal rights, to labeling him an immature and uneducated asshole who should never have kids, to saying “Oh does this make you uncomfortable? I’ll show you uncomfortable!”
All of which would have been inappropriate responses in my work uniform.
All of which aren’t Christ-like.
All of which would have given him a story to tell back at the office.
Maybe being boring sometimes is a win.
Personally, I’m not embarrassed that this happened. (In fact I’m pumping in my car again as I write this!) Rather, I’m surprised and appalled that it happened…especially to me!
I’d maybe understand if it was a younger dweeb-type kid, but from a grown man? Seriously? This baffles me.
I nurse my baby everywhere, and never before have I encountered any negativity. People seem more or less supportive or oblivious to breastfeeding in my limited personal experience.
Would he have done it if I had been breastfeeding my son in the car? Say what you will about me, but leave my son out of it.
Hopefully I can help wipe out this type of ignorant harassment.
It isn’t a laughing matter.
It isn’t gross.
It’s food for a baby.
I think my body is pretty amazing.
I think working and stay at home moms are all amazing.
I think feeding my son the ultimate superfood is worth it.
I think people need to shut up and look away if they see something they don’t want to.
What does everyone else think?
Filed under: Marriage, Parenting, Spirituality | Tags: Babies, Children, dreaming, faith, family, fitness, friendship, life, parenting, worship
I don’t like to ring my own bell too much, but these past two weeks have been pretty cool:
Dreaming about the future – Josh and I have great goals for our life as a family. Don’t know exactly when or how it will all happen, but praying for God to use us in great ways. To build community, to consume less, to teach, to grow, to volunteer, to minister and serve.
Praying for other countries each night – something I always wanted to do but didn’t know how to do until we discovered Operation World. It’s like a mini geography lesson with prayer points to help you get started. I think you cover the whole globe in a year. Can’t wait to include Malachi in this tradition when he’s older.
Reading together – mostly the Bible, but some other books as well, and discussing them together. Forming opinions about the Christian faith and sharpening our outlook on life together. We’ve learned a lot about marriage, faith, and parenting through good books.
Running together in the evenings – reaching new goals is fun. Josh is trying to be healthy, and I’m training for a 5K in Sept. We had our two best runs this week. They were two miles in mild weather which felt great after those first few grueling shorter runs (our neighborhood is called St. Charles Hills for a reason!)
Eating healthy together – Finding healthy meals and snacks we both like. It feels good to eat well and be full! Granola, peanut butter, bananas, oats, veggies, Greek yogurt, eggs with kale, nuts, dried fruit…being healthy can be pretty tasty! We’re focusing on high protein, high fiber, minimizing sodium and refined sugar. Returning to my lightest pre-pregnancy weight, and rebuilding my muscle tone feels amazing!
Successful baby outings – including the Botanical Gardens, a whole day of thrifting, a few restaurants, and a hip hop concert. Feels great to not be house-bound because my baby can’t handle social situations. I almost wish I could keep him this size and temperament…he’s so happy and portable right now!
Worship – One of the highlights of my week was getting to wear Malachi onstage while helping lead worship at church. He did great, and it felt like a powerful testimony to me of God’s love, faithfulness, strength, and future blessings. I never really played an instrument, but Malachi is an instrument of peace I hope to raise up for his generation. It was very significant to me.
Quality time with friends who support and encourage me – they know who they are; they accept me and they accept Malachi too. This is so important and I hope I’m able to be an encouragement to them as well. It truly enriches my soul to spend time among loving and like-minded friends.
Getting into my groove at work – the joy of being industrious, working hard to accomplish things, getting to chat with coworkers and customers I haven’t seen in months. I feel like people are so surprised that I want to work and not stay home all the time. But I love it. I’m willing to quit when the time comes, but I’m still meant to be there for this season of life. I think we’re finding the right balance for our family.
Feeling rested at night – While we’re still working on perfecting Malachi’s sleep habits, I’ve become acclimated to this baby lifestyle and my sleep has been good even with the night wakings. Thankful and excited that the night wakings are improving also!
Josh gets half the credit for this list as he has such high standards for himself and for our family, and the discipline to hold accountable. He is an inspiration in maturity and delayed gratification. I’m ever so thankful for a strong, understanding husband who sees the world the way I see the world. Our life is so rich right now!
Filed under: Music, Parenting, Spirituality | Tags: Audiofeed, Babies, festival, God, music, parenting
Just got back from a great weekend at the first annual Audiofeed Music Festival. The weather was near-perfect, the bands were great. Hopefully there will be an even larger crowd next year as word spreads about this wonderful event!
So thankful that we were able to make it there and be inspired by other believers, music lovers, and other young parents!
Here are some of the highlights that I’m thinking about upon returning:
1) Babywearing is the key to keeping baby out after bedtime
Just let them sleep in the sling and go have fun! Truly life-changing advice if you’re a new mommy like me! Oh the possibilities! This might be the end of babysitters as we know it.
2) Sometimes God puts us in a holding pattern
What this means is that we don’t always have the go-ahead from God, so we have to wait for things.
Wait to get funding, wait to get pregnant, wait to move to another home or another job.
Waiting doesn’t mean no; it just means wait.
Waiting doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. Keep doing what you’re doing while you wait for the next door to open.
Waiting can be a blessing. It’s easy to see when thinking about past experiences in retrospect. The waiting always had a reason, even when we didn’t see it at the time.
Josh and I enjoy sharing excitement about what our future might look like, but for now we feel we’re supposed to be here, waiting on the Lord.
3) Don’t stereotype yourself
Even among a large group of non-conformists, people tend to conform to certain ideas within that group. It’s important to evaluate every idea you hold based on your own learning and experiences.
Don’t simply accept a certain view because it’s held by like-minded peers.
Know why you stand for what you stand for. If you’re not sure, find out.
In the areas of religion and politics especially – don’t simply follow a denomination or a political party with blind wholeheartedness.
Question everything, and most importantly, be your own person!
4) Live outside your comfort zone
In order to live, truly live, we have to get our minds off of comfort.
This is something I hope to instill in my children – hence bringing my three-month-old to an outdoor music festival in the first place!
It’s comfortable to stay in our nice homes with soft beds and climate control.
It’s easy to plop children in front of a television and ignore them.
It’s far more difficult to actually get out and live life! But that’s where memories are made.
Some of my best childhood memories were when I was uncomfortable: the thrill of overcoming roller coaster fears, the miserable fun of camping in tornadoes and freezing or extremely hot weather, the fun rambling after a night without enough sleep.
Comfort is stationary, and accomplishes little.
I don’t want to lead a stationary life.
I want to be uncomfortable for the right reasons.
I want to lose sleep for the right reasons and have muscles that ache for the right reasons.
I want my child to know this all his life.
Parenting is hard enough without judging and comparisons, isn’t it?
I love that I’m part of a community of moms who have each others’ backs. But that doesn’t make it any less difficult to live up to other people’s (and sometimes our own) standards.
“Doesn’t he take a bottle?”
“Doesn’t he take a pacifier?”
“Are you sure he’s getting enough to eat?”
“Is he on a schedule?”
“Is he sleeping through the night?”
“You spoil him.”
“You’re depriving him.”
“You’ll wish you’d done it differently.”
I’m in the middle of reading an excellent book by Dr. Tim Kimmel called Grace Based Parenting. The bottom line is that impossible expectations will always be broken, and Grace is more important than hard rules when it comes to raising and loving our children.
While the book isn’t really about babies, I think grace should be applied liberally to new moms. Today’s standards for moms are extremely high. You’re not doing it right unless your whole family eats gourmet and organic, you make it to the gym everyday in designer workout apparel, and your immaculate home looks like something off of Pinterest.
It’s confession time.
Sometimes I count down the minutes until daddy gets home to help.
Sometimes I make coffee in the middle of the day because I’m so tired.
Sometimes I nurse the baby to sleep even though the pediatrician says “put him down awake but sleepy.”
I really don’t give a hoot what the “experts” and “critics” say as long as what we’re doing works.
The documentary Babies is an eye-opening view of parenting around the world. It’s a refreshing reminder that even though babies from Namibia, Mongolia, Tokyo, and the US live drastically different lives, they can all grow into thriving, happy children.
Whether they grow up in a hut with a dirt floor or a bustling metropolis.
Whether they hang out with dogs and goats or attend baby yoga class.
Whether their parents read all the books or simply follow their instincts.
So let’s ditch the rule books. Ditch the comparisons. Let your kid get dirty. Stop worrying. Stop it with the imaginary standards. Go your own speed. Live your own life. Pray for guidance. Pray for wisdom. Do the best you can.
This blog post is over because the baby’s crying…. that’s about as real as it gets!