The Grain Girl Is Here!

Hello!  This is Amy, and I am The Grain Girl.  This is my blog, which I have had for several years at HomesteadBlogger, but that site just shut down so I have moved things here to Word Press.  I am passionate about healthy living and began this blog as an outreach tool as I encourage and help others change the way they eat.  Since then, it has morphed into an actual business with my sister.  You can find us at www dot wellfedfamily dot net. You can also find Well Fed Family on Facebook.  I would have moved my blog to the Well Fed Family website, but I am not very computer literate and it’s late and it was just easier to move to Word Press for now. 🙂

My family has recently moved to a rural Tennessee town where we finally have some acreage.  We had our fourth baby and also added 12 hens to our family.  Things are pretty busy around here as I care for my baby, manage our little homestead, and homeschool my other 3 children (which involves teaching my 5 year old to read and making sure my high schooler gets it all done) in addition to  being a helpmeet to my wonderful husband of nearly 21 years.  And don’t forget locating, obtaining, and preparing healthy foods for my family!  So I’m not blogging that much any more.  I hope to blog when I can, but in the meantime, there is plenty here to read and learn.  Happy, Healthy Eating!

Advertisements

Simple Meals

In my last post I mentioned that I was preparing “simple” meals for my family.  Someone recently asked me what I meant by that, and I thought it might be helpful to “share with the group,” so to speak.

Let me quickly clarify one thing: microwaveable, pre-made meals in a bag, and fast food do not fall into the simple category because they complicate life by creating health problems. 🙂

I’m working on emptying the freezer  (see how full it was last June?) to make room for our whole beef from my dear friends at Rocky Glade Farm, so this week I have definitely been on a roll with simple dinners. It began on Monday, with our last whole chicken from Goose Pond Farm (I’ll be getting more of those later this month too!).  I put it into the crock pot, frozen solid, and sprinkled some fresh herbs over the top.  I put on the lid and turned the setting to “high” and forgot about it the rest of the day.  About an hour before dinner, I chopped up some yukon gold potatoes and onion, tossed them in olive oil and fresh rosemary, and roasted them in the oven at about 400 degrees.  Then I sliced up some squash and put it in a pot with some onion slices and a little water and let it simmer on the stove til it was tender.  We had a yummy meal that came together with very little effort.

 

On Tuesday I remembered that we had some chicken breast from West Wind Farms.  That was a rare treat because I always buy my chickens whole and in bulk.  I had purchased this chicken breast anticipating our barren freezer.  The chicken had already thawed, so about an hour before it was time to eat I prepared Garlic Lime Chicken from Leanne Ely’s cookbook, “Saving Dinner.”  Basically you season the chicken and pan fry it.  Simple.  While that was cooking, I quartered the rest of our yukon gold potatoes, put them in a pot with water, and boiled them on the stove.  When they were done I drained them, dropped in a big dollup of butter, and mashed them up with a big fork.  We call them “fork mashed potatoes.”  Yum.  Finally, I opened a package of frozen green beans and steamed them on the stove according to the directions.  When we sat down to eat I made sure there was plenty of butter to add to our potatoes and beans, and of course salt and pepper.  You might have heard my kids raving about the chicken all the way to where you are.  It was good!  And SIMPLE.

So yesterday I scavenged through the depths of the freezer and came out with two little packages of swiss steaks, and one round steak.  Basically they are the same thing, except swiss steaks have been run through a tenderizer.  It is a fairly tough cut of meat.  I let the meat thaw on the counter all morning, then right after lunch I dredged each piece in flour and browned it on the stove in coconut oil.  Then I put it all into a 9×13 pan (it took two pans), poured all the drippings from the skillet over it, tossed in some sliced onion, covered it tightly, and put it in the oven at 250 degrees for the rest of the day.  About 30 minutes before dinner, I made creamy succotash from a recipe I found in a Kroger magazine about 8 years ago.  That involved boiling some frozen lima beans and corn in a pot of water, sauteeing some onion and garlic in a skillet, combining everything, adding some Hatcher Dairy whole cream and chopped up cherry tomatoes, and letting it simmer together just a few minutes.  While that was in the works, I found enough fruit lying around to make a quick fruit salad: fresh strawberries, local blueberries, banana, and one apple.  The baked steaks were falling apart tender – real comfort food!  The succotash was colorful and creamy, and the fruit salad was cool and refreshing for a hot day.  That was easy!  Did I say YUM yet?

So that’s my simple menu for the week thus far.  “Simple” can have several meanings.  A one-dish dinner is simple.  A crock pot meal is simple.  Re-heating left-overs is definitely simple.  But also, a basic “meat ‘n three” (or in my case meat ‘n two) is simple.  Slow cook the meat all day and add a couple of sides and you’re done.  Now that is simple.

Before I close I feel a strong need to add a gentle reminder about “simple.”  Are you looking at my meal pictures and descriptions and feeling overwhelmed?  You might enjoy this quote from a great post by Lydia at Frugal Granola:

She eyes me as I diaper my son in the Parent Room at church one Sunday morning.  “It’s really not a big deal” I tell her, depositing the soiled diaper in my wetbag and stashing it in the diaper bag.  “Just an extra two loads of laundry a week.”  She nods, but still looks dubious.  I know why.

I laughed out loud when I read this – this is so me!  So often when I tell people something is so easy, they look at me dubiously.  What is simple for me is not necessarily simple for someone else.  Read on:

Living the simple life really isn’t about making things “easy” at all. It is about choosing to focus on the complexities of things that matter to you, and making space in your life for those things.

I think Lydia has nailed it.  This lifestyle is a choice.  In addition to eating the way we do, we have chosen to dramatically slow down our pace of life.  We have let some things go so that we can focus on others.  The meals I’ve shown you above work well for me because I am home every day.  I’m not sitting around looking for things to do, but I’m home.  This makes certain things possible for me that may not be possible for you.  Please read the rest of Lydia’s post – it’s short and worthwhile.

Well now you know what is simple for me.  I hope that I’ve been able to give you some good ideas for making simple meals at your house.  Join me and the Well Fed Family on Facebook and share your ideas of simple but healthy meals!

Discernment Required: a grocery store review and primer

There’s a new grocery store in town!  Earth Fare has begun opening stores in Alabama, and after months of anticipation they have opened their newest store in my home-town of Auburn, Alabama.  This week I visited Earth Fare for the first time. It will be a great resource for those who are trying hard to find locally grown produce and meats, as well as other un-processed foods that are free from dangerous hormones, pesticides, and other harmful chemicals.

First, the store was small enough that it wasn’t overwhelming, the décor peaceful and a little earthy; with more barrels and baskets and less industrial shelving.  The produce section was a delight – everything appeared fresh, and was rich looking and colorful without the heavy waxes and coatings you find in conventional stores.  The meat department will be a blessing to those who haven’t been able to locate truly local farm fresh meats.  The dairy department included several options of full fat yogurts and some non-homogenized milk.  Unfortunately, their selection of cream was disappointing – all their cream has been ultra-pasteurized.  This doesn’t have to be so, as they carry a line of regional milk that could probably supply them with a better quality cream.  They had a refrigerator case with several selections for Kombucha, which was something I had not seen before so that was a nice find.  They also had a bulk foods selection that offered freshly ground nut butter, honey, real maple syrup, and many grain products such as actual wheat to grind at home, brown rice, dried beans, pasta, and more.  I was thrilled to see a bulk pasta section that included fresh tortellini and ravioli, with good ingredients!  Unheard of!  They even had several varieties of raw cheese that I have only seen in food co-ops, such as Morningland Dairy – an excellent product.

This is the type of thing that will give Earth Fare an edge over Whole Foods: offering a variety of raw cheese and other products that are often hard to find.

And there you have it – the most important parts of the grocery store checked out and I give a “thumbs up”!  But please, read on.

Overall I don’t see Earth Fare as being any different than any other major health food grocery store.  They do a great job providing folks with a better option in terms of produce, meats, and dairy.   This is a real blessing.  They also offer great products that you simply cannot find elsewhere, such as full fat organic coconut milk, true soy sauce, truly un-refined sea salts, more natural health care products and cleaning products, bulk herbs, etc.  On the other hand, they offer just as many un-healthy options as a regular grocery store.  Except somehow people lose their minds at the health food store and begin to buy products blindly.  I guess they assume that since it is at Earth Fare or Whole Foods it must be fine to eat.  Especially when it says “all natural” or “organic” on the label.

I’m here today to remind everyone to use caution at the health food store!  Put on your “discernment caps” and use common sense and wisdom!  First of all, shop the perimeter of the store and do your best to avoid the aisles.  This means go for the produce, meat, and dairy.  Then only go through the aisles that offer basic, un-processed products like flour, baking soda, nut butters, canned vegetables, olive oil, vinegars, etc.  The rest of the store you can ignore completely!

Yesterday as I browsed the aisles at Earth Fare I found the same ol’ problem that exists at Whole Foods and every other grocery store in America:  100% processed foods with great boasts on the label about how healthy they are.

The freezer cases are loaded with processed “foods” like the one pictured above.  This is obviously geared toward the vegetarian crowd – they bring in a lot of money because they are so hungry since they aren’t eating animal foods. 🙂  But seriously, my opinion of vegetarianism aside – no matter your take on healthy eating, one glance at the nutrition label makes it clear that this product is not really food:

Mycoprotein (30%), Gruyère cheese (skim milk, whey powder, corn starch, salt, cheese culture, enzyme, sodium dihydrogen orthophosphate, polyphosphates), breadcrumb (wheat flour, yeast, salt, vegetable mono- and di-glycerides, ascorbic acid), water, onions, sunflower oil. Contains 2% or less of egg white, potato maltodextrin, tapioca starch, dextrose, autolyzed yeast extract, natural flavors from non-meat sources, citric acid, calcium lactate, pectin, gum arabic, onion powder, garlic powder, canola oil, corn oil ??Made from natural ingredients.

First, don’t let that last statement fool you – the FDA may consider these natural ingredients but if they didn’t come direct from the farm, or if you can’t buy them for your pantry, they are not natural.  The number one ingredient, Mycoprotein, is something I have never heard of and am sure no one has in their pantry.  Then note that the Gruyere cheese contains whey powder, a form of oxidized cholesterol – something truly dangerous for your heart and also a known form of Monosodium Glutamate.  There are quite a few other red flags in this ingredient list (phosphates, maltodextrin, dextrose, natural flavors, canola oil…), but let me point out just one more: autolyzed yeast extract.  This is another well-known form of Monosodium Glutamate, which is an “excitotoxin” and does damage to your nervous system (whether the FDA will officially admit it or not).

This reminds me of something my savvy son discovered at the Whole Foods food bar not too long ago:

Do you see the irony?  If it isn’t really what it is, then it isn’t food.  Got it?

Here is a marketing scheme that caught my eye yesterday at Earth Fare:

The store is playing on the desires of concerned moms who want healthy kids by pointing them to this aisle in the middle of the store, where it would appear that THIS is where you will find the HEALTHY foods for KIDS!  My first question here is why do children need a special food section at the grocery store?  Should they not be eating the same things as adults – such as fresh produce, meat, and dairy?  Well you won’t find any of that in this aisle.  Here is the first product proudly displayed under the Healthy Kids banner:

Mini organic chocolate cookies!  Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that Late July cookies are the BOMB!!!  But do they really need to be marketed as healthy foods for kids?  Late July cookies have far better ingredients than other crème filled sandwich cookies at the conventional grocery store, and I do buy them as an occasional treat for my family, but they are NOT the foods that will make your children healthy!  Don’t be fooled!

The rest of the Healthy Kids aisle was laden with pre-packaged processed foods that a “health conscious” mom would purchase for her child’s school lunch box and feel like she was doing something really good.

Now the ingredients in these bars are nothing bad, no concern.  But why can’t Mom just make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich using all natural peanut butter and all natural jelly and a decent loaf of whole wheat bread?  Is it really that much trouble?  I’m telling you that $4.29 for 5 1-oz. bars is EXPENSIVE and if you just bought the individual ingredients you would get a LOT more for your money!  And Junior would be much more satisfied eating something fresh.

Mom really needs to be careful in aisles like these where the packaging is fun and the products not necessarily dangerous to Junior’s health…Because this is where “healthy” eating can get really expensive.  Why does Mom need to buy pre-packaged apple sauce?  It is incredibly easy to make fresh applesauce at home using fresh apples, a little cinnamon and nutmeg, and some maple syrup.  You don’t even need to peel them – just take a hand blender to the pot and puree the whole thing.  Cheap, fresh, economical, and especially environmentally friendly.  By the way, these pre-packaged foods that don’t have harmful ingredients are not necessarily nourishing.  They are processed foods, by the very  nature of their being in these packages, and that means they are basically dead foods.  Dead foods cannot bring health to your children (or anyone else).

These are the products that bring in the money for the grocery store and that is why store managers draw your attention to them and play upon your desires to “do what’s right.”

You see, wherever you shop, fake foods and highly processed foods abound.  And it is up to you to recognize and avoid them.  While buying organic and all natural produce, meats, and dairy IS more expensive than the conventional grocery store, you will save money in the long run by NOT purchasing pre-packaged products, and by NOT falling prey to marketing schemes promoting highly processed fake foods with questionable claims.  It isn’t hard to spot these foods.  You’ve just got to be wise and discerning.

So there you have it:  a little review of Earth Fare, a seemingly great health food chain that is probably Whole Foods’ biggest competitor.  With this review you get a little primer on how to shop any grocery store and spot the wolves in sheep’s clothing hiding among the aisles.  Let me say again:  I really liked Earth Fare and am so glad to see it in Auburn!  For more information about this chain visit their website at http://www.earthfare.com.

And remember:  this post, as with this entire blog, is my opinion only and is intended simply to get you thinking about what and how you feed your family.  Come join me on Facebook – look for The Grain Girl, and also for the companion page, “Well Fed Family” for much more healthy eating info and resources!

Just Checking In

It’s been a long time since I have posted. Since then, HomesteadBlogger has changed all their software and my family has left the city and now lives in a rural Tennessee town. Not only that, but I am expecting baby #4. So you can see why I haven’t posted in a while. And this post is really just a test to make sure the blog is still working. There is so much I would like to do with the blog to make it more user friendly and to look better. Bear with me for now as I can only handle one change at a time. And did I mention that we’ll likely be moving again within 6 months? We’re in a rental house, searching for our future forever homestead. Until then…. The Grain Girl

LITTLE HEATHENS: A Book Report

0
false

18 pt
18 pt
0
0

false
false
false

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:12.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast;
mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

I just finished reading the most delightful book; a New York Times Best Book of the Year that my mother just happened to suggest in passing.  It wasn’t anything I was set on reading, but it was what was available when I had the time and I’m so glad it was.

The book is titled, Little Heathens:  Hard Times And High Spirits On An Iowa Farm During The Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish.  Kalish, who grew up on an Iowa farm during the Depression, simply writes about her childhood.  The book is reminiscent of the Little House books in that Kalish records exactly how things were done during a significant time in the history of our country.  Except this book is non-fiction, written in a friendly narrative manner.  The first sentence reads, “This is the story of a time, and a place, and a family.”  Kalish begins by telling us about her great, great grandparents who were among the first pioneers to settle in Iowa.  The family maintained a legacy in Iowa for several generations, operating several family farms where they lived, ate, and worked together. From there Kalish describes the many ways the children built character through chores, home medicine, farm food, and living without modern conveniences like electricity and running water.  Then she covers each season of the year and the distinct events that stand out in her mind; from nut gathering at the family cemetery to box socials at the local schoolhouse.  The book is full of details of rural life during the Depression, from chores to cooking to home remedies.  There are many recipes for farm foods, natural cures, and natural cleaning.  The phrase, “Little Heathens,” was what her grandmother called the children when they got into trouble on the farm (and there are many fun tales of such trouble in this book!).  Kalish has a gift for describing a way of life that totally absorbs the reader into the nostalgia of the time, back when America was still much more rural than urban, and the family was a bigger influence on the children than entertainment.  One word of caution:  when Kalish says she is going to describe the way of life on a farm during the Depression, she describes everything, including “coming of age”, language, and other sensitive issues.  Nothing is left out!

 

I always love reading about how people lived in earlier times.  I know I probably way over-romanticize it, because back then it was truly tough and scary living.  On the other hand, there’s so much to be said for that way of life before people totally left the land, and eventually their families, to live in sterile homes and work in closed up offices behind computers, only to return home to the tv and a lack of reality.  I really think that in so many ways we’ve lost our way.  And this book helps remind us of what is really important.  As she discusses how intensely difficult life was for her family, and how very strict her grandparents were on the children, she is sure to point out, “…I have come to view that time as a gift.  Austere and challenging as it was, it built character, fed the intellect, and stirred the imagination.”  Imagine that – living in near poverty, without modern conveniences, without special after-school programs, and even without yearly well-checkups, these children managed to grow up with strong character, intellect, and imagination!  They were full of life, well-adjusted, and healthy.

 

So why am I giving a book report about this book?  Because this book is all about the simple living and unadulterated food that I am so passionate about.  First, there is an entire chapter devoted to “thrift.”  Kalish begins by quoting the old sayings, “ Use it up; wear it out; make it do; do without” and “ “Willful waste makes woeful want.”  This family didn’t have curbside garbage service; they didn’t need it because they literally used everything until it was just no more.   This thriftiness pervaded their entire beings.  The outcome was a very earth-friendly family before, of course, it was cool to be green.

 

I once knew a girl who thriftily bought a whole chicken because it was cheaper than buying the boneless breasts.  She cooked the entire thing, cut off the breast meat, and threw out the rest of the chicken!  Think of the animal whose sole created purpose was to feed her family; discarded and thrown away simply out of sheer ignorance.  Chapter 28 is devoted to the animals on Kalish’s family farm.  She describes how the family lived in “intimate contact” with a wide variety of farm animals, how they loved each one, and delighted in them.  She says, “The domestic animals were almost like people to us, and we treated them with respect.  Their welfare was always our prime concern.”  This is drastically different from today.  We are raised to think nothing of these animals who give their lives to our service.  To us, they have become nothing more than a cut of meat wrapped in plastic on a styrofoam tray.  All we care about is which cut is cheaper.  But this is a new phenomenon.  Since the beginning of time, man has lived closely with the animals that nourish and serve him.  This relationship develops a healthy respect and conscientiousness that quickly goes missing when we leave the farm.  I remember volunteering at the farmer’s market where a customer was irritated by the high cost of a package of chicken livers.  When he complained to the farmer, she responded by pointing out, “Each one of those livers represents one whole chicken, and a huge investment!”  I wonder what Kalish’s grandparents would think of today’s confinement operations and feedlots where animals are treated without any care?

 

Farm living during the Depression was hard living of course.  Kalish makes this very clear as she details the amount of work that was required by every soul, from the youngest to the oldest.  Everyone had a job and was expected to participate.  The result was a sense of pride and ownership in every last detail of life.  Through the hard work, the family spent their days interacting with each other, teaching and learning while helping and serving.  This was true whether they worked in the barn, the garden, or the fields. And in the end, everything and everyone wound up in the kitchen.  Kalish says, “It should be obvious by now that the center of all activity in those days was the kitchen.  It was where we gathered for companionship and for a variety of work and leisure-time pursuits, where we ate all our meals, and where people entered the house most of the time.”  She goes on to describe their farmhouse kitchen in detail, pointing out that the kitchen “took up half of the first floor of the house.”  The kitchen description takes several pages!  She ends her description with this:  “There were many good reasons for being in the kitchen – light, warmth, food, drink….All in all, the kitchen had just about everything to make one comfortable.”

 

I love how she describes her memories of the farmhouse kitchen.  It is the smell of food that swallows her up and takes her back to her childhood.  Not pre-packaged microwaved fake food, but real food loaded with real animal fats and fresh goodies from the garden:

 

The smell of bacon is what brings back a flood of memories to me…I conjure up the taste of a sandwich made of homemade bread spread with smoked bacon drippings, topped with the thinnest slices of crisp red radishes freshly harvested from the garden, and sprinkled over with coarse salt.

 

Consider the modern family of today.  We have so many extra-curricular activities that we are strung out from one end of town to the other.  Instead of working together toward a common goal (the welfare of the family), most American children spend their free time playing the Wii, texting friends, or hanging out at the mall.  Family Night usually centers around “Dancing With The Stars” or “American Idol” and a delivery pizza.  When our children grow up, their nostalgic scents will revolve more around the smell of microwave popcorn or the rancid oils and fake fats from delivery pizza.  Hmmm.  It seems to be lacking something, doesn’t it?

 

One of the things I loved about this book was the continuing theme of family working together.  But there was another, even stronger theme woven throughout this book:  how loving and working the land leads one to an intimate relationship with the land, that then brings about valuable knowledge and skills, which bring health, life, and vitality to each person.  When you know valuable skills, you then have a confidence in your ability to cope with life.  You have become empowered, no longer helpless and dependent.

 

Here’s a great quote that gives some insight into why Kalish wrote this book.  She wants her family to know what it took to survive during difficult times so different from those we live in now, but, she says, “…most of all I want them to enjoy the kinship of souls that is created when everyone gathers in the kitchen to prepare a meal together.  Although cooking today is vastly easier, there is still nothing like putting a good meal on the table to make people feel they have done something meaningful.”  I totally agree.

 

There is so much more about this fun book than what I have shared here.  Check it out, and consider how you can take your family “back to the land.”  You will never regret it.

An Issue of TRUST

 

 

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.

Save, LORD: let the king hear us when we call.

Psalm 20: 7-9

 

What do Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny have in common? They are both fictional characters created by man. Intentionally or not, they each take our eyes off the real purpose of the religious holiday: the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. It has become increasingly evident to me that in every aspect of life there is something out there trying to take our eyes off Jesus, and divert our attention away from God.

 

Take food, for example. Have you considered how today’s modern foods have caused us to lose touch with our God and Creator? We have not only lost touch with God, but we have lost our trust in Him as well. Yes, yes we trust God in many ways. Namely we trust God for our salvation — and this is of absolute, utmost importance. Praise God for our savior, Jesus Christ, His son! But there is one significant way in which we have strayed far, far away from God: FOOD.

 

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him…

Colossians 2:8-10

 

Since the beginning of time, God has provided food for His people. And through his design, food is our source of physical nourishment. It is also the means by which we celebrate, mourn, and nurture. When we are happy, we feast. When we are sad, we come together and eat. When we are sick, we offer food to each other. Throughout the Bible we see examples of people coming together to feast for all occasions. One incredible, important use for food, seen over and again in the Bible, is that good food prepares the body to hear the word of God. Consider the Last Supper, where Jesus and his disciples were eating together. Food brings people together, and brings them closer to God. God created it that way.

 

The Bible is filled with comparisons between food and spiritual truths.  Just as food is our source for physical nourishment, Jesus is our source for spiritual nourishment. God uses food and farming repeatedly as examples to help people understand His words. But if we don’t understand the basics about food, how it is grown, and where it comes from, then we are at a distinct disadvantage in truly understanding God’s words.

 

Let me take that a step farther. We not only don’t understand where our food comes from, but we don’t even believe that it’s good for us, good to eat, or safe to eat. We have lost our trust in God’s ability to provide nourishing, safe food.

 

God tells us in Genesis 1:31, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” At what point did God’s creation stop being good? When Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden? Nonsense!

 

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

 

Tell me this: for those of you who trust God with the salvation of your soul, how does it make sense to deny the goodness of the food that God created just for you?

 

I know that doctors, scientists, and nutritionists are all telling us one thing. They are united in telling us that the food God created is dangerous and will kill you. They have a massive campaign and have developed all manner of specialized foods to advance their agenda. This is a multi-million dollar industry. There are special diets, there are rules, and everyone is telling you something different. But in the end, the result is the same: it takes us farther and farther away from God’s creation, and instead, glorifies the things that man has done. We fall for this hook, line, and sinker because these people are specialists in their field. They are scientists therefore they must know what they’re talking about.

 

Now tell me this: how is this different than a genius scientist telling us that there is no God, or that man evolved from apes? Or an archeologist telling us that the Bible is a fraud? As Christians we know that isn’t true because we have faith in our God, that what He says is true. Why is it that we trust one scientist but not the other? I’m telling you it is the same principle. We trust God with our salvation yet don’t trust him to give us safe, nourishing food. Instead, we put our trust in scientists, companies, and even physicians and nutritionists, who tell us that God’s foods aren’t safe. So while we go around telling the world that we trust God for our salvation, we look the other way when it comes to eating the foods he created for us to eat. How does this make sense?

 

Which brings me back to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny – creations of man that ultimately take our eyes off Jesus. You see, there is a lot of information out there. For every issue, there are volumes of dissenting information and opinions. When it comes to issues that might turn our hearts toward God, the information battle grows that much fiercer in attempts to keep us from looking toward him, the author and finisher of our faith. And in the case of food, man — intentionally or not — has deceived us into believing that God’s creation is not only dangerous, but also bothersome, smelly, dirty, disgusting, and not good enough for the educated people that we think we are.

 

Please go back and think about that for a moment.

 

There are many valid reasons for the gradual decline of our society, but I truly believe that one of them is that we have grown too far away from the source of our food. The Bible frequently refers to seasons, gardening, animals, and food as it teaches us about God. When we don’t understand those basic aspects of life – when we actually think those things are disgusting — how can we understand the word of God? As we have allowed scientists and companies to draw us away from the farm, we have gradually lost our trust in God’s ability to create safe, nourishing food. We trust Him for our salvation, but not for nourishing food. Instead of God, we have put our trust in diet plans, surgeries, prescriptions, supplements, modern processing, modern farming, and even science – all of which take our eyes off Jesus and instead profit and glorify man while harming God’s creation.

 

Man’s ways are burdensome, yet Jesus promises in Matthew 11, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  When we simply eat food that God created, the way He created it, we won’t need the rules, restrictions, confusing diet plans and conflicting information coming at us from all sides.  We are free!

 

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying.  Science is good. Many scientists have found that their work actually leads them to a stronger faith in God. Doctors are good people – I married one. Businessmen, nutritionists, and even lawmakers are good people as well. The scientists who are busily re-engineering our food truly don’t have evil intent. But as Christians we must always be discerning because there are wolves out there in sheep’s clothing. I’m not talking about evil people. I am talking about allowing these aspects of our modern society, as harmless as they may appear, to subtly take our eyes and eventually our trust away from God. This can be in any number of ways, including food.

 

What is in your pantry? What are you feeding your children? Are these foods that man created, or God? Are you teaching your children to honor their Creator and trust Him by the way they eat? Are you laughing and saying, “It’s just food! Come on!” Do you love your processed foods? Do they bring you comfort? Do you really think that’s good?

 

These things are of great concern to me. I believe they should concern you too. It isn’t just food. It is more than a choice.  It is an entire way of looking at life, at God, and his incredibly deep love for you.

 

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity…

Jeremiah 9: 11-14

 

God sent his one and only son to this earth as a sacrifice and atonement for your sins. How could he love you so much to do this, yet not feed you safe and healthy food as well?

 

God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah.

That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations….

Let the people praise thee, o God; let all the people praise thee.

Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us.

God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.

Psalm 67:1-2, 5-7

Bad Sweets, Better Sweets

Sweets.  Dessert.  Ice cream.  Cake.  Cookies.  Pie.  Chocolate.  YUM.   I looove sweets.  I have a real sweet tooth. Do you love sweets too?  I think mankind in general has a love affair going with sugar.   In the United States each person consumes something like 200+ pounds of sugar EACH YEAR.  Who knew that “just one cookie” translated into more than 200 pounds?  That’s because it’s never just one.  Think about how much sugar your child gets in one week:

            *”just one” piece of candy after ballet

            *”just one” piece of candy after piano

            *”just one” sweet snack after ball practice

            *”just one” sweet snack after the game (that doesn’t include the sno-cone, bubblegum, and sweetened sports drink during the game)

            *”just one” piece of candy after mid-week Bible class

            *”just one” piece of candy during Bible class for knowing a correct answer

            *”just one” piece of candy from a well-meaning older person

            *”just one” piece of candy from the drive-thru bank teller

And this list doesn’t include the so-called “fruit snacks” that are marketed as healthy juice snacks but are really loaded with high fructose corn syrup, nor does this list include the other snacks your child eats through the week that also include corn syrup, and also don’t forget the “occasional” soft drink and fast food meal – both of which are heavily laden with sugar in many processed forms.  And don’t forget birthday parties and class parties where treats are a pre-requisite to having fun.  Also consider how many nights per week you feed your children dessert.  Or allow a sweet after-school snack.  Then on top of all of that, remember Halloween where children are allowed to have at it under the false assumption that “we don’t eat much sugar at our house so this one time a year is ok.”  And just a few weeks later the Thanksgiving and Christmas parties begin where we sweetly smile and say, “It’s just once a year.”  But right after that comes Valentines’ Day and more parties.  All of this in addition to the regular daily and weekly “just one time” treats.

  

OK so you are getting the picture – each one of us is easily consuming more than 200 pounds of sugar every year.   And yes this includes your family – the family that claims “we really don’t eat much sugar.”  Yes, you really do eat much more sugar than you realize.  It is time to put the brakes on the sugar consumption.  The future of your family is at stake.

 

ALL BAD

 

Sugar is just plain bad for you.  We all know that eating a lot of sugar can lead to diabetes and obesity but did you also know that sugar gives your immune system a big punch in the gut?  Yes – for a full 24 hours after consuming sugar, your immune system is not functioning at its peak level.  This is really bad news because for most of us our immune system is already in a weakened state so sugar gives it an even bigger blow.  Ever since I learned that sugar weakens immunities, I have paid close attention and mulled it over quite a bit.  Think about this:  when is the biggest cold and flu season in our country?  It starts somewhere in October and typically slows way down in January.  Right smack during three of our most major holidays:  Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  Sugar consumption is at an all-time high.  And so is the flu season.  How many families do you know who were hit hard with a stomach bug over Christmas?  It seemed to me that there were more this year than ever, but I was paying close attention.  Then there are all those who have been hit repeatedly with nasty colds that won’t go away.  My opinion is that there is a direct correlation between the holiday indulgence in sweets and holiday-time sickness.

 

DOWNRIGHT DANGEROUS

 

Additionally, sugar harms your liver.  I am no scientist so I will do my best to explain it in laymen’s terms.  White sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, etc., have zero nutritional value.  Therefore instead of being digested/synthesized through your digestive system, it goes straight to your liver and is synthesized there.  Because it is not a natural food (sugar cane is natural, sugar is not), it is very hard on your liver.  It strains your liver.   A lifetime of eating sugar may not make everyone’s liver quit functioning, but it will keep the liver from functioning as it should.  You will experience the results one way or another, whether it is in the form of high blood sugar, high triglycerides, depression, or some other new-fangled vague disease like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue.  Or, eventually, liver failure.

 

UMMM…HELLO!?

 

So basically, grown-ups give kids sugary treats thinking they are being sweet or offering a reward but in reality they are making that child more susceptible to diseases of all kinds, liver failure, diabetes, cancer, and setting them up for a lifetime of sugar addiction – physically and psychologically.  We are raising our kids to expect sugary rewards whenever something good happens.  We are raising our kids to expect sugary treats whenever two or more are gathered.  How does this make sense?  How is this good?

 

IT’S NOT A FOOD GROUP

 

We all have a natural affinity for something sweet.  God created us that way.  But interestingly he didn’t create us so that our bodies require sugar; he just created us to like it.  And then he placed several wonderful, sweet foods amongst his creation for us to enjoy.  On occasion.  And, interestingly, unlike sugar, which has NO nutritional value, every sweet thing God created is nutritious.  That means that the type of sugar in fruit, maple syrup, or honey is good for you (in moderation).  Not only this, but it is NOT addictive.  Man-made, or processed, sugars ARE addictive.  Unlike natural sugars, processed sugars inhibit the body’s ability to say, “I’m full.”  Instead, they actually turn on a craving for more.   This is addiction, and addiction is sinful.  You may not believe that you are addicted to sugar but consider giving up processed sugar for forever and see what kind of emotions that brings.  Just try giving it up for a short time.  It will not take long to realize that, yes, you are probably addicted to sugar.  Remember that God would not create a food that caused you to sin.  God’s foods do not create addiction.  In fact, if you eat too much honey you will get sick.

 

NUTRITION AND PHYSICAL DEGENERATION

 

There are so many problems with processed sugars that I couldn’t begin to list them all.  But there is one other obvious issue that needs to be mentioned:  teeth.  Sugar is so bad for your teeth.  For one thing it just rots them straight out.  But something else you may not have considered is that your overall physical health is reflected in the health of your teeth.   If your body isn’t tip-top, your teeth will show it.  So poor dental health, reflected not only in tooth decay but also facial structure and jaw structure, is a direct reflection on your personal health deep down inside.  This has actually been proven through the studies of Weston A. Price, a dentist/physician in the early 1900s who searched the world over for cultures who were free from disease and tooth decay.  He found isolated groups of people in every area of the world who were in prime health, free from disease, living long lives, and totally free from tooth decay.   Yet they never brushed or flossed their teeth, and they sure weren’t having regular fluoride treatments (and it wasn’t in their water).  These people were isolated from modern foods – processed foods such as sugar – and ate only traditional foods.  When one person would leave their traditional foods and traditional food preparation for westernized food, that person would soon begin to experience disease and the very next generation of their children was born with facial abnormalities, dental malformation, and other problems.  Today modern medicine and modern dentistry make this a non-issue for many people so we are not experiencing the terrible pain these problems wrought.  It’s a good thing, yet it just makes us that more removed from the source of our health problems:  modern processed foods like sugar.  Dr. Price’s work is documented in his extensive book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and continues to be promoted today through non-profit groups such as the Weston A. Price Foundation and the Price-Pottenger Foundation.  But amidst all that bad news, there is some good news:  it only takes one generation to correct the problems.  That means that if you teach your children to abstain from sugar (and other processed foods) now, their children will be better for it.

 

JUST SAY NO

 

That was a very lengthy way of saying, “quit eating sugar.”  But I hope you see now why sugar is so bad.   And now you are faced with the problem of what to do about it.  Sweets and other sugary treats are just a way of life for our culture, especially children.  I want to help you learn to live in this culture without making your children feel deprived but without continuing to wreak havoc on their health as well.

 

First, if your children are very young, my best advice for you is “DON’T START.”  If they have not tasted candy and other sugary treats, they will not care about them.  When they do taste them, they may not like them and it will be easier to keep them from indulging too much.  Meanwhile you can start teaching them as a way of life that these foods are bad.  If your children are older and sweets are already a big part of their lives, you have your work cut out for you but it can be done.  Start today by teaching them the ugly truth about sugar.  Give them incentives to decline the sweets at birthdays and other parties such as a quarter, or a promise of something else yummy to eat that is healthy, etc.  Then whenever it is within your power, such as in your house where YOU buy the groceries, stop buying these “foods.”  If the children do choose to partake of the goodies at parties, don’t make them feel guilty or even make a stink about it.  Simply be that much more determined to make home a haven that is free of the junk.  As they grow, you can continue to talk to them about why this food is bad, and encourage them to have just one (as opposed to many).  Sometimes the kids just need permission to not get seconds or not finish their treat and to just throw it away when they have had enough.  My jaw hit the floor the time I realized my kid was hanging onto a ring-pop just because they didn’t know they could throw it away!  Now I remind them all to never feel obligated to accept or finish sweets!  You don’t want to create eating disorders.  You want to educate and make them wise.  So never make it an emotional or discipline issue.  Always let it be their choice. 

 

It has been my experience that the longer you go without processed sugar, the less desirable it becomes when you do have it.  First, you can taste the fake flavors.  Second, you notice how it makes you feel.  This is true for adults and children both.  I have used the above approach(es) with my children.  At first it felt like a losing battle but as they have grown they have begun to choose NOT to indulge on their own.  They don’t enjoy the taste as much, they don’t feel good after they eat it, and they also know why it is bad.

 

Additionally, I make sure we always have special treats at home.  My kids get birthday cakes, we make Christmas cookies, and enjoy sweet desserts during holidays.  They are soooo not deprived!  But I control the ingredients in all of these things.  And this is the next point I want to make.

 

Remember my recent post, “Nutrient Dense?”  Everything you eat should have some nutritional value.  Some real nutritional value.  Go back and read that post through, then come back here and finish reading this one.

 

All sweets, even the so-called healthy ones, should be a very minimal part of your diet.  In other words, you do not need sweets every day or week.  Maybe a couple times each month is good.  Never is best.

 

Discover the sweets that God has already put into his creation before you make your own new ones.  For example, a bowl full of fresh berries with fresh raw cream drizzled all over.  This was never something that made me too excited until I had the real stuff a few years ago.  Raw cream drizzled over fresh berries is AMAZING!  And the cool thing about it is that it is SATISFYING.  You have some and your sweet tooth is satisfied.  And what about watermelon?  There is nothing quite like a big slice of cold, juicy, sweet watermelon on a hot July night.  It’s thirst-quenching, and it’s satisfying.

 

Have you tried fresh dates?  A good friend recently introduced me to Medjool Dates.

 

 

These are not the dried up things from a grocery store.  These are fresh dates with the pits still in them.  Fresh, sticky, chewy, and so incredibly sweet … we eat them like candy.  Except that after two or three, our sweet tooth is satisfied.  They don’t call our name whenever we walk by, and we are not tempted to have several throughout the day, unlike candy.

 

Of course there are plenty of ways to combine fresh, whole foods and natural, un-processed sweeteners to make delectable treats that won’t contribute to a decline in your health.   Get adventurous and try something new, such as these fabulous chocolate balls:

 

 

These are made with coconut oil, honey, ground almonds, cocoa, and shredded coconut.  They are so simple and basic, yet they are actually bursting with nutrition.  Coconut oil supports your thyroid and all endocrine functions while raw honey is actually an anti-bacterial and anti-viral food.  I found the recipe on the web.  Again, after just a couple, our sweet tooth is satisfied.  We don’t crave more.

 

You can modify existing recipes by using fresher, whole ingredients and changing the type of sugar and flour used.   A great resource is the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking cookbook.

 

 

I tried these date squares over the holidays and was pleasantly surprised.

 

 

I used my fresh Medjool dates (which were easy to pit and chop up), freshly ground whole wheat flour, freshly rolled oats, butter, and unrefined sugar to make these.  Their rich, sweet, ooey-gooey buttery flavor was just right.

 

People often ask me what I do about birthdays.  The answer is simple:  I make cake and ice cream.

 

You’d never know this cake was 100% whole wheat.  The icing does have powdered white sugar, but it is combined with raw cream and raw butter.  There are actually nutritional qualities to this cake.  And the ice cream, well, it’s totally awesome made with my fresh raw cream and eggs, and organic maple syrup instead of sugar.

 

REAL SWEETENERS

 

I wrote about real sweeteners last year in my post, “Sweet To The Soul.”  In it I discussed using honey, maple syrup, and molasses to sweeten foods instead of sugar and corn syrup.  Several people have asked me about Agave nectar.  I really don’t know why we need a new sweetener in addition to the ones God has already provided.  Some of you might argue that Agave is not new and that it is all natural (that’s what the producers claim) but the reality is that Agave is a fairly new sweetener, and it is very highly processed.  Check out this excellent article from the Food Renegade, or this one from the Weston A. Price Foundation.  Other people have asked me about Stevia.  Personally I have never used Stevia because I just don’t need to – I have  honey and maple syrup.  But Stevia is an acceptable choice – it is simply an herb that has a sweet taste. 

 

By using less processed, more nutritious ingredients wherever I can, and by limiting sweets to only true special occasions, I am drastically cutting back on sugar intake for my entire family.   And we are healthier for it.

 

It’s time for you to re-think your family’s sugar consumption.  Make 2010 the year that you and your family resolve to kiss your sugar habit goodbye.