1. We need to rethink the way we shop. If we are buying sugar cereal, chips and soda or juice and hot pockets and microwave fair...we are setting ourselves up to fail in this mission. Once we have allowed those things into our diet, they become like vices, hard to give up. It is as if they are addictive. The best way to stop eating those kinds of products is to stop purchasing them!! Now, your family may go nuts if you go cold turkey, so get a plan, and slowly (but intentionally and with great consistency) decide to eliminate and replace those items on each shopping trip. It is likely you will go through everyone browsing the cupboards and hear, "there's nothing to eat", even when you have a fridge full of healthy fruits and veggies...this is par for the course. The best things we can do is have healthy alternatives, that are not only enticing, but believable. If you have a reluctant family, skip the tofu and bean sprouts and wean them in gently with things like fresh fruit healthy versions (and homemade versions) of things they like. Then move from there. :-) Remember these habits weren't developed in six months, don't expect them to be eradicated in that short of a time, but with diligence and due effort, you can make significant improvements and even radical change.
2. There is a ton of "diet" information out there. Lets face it, a lot if is contradicting too. This can be over whelming for someone who is just starting out and really wants to do the best, but doesn't know where to start. Whole foods are the simplest most delicious and wonderfully diverse way of eating than one could hope for. God has given us a plethora of things to choose from and if we simply train our minds on what to do with them, we find the possibilities endless and the benefits bountiful! "Whole Food" is food which is closest to it's natural state, in other words a tomato is a whole food, ketchup is not. And Orange is a whole food, Juicy juice is not. Whole grains are whole food, most store bought bread is not. Why? Because it has been highly processed, and had things added to it which changes its food value. This is done for shelf life/transportation, manufacturing or profit purposes. In manufacturing of main stream foods you would be shocked how things have been "tampered with" even when it is not necessary! Additives and preservative, salt, sugars and other "flavors" which have been developed in a lab are added to our food with little testing or care for long term effects. We live in the richest country in the world, with all the luxury and conveniences one could hope for, yet we have the highest rate of degenerative diseases caused by lifestyle. (This is increasing around the world as our fast/processed and junk food culture also spreads.) Not to mention, the out-landish portions we have become accustomed to of such foods. I am dating my self, but do you remember when a small soda was small? Now the "small" equals an old "large" and goes up to HUGE. These empty sugar filled calorie "non-foods" are sucked down at alarming rates taking the place of real nourishing foods which are meant to replenish and rebuild cells..instead these "counterfeit foods" take their place and break our bodies down meal after meal and we don't even give it thought. We need to get back to the foods which Yahweh has created for us to help sustain the bodies He Created. This is a very important job as keepers of the home. Healthy whole foods build healthy whole bodies. Healthy whole bodies are strong to serve the King in what ever ways He calls them too. Bodies that are running at half capacity or distracted by disease are not able to give Him glory.
3. Don't believe the hype. Lowfat is not all it's cracked up to be. We have let artificial everything come in the name of this health craze of the last 20 years. We have replaces a whole food like butter, with a manufactured food like margarine. We have replaced whole sweeteners like honey and syrup with Sweet and Low , and Splenda. (Refined sugar is no good either! But their are wonderful alternatives that are natural and good used wisely.) Everybody and their brother seems to be allergic to dairy and wheat these days...these have been staples in people's diets for centuries...doesn't that make you wonder??? Either...what are we calling "dairy and wheat" or what are we doing to it?? (how is it being raised?) Or what what is happening to our bodies that we can't even process it anymore?? These are topics that go beyond the scope of this article, but I encourage you to be informed.... Healthy (organic whenever possible) Whole foods can make such a difference!
4. Raw - What do I mean by raw? I mean uncooked and the least processed as possible. Food has the greatest nutrient content and beneficial enzymes and other things in it, at it's most natural state. When we start cooking, things especially at high temperatures these things are broken down, and food value is lost. This is very much the case with dairy and fruits and veggies. Many cultures eat raw meats and are very healthy (especially fish). In the way of meats, the Bible gives very clear guideline about what is made for food and what is not. And even how to prepare it (and not). I choose to go to the SOURCE whenever possible. (See Exodus.) His ways are higher than ours and The Maker's Manual is the best place to see how we are to take care of these vessels.
5. Snacking - Snacking is not a bad thing when it is done with good food. These must be chosen wisely and in reasonable proportions. This is a fact: food that is readily used by the body gets burned quicker. More complex cooked foods take longer for the body to process, so you feel fuller longer. That is also why you may feel sluggish after a meal, you body's energy is being used for digestion and if it's working overtime, you feel like you could have a nappy! But if you just ate food that immediately is able to be processed, it acts as energizing fuel and lifts you up. Ideally, this should be our response after a meal, not the later...something to recognize and observe.
6. Planning - I mentioned earlier that we have to be purposeful. We have to know what to do with the mountain of produce we just bought, otherwise it goes to waste and we order out pizza! Planning ahead makes all the difference! I LOVE to cook...however I don't ALWAYS love to cook. There are just as many days in my week that I don't want to make a meal as there are that I do. I am a creative person and if I'm not "inspired" to make something yummy... I will throw a bowl of cereal out and call it a night! (Organic whole grain cereal with little to no sugar and raw organic milk mind you!) :-) Here are some things that I like to keep on hand and they are always welcome snacks in my family. They are also keys to assembling quick meals "out of the air" on days that I am less than inspired. :-) They keep well in the fridge for a whole week if stored in a good container. (I love Mason jars and glass pyrex- never plastic.)
Ants on a Log
Hard boiled eggs (also good for salads or a quick sandwich)
Muffins - Our Muffins are packed with wholesome things, whole grain flour, fresh or dried fruit, sweetened with local honey, packed with veggies or juice pulp. They are always moist and flavorful, and usually filled with fiber. I always make 4 dozen minimum at a time. I freeze two and put two out, which disappear in a flash!) My two year old goes to cupboard and pulls out my muffin tins and exclaims "uffin uffin mommy uffin".
Pops (Popsicles)- However, we don't use Kool aid or store bought juice. If we use juice it is fresh juice we made often packed with vegies. But if you can pour it you can pop it. :-) And you can pour anything after it has been in the blender. :-) My kids favorite are smoothie pops (fresh fruit and yogurt). Homemade lemonade or limeade (made with Stevia or honey) is a pleaser in the summer.
Peanut butter Balls - with the help of a food processor, this is one of our favorite snack foods. They freeze well, so make a big batch. You shop up a bunch of nuts, and dates- roll them into balls - delicious! You can add milk powder, or other dried fruits. I have even stuck a chocolate chip in the center before (hey...you can splurge sometimes!).
Fig Bars- I make my own. They are so tasty! Barbara's and Newman's Own, make a pretty good one.
Veggies Tray with and dip - I have ready-to- eat veggies available. They are quick to crab, dip always makes them so attractive. :-) Then if you want to whip up a salad, or stir fry or casserole or soup or pasta dish or rice dish, your veggies are all "prepped" like the fancy chefs on TV shows. :-) I will often have pre-chopped veggies ready too, pepper and onion pre-chopped are SO handy. They can even be frozen and scoop out what you need to cook with.
Cut fruit - We always have fresh fruit around. It is our candy. We have learned to eat things in season as much as we can. The quality is always best. Produce should be flavorful, colorful and carry a good aroma.
Cheese and crackers - I often have a variety of cheese and wholesome crackers on hand. This goes so well with fresh fruit and veggies (and a good book) for lunches during our school week. They also fill the "craving for bread" (if I didn't get any made that day.) I would really like find some good cracker recipes. I'm on the hunt - please share them in the comment section below if you have any! Tuna or egg salad are also so good on them!
Brochette, Salsa, Pesto or Olive Tampanade - It is so easy to make, it keeps well and makes for wonderful lunches on crackers or bread, quick seasoning for cooking on pizza, pasta, casserole, sandwiches or rice.
Popcorn - YUM! You can get creative with seasoning it too!
Stuffed Grape Tomatoes - Take a baby spoon and scoop out the center of the tomato, fill it with your favorite dip, hummus, cheese, etc.
Frozen Grapes - My kids gobble these UP!
Beef Jerky (watch the ingredients!)
Hard boiled eggs - keep in a mason jar, great for snacking or adding to salads or making sandwiches!
Wraps -We make wraps with spinach or tomato tortilla or Lavash, I make a whole container full of them, cut them into thirds and we much on them all week. They keep really well. These are great for picnics or travel too. We use quality meat and cheese, or tuna salad or egg salad or veggies. ( Always put lettuce in them, at least, but tomatoes don't store as long. Shredded veggies do though!)
Prep ahead:Preparing some things ahead can take lots of work out of meal prep time with whole foods and baking. It also helps disguise veggies for reluctant eaters.
Shred it! Shred (or grate) veggies that are hard to get your kids to eat and mix them in...everything! Anything made with ground beef, omelets, quiches, casseroles, sandwiches, dips, pasta sauce, salads, soups, muffins, pizza, burritos - you name it!
Sliced apples (or pears) disappear so much faster than whole. Get bowl of cool water, squeeze the juice of one lemon, orange or line into it. And slice up a bunch of apples, dropping the slices in the bowl right away. When you are finished, drain and pat dry and put them in a zip lock back in the fridge - much as needed. :-)
Fruit on salad...YUM! Chopped apples or pears, strawberries, oranges slices, dr. cranberries, or raisins, dr. apples with nuts. You name it. This is how we eat our salads! Be adventurous with your salad dressings. The best are always homemade!
I hope these tips inspire you and spark some new habits into your family's meals. Please share any tips you have or great whole food treats you like to whip up.
All these "make-ahead" ideas are also wonderful for Shabbat foods! :-)