Wednesday, November 27, 2013

confessions of a health nerd

Written by Bliss Stinson

My name is Bliss and I am a health nerd.  It's true, I get high off of buying healthy foods from the store.  I know, NERDY!  I have a wonderful husband and a sweet little two year old girl.  We are a plant-based wholefood eating family and have been living this lifestyle for a year and a half.  We mainly consume whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts; AVOIDING dairy, meat, eggs, processed foods and things made with GMOs...and we love it!

Even though I just told you a summary of what we eat...  you're probably still thinking, "So... what DO you eat?"  Milk, cheese, eggs, modified cornstarch and high fructose corn syrup are in everything that is packaged, right?!  It's nearly true!  To combat this, we cook basically everything from scratch and do a lot of yummy substituting.  For instance, we make stuff like tofu- spinach- quinoa lasagna, vegan cashew cheesecake (amazing!) and veggie bean enchiladas.  Because our society has it so backwards, it has taken a lot of hard work, research and effort to learn how to cook and eat this way.  But I'm here to vouch that it CAN be done!  Not only is it possible but it is so doable (even with young kids around) and worth it!!!

How we came to eat this way
What finally led us to this lifestyle was the documentary "Forks Over Knives."  It gave us a deep look into how dairy, meat and processed foods affect our body.  We bought the Forks Over Knives cookbook and lived a strict vegan diet for three months.  Within those three months, my husband lost 35 lbs, without exercising at all!  His transformation was amazing.  Although I was already in shape, I shed 10 lbs as well.  Eating this way truly did make us lean, but more importantly it gave our body the fresh nutrients it was looking for without the added crap.

After a few months we created a custom diet that felt balanced for our family.  We started incorporating a few fish, egg and dairy products here and there: eggs for cornbread and pancakes once in a while, cheese for homemade pizza, etc.  We call ourselves plant-based eaters instead of "vegan" because for us it's not about NOT eating certain foods necessarily, but more about making room for veggies and whole foods in our diet.

We've been careful about what we feed our little girl.  She's grown up on this lifestyle which has been so nice for me to have her used to eating healthy from the get go.  She's obsessed with eating granola for breakfast and eats spinach salad like it's no big deal (so proud that my two year old eats salad!).  Kids don't come into this world programmed for chicken nuggets and fruit snacks.  You program them by what you give them.  They can be programmed at any time as long as you stick with it.  It's never too late!

Common Concerns about plant-based eating

  • But eating healthy is so EXPENSIVE!  ...and so is healthcare. "Let food be thy medicine."  ...if you do more, you save more. can't buy all the crap AND healthy food and stay in your budget.  You have to cut the crap out.  We have an $80 weekly food budget for a family of three that we are able to maintain with our plant-based lifestyle.  The way we are able to do this is because we don't buy expensive items like cheese, meats, treats, etc.
  • What if my family doesn't like it?  If your family is used to fatty, sugary, addictive foods, expect complaints.  It's going to be a big transition.  It can still be an enjoyable one if you make it a family endeavor, instead of you forcing them.  Have your kids assist you in picking meals, shop and cook together.  Make it fun and move slowly.
  • A plant strong diet does not appeal to me because I don't like salad.  Plant based foods can include breakfasts, salads, soups, stews and chilies, wraps, pasta dishes, stir-fry, grilled and hashed vegetable dishes, stuffed and baked veggies, beans, grains, casseroles and desserts.  It's not just salad!
  • What about vitamins, potassium or calcium? What about calorie counts and carbohydrates, fat and protein?  Adopt an overall healthful dietary pattern: a low-fat, plant based diet composed of wholefoods.  Don't worry about eating particular foods in order to get enough of certain nutrients.  Focus instead on eating (and enjoying!) the wide variety of fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, whole grains and other ingredients available over the course of each day, each week, each month and each year.  These foods combined will naturally steer you on your way toward optimal health." ~Del Sproufe
Principles to follow                                                                                                         
Following these principles really helped my family transition slowly but consistently into a healthy lifestyle, not a diet.

  • Shop by the label.  Don't worry about how much fat or sugar is in an item, etc., worry about what you are actually in-taking.  Look at the ingredients first.  Is there a paragraph of ingredients listed?  (Yes? That's bad.)  Can you pronounce them? (No? That's bad.)  Do you even know what they are?  (No? That's bad too!)  These are signs that your food is overly processed.  Buy packaged items that only have 3-5 ingredients in them.  Pay attention to what the first three ingredients are because they are the most potent in the food.
  • Avoid GMO's and other ingredients.  While you are shopping by the label, be sure to avoid modified starch, hydrogenated oils, sugar and high fructose corn syrup.  Modified cornstarch is in almost everything processed (canned, packaged, frozen meals, sauces, etc.).  There are many different names for it too. Do your research!
  • Pick one item at a time that you will either stop buying, replace or substitute.  First we decided to stop buying jam and use honey instead.  Second we then started buying natural peanut butter instead of Jif's.  Third we began substituting agave nectar, maple syrup, honey or molasses in any recipe that calls for sugar.  These little steps can make a huge difference in your health, taste buds, etc.  Just take it one stage at a time.
  • Plan your meals out a week at a time.  There are lots of wholefood/vegan bloggers out there.  My current favorite is When you plan it is easier to stay on top of what you eat.
  • Cooking healthy meals will take more time than popping something into the microwave.  If you really care about your health, sacrifice and prioritize to make time for food preparation.  As you learn to cook this way and become familiar with all the different ingredients it won't take you as long.
Tips for getting your kid to eat better
  • Add pureed fruit, vegetables or beans to any meal. Such as pastas, casseroles, muffins, pies or desserts. 
  • Green smoothies are a great way to incorporate leafy greens.
  • Add 2-3 variety of vegetables to your dinner table.  Let your kids choose what they like.
Mottos we live by
  • Food is fuel.
  • I focus on what I do eat, not what I don't.
  • I have the freedom to eat whatever I want.  I have a choice.
  • I do not have a diet, I maintain a lifestyle.
  • Progress is progress.
  • The more you do yourself the more save (financially and on your waistline).
  • Eat to live, don't live to eat.
  • If it's not nutritious don't eat it.
Eating this way has seriously blessed my family's life.  I hope that you feel motivated to really take a hold of your life and give your body the nutrition it deserves.  You can still enjoy the holidays while finding a healthy balance.  I know it's possible, because I am doing it!


About Bliss:
Bliss is passionate about leading a healthy and balanced life.  Here is a link to her blog.

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