Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Introducing Happy Tummies!

So you've probably noticed the Happy Tummies tab underneath the header (you have, right?) and you may have wondered what it's all about (right?). Anyway, I will begin adding related content pretty soon, but I wanted to explain what I mean by "Happy Tummies". 

Happy is the opposite of SAD, which stands for "Standard American Diet" which is a diet full of unhealthy food, low in fiber and complex carbohydrates and high in sugar and processed foods. I think I first heard the term "SAD" back when I first read The Maker's Diet (which is a great book to read- even if you don't do the 40 day diet) about seven years ago.

My Journey
Like many, I think I pretty much grew up on the "standard American diet". I remember eating a lot of sugary cereal and things like Pop Tarts for breakfast, sandwiches on white bread for lunch...most the time we ate something home cooked for dinner, but at busier times we would eat pizza or fast food or boxed, highly processed convenience meals (think "just add water" and ground beef- or mix the day-glo cheese powder with margarine and milk). As a teenager, I distinctly remember eating candy bars and soda for "breakfast" and Taco Bell for lunch...and top ramen for dinner. I continued eating this way into my early adult years, until at one point I was probably about 30 pounds overweight from eating fast food all the time (that may not seem like much, but on my small frame, it was really noticeable).

It was at that point that I began to make some changes- and when I did, I saw the weight come off pretty quickly. I stopped drinking soda (for the most part) and started adding in more and more fresh fruit and vegetables to my diet. I started cooking more food at home and enjoyed recipes from a "quick and healthy" cook book that I had. I still use some of those recipes from time to time, but I actually started using real eggs and butter in the recipes that called for "healthy" egg substitute and margarine several years ago.

Then, about seven years ago, I participated in a healthy living seminar at my church, and started learning about organic, whole foods, and other "super foods". I also read The Maker's Diet around that time, and from that point I've learned more and more about how to take care of and nourish this body that God has entrusted me with.

Now, I pretty much try to avoid "fake food" altogether or, as I like to call it "frankenfood." When selecting something that is not a whole food at the grocery store I usually follow this criteria:

  • short list of recognizable ingredients
  • no high fructose corn syrup
  • no Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  • no artificial colors or artificial flavors
  • organic (sometimes- usually if a packaged food is organic, you can count on it to be free from unhealthy sweeteners, artificial flavors and colors.)

I try to purchase and eat food that is as close to it's original state as possible. I'm still growing on this "real food journey" so I still will use some items for convenience like canned tomatoes or beans- but I am big on learning how to make stuff at home. Pretty recently, I learned how to make chicken stock at home- it is so much tastier than store bought, and I know exactly what's in it! I also learned how to make homemade yogurt which takes a long time, but is rather easy. I had one failure with the yogurt, but it ended up as ricotta cheese instead!

More recently, I adopted an allergen free diet. Shortly after my daughter was born, she began exhibiting allergic symptoms that were alleviated when I cut out the "big eight" allergens from my diet (milk, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish). The first four were the toughest for me, and the others not as much because they weren't a huge part of my diet anyway. (I am breastfeeding, by the way). It's definitely been an interesting experience, and I've learned even more about health. I've also realized the strong possibility that I have been experiencing "leaky gut" (or increased intestinal permeability) which would (at least in my mind) explain why my daughter would be sensitive to food that I eat to the extent that she is.  My son also tested positive for food allergies (also breastfed). I've recently tried to follow The Maker's Diet (which is basically grain-free) which meant reintroducing eggs and milk, but my daughter is still reacting to those foods if I eat them in larger quantities. I've had to re-assess and have made the decision to go back to the milk, egg, wheat, soy free diet.

As you step out on your own journey, just realize that all the little changes that you make will make a big difference in your life and in the lives of your family members. You don't have to make the changes overnight! It's not an all or nothing venture. You can start out like I did (depending on where you're at) by cutting out sodas, for example. And just go from there!

Healthy, Achievable, Properly Prepared and Yummy! That's what "Happy Tummies" is all about! I plan to post something on a weekly basis related to this- whether it be a recipe, or information that I feel like I need to share.

Where are you in your journey to "real food?" Is there anything in particular you would like me to address? Let me know in the comments!