Is skim milk making our kids fat?

I saw this article this morning on my FB feed and forgive me whoever posted it, I can’t even remember who did it!  Anywhoo…this NPR article talks about a potential causal link between skim milk and heavier kids.

I think the NPR article was a little too light on facts for me and for some reason, I can’t pull up the BMJ article, but it does make me wonder more about this link…especially considering that we made the pediatrician recommended switch to skim at age 2 like so many other parents.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with a parent making a choice to continue to give full fat milk at any age.  However, I think at times we as parents (specifically parents who crave a more natural lifestyle) can jump on the bandwagon too quickly when we think that the “establishment” has led us astray.  Do I think that full fat milk could be more healthy than skim?  Sure.  Do I think that there is enough evidence in this study to prove without a doubt that previous advice on skim vs. full fat is wrong?  From what I have seen….Nope.  And until then, I’m going to continue to follow what I think to be right as a Mom.

What about the other parents out there…how do you separate the hype from the fact when it comes to making changes like this for your kids?  I would love to hear from you!

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Whole foods got me pregnant

I bet that title made you look!

Seriously…I want to share a little story with you from about 6 years ago.  After a couple of years of diet, exercise and eating less (but not always better), I had found myself in far better shape than I had been in years.  I was leaner, stronger and happier.  Enter in Sheldon with his wily smile and cooking prowess and fast forward a year or two,  I had gained a ton of weight back.  I was in that happy phase of love where it’s ok if everyone has a big butt…you have a big butt together.  At least that is what we tell ourselves, right?

Well, I decided to do something about it.  I think without realizing it, I had decided to take my first steps towards an ultimately more healthful life when I decided to give up processed food for a month.  You know how hard it is to give up processed food?  I am a child of the 70’s.  For years, my idea of food nirvana was a diet coke, a box of twinkies and a pile of magazines with nothing else to do but snack and read.

This picture of the world's ultimate non-whole food courtesy of wikipedia

This picture of the world’s ultimate non-whole food courtesy of wikipedia

But, I knew I needed to make a change and I was unwilling to try yet another program diet.  It just made sense to me that to eat more like our ancestors had to be the trick.

So, how did I do it?  Well, we had not yet started our city home backyard garden, so it was thrice weekly trips to Whole Foods and Healthy Approach Markets.  The farmers market in Dallas at that time had few organic vendors if you can believe it.  And I wanted to be as close to nature as possible.  I wanted to only eat whole foods and as much as possible, I avoided foods that had been processed.  Which meant no pink stuff (I lost the taste for it that month and never got it back thank goodness) for my coffee, only sugar and whole cream.  I gave up bread entirely which was not a bad deal.  Most cereals were out.  Prepackaged snack foods like crackers and chips, adios.  I ate lots of balanced meals without mystery ingredients.  What started off as no processed foods evolved a bit into focusing on limiting processed foods, but also no foods with mystery ingredients.  Was I ok with granola with several ingredients?  Sure.  Did I pick granola that had been made off shore with polydifardnesnelsud (ok, I made that word up, but you know what I mean)…nope.  That wasn’t happening.  For lunch, I ate out almost daily enjoying as many simple foods as location allowed.  Some cultures seem to lend themselves well to this type of cooking, and for me, Mexican (or more accurately Tex Mex) was a winner.  I eschewed my weight watchers crackers, diet soda and processed low fat/low cal foods.  I feasted on fruit, veggies, meats, certain cheeses, yogurts and simple desserts.  I remember enjoying what I ate so much, not watching my caloric intake at all and yet still dropping 20 lbs in a month.  And you still want to tell me how diet foods are for good for us????  Yeah, not so much, huh?

And at the end of that month, I failed to realize that another odd change had occured for me.  See, I had been told many many moons ago that children would not be an option for me.  And I had never felt the call to challenge that diagnosis.  However, as my body started to feel weird and different (as it only can when you have a wee alien living inside of you), I began to realize that perhaps all of the junk I was putting into my body was also stopping God’s natural process.  For me, not only did I lose weight and feel great, but I got a Blueberry to boot.

Now, this is not to say that healthy eating is the only thing you need to do to fix infertility problems.  Come on-it’s not that easy as any couple with baby fever can tell you.  However, all I’m sharing is my real story of how I went from highly processed to a mom within just a couple of months.  I still have miles to go before my family has eradicated all of our reliance on grocery store “junk”, not to mention the junk in our proverbial trunks, but that month opened…no, reopened the door to the wonder of God’s bounty to me and reminded me that it’s just not nice to fool with mother nature.  Happy eating!

Slow Foods Ark of Taste: Is real food becoming extinct?

For those of us who are actively making a conscious effort to eat food closer to how God originally created it, I think the slow food movement is less of a movement and just more of a way of life.  But what is the slow food movement you cheesie pouf eating readers may ask?  Well, in a very small nutshell, it’s a movement that was started to help consumers realize just how much genetically modified, engineered and just plain wrong food hits their plates every day.  What I really like about the ideas that they espouse is the concept that the best foods shouldn’t be reserved for the rich…that is, those people who can afford to go to Whole Foods and Sprouts every day picking up the best organic produce that the market has to offer.  No.  Slow food is about making this food available at all income levels in every store so that we all are getting the best of God’s bounty-not just what Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta want us to have.

badge courtesy of slow food usa

badge courtesy of slow food usa

To that end, enter in their US Ark of Taste.  The Ark of Taste is a listing of 200 foods who are in danger of becoming extinct.  Many of these are regional specialties, but I think it’s a national imperative that we stop and think about what we are putting on our plates.  When is the last time you stopped and thought about the variety of produce you were putting into your cart at your local mega mart?  For some of us, probably not too often.  But, there are plenty of little changes even the non-homesteader can do in the grocery store.  Instead of reaching for that same bag of brown potatoes, try the reds, golds or better yet, the purple potatoes!  See those long white radishes next to the round red ones?  Try those instead!  Armenian cucumbers instead of “regular” cucumbers?  Yes please!  Another great way to ensure biodiversity and the inherent values behind the Slow Food movement is to frequent roadside stands and/or farmers markets.  Yes, some of the produce available at these events is going to be GMO and loaded with chemicals, but in other cases you are going to find small scale farmers who are doing everything in their power to produce heirloom produce without the use of harmful chemicals even if they can’t jump through the hoops from the USDA to become “certified organic.”  And speaking of heirloom produce, for those of you who are backyard gardening, farming or homesteading, think about picking up some heirloom, non-GMO seeds to produce in your garden/henhouse/pasture.  I don’t know about you, but when I start looking at seeds that produce fruit and veg in abundant, wild colors with incredible taste descriptions, I ask myself why have I been buying the same mealy produce year after year at the mega mart?  The answer may not be easy to find, but the solution certainly is…biodiversity.  Let’s all embrace it and bring some interest back to our plates!  Happy eating!

Check out some great new posts every Monday at the Homestead Barn Hop!  http://newlifeonahomestead.com

Check out some great new posts every Monday at the Homestead Barn Hop!
http://newlifeonahomestead.com

 

 

 

Sneaky foods: Cauliflower mac n cheese

We are pretty blessed by the fact that The Blueberry has a fairly diverse and at times, refined palate for a 4 year old.  She has tried and enjoyed every kind of fruit and vegetable that we have, every protein product under the sun, a variety of stinky and non-traditional dairy products as well as cultural specialties.  You know what she doesn’t like?  Pickles and mustard.  That’s about it.  However, that is not to say that she is a perfect eater.  Far from it.  There are days that I fear she would starve if cheese and peanut butter didn’t exist.  During those times, she typically eschews any kind of fruit or vegetable product instead driving us crazy by constantly requesting what she considers to be the four basic food groups: chocolate, candy, milk and butter.  Not exactly a balanced diet.

During those times, I am happy to be inspired by books like Deceptively Delicious and The Sneaky Chef whose sole mission seems to be to feed our children the way we want them to be fed without them knowing it.  Sounds like ridiculous parenting, no?  Well…no.  I mean-think about it.  Of course I want my child to prefer a carrot stick to a chic-0-stick but it isn’t always going to happen.  Despite the efforts I put into making a variety of healthful, veggie filled meals, there are going to be times where her stubborn nature rises and she says “Actually, momma.  I’m a dragon and I don’t eat vegetables anymore.”  (Sigh-quote from lunch yesterday.)  During those times instead of forcing her to come to a joy of veggies and fruit on her own, I’m going to give them to her while letting her feel that she has won the food battle.  Enter in sneaky mac n cheese.

This is a great recipe for days where you have too much going on and not enough time.  I’d love to give you a totally healthy scratch recipe for mac n cheese, but that ain’t happenin today.  Instead I give you Annie’s white cheddar mac:

picture courtesy of Annie's

picture courtesy of Annie’s

And God’s awesome creation.  That crown of cruciferousness.  That casanova of caulis.  That babe of brassica…Cauliflower.  Also known as “I’m not eating that crap” in my house.

pic courtesy of God.  Oh, and health.com

pic courtesy of God. Oh, and health.com

So anywhoo…cook your mac and cheese according to the box directions.  In the last 30ish seconds of cooking time, drop in a few pieces of frozen cauliflower.  It could also be fresh, but dang, that stuff is expensive in my part of the country and almost impossible to get organic, so we go with organic frozen.  While your mac is draining, take those now nuclear hot pieces of cauliflower (owwie, my hands) and drop them into a blender with 1-3 Tablespoons of milk and the cheese flavored packet.  Well, not the whole packet..you know, the contents….blend well.  Return the smoothish (as smooth as cauliflower can be) back to the pan to warm up.  Once warm, incorporate your mac and voila…healthier mac n cheese!

I typically sprinkle “shreddy/sprinkley” cheese on here to disguise the slightly lumpy texture, but The Blueberry eats it up like crazy.  And I’m crazy about the fact that despite her efforts to the contrary, I have just provided a more nutritionally sound meal with not a lot of extra time/effort.  If you get a chance, I’d love to hear what you are doing to sneak in some health for those “no way” days!  Happy cooking!

Teaching our children about the circle of life

No, I’m not talking about the song from The Lion King…I’m talking about where our food comes from! So many times I think we forget about the value of teaching our children that hamburger is not actually made in a factory or chicken doesn’t actually come in nugget shapes.  I think it’s so important to teach our children to respect the animal just as they should respect the farmer that grew, raised and processed that meat. This is a big part of why we moved to Blueberry Acres-to teach our Blueberry where our food comes from. By doing so, we hope that we will instill in her a life-long respect for food. Both Sheldon and I grew up in the 70’s where companies were going crazy trying to figure out ways to better engineer our food. Remember Lily Tomlin in The Incredible Shrinking Woman?

courtesy IMDB

Well, that is not what I want food to be like for my child.  A food product that is engineered so past how God intended it.  Our taste buds delight in the fat, salt, sugar and who knows what else, but what are we really putting into our bodies?  Sometimes I wonder if my constant battles with food are a result of spending a couple of decades eating total crap in the name of supposedly healthy meals.  I also know that I’m not alone- weight related problems have reached epidemic proportions.  Self control (or lack thereof) has to always be the first stop in deciding what’s making your butt jiggle like gelatin, but beyond that, you have to ask….are cheesy poufs, diet soda and over processed “health food” making us fat asses?

courtesy of Great Plains Earth Institute…I would add in a section of People eat animals in between them eating the plants and them poo’ing all over everything..

Enter teaching our children about the circle of life as a better way to look at food.   This means some hard lessons for both children and parents.  See that cow-yes, we’re going to eat it.  You know that chicken?  Yep, he was dinner last night.  Not always easy conversations to have with an animal loving kid.  We’ve been building the crescendo for our circle of life lessons since we left the city over a year ago.  We knew we would buy a farm eventually, so we wanted to get Blueberry used to the idea that bacon isn’t just yummy, it’s also pig.  As a result, we’ve had some frank conversations with her about where her meat comes from.  And while we think we’re getting through, there are still times where she has that “oh f dash dash dash” moment where it all comes together and she really gets that we are not just saying it’s chicken for dinner tonight.  We’re saying it’s Lana the chicken for dinner tonight.  So, here are some things that we have done to introduce the circle of life to her-not just in food, but in all areas:

  • We’ve openly talked about death.  Unfortunately, we have had 2 grandparents and 1 parent die in the last 18 months.  While Blueberry only knew one of these people, the deaths hit people she loved very hard.  We took these opportunities to talk to her about how death is inevitable and a natural part of the life cycle.  We also took that opportunity to talk to her about our personal beliefs around Heaven and the afterlife.
  • We’ve talked openly about birth.  While we haven’t opened the baby making can of worms, we have talked to her about how she was born, delivered, etc as part of the circle of life.
  • But, we’ve also used animals and plants to talk about it.  We’ve discussed how dead plants and/or animals provide food for others be it roadkill providing food for scavenger animals or dead plants providing nutrition for live plants in the future.  As a result, she’s beginning to realize that everything has a place in the hierarchy of life.  Let’s face it-we don’t like our kids to see that dead dog on the side of the road.  But, when you can talk about how his body will provide nutrition for others who will live as a result, it takes a little bit of the sting out of it.  Driving home from the store yesterday, we saw a dead raccoon.  She asked if we could say a prayer for it and in her prayer, she included some thoughtful words about its body providing for others.  That realistic but still empathetic reaction sure as heck beats a kid crying over the loss of an animal that she cannot help.

This journey has not been an easy one, nor do I anticipate it to get any easier…especially after she falls in love with her first cow.  I would imagine that there will be many tears shed on that fateful day when the big eyed cow goes for processing.  And while I honestly believe I will be right there with her shedding a tear or two, I firmly believe that by letting her experience at least part of the birth/death circle, she will better love and respect all living creatures for the broad range of gifts that they give us.