2015: A Year of Well-Being

A couple of days ago our minister asked: “What would it look like for 2015 to be a ‘Year of Well-Being?” Standing here at the beginning of the year and having the maturity to look back at those that have passed allows us a moment to reflect and set an intention for the days to come. What kind of year will it be? Many things will happen that are beyond our control, but there are many conscious choices that we make each and every day that have a big impact on how we could accurately describe that year when we get to December 2015. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what I’d need to do to make 2015 a “Year of Well-Being.”

Clearly you know that the way that we eat is part of my attempt at ensuring well-being in our household, but in my zeal for healthful food, I confess that other aspects of well being are prone to slippage in some cases and downright neglect in others. I cannot eat my way to anything greater than relative well-being; I am more well than if I kept everything else the same and ate crap. Relative well-being achieved. However, having just come through the public incubation system month of plague and scourge, I have to consider deeply if I could make some other choices to great impact.

Apparently even fabulously successful people neglect their well-being, and Arianna Huffington has written a book about how her very successful and hardworking lifestyle led her to actual physical collapse in 2007. It would seem that less than 6 hours of sleep a night and 18 hour work days every day does NOT do the body good. Her doctors concluded that she had actually collapsed because of sleep deprivation. Ms. Huffington describes her journey back to a sane place of wellness in her book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. In the book, Ms. Huffington works diligently to rethink the way that we define success and to enrich the meaning of well-being to raise the bar for a life that is meaningful, fulfilling, and deeply connected. Before any of those deeply fulfilling things can happen with any regularity, however, one must not be on the verge of physical collapse. Ms. Huffington recommends three key steps toward increasing your physical well-being so that you can get on with the business of enriching your life.

First step: sleep. I don’t know about any of you, but I could stop reading or listening right here. This is the one that has my (and Mr. Little Sis’) name all over it. Most adults need from 7-9 hours of sleep (bear in mind that these are averages, so some people need more; those who think they need much much less are likely fooling themselves). the amount you need fluctuates with age, so maybe you (and by you I mean I) could get less when you were 22…

Mr. Little Sis and I tend to go in cycles where we get 7.5 for a while (when we’ve recognized that we’re zombies) and then slide slowly back toward getting less than 7 for nights or even weeks at a time. And we slowly get REALLY tired. Know what it’s hard to do when you’re REALLY tired? Assess the amount of sleep you’re getting and make good decisions about what to cut so you can get more. It’s also really hard to work efficiently and effectively so you can accomplish what you need to in a reasonable amount of time. It’s also hard to decide what to put in your child’s lunch before you’ve had caffeine. Let’s face it, sleep deprivation makes pretty much everything we want to do more difficult and more time consuming. So why do we fail to go to sleep?

I can’t tell you why YOU do it, but I can tell you why we do it.  After the children go to bed I enjoy the peace… I also have tasks that I save for night time like packing part of the kids’ lunch (to eliminate some of the pre-caffeine decisions), physical therapy exercises, blog work, knitting, bill paying, and occasionally when I really lose track during the day, putting laundry away (the ultimate self-punishment = leaving clean clothes on the bed to discover at bedtime). I also have the long standing habit of reading a little before I turn out the light and actually go to sleep. I’m laughing while I write this because that really is quite a lot. No wonder I have trouble going to bed at a reasonable hour. I do often turn on the TV while working on some of these things and with the exception of knitting, I’m sure this serves to slow me down as well. Mr. Little Sis fails to go to sleep because most of his life is online. His work is remote from a home office (translation: there is no end to the work day) and he blogs from home for an international audience that is very interactive (translation: there is no end to blog day). We have both set ourselves up for less sleep than two adults, particularly two adults with elementary school children, need to make sense of the world and feel reasonably well. While I don’t think we’re on the verge of physical collapse, I’m guessing there’s a lot of steps between that and feeling rested. We could definitely get more sleep.

Second step: more exercise. There are a ridiculous number of studies that attest to the fact that exercise improves not only our actual physical health, but our sense of well being. Exercise lightens our spirits, makes us feel better physically, and promotes SLEEP. While we may be wiped out after working all day, many of our occupations don’t tax the body. The mind is weary; the body is not sure why we’re sitting still so much.

Like my sleep, I tend to be somewhat cyclic with my exercise habits, although having a large dog has put me in the position of doing some walking every day and addressing muscular and skeletal issues has me on a physical therapy regimen that ensures I’ll be doing something with my muscles many days of the week. Still, I know when I’ve slipped. I can tell when I’ve stopped working just a little harder. I can feel my spirit sinking (along with my posterior). I catch myself, add a little (longer faster dog walk), and then usually feel well enough to add a little more (actually working out). Why the cycles? Who knows. Doesn’t seem to take much to interrupt my exercise routine. Sickness, family emergencies, pretty much anything that changes the timing during my day will unhinge my workout scene for weeks or more.

Third step: meditation. Yeah, ohmmm. I’m not gonna lie. I have never successfully meditated. I’ve tried a bunch of times. The times that felt better usually felt better because I fell asleep. Pretty clear I need to spend some time on getting more sleep before I can even hope to successfully meditate. If YOU get enough sleep and are interested in the benefits of meditation, this page has a number of links that will help you get started.

Well-BeingWhere does that leave me? I’m not really much for resolutions, mostly because I used to make them about weight loss all the time and it was part of the cycle of dumb diets and bad results (see our thoughts on a real food resolution). I prefer to think of setting an intention for the new year, a focal point, a turning of my consciousness and attention. It’s pretty clear to me that if 2015 is to be a year of well-being for me, I need to get serious about getting more sleep. I’ve been working toward that and am now realizing how tired I actually am. As I continue to increase my amount of sleep in search of the number that actually makes me feel rested, I’m hoping my motivation to be a little more consistent with exercise will also increase. But I’m not even going to worry about that too much just now. I’m going to sleep. And it will be good. What will 2015 be for you? If 2015 as a year of well-being is about food for you, maybe our E-Book Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals can help. If it’s not about food, maybe it’s time to sleep. It will be good. Be well friends.

Don’t Diet. Eat Real Food. Let Us Help.

At the end of 2012, we had a few things to say about the annual dietary revolution that so many people attempt in honor of the new year. We revisit those thoughts now, when yet another year is approaching at a breakneck pace…

So here we go.  The New Year approaches and the diet chatter is increasing.  Everybody’s choosing plans, making resolutions and getting ready to start measuring their bits and counting their stuff.  If you are one of these folks, I’m going to ask you to reconsider.  I’m going to ask you to do something completely radical. I’m going to ask you NOT to go on a diet.

When we decide to go on a diet, we are committing to a temporary state of restriction, usually in an attempt to achieve some sort of numerical change – a smaller waistline, a lower reading on the scale, a smaller clothing size.  When we commit to a temporary state of restriction, we are admitting to the foregone conclusion that the results of that restriction – the number drop – will also be a temporary phenomenon.

You cannot return to the way you normally eat and maintain those lower numbers.  It doesn’t work.  If you’ve made this particular resolution in the past, you already know this is true.  Simply restricting what you eat also doesn’t guarantee that the food that you DO eat will actually nourish you.

BSNewYearWhen we decide to change the way that we eat, we are committing to a higher level of consciousness about what we eat in an attempt to eat food that is more healthful, that provides our bodies with more of what they require; a body that is getting what it needs is far less likely to torment us with the cravings that often drive us to eat unhealthy foods.

When we decide to change the way we eat, we are committing to caring for our bodies and our health, and are therefore also committing to caring for those around us who love us and cherish us.  When we decide to change the way that we eat, we open ourselves to the joy of living healthfully and the adventure of eating new and abundant real foods.  And so I ask you, on this auspicious occasion, NOT to diet, but to change the way you eat.  Eat Food, Real Food.

Big Sis and I have spent a lot of time this year talking about Baby Steps to Better Health.  Maybe you missed it; maybe you weren’t ready; maybe you already think you eat well and weren’t interested in making a change.  But now it’s coming – that resolution moment – that moment when so many of us get a little honest about our habits and find a little motivation to make some change.  If that’s you, and you’re ready, we’d like to invite you to join us taking Baby Steps to Better Health.

We’ll do a recap of the steps we’ve already covered.  We’ll get you started.  We’ll help you figure out what to eat and show you how to make it super yum.  If you’re ready, we’ll help you take those steps that will get you eating and feeling great in a way that works for YOU, with changes that YOU choose according to YOUR timeframe.

This is YOUR plan; it’s YOUR body.  YOU should be the one to decide what to put in it, thoughtfully and consciously, using ingredients that aren’t invented in a lab.  And you will find that the food you put in that body can be both succulent and healthful, both sublime and invigorating, both yummy and nourishing.  Because real food is delish and it does your body good.  Don’t diet; Eat Food, Real Food.

If this sounds like the way you’d like to start 2015, rather than kicking off the year with a glass full of nutrasweet and a package of freeze dried low cal low fat air filled nothing, maybe this is your year. We’ve put all our baby steps in a book for you, Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals, so you can work your way through them with a little encouragement from us. Let 2015 be your year, the year that you do it different and things actually change. Let us help.

An E-Book for Real People about Real Food

Normally I would be posting a meal plan today, but frankly my meal plan is all over the place. As so many of you are, we are entering an extended period of celebrating. The hitch for us is that we’ve been under siege of illness for over 2 weeks now. It looks like we’re nearly done, but many of our guests are iffy.  We’ve admitted to ourselves that a certain amount of flexibility is going to be required in the days to come. My larder is full of a variety of options and we’re just going to roll with it.

With that said, we fully intend to roll with it in style because we have a big reason to celebrate around here. A few years ago Bigg Sis and I started this whole crazy blog business as a way to get some practice writing, to write together and to each other, and to begin to consider how we could write a book that would help regular folks improve their health by eating real food. And at long last, we have reached that goal.

Our e-book, Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individualsis a labor of love, of effort, of humor, of cooperation, of irritation, and most of all of Bigg Sis’ dogged and relentless determination. We are so delighted to share our own food journeys with all of you and hope that you can find some inspiration, so guidance, some advice, some help, and the occasional laugh while you construct your own path. The book is based on our Baby Steps series from the blog, with expanded explanations, examples and stories. If you are ready for a change or if you know someone who is ready (or almost ready) for a change, check it out. What better time than the present to give the gift of better health in easy realistic steps from hilarious (okay, nice and amusing) sisters?

While you contemplate that, I’m sitting on the couch, big dog at my side, next to the glow of the lit Christmas tree taking this last little opportunity to rest before I finally get to see my sister again. We’ll start our holiday celebration feeding our families together, singing a bit, cooking a bit, taking a walk or two and laughing laughing laughing. I can’t wait. Here’s hoping your holidays are whatever you need them to be, that your company is warm and caring, and that your meals are delicious and satisfying. Eat well, be well friends.

You Deserve Real Food….. Baby Step #8

BabyStep8“Psssst!”

“Who me?”

“Yeah you.  The one who is being unkind and intolerant to someone.”

“I’m nice to other people, what are you talking about?”

“Everyone?”

“Well, I certainly try.”

“And what do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror?”

(silence)

“And what do you say to yourself when you make a mistake or slip up on a plan or intention?”

“Well that doesn’t count!…… Does it?”

What do you think?  Does it count?

When my students would pronounce themselves stupid or a jerk after making an academic or behavioral mistake I used to ask them what they would say to their best friend in the same circumstance.  They always had lovely encouraging things to say to their best friend.  But we don’t treat ourselves like a best friend.  And although the deep seated human condition from which our self-directed harshness and nastiness arises is beyond my expertise in terms of explanation (or understanding, as I do it too), I do have some suggestions for overcoming it.  I believe that a lot of our problems related to diet and food choices stem from the same kind of negative self-directed language as well as the language that advertisers have drummed into our heads. Continue reading

Baby Step 7: Einstein’s Elephant -or- ReCon Convenience

Elephant skin is so tough they call it ‘hide’.  Have you ever wanted your hands to be as soft as ‘hide’?  Ever heard admiration expressed as, “Oooh.  This is as soft as an elephant’s hide!”  I’m guessing you haven’t.  Well, we at the pantry have been pushed up against the side of the elephant in our Baby Steps elephant-hide_kgr-0464kitchen for a while and it’s time for a breather.  And Einstein isn’t as bothered by this elephant as we are because he understands the elephant much better and on a grander scale than do we.

The bumpy, rough-hided elephant of which I speak, is TIME.

“Finally, Bigg Sis, you are going to talk about time….It’s about time because I haven’t got much, and I’m thinkin’ all this cooking you do takes a lot of TIME!”

I hear your shouts of frustration rending the space-time continuum….. Oh sorry, we’ll let some disciple of Einstein address that.  In the meantime, Baby Step 7: ReCon Convenience.  For this step, we are all about figuring out time as it relates to eating healthfully.  One of the major objections that most people have to cooking and eating real food is that it simply takes too long, and one of the reasons most people offer for buying carry-out and convenience foods is that they can get dinner on the table faster.  We want to challenge these assumptions, and help you figure out your own time as it relates to how you eat.  A few questions:

1) Where is my time currently wasted in regards to food procurement and preparation?

2) Where is my time wasted when I think I’m actually saving time?

3) Where will I find the time that is the difference between pulling something out of the freezer and heating it up and preparing something with real food ingredients from scratch.

4) And finally, will the Sis sisters come clean my house for me on a weekly, or I’d even settle for bi-weekly, basis?

I’ll start with the last one.  No.

Okay that was a bit harsh.  We might clean yours if you’d clean ours, It  might at least be more interesting to clean someone else’s house for a change.  Back to Baby Step 7.  We’ve given the other three questions a longer think and want to share some of our thinks with you…

1) POSSIBLE TIME WASTERS

* Too many trips to the grocery store.  (This was a biggie for us).
POSSIBLE SOLUTION: Extend the period of time between grocery store trips.  Plan your meals for a period of nights, make a shopping list and get what you need.  We currently aim for 2 trips to the store a week.  One main trip after planning and another trip later in the week for the produce that won’t make it a week and/or the things I forgot!  Better than the previous 3 – 4 times per week.
STEP: come up with a plan for planning.  A time to do it, a system for recording and sharing, and a goal as to how often, or for what period of time.  Here is mine.

* Not making use of leftovers :
Always, always always make extra food and especially extra grain (rice, barley, quinoa, etc.) as these can be used in future meals (including some really fast and healthy breakfasts*).  Leftovers rule!  What is faster – making a sandwich for a lunchbox or placing leftovers in a container.  This can be done while cleaning up the evening meal as well…. 1 for Mom, 1 for Dad and 1 for whichever kid will eat that particular leftover in their lunch.
STEP: Make sure you have containers for holding leftover meals and grains.  Choose a meal to try this with, or a grain to try this with.  If you plan 2 meals in your planning time period that use the same grain you can make enough for both at one time.

* Going it alone – (I am woman, hear me roar and/or ‘nobody else does it right!’)
Make use of your technology and invite help.  My son loves to shred veggies in the food processor.  It’s like running branches through a wood chipper… what could be more fun than that?  I do believe that a food processor is a good investment in saving time in the kitchen. It shreds, it creams, it chops, and many of them are now dishwasher safe.  But honestly they are not hard to clean.  And if you plan ahead you can chop or shred the veggies for the next night’s dinner as well and only clean the machine once.
STEP: Figure out the pieces of preparation that can be done by your child or other adults in the house.  Put on some music everyone enjoys and boogie down while you cook.

BabyStep7

2) ReCon Your “Convenient” Meal

* How convenient is a convenience stop? Sometimes the kids are melting down and they need something placed right in the pie hole before everyone is a puddle on the floorboards of the car.    We’ve all been there and we have to do something, and it might include fast food or snacks from a convenience store.
Try to stock reasonably healthy snacks in your car for just such occasions.
Include knowledge of your schedule when you plan meals.
STEP: A) Time yourself when you make the stop for a convenience meal or a convenience snack, or for a pre-made dinner at the grocery store.  See how long it takes and write it down. So you stop the first place you see and buy some convenience foods.  How long does that really take?  It depends on where you are, but even if something is close by, you have to park, walk in, choose (with much advice),purchase and go get back in your car.
B) Challenge yourself to make a meal, perhaps including leftover grains, or even scrambled eggs and salad in that same amount of time.  For extra fun, compare the price of your homemade fast meal to the price of your “convenient” dinner.

3) DEVELOP A LIST OF QUICKIES

You might be surprised at the number of recipes out there designed to be ready in 30 minutes or even 20 minutes.  There are 2 types of recipes for you to consider:

A) the kind that is actually 20 – 30 minutes from start to finish

B) the kind that is 20 – 30 minutes of prep time but requires some time in between steps for something to boil or roast.  These are still possible if you have someone at home who can start that step for you if you are not there.  Alternately, a crock pot or a rice cooker can go a long way to help some steps be done by the time you get home.

I made stir-fry this evening in 25 minutes and I was not hurrying like I do on nights when one of us is going to an early TaeKwonDo class.  I can make pasta from scratch in 30 minutes.  It’s faster if I saute double veggies and freeze, then that part is done next time around.  You can also have a pasta sauce ready at the touch of a blender button, and as fast as the pasta is ready – you can eat!

I made veggie burgers the other day which took a prep time of only about 15 minutes but then they had to bake for 40.  I made a bunch, froze the leftovers on the cookie sheet they baked on and now we have a stock of burgers on hand for nights with no time.

STEP: Choose one (or more nights) that you are going to try a quick recipe.  Here are a few of our faves – under the A category of 20 – 30 minutes, and the B category of 20-30 minutes of prep time with some boiling, roasting or other timed event in between.

A) Anything Goes, Fast Burrito 

Pesto Pasta with Veggies and Nuts

Mushrooms Pignoli

Noodles with Asian peanut sauce

Varia-Bowl Category A if using noodles or pasta, Category B if using grains -unless you have leftovers 😉

B) Herbed Zucchini 

Kichadi (a quinoa based dish)

Sushi Salad  (with leftover rice it is in category A)

Beet Soup (Crock Pot)

Mustard Tempeh  (with leftover rice it is in category A)

Lentil Casserole

* Fast and healthy breakfasts: barley, oats, more oatssweet potato

Remember that one of the most important elements of Baby Steps is that it is okay to make these changes a little at a time.  If you eat a healthy fast meal once or twice per week and/or send a healthier lunch once or twice per week more than you do now, then you are improving your health lifestyle.  Everyday brings new opportunities to make good choices about food.  So ReCon commercial convenience! …and find ways to have your own healthy convenience instead! 

Baby Step 4: Adventure, Experimentation, and Gratitude

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it: “I want to eat healthier, but my kids (partner, whomever) won’t eat that food.”  Everyone who said it was 100% certain that this was true.  The only thing I am 100% certain about as regards feeding others healthy food is that if you don’t have it/make it/serve it, they certainly won’t eat it.

Changing our own eating habits is hard; convincing others that this is a group project can be daunting at best, but the difficulty of the task doesn’t mean the effort is not worth it.  Big Sis and I have both enlisted our families (immediate and in some cases extended) in our pantry transformations and we have some ideas that just might help you do the same.  The truth is that, as with any meal, eating real food is easier and more enjoyable when you do it with the people that you love.

So here we approach the core of Baby Step 4: just as eating healthier foods requires you to be more conscious of what you’re eating and how you’re making it, so too will rallying the troops involve an evolution in consciousness about food.  You must be the leader in the movement to develop an attitude of adventure, experimentation and gratitude surrounding food and mealtimes in your home.

Our suggestions fall into three basic categories:

  1. The Use and Acceptance of Baby Steps as Progress
  2. Attitudinal Adjustments
  3. Education

Baby Steps

I can’t speak for everybody, but when I embark on a new venture that I’m enthusiastic about, I want to share it.  I want to share it with everybody and I (unreasonably) want everyone to be as excited as I am…  It’s sweet, isn’t it?  The cold water of reality is a bit uncomfortable.  Just because I’m enthused doesn’t mean they will be.  My loved ones’ priorities might be entirely different than mine and the mental steps I’ve taken to prepare myself for this wonderful new transformation have not been their mental steps as well.  If we can agree that baby steps are an effective tool for making changes in our eating habits, we must remember that those we wish to encourage (and feed) deserve the same gracious and gentle introduction to foods with which they are unfamiliar and that they may not be initially inspired by.  Does this mean don’t try? No, no it doesn’t.  It may mean don’t try ALL the time.  It may mean be ready to see consumption without complaint (but no real enjoyment) as progress over grousing.  It may mean lovingly saying that you understand when deep inside you’d like to remove all the plates from the table and tell everybody to….  okay, that’s just me now and again – I know, it’s not pretty.

1. Establish baby steps with your family by: designating one meal per week to be healthier food night/ or healthier entree or side dish night if you need a gentler step.

Attitudinal Adjustments

Family mealtime means different things to different people and for many folks it is comfort.  When we are trying new foods, it’s not always so very comfortable.  So rather than highlighting the comfort of familiar foods, we must highlight the adventure of trying new things.  This can be particularly challenging with little people.  I get it, really I do.  But again, if we give up all we can be sure of is that they will NEVER try the new food.  If we persist and attempt to make it fun, who knows what will happen?

This is what we remind my sweeties of.  If you don’t TRY it, you’ll never know.  We then remind them of the foods they’ve tried and discovered how delicious they are.  If we’re trying a dish that highlights flavors from another culture, we talk about that place and the role that this food plays there.  We take an adventure.  When they are adventurous with their food, we lavish them with praise.  Big Sis had a great idea that I think we will implement – the adventurous eater medallion.  We may also try adventurous eating hats. Occasionally, in desperation, we appeal to their sibling rivalry and have a race to try the new food.  I can’t say the last method encourages delightful table manners, but it does seem to work.

Feeding this little mug is not always easy.

In addition the the positive role that adventurousness and competition can play, there is no way to overstate the importance of gratitude at the table.  Mr. Little Sis has instituted a fabulous family tradition at the beginning of our meals.  As head chef, I occasionally become discouraged by the cajoling that feeding twin 5 year olds can require.  When we sit down to eat, Mr. Little Sis immediately says, “Thank You Mommy, for making such a wonderful meal for us.”  The twins usually follow on quickly, even if they are mid-complaint or moving stuff around to see what’s under there icky-face-making.

The most interesting thing about it is that once they’ve said thank you, they rarely return to the complaints, at least not with volume and vigor, which helps keep the mood at the table a little lighter, and prevents them from discouraging one another from trying new foods. Highlighting the importance of gratitude in a positive way, “We are so fortunate to have this healthy and nourishing food, and to be able to enjoy it together,” over the “There are starving kids all over the world who would be happy to eat that ____,” rightly changes the focus at the table from whether or not the meal meets every individual’s expectations to mealtime as a time to come together and recharge.

2. Establish adventurousness and gratitude by asking for it and acknowledging it.  Reward adventurousness and model gratitude.

Education

Different strategies work for different people.  Some like the games (my daughter) and some need the rationale.  I am still making this meal even though you’ve expressed it’s not your favorite because it has ingredients in it that do _____ inside your body.  Anything that helps that boy’s allergies will go in the mouth.  Guaranteed.  It is difficult NOT to take advantage of that knowledge.  We’ve also talked a great deal about why I pack their lunches and why I don’t include many of the things their friends eat regularly.  I marvel at the lack of pushback on this.  They occasionally express their severe deprivation (along with a host of injustices that I have perpetrated), but they also, I’ve found, are able to make choices that they would not if we didn’t share so much food information.

I’ve discovered that when they are offered a treat at a party, they limit themselves, without my saying anything.  They tell me when they’ve had a surprise goody at school or with friends so that I can make adjustments to what I give them for the rest of the day.  They GET IT.  When they’re older and they ask about McDonald’s (or whatever) rather than toeing the line on that front as they do now, perhaps we’ll sit down and watch SuperSize Me together.  My husband and I watched several food documentaries before we embarked on the last round of dietary changes, discussed the information we found, researched the questions that remained.  Just as I need information to make a big change, so too do the loved ones in my life.

3. Educate your loved ones by telling them why you are doing what you are doing.

So your Baby Step?  What should you do?  You should consider your surroundings and try (gently and patiently) to get’em on board.  Your life will be easier; your food will be healthier; and your table will be a place of adventure, experimentation, and gratitude while you tackle another pantry swap, or try a new recipe.  Baby Steps for you, Baby Steps for them.  It worked for all of us once, right?

Go Back Jack – Baby Steps Check In

You go back Jack, do it again.

So says Steely Dan.  And so says the Baby Steps approach to healthy eating.

How are you coming along?  Successes?  Failures?

Build on the successes & Learn from the failures, and most importantly, do it again.

Make that choice again.

Making changes can be much easier with a buddy.  Do you have a friend or relative (or maybe you’re lucky and have both in one like my Little Sis) who would like to eat healthier and look and feel better?  Why not share the Baby Steps with him or her.  Tell your Buddy what you are doing and invite them to come along.  You can even post our Baby Steps button on your blog and invite friends that way.  (The link is on the sidebar).  The more the merrier and the more people eating healthier, the cheaper and more plentiful healthy food will become… in restaurants & schools, at events & practices and in the grocery store.  But it has to start with us, in our homes, in our pantries and in our refrigerators.

And now is a great time to re-check Baby Steps #1 & #2

Baby Step #1 –The ol’ Switcheroo.  What did you switch?  I switched apple butter for maple syrup on breakfast foods.  I’ve had some successes and a couple of failures… but the apple butter is in the fridge and I’ll have more chances to make the switcheroo.  Time for another switcheroo?  Did you find something in your pantry that you know you should live without?  We found too many chips.  We get the ‘healthier’ versions when they’re on sale (by this I mean natural ingredients, good oils, low calorie doesn’t mean healthy, i.e. read the labels), but we’ve begun mixing in more triscuits when making a snack of chips and also substituting popcorn.

Baby Step #2 – Be Fearless, Be Honest

Be conscious of what you are eating and why you are eating it.  Is it for comfort?  Is it for convenience?  Is it for cost?  What can you switch or eat less often on the list of things you know you’d be better off without.  And again, it’s often time to go back to Baby Step #1.  Switching, not losing.  Replacing, by type of food and by function (comfort, convenience, cost).

If you haven’t checked on your pantry yet… give it a go.  Here’s a refresher for Baby Step #3.  Below I’ll give you some links to recipes Little Sis and I use with our standard pantry items.

Brown rice: Sweet potatoes and brown rice for breakfast?  Yes!

Brown rice and lentil casserole dirt cheap and kid friendly
Stir fry using rice
Lentil and oat ‘neatloaves’
quinoa main dish called kichadi – lots of room for variety!
another quinoa main dish with whatever veggies you’ve got : When time runs out on dinner
My personal favorite sweet substitute – Brownie Bites and
an awesome sauce Little Sis came up with that will dress up whatever you’ve got!  Pasta, grains, meat, veggies.  Fabu Asian Peanut sauce

Please feel free to search our site, send us questions, ask us for encouragement.  We’d love to keep your toes pointed in the right direction while you take those Baby Steps towards healthier eating.  You might be behind us, or you might be in front of us but we’re all on the road together so make sure to wave and smile.

Baby Steps Down the Road to Better Health

  • You want your children to be healthy.
  • You want to be healthy and feel good.
  • You want members of your family to maintain a healthy weight.
  • You are VERY busy, including juggling various schedules.
  • You have not yet won the lottery.
  • You don’t think you and/or your family can make the necessary changes in your lifestyle to achieve “Hollywood Health.”  You know the kind of health I mean… the kind on the talk shows which requires lots of time and lots of money.

My sister and I (we write this blog together as Little Sis and BiggSis), have both walked a long way down the road to eating well and feeling / looking better.  We have dragged our spouses and children along for the ride, and while it isn’t always easy, it IS possible to eat well, without spending hours in the kitchen and without greatly increasing your grocery bill.  We are talking about Hometown Health here!  Jill Q. Public Health… Happy, Human Health.  (Okay, I’m done now, I get on a roll sometimes.)

If you’ve been on a diet before and tried to change everything you eat at once, then you know that it is easy to fall off the wagon and revert to your old ways.  However, this is not a diet.  This is not a test of your character.  This is an opportunity to change your life.  Eating food : real food is an attempt to better nourish yourself and your family in a culture that encourages mal-nourishment.  Every time you and your children turn around there are advertisements for, and the presence of, cheap junk food.  It’s everywhere… school, church, work, meetings, sporting events and practices, many stores that don’t sell any other food… and did I mention that it is cheap, convenient and appeals to our taste for sugar and fat?

Processed food contains ingredients that make us want more.  It’s not just you who can’t put down the bag of Doritos.  No, you are not alone in this.  Sugar, which is more addictive than cocaine (PLOS, 2007), is also everywhere. The food industry is pumping sugar through their powerful machine that keeps us eating their products, regardless of the effects.  However, the results of better nourishment, and of eating real food, not only include weight loss, but a stronger response to sugar and fat.  In other words, after eating real food for a while, processed food became less appealing and I now notice how badly I feel after eating it.

For the Sis sisters, eating real food began with a desire to feed our children well in a world filled with horrible food choices.  Eating real food was reinforced by what we saw and felt in our children, our spouses and ourselves, as we all became healthier and thinner.  The plan is simple and is touted by lots of celebrities, chefs, and books in various forms, but we feel that it is made too expensive and too difficult via an emphasis on ‘super foods,’ exotic foods, and expensive foods.  It is possible to eat well on a budget.  It is possible to feel better, look better, and even preserve the environment just by changing what foods you buy and consume.

Yes, but it’s still difficult to change how and what you eat, right?  Trying to replace everything at one time is usually a losing plan.  That’s why we are going to begin a series on this blog to present you or someone you love, with Baby Steps.  Some of the baby steps mirror small steps we took in our own journeys and others are steps that make sense under the bright light of hindsight.

You can head down the road to better health one baby step at a time.  Baby steps are wonderful because they don’t demand a huge change from you, are easier to live up to, and they still take you down the road.  The processed diet lies at the beginning of the road, and every baby step forward takes you further from obesity, lethargy, and diseases like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, auto-immune disorders, high cholesterol and cancer.  Of course, everyone knows someone who has one of these diseases despite a healthy lifestyle.  That stinks.  However, you watch the people you know who eat real food.  They feel better and look better, and research is indeed on their side, in terms of their lower probability for chronic diseases.  Feeling better, being thin and having a decreased chance for chronic disease is on my side, my family’s side, and it can be on your side too.  Just take it one Baby Step at a time.

We will be publishing the Baby Steps along with our usual postings of recipes that are made with real food here on our blog, so follow us down the road!  And in the meantime… here are some links to easy, healthy breakfasts from previous posts.  Everyday is a new day and any successes in eating well are just that.  Successes in eating well.

Crock pot oatmeal takes the hurry up out of the morning.

If you have some leftover rice (always make extra rice!!) you can have a very yummy sweet potato for breakfast!

Oats that you soak in milk overnight and don’t even have to cook. – plus some cool pics of a bear in Little Sis’ backyard 🙂

Another soaking cereal that is ready when you wake up – no oats this time.

Eat food.  Real food.