Food Facts

Is Your Health Being Hacked!?!?

The days are slooowly getting warmer which brings to mind the need to lose a few unwanted winter pounds, but are our efforts to eat better getting hacked?

It is easy to get swept up in the claims made by food manufactures based on current diet trends. Gluten free, fat-free, sugar-free, vegan, … the list goes on and on.

For example, I found these tortilla wraps at my local grocery store. The front label makes them appear amazing with phrases like “Extreme Wellness”, whole grains, and etc.  However, when we take a closer look at the ingredients we find a heavy dose of preservatives, dough conditioners, anti-caking agents, and food dyes!wrappic-EDIT

So how does one separate health from hype?

When it comes to my “go to” foods I follow three simple rules.  Let me break them down for you.

Keep It Simple

  • Choose items with short, simple ingredient lists (about 5 items or less)
  • Focus primarily on whole, fresh, foods. (Fresh meats, fruits, vegetables, and herbs)
  • Whenever possible, buy whole fruits and vegetables from local farmer’s markets in your area.
  • Significantly limit all dairy and gluten based foods.

Keep It Clean

  • Choose Non-GMO ingredients or products  Why?
  • Avoid the “junk” – avoid preservatives, food dyes (Why?), thickeners, anti-caking agents, added sugars, flavor enhancers like MSG, and so on.
  • Significantly limit soda, cake, cookies, and the like as much as possible.  Consider them “party” foods and enjoy them in small quantities at special events.

Keep It Safe

  • Know your allergies or sensitivities and respect them.

~  Depending on a person’s unique biology, consuming just a single crumb or smear of a food your body does not tolerate well can inflame your immune system for weeks.  Prolonged exposure can lead to chronic inflammatory damage and weight gain.

  • Know the hidden sources of inflammatory foods, such as dairy and gluten, and commit to finding appropriate alternatives.

~   Godairyfree.org is a terrific website for learning about limiting or avoiding dairy for the many health benefits.

~  Check out this Quick Reference Guide for a simple list of hidden dairy ingredients or products.

  • Always take the time to discover and understand what your body personally needs, rather than what the media or other social pressures say you need or want.  Be open to obtaining professional help to reach your wellness goals for yourself and your family.

What Now?

You may be wondering, how can I follow these guidelines and keep up with work and family responsibilities?   Here are a couple of ideas that have worked well for me.  I’d love to hear your ideas or questions in the comments below.

  • Paleokrunch Bars* – These are amazingly simple and delicious snack bars free from any dairy, gluten, added sugar, or undesirable chemicals.  Great satisfying snack any time of day at work or play!Pic1
  • PrepDish* – This is a brand new meal planning service I’m trying out.  You basically shop for and prep a weeks worth of meals at once and enjoy the fruits of your labor the rest of the week.  I just completed my first “prep day” last Sunday.  To be honest, it was a rough day, but I am sooooo happy with the results and how delicious, clean, and healthy our family has been eating this week.  I’m sure the process will get easier with practice and I look forward to including my kids in the fun next weekend!

 

*Note:  These are my personal testimonials.  I am not compensated in any way for mentioning these products.

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Food Facts · Holidays

The color red(40) wrecked our family Christmas!

A season as red as Rudolph’s nose.

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As I pack up all the Christmas decorations and put them back in storage, all the shiny red ornaments give me reason to pause and reflect on how the color red almost broke my family’s Christmas spirit this year.  We recently discovered through basic trial and error that our oldest son is sensitive to food dyes.  If he consumes too much of them it results in loss of impulse control, hyperactivity, and trouble focusing on school work.

I used to think this kind of thing was science fiction until the day my son thanked me for removing food dyes from his diet and helped his brain not “buzz” anymore.

This is a subject that I am just beginning to understand. I plan to share more of our experiences in the future.  Nevertheless, if you are curious to learn more right now I highly recommend taking time to view this 20-minute video by Dr. Rebecca Bevans.

Red is for love. We love peppermint cupcakes!

For our church’s annual Christmas gathering, everyone was asked to bring a dessert to share.  I always feel that it’s important for our boys be able to safely enjoy at least one fun treat along with everyone else at group events.  So what could I possibly make that was allergy-safe, tasty for all, and holiday appropriate?  Personally, I have never been skilled at baking from scratch much less baking gluten-free.  Also, with so many other food allergies to manage it’s easy for me to get discouraged when needing to avoid food dyes as well.  Thankfully, there are many wonderful gluten-free bakers and companies out there to help us along.  My youngest and I had a blast making these (dye free, dairy free, egg free, gluten-free) peppermint cupcakes.  They may just become a new Christmas tradition for us!

Peppermint Cupcakes

  1. Choose your favorite way of making cupcakes.  My favorite method so far is Cherrybrook Kitchen mixes for both cakes and cookies.  They are one of the few companies I’ve found who produce gluten-free mixes that work well without egg and taste yummy!IMG_20171203_164720920.jpg

Tip ~ I have gotten the best tasting results from these mixes when I make sure to bake, cool, and frost the cake or cupcakes all in the same day.  Gluten-free baked goods tend to dry out too easily on the counter and are not as resilient as their wheat-based cousins.

     2. Whip up the peppermint frosting.

Ingredients

1/2 cup dairy-free, soy-free butter substitute ( We use Earth Balance.)

2 Tablespoons dairy-free milk of your choice (We use Pacific original rice milk.)

2 to 2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2-6 drops peppermint essential oil ( My favorite peppermint oil is available here.

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and stir until a smooth frosting is achieved. A basic hand mixer makes this a breeze.

~ Begin with the 2 cups of sugar, and add more sugar as needed to get the consistency you like.

~ You may also alter the amount of milk as needed. Add just a teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

~ Enjoy topping your cooled gluten-free cupcakes. 🙂

Adapted from: https://www.glutenfreegigi.com/fluffy-dairy-free-lemon-frosting/

3. Decorate cupcakes with crushed dye-free candy canes.  We used Wholesome Organic Candy Canes from our local grocery store.

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For added festive fun, we used Santa themed cupcake papers as well!

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These cupcakes were a huge hit with everyone, not just our boys.  We made two dozen to share at our church’s event and only brought back eight!  Of course, those last few were gone within a couple of days.  I think it was Santa’s elves 😉

Wishing you a simple, clean, and safe 2018.

Happy New Year!

Food Facts · Holidays

Sweet Potatoes and Wild Orange oil – better together than PB&J!

Traditions build healthy connections.

Growing up I enjoyed many simple fun holiday traditions with my family.  There was always turkey at Thanksgiving, grandma’s rainbow jello for Christmas, and lemon cake with homemade frosting was the perfect ending to our classically German pork and sauerkraut for New Years.  I had never given it much thought back then about how many holiday traditions are centered around food.  People love to share the joy of the holidaysvintage_Thanksgiving with food.  I have great memories of making Christmas cut-out cookies with my mom and decorating them with all different colors of frosting and sprinkles!  When my husband and I decided to start our family, I looked forward to sharing my family’s traditions with my own children.  All those warm memories of holiday foods came crashing down hard when my first child was found to be severely allergic to all dairy, all nuts, egg, and fish.  Every Thanksgiving turkey was covered in butter, my grandma’s rainbow jello was filled with sour cream (dairy), and that lovely lemon cake was full of eggs and more dairy!  Suddenly, every holiday became a battlefield of struggling to keep my young son safe and included while still trying to share in the joy of the holidays.  I was devastated to put it mildly.  

Over the past several years, I have spent a lot of time reshaping my perspective on classic holiday traditions and finding new joy in creating new ones that are safer and healthier for my family as a whole.  An article in Psychology Today discusses how holiday traditions provide a sense of predictability and comfort in an ever-changing fast-paced world.  I believe it is important for me, as a parent, to be a source of constant and comforting support for my children and rebuilding holiday traditions that accommodate their food allergies in fun and creative ways is all part of that process.

I’m “sweet on” sweet potatoes.

I have learned that food allergies and sensitivities don’t have to mean the end of delicious traditions during the holidays.  That’s not to say that special diet changes don’t require a little extra time, planning, and understanding.  Believe me, they do!  Nevertheless, I encourage everyone this Thanksgiving to try a few new things to keep the feast a little more fresh, clean, and safe for all our guests.

For example, my wild orange sweet potato bake has become a family favorite at our Thanksgiving table.  It’s completely dairy, nut, gluten, and egg free but still loaded with flavor.  Sweet potatoes are also a terrific source of Vitamin A and C.  Feel free to add it to your Thanksgiving menu this year or any time you’re in the mood for delicious and nutritious comfort food during these colder months.

Source: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=64

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes with Apples Recipe

Makes: 6 – 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 3 Granny Smith apples
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 6 drops Wild Orange essential oil  ( My favorite wild orange oil is available here. )
  • 1 tsp grated orange rind
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup dairy-free butter substitute*  ( I prefer Earth Balance dairy-free, soy-free spread. )

* If you can and prefer to use actual butter, I highly recommend Hartzler’s salted roll butter.  It’s amazing!

Directions

  1. Cook sweet potatoes in boiling water to cover 45 minutes; drain and cool slightly. Peel sweet potatoes, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Peel, core, and thinly slice apples into rings.
  2. Combine brown sugar and next 4 ingredients.
  3. Arrange half of potato slices and half of apple slices in a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish.  Sprinkle with half of brown sugar mixture, and dot evenly with half of butter.  Repeat procedure with remaining ingredients.
  4. Bake at 350° for 1 hour. Serve warm.
Adapted from the following recipe originally provided by Southern Living:  http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/scalloped-sweet-potatoes-with-apples

Wild Orange … a tasty way to uplift your mood.  

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What makes my wild orange sweet potatoes really stand out is the wild orange essential oil. Wild orange doesn’t just add great flavor, it has a therapeutic effect on the body as well.  True Wild Orange essential oil reduces anxious feelings, calms your nerves, and uplifts your mood.  It is considered the “oil of abundance” because of it’s ability to support feelings of generosity, creativity, and  playfulness.  In light of the stress around the holidays, Wild Orange is a  wonderfully positive oil to experience and share this time of year.

Sources: Modern Essentials, Eighth Edition and Emotions and Essential Oils, Fourth Edition

Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Food Facts

Got Calcium?

We all know it’s important to get proper amounts of calcium in our diets. Calcium is Calcium Element Symbolresponsible for building and maintaining strong bones. Calcium and vitamin D together may protect against cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It is also needed for muscle movement and proper nerve communication between the brain and the body. (Source: The Mayo Clinic)

The most common and often most inexpensive source of calcium is dairy. We all know this because the media and commercials have been telling us this for years. However, there are some lesser known problems with consuming dairy in general that can make it more harmful than good. First of all, typical dairy products are highly processed and may contain growth hormones such as rbht. The processing strips much of the naturally occurring enzymes and nutrients found in raw milk. Secondly, cultured dairy, such as yogurt and kefir, often contain undesirable refined sugars and/or artificial sweeteners.milk glass Thirdly, the dairy protein (casein) and/or the primary dairy sugar (lactose) can cause digestive problems or allergic reactions in certain individuals. Many of the rest of us can have an undiagnosed issue with milk that can cause low-grade chronic inflammation and may unknowingly lead to more serious issues later in life if left unaddressed.  This is because all dairy can be inflammatory to the body to some degree or another. Years ago, doctors advised their patients to consume “clear liquids” like juice and chicken broth and avoid milk during illness.  Milk is known to thicken or produce excess mucus, especially in asthmatic individuals. (Source: nutritionfacts.com)

When I first started caring for my dairy allergic sons I needed to learn real quick how to support them nutritionally without dairy. Therefore, in our home, we focus more on broccoli_smalleating plenty of calcium containing vegetables, such as broccoli and okra. We grow both broccoli and okra on our farm. The clean fresh taste of these backyard vegetables is better than any I’ve ever had before! I encourage you to explore all the other wonderful calcium containing vegetables.  Dr. Axe’s Top 10 Calcium Rich Food List is a terrfic place to start.  I also love raw almonds which have 76mg of calcium per ounce. It’s no mystery in our house, that I have a serious weak spot for raw almonds and dairy free chocolate chips. Dairy free milks, such as coconut and rice milks, are also fortified with calcium and help us keep our calcium intake up. But just like conventional dairy many alternative milks are high in sugar. We strive to avoid high amounts of refined sugars as much as possible. Therefore, we choose the unsweetened varieties as often as possible and they work great on breakfast cereal and in recipes.

I have felt great improvements in my overall health, such as increased energy, mental clarity, and less bloating, by significantly reducing or eliminating dairy from my diet New Beginnings...along with other positive lifestyle changes.  It can be tricky avoiding dairy since it’s hidden in so many things.  Nevertheless, I encourage anyone to try eliminating dairy for at least two weeks to a month to see how their body responds, especially those already dealing with an inflammatory condition like asthma. Remember to replace those calories with plenty of lean meats, fresh fruits, and vegetables and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results!

If you or someone you care about is struggling with a dairy allergy or intolerance diagnosis, or struggling to lose weight even though you feel you really are “doing all the right things”, I would like to help.  I am available to provide personalized Wellness Coaching services.  Learn more…

Farm · Food Facts

The incredible, edible … EGG?

pretty chickens_smallI’m often asked why we raise chickens for eggs even though our boys are allergic to them.  At times it can even seem very impractical and messy, but our lovely chickens are a perfect reflection of the deep set values we have about our connection to our food and our world.  Allow me to explain what I mean.

The primary reason comes from our commitment to clean, natural food and the comfort in knowing exactly where our food comes from.  This is the basis for just about everything we do on our homestead. You may have heard the phrase, “You are what you eat”. This became a very real truth to us as we learned to avoid our sons’ food allergies by painstakingly reviewing every ingredient label since our youngest was two months old. During this process we began to learn about genetically modified organisms.  What are genetically modified organisms? According to the World Health Organization, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as “organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination”.  When I first understood this years ago my first son was barely six months old and allergic to milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. This is when I began reading that the genes of peanuts are being spliced into soybeans. I also found out that chemicals like herbicides are being genetically combined into corn and soybean crops for example to make them more resilient to pests and diseases but that also means that we are consuming the end results as well.

The primary food sources of traditionally raised chickens are grains like corn and soy.  An article from the The Huffington Post recently shared that the top two GMO crops grown in the US are corn (88%) and soy (93%).  This means chickens in the US are predominantly fed GMO corn and/or soy. This makes for eggs and chicken that to me are not clean or simple and not how I believe nature intended them to be.  Now some of you may deem what I have shared here as controversial or a case of personal paranoia. However, I have personally met individuals who are unable to tolerate basic store-bought eggs but are able to enjoy the eggs from my farm without issue.  Over the years as an allergy mom I have learned that keeping foods clean and simple also makes them safer. Therefore, GMOs in general are a layer of potential harm that I feel is unnecessary when it comes to my family’s health.

chicken near feeder_smallThere are many different layers to modern food production that can negatively affect our health. Each one of us is different, so it is important to take the time to understand what your unique body needs even if it doesn’t fit the socially or government accepted norm.  We raise our chickens on completely Non-GMO feed and spoil them with plenty of fresh air and water every day.  How chickens are housed and cared for directly affects their health and egg production as well.  I have seen this firsthand on our farm. Cleaning out the chicken coop is not a favorite activity among any homesteader or farmer that I know of, however it must be done. A few years ago, my husband was growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of eggs we were getting from our fairly new flock.  He was beginning to grumble that he would need to make dinner out of some of the hens that were not producing enough eggs.  The idea being that a hen who is not producing is not providing a good return on his investment in feed.  This was a very practical line of thinking, but I often find myself taking a more nurturing approach to farm life.  I lightheartedly explained to him one evening that hens, much like us women, are hormonal and like when our living spaces are clean and cozy as it can greatly reduce stress and improve our mood. So, I suggested that the coop was just overdue for a good cleaning. My husband rolled his eyes a little, but proceeded to clean out the coop and take special care in making the nesting boxes extra comfortable. Sure enough, within just a few days the hen’s egg production bumped back up and my husband and I were as delighted as the hens.

Now GMO or Non-GMO, free-range or not, my boys are still currently allergic to egg protein, both egg white and yolk. The immune system is a very powerful and amazing part of the human body. It grows and matures and changes right along with everything else, especially when we are young. It may be that someday my boys will be able to have egg in some fashion. In the meantime, there are many other reasons we enjoy our chickens.

First, their eggs are a very healthy source of protein.  They are rich in antioxidants, good fats, and vitamins as well. For such a small package they pack quite a tasty nutrient-dense punch. But what about the cholesterol, you ask? I enjoy two to three of our backyard eggs every morning without worry. Just in case you have not yet heard, the naturally occurring cholesterol found in eggs is no longer believed to be a leading cause of heart disease.  For an in-depth explanation of this, I encourage you read the article, “The Definitive Guide to Cholesterol”, on http://www.marksdailyapple.com and/or watch the documentary entitled Fathead. I have found both of these resources enlightening and beneficial in my family’s pursuit of a natural whole food based diet and wellness lifestyle.

eggs in basketSecond, we enjoy the natural variety of colors shapes and sizes of eggs that are chickens produce. White and brown eggs of uniform size from the store now seem so boring.  I never knew that there were so many varieties of chickens and colors of eggs. Our hens lay light brown, dark brown, solid white, olive green, and soft blue eggs.  In fact the color of a chicken’s cheek feathers can indicate the color of the egg she makes. For example, our first brown leghorn hen had a stunning white circle on each cheek and she produced equally stunning solid white eggs. It was those same white cheeks that let me know when she was not feeling well because they would fade and we would notice more fragile white egg shells.  The color of our chickens egg yolks are deep yellow almost orange.  A terrific show of their freshness and dense nutrient content.  The taste is as rich and delicious as the color and is unaffected by the color of the shell.  In contrast, store-bought eggs can be two weeks old or more before making it to your shopping cart. That’s not to say that they are not safe, but given the choice I will now always prefer the ones my lovely hens have laid just hours or days before.

Finally, chickens are just downright entertaining and great source of stress relief. I now have a whole new understanding of those old Foghorn Leghorn cartoons. It’s quite hilarious to watch the roosters chase the hens and make up your own dialogue about what’s happening. The chickens all have different personalities some gentle, some feisty and some others are just nutty.  I find it fascinating how chicken antics naturally play themselves out in parallel to so many human behaviors.  Roosters have to actually learn how to crow.  Adolescent roosters sound like a young boy singing in church choir when his voice begins to “crack”.  You try to muffle the giggles while all the while cheering him on and so proud when he finally begins to get comfortable with his new voice.  Adult roosters are cocky! Seriously, they really are, but they are also terrific protectors and food providers.  They are instinctively good at calling the hens together to hide from a hawk or to announce the presence of a favorite food, such as worms after rain or gifts of watermelon rinds from us.

So, yes, chickens are messy and maybe a little impractical to some, but here they take care of us just as well as we take care of them in their own quirky way.  I’m filled with thanks for what we have each time I pull on my clodhoppers and pause to appreciate God’s creation on our farm.  It’s this quiet respect and admiration of our natural world that I work to teach my children and hope that you will be able to experience as well in your own way.

Chickens in Run_small_edit