TOP 10 TIPS FOR GOING “UNPROCESSED”

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I am pumped! Over the moon! Super stoked! My workout group has set a goal to eat only unprocessed foods for twenty-one days. As you can imagine, this fills me with happiness – new people are trying out this way of living that I believe is so important for health and happiness. Additionally, October is the month of the Eating Rules’ “October Unprocessed” campaign that is in its fifth year.

Saying no to processed food is IN THE AUTUMN AIR!!

I just want to sing from the roof-tops, I’ve done this! It can be done! It’s worth doing! I have so much to share about the ups, the downs, the all arounds of this commitment. So, in true Lean.Green.Kitchen fashion, I made a list.

My top ten tips for going “unprocessed” or “NPF” (no processed foods).

Are you giving “unprocessed” a try? Start here:

  1. Make your personal “unprocessed” rules. Everybody has a different definition of unprocessed, so think through what makes sense for where you are at and what you can give to the challenge. Are you going to be able to make every single thing from scratch, or are you okay with buying products with ingredients you have in your kitchen (think marinara sauce, bread, broth, canned beans and vegetables, yogurt for examples). The Eating Rules definition is: Does it pass The Kitchen Test. Could someone with reasonable aptitude in the kitchen make the thing you are buying using ingredients that would reasonably be found in a kitchen? If yes, then proceed. And here’s a heads-up about your personal “unprocessed” rules, they will change over time. It’s a journey.
  2. Plan ahead. It just really can’t be done without a plan. Menus must be scratched on napkins (or inputted into spreadsheets if you are one of those kinds of people), shopping lists must be figured out and executed. Web-sites must be searched for new recipes. Cookbooks must be dusted off. If you are time-crunched (and who isn’t), it’s pretty imperative that you find a chunk of time somewhere in the week to prep ingredients that will make your week go smoother. Cut-up celery and carrots get dipped into a lot more made-ahead-hummus than heads of celery and bags of carrots with a can of garbanzo beans that’s just waiting to be prepared when you are hungry and rushing.
  3. Find a Farmers Market or Produce Stand that works for you. Then go. Every week. No fail. Buy lots of fruit and all your favorite veggies. Buy things you can eat raw when you want to buy a snack at a convenience store. Buy things you can cook when you need a last-minute veggie soup for dinner.
  4. Make a SNACK and TREAT LIST. Write down all the things you can think of that fit into your definition of “unprocessed” and that you would like as a snack or a treat. This list is going to be really important when you are right in the middle of breaking old habits and are feeling overwhelmed and crave-y. Everybody’s list looks different, mine is filled with nut butter/fruit combinations, smoothies, yogurt with granola and berries, veggies and hummus, cut up red bell peppers and cucumbers, stove-popped popcorn, and quick handfuls of cashews. I love blended frozen banana sorbets and fresh fruit with homemade whipped cream for treats. These things must then be available to you at a moments notice… get them on that shopping list!
  5. Make soup. Every week. A big batch. Eat it all week whenever you don’t know what to eat. It’s easy, tasty, filling, nutrient-rich and quick. Did I say easy? There are a million EASY soup recipes (there are a bunch on this site alone!) out there or you can just put whatever you like in a pot and add broth and simmer with some seasonings and viola… soup! This is your “fast food” for that day when it all just falls apart and you are contemplating driving through somewhere. Heating up your soup is MUCH faster and superior in about a million ways. This is your Plan B.
  6. Make small changes. If you are currently eating a lot of processed foods and don’t feel super proficient in the kitchen, then don’t decide to make your broth, beans, cheese, yogurt, bread, etc. from scratch. Just make sure you read every label that comes in your house and that you know and approve of everything listed. This might not be the best time to decide you need to give up dairy or cut out coffee. Those may be great NEXT steps for you once you’ve got this step down. I wouldn’t recommend deciding to count/log your calories during this time. It’s so irritating to have to write down ingredient after ingredient of all your home-made food. Give yourself a break and realize that if nutrient-rich food is what you are buying, then that’s what you are eating. Good enough.
  7. Start off the day right. Make sure you are prepared for awesome morning success. The momentum of nailing it right out of the gates can make the whole day go smoothly. Everyone is very different regarding what they are interested in for breakfast and when they feel best eating it, so you need to experiment around until you find your sweet spot. For kicks, let’s compare what I had for breakfast and what someone rushing through Starbucks had for breakfast. Today I spent ten minutes putting together the following: a matcha tea with honey and coconut cream (the creamy stuff at the top of the coconut milk can) and a one egg scramble with zucchini, spinach and avocado. My Starbucks friend had a pumpkin spice latte and a mass-produced scone. I estimate my breakfast had less than 5g of sugar. My Starbucks friend had 75g (that’s about 1/3 of a cup of sugar). We haven’t even mentioned the laboratory-made chemicals that my SB friend’s body will need to detox. Or the conditions of the cows who produced the dairy in both SB products. So which of us is better prepared with long-term energy and nutrients on board? Who’s immune system is optimized, mental/emotional energy ready, physically prepared to take on the day? Do you agree that people who start off the day with a feeling of success are more likely to make better decisions all day? Set yourself up to be one of those people.
  8. Tell everyone you know. It can’t be a secret. People will cheer you on, ask you questions, not care, find inspiration, keep you accountable. Don’t lose out on this help by being secretive. And then enjoy it every time they don’t share with you – notice that you aren’t invited to the drive-thru runs, you aren’t offered Halloween candy, no donuts are gifted to you (forcing you to say no thank you). The best situation for your success is to have a few people join you. Form a lunch club that brings lunch to share, invite a few friends to get together and prep crock-pot starters, have a few contacts in your phone that you can text when tired/confused/overwhelmed/hangry and in need of support.
  9. COOK!! To nourish yourself and your loved ones is the greatest gift you can give. It’s an art. It’s chemistry. It’s love. It’s power. Find a cookbook that you love, and use it. Scroll through a few food blogs that fit your way of life. Invite over friends and family and cook for others. Invite no one over and cook everything for yourself. Fall in love with your favorite pan. Ogle over a new wooden spoon. Get your best chef’s knife sharpened. Learn the definition of mire poix. Learn how to chiffonade basil. Grate your own cheese. Buy high quality salt and keep it in a beautiful jar.
  10. Enjoy the process! It isn’t easy, but it is so worth it. Eliminating or reducing the amount of processed food you eat can lead you down all sorts of new, healthy paths. Each little step you take leads to another.

My personal testimony is proof that by taking little steps and making little tweaks to your lifestyle choices, in a matter of months you will be in a very different and very positive place. Truly, what I eat now versus what I ate six years ago is night and day different. I’m still taking little steps and making little tweaks. That, to me, is the power and the fun of striving for health and happiness. Onward!

 

RESOURCES:

It always helps to have lots of resources when making a change. Here are a few of my go-to places for support and information.

100 Days of Real Food Blog- Awesome story. Fun family. Fantastic blog with tons of resources.

100 Days of Real Food Cookbook (affiliate link)

The Gracious Pantry Blog – Clean eating recipes for just about everything!

Oh She Glows Blog – Beautiful vegan recipes that everyone will love.

The Oh She Glows Cookbook (affiliate link)

Against All Grain Blog – Fail-proof grain-free recipes. Great site.

Against All Grain’s Meals Made Simple Cookbook  (affiliate link)

Eating Rules Blog – Champion of the October Unprocessed Campaign

Lean.Green.Kitchen Blog – That’s right, this entire blog is dedicated to this topic! Whether it be the truth about what’s actually in “natural flavors” or how to clean up nacho cheese dip for the Halloween buffet or why I bought a cow, this site is here to share all I’ve learned along my food journey with all who are interested.

The Lean.Green.Kitchen Facebook Page – Lots of ideas, inspiration and resources.

 

Need help? Just ask! This is my FAVORITE TOPIC and I love to share with and support others making this step. Go get ‘em! In fact I’ve written my Six Beginner Steps to Real Food – maybe that’d be a good place to start!

6 Steps to Real Food

It’s October. Let’s Enjoy Treats, Not Mindlessly Gorge on Them. We Can Do This!

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Welcome to October. This past week I had a little a-ha moment and wanted to share, in case it resonants with you as well.

Last weekend I made a few homemade treats for my husband’s birthday. It was so fun and so easy because I used ingredients that included sugar, flour and cream. With these ingredients everything was basically guaranteed to turn out dreamily (and it did!) I made brownies, cookies and chocolate ice cream – all the birthday boy’s favorites.

Then we had a few people over and we ate them. The end.

It should be the end, right? That’s how treats work in the perfect world:

  • There is something celebratory going on.
  • A person lovingly makes a special food using pronounceable ingredients.
  • A group of people come together and enjoy the treat in accompaniment with other fun activities.
  • And then we move on in our lives back to nutrient-rich conscious eating for our health.

But this is October, so that’s not how treats will roll out for most of us.

  • We will be bombarded with little packaged candies in every house, school and work cubby,
  • Pinterest-worthy Halloween themed treats will be at every event (big or small), and
  • Pumpkin spiced sugary hot drinks will somehow be desired and easily obtained every day.

I encourage us all to make this October the month we evaluate our mindless treat eating and drinking habits.

  • If you don’t feel like your energy is as high as you’d like it,
  • if your immunity is not as strong as you would like it,
  • if your belly is not as tight as you would like it,
  • if your mood is not as peppy as you would like it…

… then you may wish to experiment with turning treats back into what they were designed to be: a special celebratory accompaniment to other fun activities made and consumed with happiness and love. If consuming a treat won’t make you feel wonderful in every way, then SKIP IT!

If you love baking, hot sweet drink consuming, and the smell of pumpkin spice, then use your powers for good and make beautiful, autumn-y, cleaned-up, nutrient-rich, real foods using ingredients that build us up and power us forward. Here are a few of my recommendations:

Pumpkin Spice Mini Muffins from the Gracious Pantry — I use whole eggs or flax “eggs.” Egg whites are so 2000.

Pumpkin Spice Granola from Sally’s Baking Addiction — I say ditch the egg whites and use two extra tablespoons of coconut oil.

Upside Down Apple Tartlets from Elana’s Pantry found on Rubies and Radishes — Just go look at these. They are beautiful!! (I haven’t made them, just drooled on my computer over them.)

Pumpkin Spice Creamer from Coconut Mama — I don’t even like coffee and this looks yummy. I’m going to add it to my Chai tea!

Healthy Halloween Treats on Pinterest — There are SO many great ideas for ways to incorporate Halloween into your food without sky-diving out of a plane into ProcessedFoodTown and/or SugarVille. If you have the time, energy and creative spirit to throw a little holiday fun into your October, then I say you do it! And this Pinterest link leads to hundreds of ideas to get you started.

candy rain This is what SugarVille and ProcessedFoodTown looks like when the candy rains down. ;)

Enjoy October everyone!

 

Interested in the Lean.Green.Kitchen’s Halloween Manifesto? You’ll find it here:

Halloween Manifesto  Halloween Manifesto

Musings from my Facebook break

Facebook Break

In an effort to regain my balance with technology, I turned Facebook off for the past three days. You can read all about why I did it in the post: Why I’m Turning Facebook Off for Three Days. During this time, I kept a journal of what was coming up for me. Here are some excerpts:

  • This morning I woke up wanting to talk to you. I felt disconnected, but from who? I couldn’t actually come up with a name.
  • Today I wanted to share my amazement that Tori Amos is 50. I wanted to say, “Yay, Lean.Green.Kitchen is a sponsor for a local event tonight and I put on jewelry!” I wanted to see what everyone was up to this weekend. I wanted to find an old recipe that I posted on the FB page a few weeks ago. I wanted to share that I cut my finger doing something so stupid. But I didn’t. Instead I completed many tasks that I’ve been meaning to get to (for months!) undistracted. I stayed engaged throughout the work, with no pop-ups on my screen alerting me to FB.
  • I must let go of the desire to see it all and know it all. My friends are much too dynamic, interesting and complex for me to know all about them in any moment of time. It is unreasonable and damaging to me and them to make that a goal.
  • Facebook is a way to be connected. For those of us who spend hours alone or with others we wouldn’t choose to be with, it offers a safe place to share, support and “see” loved ones. We are able to bear witness to each other in struggle, celebrations and the mundane. We can feel close when we are far. This has value. It becomes an issue however, when we are in situations where we are surrounded (physically) with those we love and we lose connection with them because of our attention to screens.
  • On my personal page, I love connecting with so many people I care about. I also love sharing my little world. I know it brings my family joy to see my kids growing up in real time.
  • Professionally, the Lean.Green.Kitchen page provides me a place to share my real food journey with others who are interested. I have always flourished in likeminded teams with shared goals, and the FB page is a friendly place for sharing ideas and inspiration. From day one it has been a safe place for me to open up about my passion for conscious eating for my family. Facebook connects me in a way that Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram can’t.
  • Today in the car with my husband, instead of talking about whatever I was seeing in my Facebook newsfeed, we chatted about what was important to us and had a very sweet conversation about our kids and their future. It was not a conversation that ever would have flowed from a Facebook feed.
  • My personal norm became a need to respond quickly to things. I set that as an expectation and now I need to reset it. This is not reasonable and it causes me unnecessary stress. If someone connects with me through FB, I will get to it in a timely manner, not an immediate manner.
  • Today I reached out to a few people individually and had some fun interactions. I made a future lunch date with a long distance friend and read a book I’ve been real excited about for months.
  • I was laser-focused on the computer and made a list of several things I’ve been meaning to do. I was able to get in and accomplish them in a timely fashion. I didn’t have the feeling that time had been wasted. I didn’t have to come back later to complete tasks, because I hadn’t been distracted from anything. Winning!
  • My morning began quicker. I was not distracted by 400 friends while getting myself and the kids ready for the day. I didn’t multi-task and instead began the day in bed with a mini “peace-is-within-me” meditation. It took one minute and I hopped out of bed, versus the 10, 12, maybe 15 minutes it usually takes me to compulsively scroll FB before I let myself get up.
  • I check my email a few times a day, but that gets boring pretty quickly.
  • Before bed I watched Modern Family with Matthew, something I normally might have done with the laptop open to Facebook for additional stimulation. It was really nice to just chill and watch the show without being bombarded by the world around me. I went to bed without a “final check” of Facebook, and wrote a few notes, read a few pages and fell asleep feeling very centered.
  • I reach for my phone constantly throughout the day, and then just set it back down. There is nothing triggering me without the Facebook app.
  • In (my favorite movie of all time) The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya whispers, “I want my father back, you son of a bitch” as he kills the man who senselessly murdered his father. In this one sentence you hear all of his pain and longing. Today, on my final of three days without Facebook, I find myself looking at my turned off phone and whispering, “I want my minutes back, you son of a bitch,” with the same intensity. It was crazy how many times I touched my phone and then remembered, there’s nothing to do here.

 

So now the real test begins. My Facebook absence made two things very clear: I enjoy the connections I make on Facebook. I over-use Facebook as a distraction and it leads to imbalance in my life.

I must develop new norms for my Facebook use, beginning with a structure that I can use to keep me in check until I develop new habits. This will be a process – here are some things I am trying:

  1. No Facebook in my bedroom.
  2. Reinstall the Facebook app on my smart phone and keep it in a folder on the last page of apps, making it hidden and harder to access.
  3. Separate time chunks for Lean.Green.Kitchen page management and personal page check-ins.
  4. Conscious attention towards not worrying about seeing “everything.”
  5. Facebook Free Day each week.

We’ll see where this leads…

Why I’m turning Facebook off for three days

**When I read this post after writing it, I thought to myself that this is a not-so-pretty window into my Facebook struggle, and it doesn’t show me in the best light. I decided to share it anyway, because it is real and important. I am not alone in Facebook over-use, so maybe this will help someone else recognize where they are with social media. I feel like I need to say upfront that I love Facebook and think it has the potential to be used in a healthy way for the betterment of humans. But like anything, it can be abused.

If you are a first timer here at the Lean.Green.Kitchen, you may be thinking two things. One, what does this have to do with the kitchen? And my response is that as a part of the Lean.Green.Kitchen’s Spring Fling Challenge, we’ve gone a little broader in our scope this month to focus on two things in addition to our regular real food programming: self-care and cleaning up for summer. This post is all about the self-care. You can read about the Spring Fling here. Two, you might be wondering who I am, as this post is just a little piece of me (and certainly not the piece I’m most proud of). For that, I’d refer you to other posts (like this one and this one) where I feel like the brighter, more positive pieces of myself shine through.**


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It’s gotten to be too much. I am officially maxed out on Facebook. And it is all my own fault. My wish to know what everyone is up to, to stay on top of my favorite blogs, to share my little corner of the world is mixing with my compulsive, maybe even addictive characteristics and altering my daily life.

For a little background, I know I cannot play phone games (I tried Jewels with Buddies, SongPop, DrawSomething, Words with Friends and others I can’t remember the names) because it is like a vortex where I must be on top of the game at all times. I feel good when I’ve got my rounds all played and feel bad when I get behind. This ain’t right people. They are games. Not jobs. Not kids. Not important in any way. But I would end up with visions of their screenshots flashing in my dreams at night while I slept, sometimes even waking me up to play. True story. So now I don’t play any of them. (I haven’t played one round of Candy Crush, it appears to be instantly habit-forming.) And lately I’ve started to realize that Facebook might be my new obsessive game of choice. And it worries me, greatly. So I put together this list of the ways my Facebook time is impacting my life and it just flowed out like that little voice in the back of my mind was saying, “so glad you asked.”

Here are the reasons why I’m taking a three-day power nap from Facebook for my Spring Fling Challenge #selfcare.

  1. Physically: The repetitive motion of moving my thumb to roll through post after post on Facebook multiple times a day has resulted in me actually noticing at the end of a day that my thumb is strained and achy. I believe the Huffington Post called it “Text Claw” and it’s becoming a real thing. I can only assume the long-term effects of how much we all use our phones for social media are not going to be great. Between eye-strain and painful thumbs, I’m thinking an intervention sooner than later seems appropriate. I do not wish to be a forty-something with Text Claw, that sounds embarrassing.
  2. Emotionally: Have you heard the term FOMO? It stands for Fear Of Missing Out, and the definition states that it is: anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website. Now, I really don’t have “classic” FOMO, because my need for partying is very small. But I do identify with the fact that after reading and observing Facebook, my brain short circuits because it wants to do and try so many things. For every recipe that I try, home improvement/decorating tip I attempt, cause I deem worthy, there are tens, hundreds, maybe even thousands that I don’t get to and feel emotionally like I’m missing out.
  3. Mentally: Turns out, I can’t be in two brain spaces at once. As much as I attempt to give my kids, husband, family and friends my full attention, sometimes the pull of what’s going on at the Facebook distracts me – even if the screen’s not on. I’m working out my next post in my head, feeling badly for some far-reaching friend’s rough day, wondering if so-and-so had her baby, hoping that my Lean.Green.Kitchen page has secured a few more likes. Some times it feels so crowded in this body with all the chatter, I can’t fathom listening intently to anyone else. But do I take the requisite time and energy to quiet these thoughts? No, because I choose (it’s an unconscious habit, so I find it hard to even use a word like “choose”) instead to read inspirational quotes with awesome fonts (which I truly love) and connect with whoever happens to be plugged in right now about whatever happens to be on the feed right now. Talk about a loss of personal power.
  4. Energetically: I know this little phone has crazy energetic waves that reach out into the “interwebs” and bring me information and connection. My massage therapist finally talked me into putting the phone in airplane mode at night because she is so sure those energy waves negatively impact sleep patterns. I am concerned that we don’t know the ramifications of being so close to this radiation all.the.time. I’m not really enjoying feeling like a smart phone guinea pig.
  5. Spiritually: As a human who thrives on being grounded and centered, Facebook has moved away from being a life enhancer and into being a crutch. A way to look busy, avoid slow moments, a cheap connection trick. I turn it on first thing in the morning, literally before my feet hit the ground and the information I gather there becomes my first mood of the day. My feed is filled with lots of amazing things and amazing people so thankfully most days I see good stuff for these ten minutes. The only problem is I have a compulsion to see everything, to get through the feed all the way to where I left it the night before, so I don’t (can’t) take the time to actually read or click or engage in anything that might be fulfilling. So I feel rushed, busy and incomplete before I’ve even gotten out of bed.
  6. Straight up ridiculous: The other day I had a whole debate in my head between which I’d rather have stolen, my car keys/car or my phone. My car costs THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS and GETS ME EVERYWHERE I NEED TO GO, and yet I still thought the phone would hurt more. WAIT, WHAT??

This is not who I want to be. This is not intentional living. This is me working for Facebook, instead of it working for me. This is a bad habit that needs to be dealt with before it becomes something much harder to give up. I’m going #selfcare-cold-turkey and turning Facebook off for the next three days. We’ll see what comes up for me when I no longer have over-stimulation from Facebook. I’m going to put in the effort to not isolate myself from society for the three days, but find new ways (which are my old ways) to engage for a few days. From there I hope to have perspective for a long-term solution. I truly love so much about what Facebook adds to my life, so I would really like to find a healthy place to co-exist with it.

Does any of this resonate with your social media habits or those of a loved one? How do you maintain your balance on Facebook or other social media outlets? What level are you on Candy Crush ;)?

Here are a few links that make me go “hmmmm.”

How Your Cell Phone is Harming Your Health (Infographic)

For Your Children’s Sake, Put Down That Smartphone

9 Common Pursuits that Rob Us of Happiness (Number 6)

Feel Like a Wallflower? Maybe It’s Your Facebook Wall (FOMO)

Screen Free Week (It was actually last week, but you can make it whenever you need it.)

 

Six Beginner Steps to Eat Real Food

This post is dedicated to the person or two a week that ask me where should they start with all this real food business. They want to get off the Standard American Diet, but don’t know where to begin. One baby step at a time, you can make major changes pretty quickly. Here are six steps to get you started.

Let’s just clear something up. My favorite foods include donuts, ice cream and Hawaiian Shaved Ice. I am not a zen guru with a kale-focused-lovingkindness-meditation or a type A hyper-hippie with so much energy that I wake up at 6:00am on Sundays to prep my sprouted grains. I’m quirky, overwhelmed, curious and most importantly, getting real comfortable trying new things. Sometimes failing. Sometimes winning. :) Real food is for real people.

One mini step at a time, I have transformed what my family eats. I went to culinary school, I aced a nutrition class, I plowed through health/fitness and food books, magazines, blogs, and even research papers that I barely understood. All just brought up more questions.

It was only through questioning the classes, the magazine articles, the restaurant ingredients that I came up with new answers. Answers that felt right for me. Every day I get closer to what feels right, which comes with the realization that nutrition is not a one size fits all, and each of us must do the work to figure out what’s best.

I’m talking about eating to thrive, eating to live longer, stronger and more productive lives. I’m sure we all will be confronted by illness & injuries, disorders & disease, that is just part of being a human. But we can meet those challenges with a strong base of health and fitness, with sound minds ready to fight, with an appreciation for what full health feels like so we can do what it takes to regain it.

For me, my seeking keeps coming back to eating – simply – real unprocessed food. And it wouldn’t be so hard, except that our American food system has made these real foods the underdogs in the grocery stores and most restaurants, out-marketed by jazzy packaging, amazing shelf life, tantalizing flavor profiles that purposely play to our deepest desires, and lots of time cheats. These new-fangled laboratory “foods” look cheaper, easier, faster and family-approved. But it’s an Oz-like curtain, and if you pull it back you realize that the corporations producing that “food” make every decision based on profit, and not one decision based on you at your best, thriving. It’s a trick, and the only way to change it is to vote at every meal with your decisions and dollars.

The Lean.Green.Kitchen community is a safe place for people just beginning to look consciously at their food choices AND for people deeply entrenched in their conscious food philosophies, as well as for all those seekers somewhere in the middle still eating the occasional donut and shaved iced. This is my mini list for those interested in beginning to eat real food. See if any of it could be some of your first steps. It could be summarized as Stop Buying Processed Food And Make Your Own. But let’s break that down a little.

Six Beginner Steps you could take today to Eat Real Food:

Step One

1. Ditch the refined table salt and choose a salt that has beautiful trace minerals with it. This is as much about taste as nutrition, as unrefined salt just tastes better in food. It’s also a statement that you are off the refined Morton’s and making high quality changes in your eating. My favorite is Pink Himalayan Sea Salt. Celtic Grey Salt is also unrefined and minimally processed. Unrefined salt has trace minerals in there with the salt. That is nutrient-rich real food. Check out the processed food in your kitchen. Review just how much refined salt is in those products. It’s a lot and it’s junk.

2. Fill up the veggie bins with fresh, seasonal produce. Prep it all in a foodie flourish so you will be compelled to use it all week. Nutrients are hanging out in all that produce. When you can, go organic and relieve your body of the energy necessary to detoxify the pesticides on conventional produce. Dipping your toe in the organic pool? Start with going organic for the Dirty Dozen and sweat less about the Clean 15. And if you can’t go organic, then don’t. Eat lots of veggies anyway. See if you can find a local source for seasonal produce. Farmers Markets, Natural Food Stores, Farm Box Subscriptions (Community Supported Agriculture or CSA) – figure out where they are and visit them.

3. Switch to fats that will fuel your body. Fat is not an enemy. Healthy fats are essential to living long and prospering. Fat is critical for proper body functions and especially important for your brain. I, for one, would like my brain (and my kids’ brains) fully functioning. I already can barely remember which kid I named what and there are only two of them. Let’s keep these brain cells happy. Say no to industrialized vegetable oils (corn, canola, soy, etc) and margarine (which are in pretty much every processed food because they are cheap, cheap, cheap) – these fats are not in the business of building thriving bodies. Say yes to real foods like avocados, coconut oil, nuts and olive oil and real fat from animals not pumped with nasty chemicals (think organic butter, full fat dairy, ghee, lard, tallow) – all are thriving body work-horses.

4. Take a look at sugar. That processed food lurking in your kitchen is filled with hidden sugars, to make sure you buy that box of “food” again. The corporations want your money, and are not interested in supporting your awesomeness with body building nutrients. This step is to make the transition away from processed sugars into the world of real food - honey and maple syrup being my favorite sweet places to land. Dates and ripe fruit work nicely too for sweetness. A little cane sugar is pretty easily processed by a healthy body. Problem is, when your diet consists of processed foods, it is never just a little – it’s a constant.

5. Meat, dairy and eggs are real food. But what happens when we create horrendous conditions for the animals, pump them full of toxic chemicals and inhumanely kill them? In my opinion, they no longer meet my personal requirements as real food (as well as my moral standards for treatment of animals). So the step here is to begin researching where your meat, dairy and eggs come from and start looking for better sources. For my household this meant reducing the amount of meat we ate, so we could afford high quality sourced meat. It also means that I make our yogurt and kefir, in order to afford the quality and quantity we consume.

6. Get a crock-pot and a cookbook. Here’s where the rubber meets the road. This process starts with getting the right food in your home. But it only works if you actually eat it. Like me, you might not be a master chef right off the bat if you’ve been relying on boxed, bagged and pre-cooked meals for your adult life. It’s a process that involves… trying. That’s all. Starting with a cookbook that fits your tastes and a crock pot that can have food ready for you when you are hungry is a really wonderful place to start.

When asked what I eat, I like to share the motto of this blog, I “eat (real) good food.” When you stop buying processed food and start making your own, I promise you will feed yourself better than the food corporations. And the effort will be well worth it.

When you look at what you are thinking about eating, ask yourself, “does this build up my health or make my body work harder to process out toxins?” If “we are what we eat,” then it makes a lot of sense to choose nutrient-rich, whole foods.

There is always a next step on the real food journey. And I just keep taking the next one that catches my attention. What steps would you recommend for those just starting on THEIR real food journey? What is your next step on YOUR food journey?

Need support and recipe ideas? Join our Facebook community or check out our Pinterest boards. Together this process is much more fun!

 

Here are some bonus tips and resources:

 

 

 

Leah’s Love of Loose Leaf Tea

 

Leah with Loose Leaf Tea

In honor of my daughter’s seventh birthday this week, I thought I’d share this fun foodie adventure we took last week. Leah is my toughest critic around here, and the least food-adventurous of our bunch, so her love of our recent Chinese Tea Tasting at Vital Tea Leaf in Chinatown, San Francisco just makes me smile.

Loose Leaf Tea

Uncle Gee, the face of the Vital Tea Leaf company in San Francisco (and Seattle, I think) made quite an impression as he and Ming, his delightful assistant, made my family of four round after round of Chinese teas prepared traditionally while teaching us all about the joys of loose leaf tea. We went home with three of those we sampled and the following two conversations have taken place since:

  • It’s early morning and I’m asleep. Leah comes in quietly and says, “Mom, can you turn on the stove for me? I’d like to make myself a cup of Lychee Black.”
  • I’ve made my son a cup of tea before school. He has doctored it with a few drops of stevia. Leah says, “DEAN, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? You know you ruin the tea by adding sweeteners!”

So Leah has become our resident loose leaf chinese tea expert (and she makes a crazy good cup of Lychee Black). Are you a fan of the loose leaf tea? We are hooked!

Check out this great video if you’d like to see more Vital Tea Leaf propaganda and meet Uncle Gee. It’s so fun!

Happy Birthday Leapy-Lou!

 

Share LOVE not sugar.

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Be a part of the movement this Valentine’s Day (and beyond): Share LOVE not sugar.

Every six and seven-year-old first grader does not have to come home on Friday with 30 pieces of processed junky valentine candy! Let’s change this up.

Really, that little six or seven-year-old would be thrilled with… hugs, kind words, little notes, new pencils, silly jokes, temp tattoos, pet rocks, homemade play-dough, play date invitations, new songs and dances…

Every wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, mom, or dad does not need a huge box of chocolates that you grabbed to fulfill your Valentine’s duty…

If they truly love chocolate, find a beautiful piece of chocolate that is gorgeous beyond all things imaginable (they are out there, I assure you) from a little chocolatier and make it really special. Or make your own sweet healthy Valentine’s treat. Add a love note, some special time, a foot massage, a homemade meal, a special place or song, add some YOU! (And if they don’t love chocolate, skip it and think about what they would really enjoy.)

Every co-worker, friend, teacher, coach does not need heart-shaped candies, grab-a-mini-candy-bar bowl, decorated sugar cookies, dessert buffets, “just a little treat”…

They need your smile, your patience, your time, your understanding, and maybe a little extra Valentine’s gratitude in the form of a call, a text, an email, a note, a hug.

Be creative. Be thoughtful. Be inventive. Be loving. Share LOVE not sugar.

I challenge you to find a special way to show you care without stepping into the candy aisle of Target. And I’m not talking about spending loads of money or time either. You can keep it simple, cheap and fun, I just know you can!

Let’s fill up the comments with many, many ideas for showing our love this Valentine’s Day. Ready. Go. Share LOVE not sugar.

Here are some places to fire up that creativity:

Here are a few other posts where I’ve dished on sugar:

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Five Real Food Changes for 2014

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Last week I reflected on all the real food mini changes I made in 2013 that resulted in a major overall of my kitchen. The changes were slow and steady to avoid becoming overwhelmed (which is the surest way to stop me in my tracks). You can read all about it in my post, Five Real Food Changes I Made in 2013.

This is the post I’ve been excited to write, because I love new years and fresh starts and resolutions. I love that I write lists of things I’d like to do and start all of them with gusto, knowing only a few of them may stick. I ran a marathon once because of a new year’s resolution, completed a triathlon, got out of debt, ordered my first farm box, got a cat, decided it was time for a baby, went to culinary school… you see where I’m going with this. If I can use this resolution-y magic in the late December air for my personal good, where’s the harm? Notice I didn’t mention all the things on past resolution lists that I never achieved. That’s because I don’t even remember them. It, apparently, wasn’t meant to be!

My new year’s resolutions are many, so here are the five real food changes that made the list.

  1. Clean up the condiments. The refrigerator reflects all the work we’ve done to clean up our food and kick processed food out. Except when your eye shifts to the door shelves. The condiments have changed brands, gone organic even in many cases, but still are filled with too much sugar and preservatives. I made BBQ sauce for Christmas Eve dinner and it was easy and delicious, so what’s holding me back? Mayo will be the hardest, because it really can’t be made in advance. But it is the most important to me, because I cannot find a version that is made without canola or soybean oil.
  2. Eat less wheat. Choose sprouted and fermented wheat whenever possible. Even though our family doesn’t seem to have a gluten intolerance, I can’t find any reason for continuing to eat wheat as a main staple in our diet. It is hard on digestion and supports inflammation. This change is the mini step to eliminating wheat and maybe even most grains. Just beginning my research into all of this.
  3. Increase daily vegetable consumption. We are a fruit first household, and I’m surely the driving force behind this. It helps me not miss sugar so much. But reflecting back, we need to increase our vegetable intake.  The kids (and I) will happily eat veggies if they are ready to eat on a snack tray. So we need to make that a new habit. Sneak them in and keep it easy, that’s the plan. In addition, I’m going to make salads for myself for lunch ahead of time. If I could grab a salad ready to go out of the fridge, I’d be thrilled.
  4. Find a local raw milk source. This one has been challenging me for a long time. I’m really hoping 2014 is the year we find a raw milk connection that works for us. If this happens I want to make my own cheese. Now we are really shooting for the stars!!
  5. Perhaps my strangest goal for the year is to stop using harsh chemicals on my skin. I’m hoping to use my real food knowledge and pantry to overhaul my bathroom cabinet. From hair care to facial care, dental care to make-up, I’ve got lots to work on with this one. In 2013 I started making my own deodorant and began using coconut oil for lotion to support my internal detox. It opened my eyes to how many chemicals I use externally every day. Here’s to externally detoxing in 2014!

Do you have any mini real food changes on your resolution list this year? I hope you make Lean.Green.Kitchen a part of it! Happy New Year everyone. I wish for health and happiness for all of us.

Green Juice Shots all around… Cheers!

Five Real Food Changes I Made in 2013

2013

As 2013 finishes up, I can’t help but reflect on the crazy real food progress I’ve made over the past 12 months. I’ve worked on so many mini changes to what I eat during this year that it has resulted in a pretty major overhaul of my family’s kitchen. Much of the journey has been documented on this blog, which I started in April after several years of researching, cooking and sharing healthy food.

It has been such a pleasure to share my experience with you. This blog has connected me with so many on your own real food journeys, and made me feel a little less alone and even less like a kooky food nutter. I know that the Lean.Green.Kitchen community is all over the map in their views and dedication to real food. We embrace anyone making conscience decisions around their food choices and support and encourage everyone to figure out their next steps and take them. And this definitely includes me.

Without further ado, here are the five biggest real food changes I made this year.

5. I stopped buying 90% of the processed food I had been purchasing. This was a major reduction, because I had already massively cut out processed food over the prior few years. It mostly entailed kids snacks, and “special treats.” I spent the year focusing on cleaning up the kids’ food, which resulted in them eating lots of popcorn and fruit for snacks and homemade treats. We realized that if it’s not in the house, we don’t eat it. A smart way to get out of (some) kid food battles – don’t have anything battle-worthy in the pantry.

4. I switched all our dairy to full fat organic sources. I even splurged a few times and bought raw whole milk. Hubster buys wine, I buy raw milk. Everyone’s got their thing. :) I stopped buying ultra pasteurized products. I sent a few emails attempting to find a raw milk local source, but haven’t had any luck yet. I’ve opened myself up to the universe to find a reasonably priced raw milk source, so fingers crossed for 2014!

3. I stopped cooking and baking with vegetable oils. I now use extra virgin olive oil for my cold oil needs and organic butter, coconut oil, tallow (from my bone broth making) and bacon drippings (from million dollar high quality bacon) for everything else. These traditional fats are not only delicious, they are nutritious and essential for brain maintenance. Our family jokes that the healthiest thing about our whole wheat toast is the beautiful butter on top of it.

2.  I sourced the majority of our meats and eggs. I bought a cow for butchering and found local sources for eggs. It was a life changing process. We eat meat and eggs from animals who lived quality lives and honor them with our energy, health and vitality. We no longer support (with our money) deplorable animal living conditions and nutrient-depleted chemical-full meat options.

1. Anyone who follows Lean.Green.Kitchen on Facebook will not be surprised by my number one real food change this year. I have become a wee bit obsessed with the process of fermentation and the amazing role that our gut health plays in our overall health. Through this transformative process I have sipped the Kombucha kool-aid and now find my house filled with homemade kefir, yogurt and Kombucha as well as probiotics, sauerkraut, bone broth, sourdough and real deal fermented pickles. After so many years of eating a diet filled with depleted dead food, it has been an exploratory adventure to become friends with yeasts and bacteria. I think the answer to many of our modern-day health issues could be remedied with attention to cultivating the good bacteria in our gut. This has been revolutionary in my real food journey, and I have so much more to learn!

So I am absolutely thrilled that 2014 is upon us as I move forward and learn and change, and learn and change, and learn and change. I’m working on my list of mini changes for the new year, and will be sharing them soon. Hope you will join me!

Have a wonderful final week of 2013. If you have made any real food changes in 2013 due (in any small part) to the influence or inspiration of this blog, I would LOVE to hear about them. It has been true joy to hear your stories along the way. My phone is full of photos of your trials, emails with questions, and celebratory “wahoos” via text or Facebook when you’ve succeeded with something new. I love it! Keep them coming.

 

 

My friends, it is November!

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Welcome to November. Now here is a month I can really get behind. A month famous for gratitude, crispy cool days, a connection to big family, and lots of real real real food.

It is a month where getting more sleep makes complete sense (the cozy bed is calling and the hustle/bustle hasn’t started) and soup – my favorite food of all – is considered good form for every meal. My gosh, for someone who is in love with the color of food, the apples, every kind of squash, citrus, greens, beets, persimmons are just dazzling! Inspiring! Spirit-building! I mean, come on, is there anything more perfectly Pinterest-y than pomegranates?

May a chai tea warm your chilly mornings, a friend/child/pet provide you a snuggle, and a beautiful nourishing soup grace your table as many days as possible in November.

Here are a few things we could do to pull the most out of this month.

  1. Make our own vegetable, chicken and beef broth to provide base after base for the copious amount of soup we’ll be making over the next few months.
  2. Roast some pumpkin seeds.
  3. Take a nap.
  4. Read a book.
  5. Take a walk.
  6. Discover a new seasonal fruit or vegetable and make it a part of a meal.
  7. Make a pie using all real ingredients.
  8. Find a source for meat and dairy that fits with your beliefs for the treatment of animals.
  9. Research sources of produce in line with your beliefs for the treatment of farm workers and sustainability of the Earth.
  10. Be grateful for every meal.
  11. Discover your favorite variety of organic apple. Conduct a family taste test.
  12. Go to bed early a few nights in a row to rediscover what it feels like to be rested.
  13. Purge things you don’t need, use or love out of your home to make breathing space.
  14. Aim to use small amounts of higher quality products instead of overindulging in lesser quality products. (Meat, honey, olive oil quickly come to mind.)
  15. Build up a pantry that can be used to make quick nutrient-rich meals on days when you might normally grab fast/processed food.
  16. Think about your upcoming food traditions. Can you make any changes to them to amp up the nutrients and weed out the processed ingredients?

I’d love to hear your November successes! Please share here or on the Facebook page. Need any help with a November real food situation? Share it with me – I’m happy to be a part of your real food research team!

Hope you all realize how grateful I am for your readership. The Lean.Green.Kitchen community is a safe, positive place for real life people to come together to celebrate the awesomeness of real food. Hope you feel it out there coming through your interwebs!

Much love in November and beyond…

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