Broccoli Blitz Smoothie

Do you ever get in a green smoothie rut?  Smoothies are the main way I get my kiddos to eat green vegetables, especially leafy greens, but sometimes it gets a little monotonous to use the same ingredients every time. I looked up some recipes from Green Smoothie Girl and wanted to try one new smoothie a week.  The first one I tried is called Broccoli Blitz.  It’s from her book, “Green Smoothies Diet” book found here.  I was a little hesitant because you know broccoli’s reputation with the digestive system…haha.  BUT it actually turned out to be pretty tasty.  Tornado sees me drinking these and then begs for mine (mostly because I think he likes the cup I have with a straw and it’s fun to drink out of).  But he DRAINS it every time.  This time was no different.  It makes a huge batch, and I just kept the remainder in the fridge until the next day and we all divided it among ourselves.  Even cool Aunt Zoe got in on the action.  Everyone liked it – you can’t even really taste the broccoli.  Without further adieu  here is the recipe:

Broccoli Blitz Smoothie

  • 2 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup raw agave
  • 2 cups broccoli
  • spinach
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 cups pineapple
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 cups berries

Combine water, agave and broccoli and blend until smooth.  I did not have agave, but you can use sugar, or a little bit of sugar.  Next add spinach until it reaches the 6 cup line (about 2 cups of spinach), and blend.  Then add oranges, pineapple, bananas, and berries.  Blend until smooth.  Enjoy!

Drugs During Pregnancy

I ran across this article the other day and felt so many emotions – shock, anger, frustration, helplessness, and mostly sadness.  It is basically a drug that will be given to obese pregnant women so that their babies will not be born fat.  Does this not sit right with anyone else??  One time I got a really bad cold/cough and I was still nursing my baby.  I called the Dr. to see if there was anything I could take since it kept me up all night long.  She said no.  Before I hung up I said, “But I can take cough drops, right?”  I was shocked when she said “Absolutely not.”  They seem so harmless.  If we can’t even take cough drops while nursing, shouldn’t that scare us about taking anything at all while we are pregnant?  And a drug for ensuring your baby comes out leaner just seems weird…what are the longterm effects?  And it doesn’t really get at the root of the problem, right?  I wish somehow that we could all see there is no quick fix for these things.  Being healthy is a permanent lifestyle change.  Anyway, keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn’t get passed!

Book Summary – The China Study, Part 1 Continued

Chapter 4:  Lessons from China

  • In the early 1970’s a survey was conducted in the entire country of China, which revealed that cancer was geographically localized.  In some areas, cancer rates were 100 times the rates of the lower areas (in the U.S. we see at most 2 to 3 times, so 100 times is enormous).
  • Why?  This was the beginning of “The China Study.”
  • In the USA, 15-16% of total calories comes from protein (80% of that protein is animal protein), and in rural China, only 9-10% total calories come from protein (only 10% of that is from animal sources).
  • The Chinese are consuming an average of 2641 calories, with 14.5% fat, and Americans are consuming 1989 calories with 38% fat.   The Chinese eat higher calories, less fat, less protein, less animal protein, more fiber, and more iron.
  • Diseases of Affluence (Nutritional Extravagance): Cancer, Diabetes, Coronary Heart Disease
  • Diseases of Poverty (Nutritional Inadequacy and Poor Sanitation):Pneumonia, Ulcers, Digestive Diseases, Tuberculosis, Parasitic Diseases, Rheumatic Heart Disease.  Notice no cancer!
  • One of the strongest predictors of Western Diseases (diseases of affluence) is blood cholesterol.
  • Lower blood cholesterol levels are linked to lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and other western diseases.
  • Many prominent heart doctors have never seen a heart disease fatality among their patients with a blood cholesterol level below 150.
  • Nutrients from plant-based foods are associated with decreasing levels of blood cholesterol.
  • There is a lot of confusion among scientists regarding questions with dietary fat – how much, what kind, Omega-6 or 3, what kinds of oils are okay, etc.  When details are studied in isolation, results can be misleading.  We need to look at how networks of chemicals behave instead.
  • Only 2-3% of all cancers are attributed to genes.  The rest are strongly influenced by diet.
  • There is an interesting relationship with dietary fat and breast cancer.  Higher fat can influence early menstruation, high cholesterol, late menopause, and higher exposure to female hormones.  This can extend the reproductive life from beginning to end by 9-10 years.  This extra decade of exposure to hormones can greatly influence a woman’s risk of breast cancer.
  • A large survey in China revealed that the average age of a woman’s first period was 15-19 years old.  In America, the average age is 11.
  • The more colorful your produce, the higher antioxidant levels, which shield you from free-radicals (cancer-causing agents).
  • Again, the benefits do not lie in an individual nutrient or mineral, but in the whole food.
  • Don’t reach for a vitamin.  Eat it in a fruit or vegetable instead.
  • The Atkins diet reaks havoc on your system.  Don’t do it.
  • The low-carb diet craze is unfortunate.  Carbs are our friends.  Just make sure they are from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.    Many people think they are eating a healthy vegetarian diet by eating lots of pastas, highly processed crackers and chips, white flour, etc.  This is the reason carbs have gotten a bad rap.  That is the stuff that puts on weight and doesn’t add nutritional value.
  • Chinese are more physically active than Americans.  Their calorie intake is 30% higher, yet their body weight is 20% lower.
  • They are eating the right foods (plant-based protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains) and riding their bikes!

Frustrated

Blogs are a weird thing because you can kind of be an “alter-ego.”  You can post about the very best things and parts of life, and readers go on getting depressed that they don’t have the picture-perfect marriage, the most attractive and obedient children, the cutest house, the most exciting lifestyle, the best recipes, and the hardest body.  It’s like keeping up with the Joneses but worse and way more in your face.  I like to keep it real because I think it helps other people relate, and it makes everyone feel better.  So I have a confession:

I fed my kids Hot Pockets for dinner on Friday.  Say WHAAAAAAAT?  Yup.  We had a free coupon a while back so they were just sitting in the freezer “for emergencies.”  I guess I thought I’d never break them open.  Friday was a pretty good day, but by 5:00 I was completely out of steam and when I got a call from The Mr. saying he wouldn’t be home for a while, I just couldn’t muster up the energy to make a dinner from scratch (plus we literally had zero food in the house).  The little angel and devil popped up on my shoulders.  “How about Hot Pockets?”  “NOOOOOOO!  I can’t feed that to my babies!”  But guess what, sometimes we have to give ourselves a break.  Do I usually give my kids lots of nutritious yummy foods?  Yes.  Are they happy and healthy?  Yes.  Is one tiny hot pocket over the course of their childhood going to give them colon cancer?   No.  So I did it.  It was done in 60 seconds and devoured in the same amount of time.  And I smiled and I felt fine.   So there you have it.  Granola Mom isn’t perfect.  Give yourselves a break and just do the best you can!

So on to the next topic.  I am extremely frustrated and completely stressed out.  I heard somewhere that if you read 10 books on one subject you are considered an expert.  So what happens if you read twice as many nutrition books and you are more confused than before you read any thing at all?  I am so sick of not knowing who/what is right and feeling guilty despite my best efforts to provide good nutrition for my family.  In the past month alone I have read/watched/skimmed/listened to the following arguments, from very passionate researchers, who all provided convincing arguments:

1.  Animal protein is extremely bad for you and will cause cancer.

2.  High-quality animal protein is beneficial to optimal health.

3.  All dairy needs to be cut out of diet.  This will cure many diseases.  Don’t ever feed your baby or children cow’s milk.

4.  “My father-in-law is a Pediatric Neurologist and he says all children should drink whole milk until the age of 12.”

5.  Whole grains are the best kind to eat, but not “modern and processed” whole grains.

6.  A book called “Wheat Belly” just came out that claims ALL grains are bad for you, and they are what is keeping Americans fat.

7.  Pasteurized milk is healthy.

8.  Pasteurizing milk kills important bacteria and enzymes that are needed for nutrients to be properly absorbed.  Drink raw milk instead.

9.  My pediatrician told me Tornado needs to drink 3 pediasures a day to be on the right weight curve, and if his weight is not where she wants it in a month she is re-testing him for allergies, Cystic Fibrosis (which he does not have), Celiacs, or other digestive disorders.

10. The very next day I took him to a dietician who told me that he was perfectly fine and healthy, especially for a baby who was breastfed and that 2 pounds gained in 2 months was “awesome.”  She sees hundreds of babies with the very same issue where the dr. is freaking out because they are not on “traditional curves” compared to formula fed babies.  It isn’t necessary to give him any pediasure.  Just real food and real fats.

11.  Give fluoride to your children.  It will prevent cavities

12.  Flouride is poison.

13.  The food guide pyramid is what you should eat.

14.  You will never know the truth about nutrition, because the government health programs are so corrupt that it will never be permitted to be printed.

So my friends, what is a mother to do?  Should I just stop listening to all these different sources with conflicting information (and the research to back it up) and just go with my intuition?  I literally stress out any time I think about giving my children anything to eat!  It’s insane.  Who do I listen to?   Do pediatricians really know anything about nutrition?   Real nutrition?  Or are they just taught what the general population is taught (Food Guide Pyramid and all that stuff) which so many activists are against?  Who can I trust?

I suppose that is why I am doing this blog.  Hopefully I can keep learning as I go, and read and study and get more knowledge, but for now, my philosophy is this:

I will feed my family whole foods that I cooked in my own home, as much as I can.  And all those questions…I will let them roll off my back until I gain enough knowledge to feel sure about them.  If I do make changes, I will make them very slowly so as not to get overwhelmed, and that’s as much as I am thinking about it.  The rest of my “worry” time I will spend having fun with the fam and giving myself a break for not being perfect.  Who’s with me?

 

Where to Start?

I have learned from experience that deciding to make nutrition changes in your life is nothing shy of completely overwhelming.  There is so much information out there.  Half of it is wrong, and the other half of it is fanatical/extreme, and we are left to our own devices to try and make sense of it all.  I want to make things a little bit simpler for everyone and for myself as we continue on this process, so that no matter where you are on the health spectrum, you can take one baby step at a time and feel like you are making changes without getting frustrated at the process.  I mentioned before that I only allow myself to make one major change every two months so that it isn’t too shocking for the family, or too overwhelming for me.  That seems to be the right pace for me, in that it makes the changes a bit more permanent, instead of fizzling out after a week or two.  So keep that in mind.  Here is what I have done and up to the point where I am now.

  1. Cut back on eating fast food.  I am going to leave it at that.  I don’t forbid anything, so I won’t say you CAN’T have it, but eat it less and less until it is no longer a consistent habit.  Our family eats fast food about once a quarter.  And when I met The Mr. he was eating it daily, so it is possible to change. 🙂
  2. Repeat that process with soda.  Start with replacing one glass of soda with a glass of water until you barely drink it.  This will make a HUGE impact on how you feel.
  3. Buy whole wheat flour instead of white flour.
  4. Eat brown rice instead of white.
  5. Exchange one meat dish for a vegetarian dish one night a week, working up to several nights a week.  We eat meat about once a week.
  6. Try to get more fruits and veggies in, until you work up to 5 servings a day (or MORE!).  Green smoothies help pack it in in one sitting.
  7. Once eating lots of fresh produce is a habit, get familiar with the dirty dozen and clean fifteen and try to stick to it.
  8. Cut out one processed food a month until you are living pretty processed free.  This last change we made was to stop buying cereal.  I occasionally get it as a snack for the kids, but it is rare.  I have been stuck on this step for quite some time, as I figure out how to make my own crackers, bread, granola, muffins, etc.
  9. Start shopping locally if you can.  Farmers markets, bountiful baskets, CSA’s, and local farms are all great ways to go.
  10. Read up on the way that chicken and cows are being raised, and the hormones, antibiotics, and meat-diets they are on.  Start buying free-range meat.
  11. Along with that step, try organic or local milk and eggs.  There is a HUGE difference in the taste.

This is where I am right now.  I have SO MANY more changes to make (like soaking grains, cutting back on dairy, cutting back on/eliminating sugar, eating kale and collard greens, and finding tasty dinner recipes).  I also try to read a book in the whole foods field about once a month.   How long does that whole process take?  Years.  And it will keep taking years and years until hopefully I will wake up and say “Hey!  We eat pretty healthy!”

I will continue to post updates to this list when I make changes in our lives, and include this post in a tab at the top, so you can continue to change along with me, or check it out at any given time.  I know this list can seem overwhelming depending on where you are on the health spectrum.  It might seem discouraging and you might think my life is completely deprived of flavor and fun, but most of the time, I feel pretty wonderful.  Yes, we do occasionally indulge, and sometimes a little too much, but we feel great.  We have seen major changes in our lives, especially in The Wild One.  Just try it out and take it slow.

This just pertains to nutrition for now, and I will probably address exercise in another post in the future.  Ta Ta!

Processed Foods Defined

I’ve been writing a good deal about this stuff since my 30-day challenge, and I’ve gotten some questions about what my definition of a processed food is.  It’s a complicated question, but here is the process I go through and my philosophy on it all:

1.  Eat food as close to its natural form as possible

The less steps from natural form to your house, the better.  Like if you buy whole wheat flour, it has gone through two steps when the wheat germ was removed and the wheat kernels were ground into flour.  Would I like to buy my own wheat kernels (or better yet grow it in the backyard) and harvest and grind it?  Yes, but it isn’t possible at the moment.  I have to take second best.  More thoughts on the matter:

  • Example:  Corn Chex – What is the natural form?  Corn.  It’s had to go through many many stages to get made into that waffled square, even though it is considered a “healthy” cereal.  Many things were added, many things taken away, many things altered.
  • Example:  Produce –  This is a seemingly easy one.  Obviously an apple’s original form is an apple.  But then think about this…Was it an apple picked from an orchard just a few miles from the store, or was it an apple genetically-engineered to grow larger/faster, sprayed with toxic chemicals, picked green, and ripened on a truck?  Kinda frustrating isn’t it?   This is why I love farmers markets and backyard gardens.
  • Dairy products:  This kind of falls in the same boat as produce.  What is the natural form of cheese?  milk.  Pretty good in my book.  But now I am starting to think about what KIND of cow it came from and what that cow ate, and how it was raised.
  • I don’t have a farm so i am forced to buy some packaged things.  Even buying something very close to its natural form, like peanut butter has to be processed and packaged at a plant.  Which brings me to my next point.  When you have to buy a processed food (meaning bought in a package of some sort) make sure that…

2.  The ingredients on the label are real foods.  No additives or preservatives or things you cannot pronounce.

  • Example:  Bread – Do you know the ingredients of homemade bread?  Flour, Yeast, Salt, Oil, and Honey or Sugar.  Compare that with Sara Lee’s 100% whole wheat bread.  Water, Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour, Wheat Gluten, Cottonseed Fiber, Yeast, Brown Sugar, Salt, Vegetable Oil (Soybean Oil, and/or Cottonseed Oil), Yeast Nutrients (Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Ammonium Sulfate), Dough Conditioners (May Contain One or More of the Following Mono and Diglycerides, Ethoxylated Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Calcium Peroxide), Honey, Wheat Bran, Wheat Protein Isolate, Sulfiting Agents, Vinegar, Natural Flavor, Soy Lecithin, Guar Gum, Sucralose, Cornstarch, L-Cysteine, Sorbic Acid, and Calcium Propionate (Preservatives).  Wow.  This would be considered a “healthy” food by most people.  But what exactly are we consuming?  To be honest, I am not really sure…
  • I think you get the idea here.  Packaged, boxed items that are considered “food”  but that contain mostly manufactured ingredients.


During this challenge, I’ve been trying to make from scratch a lot of things I would normally buy like bread or crackers.  We have all felt wonderful during these last several days.

I’ve made an executive decision, however.  The challenge will now be shortened due to the holidays.  I love the challenge, and I am going to do it again, several times (join in!), but there are just too many traditions that I want the kiddos to be able to participate in, i.e. gingerbread houses, hot chocolate, and candy canes.  It’s the holidays!!  No, we won’t go crazy, and we will continue to limit the processed foods, but a little indulgence this time of year is okay in my book.  You understand.  SO having said that, our last day will be this Friday.  It will have been a 2 week challenge (a very AWESOME two weeks).  Looking forward to the next one.

Low-Fat / Sugar-Free

I recently read a blog post (here) that brought up some things I have been thinking about lately, so I wanted to share.  I’ve been sitting here scouring over the many nutrition books I have in our bookcase trying to find studies and info on this topic, but I can’t!  I will just speak from memory (I hope you don’t mind)…take it for what it’s worth.

I used to be a certified personal trainer.  I only used it a bit, but it frustrated me that there are so many misconceptions in the “health industry” and people have things ingrained in their heads.  It is very difficult to get people to change the way they think, especially if it is the opposite of what they have always heard, and especially when “experts” and the media are constantly throwing them messages.  There’s been a huge “low-fat” craze in America for the past couple decades.  Nutritionists, Scientists, Professors, and even Doctors have been recommending a low-fat diet to boost our health and prevent disease.  The ironic thing is that since the low-fat craze started, we’ve actually gotten fatter and sicker.  I know other factors play a role too, but the low-fat thing has a lot to do with it, in my opinion.  Sugar has been a culprit too and the food industry has come up with all kinds of products to replace it (ie nutrasweet, which ended up in an extensive controversy).  I’ve been thinking a lot about this because for these products to hit the market, people have to mess with the molecular structure of a food.  It can’t be good.  We have been consuming fake food and thinking it’s healthy.  It irks me.  I always envision eating something that is not meant to be eaten, like cardboard.  Can your body digest it?  Yes, but that doesn’t mean that you should eat it, or that it’s good for you.  Although I am convinced that if they added enough things to a piece of cardboard they could get it to taste good.  Slap a few labels on there about it being filled with fiber or protein and we’d have a frenzy in the grocery store.  Tricky guys, those food manufacturers.

Anyway, going back to the low-fat fad, here’s the breakdown:

1.  We need fat.  Our brain is made up of 60% fat, and the neurons inside are wrapped in a sheath made up of mostly fat.  Some vitamins can only be absorbed if fat is present in your diet.  Cell walls in the body have fat that determines the permeability of the cell.  It’s a good thing.

2.  There are good fats and bad fats:  Trans fats are man-made and absolutely HORRIBLE for you.  Avoid them at all costs.  Saturated fats (mostly in animal products) aren’t the best either, but even some studies have not shown a link between saturated fat and diseases.  Eat natural fats mostly produced by plants and you’ll be set.  Nuts, avocados, fresh fish, olive oil, etc.

3.  I won’t go into detail about monounsaturated, polyunsaturated fats or omega-3s or omega-6s, but I will say this:  Fats are made up of a certain number of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms.  Low-fat or sugar-free products have messed with the molecular structure of things: breaking a double bond here, or adding on an atom there, etc.  It changes the shape of the molecules to where the body processes it completely differently.  It’s horrible on your system and horrible for you.

I have not purchased anything low-fat or low-sugar or sugar-free for years and years, and I have also not looked at the nutrition labels (aside from ingredients) for the same amount of time.  Eat real food.  It will not make you fat.  Fake food is the culprit, and the sooner we recognize it, the sooner we can start getting our health back.

Off my soapbox. 🙂

Day 4 of no processed foods went great.  More to report tomorrow.