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Diet Changes Are Hard, Part 3

The struggle is real! Some things are getting easier, some are still difficult.

Recall from parts 1 and 2, we gave up processed and over-refined foods at the beginning of the year, then we gave up diary, eggs, wheat, and peanuts about three months ago (for the background story on that later restrictions see this post).  Here’s an update on our progress…

First, the good. Dinners have become much less of a struggle than they were a couple months ago. We’ve found a few meals that are guaranteed hits, greatly reducing sorrow from both the diners and the chef. Kiddo1 has also been slightly more willing to try some foods, as long as each meal is served with at least one thing that he likes already. He’s much more willing to try a vegetable if it is served alongside the chicken he loves. And we found a vegan ranch dressing with which he’ll eat almost any veggie.

There are still nights when we butt heads a little, mostly the meatless nights. We’ve had Meatless Monday going for awhile now, but I just added Meatless Thursday (or leftover Thursday, depending). It is a struggle to find meatless meals with at least one thing that the kids already like, but it is good for us (both our physical health and financial health!). I’m sure they’ll get used to it just like the other changes! But it is really hilarious to see Baby2 get excited on the nights when we do have meat. She says, “Meat!” in this very excited voice and points to her empty place for me to pile it on.

Lunches are great. We’ve been very successful at putting together a healthy lunch for Kiddo1 to take to school every day. I’m sure that posting the lunches weekly has helped with that. Of course, I still struggle to get up from my home office computer and build myself a healthy lunch, but Mr. Handsome has helped – either by making my lunch or reminding me to eat on the days he can’t make something for me. I’ve found the key to successful lunches is making a bigger dinner than I think we need so that we have leftovers at the ready. That, and having a lunch fallback for the days there are no leftovers or the plan somehow falls through. Our go-to on those days is a lettuce wrap “sandwich” – ham and cucumber wrapped in a romaine leaf with a raw veggie side – usually carrots or, if we’ve got vegan ranch on hand, some broccoli.

Another good thing lately is that Kiddo1’s appetite has been super strong in the past couple months. I have to think that has something to do with eating foods that his system can handle well. Before we started these diet changes, he hardly ate at all. Now he’ll eat twice as much food as me and still ask for dessert. And a bedtime snack. At the beginning of the school year he complained that he had too much food for lunch, but now the lunch box comes home totally empty. Between meals he’s always asking for snacks and while that’s driving me nuts and wreaking havok on the grocery planning and budget, I couldn’t be happier that he is finally eating like a teenager. (PREEEE-teenager – I hope he didn’t hear that “teenager” slip! He’s only 11! But wants so desperately to be 13 already!)

Now the not-so-good… As much as I complain about the family’s willingness to try new foods, I’m probably the biggest “defector” of all of us. Confession time! Sometimes when I’m out of the house by myself, I go to Dairy Queen. I know! Now, I’ve already admitted this to the family and have made amends with them about it, but I still feel guilty. Although the guilt is not much in comparison to how my tummy has felt the last couple times I’ve had any kind of dairy. When I eat it, about three hours later I’m back to where I was two months ago – unable to do anything but lie down and wait for the pain to end. So now I don’t stop at Dairy Queen anymore. Damn you, Snickers Blizzard. Damn you.

Eating out in general is really difficult. Sometimes it seems like everything has cheese. Even gluten free hamburger buns have eggs. Meatballs have bread crumbs. There’s no getting away from all the allergens when we go out, unless we all have salads (and even then, the salad dressing could have cream, eggs, cheese, etc). We have been great at cooking our food at home, and the allergy concerns are a good motivator for that. Yet sometimes we want to go out for a special occasion or just because we have a free evening, but we have to be careful and plan ahead to find a place with a few items on the menu that we can have. That hunt is almost more difficult than just planning a special meal at home! But then we still have to do the dishes.

And as long as we’re on the not-so-good stuff, I’ll tel you that baking has been a struggle. After my first success with a bread mix, I went rogue and tried to develop a flour blend of my own that would work. The result? I found out it is really hard to do that! I must have baked 10 loaves of bread before deciding it was the flour mixture that was the problem, not the ratio of xanthan gum to flour, not the ratio of non-dairy milk to flour, not the baking powder vs baking soda (baking soda alone made the bread super gross!). But now I’ve changed my flour mix and the results have been better. Still not 100% awesome, but at least my loaves aren’t turning out super gummy anymore. The item that really got my confidence back up are the apple cider donuts I posted a few days ago. I’d still like to come up with a simpler flour blend for those, but for now I’ll bask in my victory.

Slowly but surely the new diet is getting easier. As it gets easier I find myself wanting to make more changes for example: I’d love to get us off sugar and I wish we’d eat more fermented foods. Perhaps I will make strides on those by the time I’m ready to post another update!

Food Combinations: Food Combining for Optimum Digestion

Update: I’ve been trying to stick to most of the food combining “rules” for a couple weeks now and I will tell you: it is tough! And honestly, my diet has been a little boring. So in the interest of diet complexity and excitement, I’ve pulled back a lot on any “rules” I’ve tried to live by. I’m really following my “Take This With a Grain of Salt” section of this post! 

I think the bottom line is: eat what makes you feel good. Everything else falls into place when you listen to your body and gut. 

But I still think learning the food combining rules has been beneficial. The top two rules – fruit first, no starches with meats – are important ones to follow. Everything else, at least for our family, is “nice to have” but certainly not totally necessary.

With that disclaimer in mind, I give you my original post. I hope it gives you some good food combining knowledge! Just remember not to take it too seriously!

 

Food combining is the science (art?) of serving and eating foods from compatible food groups and in appropriate order as to encourage digestion and proper absorption of nutrients. We’re not talking “wine and cheese” pairing here, oh no – this is much deeper, and much more important, stuff.

This is going to be a long post so I’ve separated it into these sections. Click on the section you want to read to jump right to it!

Introduction
Food Combining Don’ts
Food Combining Do’s
Food Types
Sequential Eating
Ideal Food Combinations
Take This With a Grain of Salt
Sources

Introduction

Let me start by saying… I’m not a nutritionist. I’m a mama of a boy with digestive issues that I want to eliminate (the issues, not the boy!). Therefore, I’m increasingly interested in food and how it affects our bodies. Something tells me that if I find out more about this subject I can help him feel better consistently. So here I am, learning all about foods. We’ve done a lot to change our diet in terms of what we are or are not eating, and Kiddo1 is certainly showing signs of improvement (like his eczema is totally gone since we dropped dairy from our diets!). But there’s a missing piece. Something isn’t quite “there” yet. But I didn’t know what…

Food combining came to be a specific interest of mine on complete accident. Last weekend I was planning the weekly menu and I just got stuck. Menu planning writer’s block, perhaps? Usually when I’m stuck I go to Pinterest but somehow I ended up Googling “food combinations” instead. And my eyes, oh how they were opened with what I found! There was so much information on what foods to eat together and, almost more importantly, what foods not to eat together, that I ended up spending the better part of the day researching how our bodies react to certain food combinations.

I took some notes:

 photo 2014-10-01 14.22.05_zps2vfj2wqd.jpg

The notes got kind of crazy! One discovery lead to curiosity about one group of food or another, leading me to do more research, write more lists, jot down more “Do’s” and “Don’ts.” In the end, I had so much good information that I decided it’d be best to write it all down here in one clear and concise guide, both for my own reference and in the hope that it might help someone else out there in Internetland.

Remember though – I’m not a nutritionist therefore I present all this information secondhand. I could very well be wrong about some things and I know there is conflicting information out there. Look hard enough and you can find a reason why any kind of food can be good or bad for you! And I’m sure I’ve left out foods and maybe I’ve even placed a food in the wrong category. I’ve done my absolute best to fact-check everything here, but you don’t need to take my word for it. Hopefully this research of mine will inspire others to at least start thinking more about the foods they eat and maybe even spark some interest to do independent research, too. There is so much to learn, I can’t possible sum it all up in one post (even though it is a very long post!).

So, that being said, and without further ado, here’s the cleaned up version of all my notes. I hope it helps you!

 

Food Combining Don’ts

Let’s start with the bad news, right? Here’s a quick run-down of the combinations of food that are no good and why. If you’re curious about what distinguishes acid fruits from sour fruits or fat protein from meat protein, see the Food Types section of this post.

1. Protein + Carbs – this one is the most important “don’t!”
Meat and potatoes: most of us would call this a healthy meal, but it is NOT! In my research I discovered that carbs are digested through a salivary process while meat is digested through a gastric process. How those two words are defined isn’t nearly as important as what the combination means: it means there are two totally different processes trying to go on in your belly at the same time. Your belly does not like this! It wants to do one thing at a time. The gastric process, which is digesting the acid food that is protein, will literally stop the salivary process of digesting the alkaline carbs. The carbs will, therefore, take longer to digest and will start to ferment in your tummy. This is why we sometimes feel sluggish after a meat and potatoes meal: those carbs are just sitting there instead of doing what carbs do best which is to give us energy! Protein takes so long to digest (4 or more hours! See the “Sequential Eating” section for more) that the carbs can never give us that energy boost. Unproductive carbs are the worst.

2. Protein + Fats
Fats depress the gastric gland, and as we learned in #1, gastric juices are needed in order to digest proteins. So in this case, the protein takes longer to digest (and protein already takes the longest to digest of all the food groups).

3. Protein + Acid Fruits
Acid fruits also inhibit the gastric juices like fats. See #2 for why this is no good. There is an exception to this one though! Woohoo!! Proteins from fats, like nuts or avocado, can be consumed with acid fruits. I can’t figure out exactly why this exception exists, other than maybe their chemical make-out is similar enough to acid fruits because they’re both plant-derived so our tummies can digest them at the same time. Like I said, I’m no nutritionist! But I don’t claim to make this stuff up either!

4. Nut protein + Meat protein
Different proteins require different flavors of digestive juices. Our bodies want to make one kind of digestive juice at a time because our tummies aren’t divided into sections. It’s just one big bowl in there so if we put in two types of digestive juices, the juices won’t target the right things and there will be choas and anarchy in the tum-tum. Bellies are just not multi-taskers! In fact, this rule extends to any two types of protein – bacon-wrapped steak and turducken are the examples that immediately come to my mind.

5. Carbs + Sour fruits
Citrus fruits are acidic, so not only will they also take over your tummy and leave the alkaline carbs undigested but they will also distroy the ptyalin enzyme in our mouths that helps our bodies digest carbs. So double whammy on this one! Once again, those carbs will ferment in our tummies and not give us the energy we need from them.

6. Carbs + Sugars
This one really hurt. Who doesn’t like pancakes and syrup, toast and jam, or freakin’ cake?!?! But sugars, like sour fruits, inhibit that ptyalin enzyme that help us digest carbs, once again depriving us of the wonderful energy we could reep from them. Super sad face.

7. Fruits before Anything – this is the second-most important “don’t”
Fruits are quick to ferment, so when they’re the last thing to hit your stomach, especially if you’ve just eaten carbs or protein, they will sit on top of the food you ate and rot. Ew. This can make us gassy or queasy and we lose good vitamins and enzymes from the fruit.

8. Melons + Anything
Melons just cause stuff to ferment big time. They take over the whole digestion process leaving whatever else you ate to just sit and rot. Ew times a million.

9. A note about beans
They don’t go well even by themselves. Beans are about 25% protein and 50% carbs so they, in and of themselves, cause they same issues as combining carbs and protein. You know what they say… the more you eat the more you toot! (There’s conflicting evidence out there about the make-up of beans. I don’t like beans anyway, so I’m biased against them. If you really love beans and don’t want to give them up, don’t! See the Take This With a Grain of Salt section for more.)

10. A note about dairy
Our family is dairy-free, but I wanted to point out a rule I found in my research. When it comes to milk and all dairy products (including cheese!) the rule is – eat it alone or leave it alone. Dairy products block the digestion of whatever else they’re consumed with, sort of like fruit. So if you want complete digestion, either wait until you have an empty stomach to eat dairy or don’t eat/drink it.

Now that everything we know and love is destroyed, what foods can we actually eat with other foods in order to have everything digested properly? Well, I’m glad you asked…

 

Food Combining Do’s

Luckily there are still options for food combinations that digest well together! Of course they almost ALL involve nature’s most perfect food group: vegetables. Specifically non-starchy, colorful veggies. Here’s what you can eat and easily digest with them. For examples of ideal food pairings, see the Ideal Food Combinations section. For examples of each of the food groups, see the Food Types section.

1. Veggies + Protein

2. Veggies + Starchy veggies

3. Veggies + Starchy grains

4. Veggies + Oils

And now for the fruits…

5. Acid Fruits + Sub Acid Fruits + Leafy veggies

6. Sub Acid Fruits + Sweet Fruits + Leafy veggies

7. Melons on their own

A note about water… Did you know that water is best drank at room temperature or warm because cold water actually contracts our digestive system? And drinking water during or after meals can wash away a bunch of good enzymes that we both consumed and our bodies created to digest food. But there is good news! Drinking water before a meal jump-starts our systems to get ready for food. We start creating enzymes in anticipation of eating and that helps us to digest better! During meals we should only sip our water. And no alcohol – that tricks our bodies into thinking we aren’t eating so we won’t be creating many good enzymes to aid digestion.

Here’s a visual guide I made to illustrate good food combinations! I also added a guide for when in the day each food group should be eaten. For more on this topic, see Sequential Eating. And for information about what specific foods belong to each food group, see the Food Types section.

 photo Combining2_zps0e838a12.jpg

 

 

Food Types

Now that we know all the categories of foods that are good and bad to combine, what are all the foods in those categories? What’s the difference between a sub acid fruit and an acid fruit?

There are great lists in the image posted in the above section, but just in case I’ll list them here as well. Disclaimer: I’m going to miss some foods! It’s just not possible to get them all. But this serves as a good guide. If your favorite food isn’t listed, look it up!

Non-startchy Vegetables: eat these with wild abandon, except where noted
+All dark green leafies (but do limit spinach as it contains oxalic acid which can actually limit digestion and pull calcium from your bones); the best are kale, collard, mustard, dandelion, watercress, and my personal favorite, romaine
+Cruciferous veggies: cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage (napa, savoy, green, and purple), bok choy and pac choy, tatsoi, brussels, kohl rabi, daikon radish, red radish, and watermelon radish
+Bulbs: garlic, leeks, scallions, fennel, onions (borderline at 7g/serving), shallots
+Some Roots and Tubers: turnips, ginger, rutabaga (borderline at 6.6g/serving), beets (although beets are another high oxalic acid food), and tumeric
+Sea veggies: Wakame, kombu, nori, arame, dulse
+Others for which I don’t know their category but they are tasty: asparagus, celery, cucumber, green beans (the only exception to the beans “don’t,” above), spaghetti squash (winter squashes are general starchy but spaghetti squash is borderline at 7g/serving), yellow summer squash and zucchini

+Notice I did not mention nightshade vegetables (such as eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, paprika). Those can actually inhibit digestion and we try to avoid them. We do bend the rules for occasional barbecue sauce though. (See the Take This With a Grain of Salt section of this post!).

Starchy Vegetables (carbs): limit these to once a day (but it is so easy to be addicted to sweet potatoes!!) and do not eat more than two starchy veggies in a meal
+Some Roots and Tubers: parsnips, burdock, lotus root, sweet potato, and yams
+Winter squashes: acorn, butternut, kabocha, dumpling, pumpkin, buttercup, delicata, red kuri, hubbard
+ Others for which I don’t know their category: artichoke, carrots, cassava, corn, Jerusalem artichoke, salsify, sprouts, and water chestnuts

Starchy Non-vegetables (carbs): limit to a couple times a week
+Rice and quinoa
+Breads (including flat breads, gluten-free breads, and tortillas)
+Pastas (even if their gluten free!)
+Cereals (yep, even the gluten free ones)

Acid Fruits
+Citrus: oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and the like
+Pineapples
+Sour plums
+Pomegranates
+Strawberries (also contain oxalic acid, which, if you don’t recall from above, limits digestion and pulls calcium)
+Sour fruits

Sub Acid Fruits
+Apples
+Apricots
+Cherries
+Grapes
+Mangoes
+Papaya
+Pears

Sweet Fruits
+Bananas (bananas are high carb)
+Dates
+Figs
+Prunes
+Raisins
+Persimmons

Melons
+Watermelon
+Cantaloupe
+Honeydew
+Casabas
+Crenshaws

Protein – animal-based
+Chicken
+Pork
+Beef
+Turkey
+Lamb
+Game
+Fish
+Eggs
+Cheese

A note about protein… did you know we only need 10% of our diets to be protein? That’s right – protein isn’t nearly as important as it has been made out to be. Pregnant women, elderly, and children should eat up to 20% of their diet in protein, but the rest of us are totally fine with less. Excessive protein inhibits calcium absorption, so if you are on a high-protein diet for medical reasons, make sure you’re getting more calcium too.

Protein – plant-based
+Beans and soy (although see the Food Combining Don’ts section about why beans aren’t recommended)
+Nuts: peanuts, cashews, pecans, almonds
+Seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, flax
+Seaweeds

Fats
There’s simply too much information about fats for me to get into here. I could easily spend another weekend researching it. Just know that generally unsaturated fats are liquid at room temp and seem to be slightly better for us while saturated fats are solid at room temp. The less processed the better – stick with fats like coconut oil, olive oil, and occasionally animal fats like lard, tallow, and bacon grease. Just don’t cook your meats in them (see the Food Combining Don’ts section for more information about the Protein + Fat combo).

 

Sequential Eating

Now that we know what categories of foods go well together and what foods are in those categories, let’s talk about the order in which we should eat them. Order is a big deal for digestion because some foods take longer than others to digest. If you eat protein first and then those green leafies, you’re going to have to completely digest the protein before your body will start to digest the leafies. Protein can take around 4 hours to digest, so it is most likely that the awesome nutrients from the leafies won’t be used to their maximum potential by your body. That’s sad! It takes effort to eat green leafies, we should reap all the benefits!

In general (there are SO many exceptions), here are common digestion times. For lots more information about sequential eating, I recommend DrBass.com. What I have outlined here is super general.

Fruits: 30 minutes
Vegetables: 1 hour
Starches/carbs: 2-3 hours
Proteins: 3-4 hours

So if you’re going to eat all four types of foods in one meal, the best you can do for yourself is eat the fruit first, then the vegetables, then carbs, and finally protein. Of course that isn’t the most exciting way to eat! But as a general rule it is doable. For a single meal, start with an apple, move on to a salad with dark greens, then maybe some rice and finally the meat.

Sequential eating applies to your whole day as well. Generally…
+Fruits are best consumed during breakfast because they digest fast and give us a morning burst of energy.
+Carbs are good for lunch because they’ll fuel us through the (often) sleepy afternoon and will digest fully by dinner.
+Protein is the way to go for dinner because it takes the longest to digest, will leave us feeling full throughout the evening and will ease us into our 12-hour nighttime fast. (Did you know our bodies need to fast for 12 hours every day? We need to detox and reset our systems. That’s why we’re not supposed to eat too late in the day!)

 

 

Ideal Food Combinations

So we’ve covered what food categories to eat with others, what foods are in those categories and in what order to eat them. Now comes the inspiration – these are some ideal food combinations to help ease you in to this style of eating! In my research I noticed this topic is not covered very widely. There are lots of posts on ideal combining of food groups, but not a lot of specific ideas. So hopefully this will help those that need a little extra push. I’ve broken these ideas out by mealtime, following the Sequential Eating guidelines in the above section. “Rebel” meals are those that bend the rules a bit (see the Take This With a Grain of Salt section for more on that.) Keep in mind that these ideas conform to my family’s food limitations, so there are more out there if you don’t have to deal with allergies (we don’t eat eggs, dairy, wheat, spelt, peanuts, or nightshades).

Breakfast
+Smoothie #1: pineapple, strawberries, orange/orange juice, apple, flaxseed (a note on smoothies – we use mostly frozen fruits and we thin them with water. Coconut water would be a nice addition, too.)
+Smoothie #2: mango, pomegranate, and blueberries
+Smoothie #3: all the melons!
+Smoothie #4: greens, ginger, apple, papaya
+Skillet with sweet potatoes, spinach or kale, garlic, scallions or leeks, celery root, and maybe even some bacon if you’re feeling rebellious!
+Toast and sunbutter or almond butter (or rebel and have toast with low-sugar preserves)

Lunch
+Salad with dark greens, red onion and cucumber and olive oil/balsamic dressing, carrot sticks and sweet potatoes
+Stir fry with cabbage, broccoli, onion, garlic, rice and, if you’re feeling rebellious, a little chicken
+Lettuce wrap with julienned (sliced in thin sticks) daikon, carrot, beets, and alfalfa sprouts
+Rice made with kombu and a kelp or nori wrap with bok choy, avacado, red radish, and carotts
+Stuffed winter squash with quinoa, spinach, veggies and nutritional yeast

Dinner – always start with at least a small salad and try to eat the meat last
+Cauliflower rice, steamed squash, and asparagus
+Steak, raw broccoli, steamed kohl rabi (use the kohl rabi greens in your salad if they aren’t too mature and tough)
+Turkey meatballs and spaghetti squash with scallions, garlic, and shallots
+Whole chicken (buying a whole chicken at once is a great way to support small farms!) with roasted turnips and and Brussels sprouts
+Pork chops and lotus root, roasted cabbage, and fennel

Bonus! Snacks!
+Chips or fries made from almost any veggie (I love sweet potato fries and apple chips)
+Carrot sticks, broccoli, and celery with peanut or sun butter
+Smoothies
+Air-popped popcorn

 

Take This With a Grain of Salt

By now you’ve probably figured out that this section is NOT about salting your food. Sorry! It’s actually about the old saying which, if you don’t know, means to take this lightly and don’t feel totally constrained by it.

Food is so easy to be overwhelmed by. It’s easy to think that these rules must be followed 100%. I’d rather see them used as guides, not hard-and-fast rules.

What’s really important here? The emphasis here is to strive to make more good choices to eat healthy foods than choices to eat unhealthy foods. Sometimes we need a little honey on our squash to make it palatable. That’s okay! Sometimes we need to add some sweet fruits to our acid/sub acid smoothie, and that’s okay too! The point is to use these rules as a guide and try our best to follow them most of the time. Some days we just need dessert (notice how there aren’t any deserts in this whole post!). Have a cookie, take a break, and try to do better tomorrow.

If you’ve got to have something “bad,” just try to make it as good for you as possible! Have a homemade cookie made with real ingredients and avoid the processed cookies from a box. Put some honey in your tea instead of refined white sugar. Start reducing your sugar intake and notice how your tastes actually move away from sweets (this may sound crazy but it’s totally true. We’ve drastically reduced our sugar intake and now I can’t stand the taste of white sugar!).

All in all, if you start to get overwhelmed remember to “take this with a grain of salt.” Sure we need food to survive but there are virtually endless options out there for us. As our doctor says, focus on foods you can eat that are healthy for you rather than the ones you need to cut out. Experiment with your pallet and your cooking skills. Try new things! Then try them again! We have the power within us to change our habits, change our diets, even change our taste buds. If I, one of the most picky eaters ever, can do it, then you can do it too! Start slow with one or two changes and move forward from there. A fantastic diet isn’t going to happen overnight. Have patience with yourself and your family. Things will turn around eventually.

If you’ve read everything thus far, thank you for reading! This information will benefit you, I promise. We’re all working our way to better health, one good decision at a time.

 

Sources

I consulted a lot of websites and one of my favorite cookbooks to bring this information together. They are:
acidalkalinediet.net
happycow.net
puristat.com
mindbodygreen.com
livebeaming.com
forksoverknives.com

Clean Food by Terry Walters, Revised Edition published by Sterling Publishing 2009

Diet Changes are Hard, Part 2

Last time I wrote about why we’re making more big changes to our diet. Those changes are that we are cutting out dairy, eggs, wheat, and peanuts for at least a year. After reading a lot after receiving our son’s food allergy results (cause there were all kinds of weird stuff that came up on the IgE results that our doctor had never seen before and even the testing lab was really confused by; I won’t go into the details but I will say we always knew our son was one-of-a-kind!) and after learning so much more about foods I’ve also added some restrictions on our consumption of nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, paprika, etc). We won’t cut them completely – a little pepper in a sausage skillet is okay, but we won’t eat a pizza (ugh, for multiple reasons, nightshades is like the least of our worries on that one).

We cut out all the 4 big ones right away (well, right after the ice cream binge I wrote about in the last post, haha). I’d say within two or three days we were totally converted (I still have a couple items in my pantry to give to friends but we’re just ignoring them for now). I took the time in the first few days to look up lots of new recipes that conform to our new diet so I wouldn’t have to wonder what to make. We went out to the flour warehouse and got some gluten-free flours to try. But no matter how much I try to research and prepare, it’s still hard to switch some things.

Breakfast had turned out to be the most difficult to meal plan for. It is hard to find breakfast items that aren’t eggs or bread/pancakes/waffles/muffins. Our breakfast staple lately has been bacon and eggs, so if we cut out the eggs we’re left with just bacon which, while delicious, isn’t the well-balanced breakfast that we’re going for.

Of course there’s fruit for breakfast, but fruit has a lot of sugar so I don’t want to just eat fruit every day. We need some protein, too.

One day we tried a breakfast skillet – it was mostly sweet potatoes (not a nightshade even though it has “potato” in the name, and actually they were yams or something), onion, our beloved bacon, garlic, salt and pepper (peppercorn: also not a nightshade). Mr. Handsome and I liked it, so did Kiddo1’s sleepover friend for the night, but Kiddo1 not so much. We will be trying again.

Flour is pretty easy to convert to gluten/wheat-free, although I’m discovering a bit of a learning curve with the more detailed baking tasks like muffins and pancakes. Bread, with it’s few ingredients, has been turning out great. I used the Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Homemade Bread Mix for my first try, although I will experiment with GF flours to make my own mix (hopefully one that is nightshade-free, as BRM uses potato starch). I used the recipe on the side of the package (although I accidentally added both oil and my butter-replacer but it turned out really good!).

I really wanted to tackle an egg-free french toast for some reason (I guess because Kiddo1 loves french toast!) so the first thing I made with my first loaf of GF bread was super thick slices of french toast. I used this recipe from the Minimalist Baker – it calls for ground chia seeds instead of eggs (which I also used to make the bread). I used hemp milk for both recipes as well. For a dish that’s pretending to have eggs when it clearly does not, this was pretty good! I would add it to our regular breakfast rotation for sure.

We still can’t eat french toast every day, though (both because of nutrition and time, cause french toast took awhile to make). So I’m working on other recipes – more skillets, because they pack the biggest nutritional punch, but every few days we can have something bready like the french toast or pancakes (two fails on pancakes so far, still looking for a success on that front) or muffins (three sub-pair but edible tries on zucchini bread so far – we have a lot of zucchini from the garden to use). We’ll try to limit our fall-back bacon to just a couple times a week and sneak in other breakfast meats like sausage and even some chicken now and then (but we’re limiting chicken to once or twice a week cause that came up a little bit on Kiddo1’s food allergy test too).

We’re making big progress on breakfast but still struggling to find some rhythm with it. We have done really, really well at trying new things, though. In the last week alone we have done the following:

  • I made homemade lard and have used it as a butter substitute for almost everything (except greasing the baking pans – I still use butter for this because the lard doesn’t seem appealing and Mr. Handsome isn’t the biggest fan of coconut oil, so I need to come up with something for this).
  • Tries of GF baking/breakfasts already mentioned above.
  • We all tried several new-to-us squashes: acorn, kabocha, and yellow-hooked, with red kuri and pattypan waiting in the pantry.
  • We’ve tried coconut milk ice cream and while it isn’t totally the same it does help with the craving.
  • We’ve tried hemp milk in baking (I like it so far) and rice “chocolate” milk that isn’t so great but worth the try.
  • We’ve tried new allergy-friendly cookies from the store to also help with our sweet tooths.

I’m pretty proud of the whole family for coming along with all these changes so quickly. We still have so much progress to make with trying foods and incorporating new foods into our regular meal rotation but if we keep up this momentum we won’t have any troubles.

After we received the food allergy results and were leaving our naturopath’s office he said to us, try to focus more on the foods that you CAN eat instead of the ones you can’t. I try to think of that and remind everyone of it when things get tough. Sure there’s a bunch of things that we can’t have, but there are a bounty of foods out there that we can have and so many of those we’ve never even tried. I think we have a really exciting time ahead of us!

Foods and Bellies Update

Whoa, summer has totally gotten away from us! The days are slipping by so fast I can hardly stand it. I swear we were just on vacation and now it’s time to go back to school.

Speaking of vacation, I’m way behind on my recap posts but I’ll get there. I do want to make sure I document our trip as much as I can. Everything will get done eventually, right?

Today I wanted to write an update about how our diet changes are going, because there have been big developments. We’ve definitely taken things a few steps further…

I’ve briefly mentioned before that Kiddo1 has always had some stomach problems. We’ve seen a few doctors in the past and have been on a treatment plan for years, but nothing has ever really worked at making him feel better. We decided to take a completely different path than we always have – we’ve always seen regular doctors (two pediatricians and three gastroenterologists in two states) and have been prescribed pharmaceutical medications. There were mentions of other things we could do, mostly diet-related, but we never got a lot of guidance on anything else we could do. This time we scheduled another doctor’s appointment, but with a naturopathic doctor.

Naturopaths are like regular doctors – they have a license to practice medicine and they can write the same prescriptions as MDs. What is different is that they tap in to alternative forms as medicine to provide treatment as well. There are more interested in holistic health than treating symptoms, the latter of which we’ve found to be the M-O of most MDs (at least the ones we’ve seen!).

Right away we enjoyed hanging out with this doctor at our appointment. He asked us questions no one had ever asked before, and as I answered them I saw so many more probable causes of Kiddo1’s troubles reveal themselves. He looked at what I would think are totally random things, like at one point when we were checking out to leave he came over and asked to feel the texture of our hair. Kiddo1 and I both have sort of a dry, rough texture to our hair and he said this can be indicative of a thyroid condition (and wouldn’t you know it, thyroid issues are in my family history, which we had already talked about in the office). So we were impressed right away: impressed that he knew so much but, more importantly, impressed that he seemed to care about my son’s whole health (and even mine as we talked about symptoms that Kiddo1 and I might share). I could go on and on about how I now think everyone should go see a naturopath, but I think my point has been made.

So, the naturopath gave us a whole list of things we can do – supplements are on the list but there’s a lot of non-pill stuff too like breathing exercises and, wouldn’t you know it, diet changes. The first thing he had us do was get a food allergy test. Of course the test came with lots of disclaimers – it’s only so accurate, it’s just to get an idea of what could be the problem, it takes three weeks to come back, etc, etc. We also tested his thyroid levels with the same blood draw (which was good because we were not doing the blood draw twice! Mr. Handsome took him alone to that appointment and let’s just say Mr. Handsome and Kiddo1 probably needed a little more support for that activity).

For the last few months I’ve been blaming grains for his woes – I said so in that previous post I did about our diet changes. According to the food allergy test I was half right – Kiddo1 is sensitive to wheat (not rice or oats though!), he registered a 4/7 on the IGE allergen scale (that’s the one where you don’t have an immediate reaction to an allergen but rather a delayed one, which means that he can technically survive eating these foods but his body won’t work as well and he won’t ever thrive on these foods).

But the real culprit, which we didn’t really want to hear, is dairy. He’s a 5, almost 6/7 on the IGE for dairy. Casein, whey, yogurt, all of it. That was a rough blow for all of us.

We’re supposed to avoid dairy for a whole year. Avoid meaning do not touch it at all, watch out for hidden dairy in foods with caramel coloring, casein, and all that other stuff. We’re also supposed to avoid wheat and he came up high enough on eggs and peanuts to take those off the table for 3-6 months. In a year we will test again and if there is no change after all that avoiding, then we know the allergies are real. If there is change, we may be able to re-introduce foods on a super rare basis. So we do want to commit to this avoidance practice really hard so we can establish Kiddo1’s diet for the long term. I’d hate for him to have to avoid something for his whole life, so hopefully this year of sacrifice will pay off.

Damn you, dairy, with your delicious ice creams and cheeses! I never realized how much we relied on dairy until we had to cut it out. And by we…. I mean that we’re all taking on these diet changes in support of Kiddo1. Plus it’s really hard to make different things for everyone, and it would be really mean to scarf down a fat bowl of ice cream in front of Kiddo1 (or even behind his back – I had some cheese at a lunch outing last week and I felt so guilty! But it was so tasty!!). Cheese was getting us to try/eat so many veggies… What do we do about that now?

I’ll get into how we’ve reacted to this news in another post because this is getting long, but I wanted to add my own naturopath experince, too.

About a month ago I started getting stomach cramps. Not menstrual cramps because they were higher in my abdomen, but they felt almost the same – a tight, crampy feeling. The first day I had to lie down and I couldn’t make dinner because it hurt so bad. It happened again the next day, and again and again for like two weeks. I’m not one to go to the doctor voluntarily, but Mr. Handsome said this has gone on too long and I need to find out what was going on. If nothing else to rule out that I had something serious going on. I googled my symptoms (horrible thing to do when you have vague symptoms!) and everything from cancer to ulcers came up. So I caved to going to the doctor, but first I found a naturopath for myself! I like my son’s doctor but I just like to see a lady for some reason. And he likes to see boy doctors. So there you go.

My naturopath was also super great and asked a ton more questions than I normally get asked at the doctor. And not just the standard stuff they have to ask but honing in on something that catches their attention. By the end of the visit (naturopath visits are also really long – both our first appointments were 90 minutes each) we had ruled out cancer and ulcers, gull bladders and all kinds of stuff. My misery is a mystery! But she said that sometimes our bodies can only take so much of something. Maybe my wheat and dairy diet was just no longer serving me well.

This appointment happened about a week before we got the food allergy tests back. But my doctor and I also talked about my son and his digestive issues when she asked about family history (because digestive issues did not start with my son, they go very far up the family line except I’ve never experienced them). She said she’s seen his symptoms in 7 other children before (that she’s treated) and 5 times out of 7 it was a severe dairy allergy that was the culprit. I thought that was interesting, especially after getting Kiddo1’s test back the next week.

Anyway, even though we couldn’t pinpoint anything specific causes for my symptoms at my appointment, I still left with an action plan just like Kiddo1 did after his appointment (of course mine is different). I have a bunch of supplements to take and I’m supposed to journal my food intake (and sleep, stools, stomach “feels”), and I have some tools for dealing with cramps when I get them.

We immediately* changed our diet when we got Kiddo1’s allergy test and I started taking supplements around the same time. Since then I haven’t had another fit of cramps that have made me lie down for hours, so that’s progress! I thought maybe it was just the diet changes, not the supplements, but I didn’t take them one day and I didn’t feel as good. So then I thought the diet change had nothing to do with it, but after I had that cheese I didn’t feel as good either (and I snuck in a WHOLE pita bread the other day and just felt AWEFUL afterward). Of course these immediate reactions could be a result of all kinds of other things that I’m not aware of, but for now I’ll just keep taking my supplements and avoiding some foods because I feel better when I do so.

But eating, man… eating is harder. I promise to write soon about that!

*”immediately” meaning we all went home from the appointment and stuffed our faces full of ice cream and cheese and bread. Seriously, first we had ice cream, then mac and cheese for dinner and more ice cream. We gave away our wheat flour and our cheese and threw out old cereal and potato chips but we ate every last bit of ice cream in that freezer and felt damn good about it. It was gone after two days and we look back on it fondly. Everything else we cut out cold.

The HOW (and the when)

Okay, after a couple days of updates and a break for Father’s Day, I’m back to the goal stuff.

The What and Why have been documented, and we know Who is doing this (me and my family!) and Where (at home and in our community) – all that is left is the How.

How am I going to be more productive and consume less?

The answer is… I have no idea! I’m new at this. I guess I’ll be finding out as I go? Well, that’s not entirely true, I have some ideas. Have I mentioned toothpaste?

But really, though, how do I produce more than I consume? I think I should start by being mindful, and encouraging mindfulness in my family. By mindful I mean that I should start looking at everything like I’ve been looking at toothpaste. I want to ask questions – What is this? What’s in it? How are the ingredients made? Where does it come from? Who created this?

Of course, I have to figure out how to encourage these questions from my family without being annoying. I have been kind of annoying to them lately. I mentioned that I’ve started changing our diet already. Well, I did some things kind of fast. No more white bread or white pasta – when enriched flour foods were gone I replaced them with whole wheat or I banned them (still trying to keep the Little Debbie-like shit from coming in my house but that’s a separate fight, and at least one that I don’t have to have often). No more Jello (I make some using fresh juice and grass-fed gelatin now). I added lots of veggies – veggies at every meal when before we had them only a couple times a week. Way less pasta – once a week for dinner and that’s it (and now it is only half the dinner instead of the whole thing). And the biggest one (but honestly seemed the easiest to implement when it was all said and done) – no more sugary cereals AND cereal is now just a “lazy day” breakfast. We now eat home-cooked breakfasts at least five days a week or more. Kiddo1 had cereal this morning (first day of summer!) for the first time in weeks. Trader Joe’s O’s, plain, with raw milk. Oh yes, our milk went from convention to organic to raw pretty quickly.

That’s not the annoying part. I’ve been telling them why I switch things when they ask, and how much bad stuff is in some of the things we’ve been eating. I try not to lay it on thick, I really do, but sometimes I get away from myself! I have also not allowed them much of a transition. I am trying not to swap out the whole pantry at once, but I will change the bread they get overnight. One day it was white, the next is was wheat and no matter how much they protested I did not go back. They’re actually lucky on this one – I’m still buying bread but I would like to do away with it all together. More on this later; it’s more complex than it sounds.

So I am not shy to tell them what they’ve been eating sucks and I’m not slow to take it away. I’m a “yank the band-aid off while they’re distracted” kind of nurse I guess.

I digress! Mindfulness! That’s all I’m trying to get at here. I need better ways to encourage mindfulness in my family, and I’m not sure what those are yet, but I know being more aware of what we’re eating and what we’re buying is going to be helpful.

Step 2… I also want to read whatever I can. Reading books and articles about what I’m doing helps. Reading will be a way for me to broaden my scope and skills. I’ve read a couple homemaking-related books since I started writing again last week (I’ve been sick, lots of time to lay around and read) and I’ll write reviews of those soon. I want to research homemaking, the art of domesticity, etc. I want to learn all those things our grandmothers knew – how to sew, how to clean, how to use all parts of a cow, how to raise chickens and garden year-round, etc.

Step 3… Community (this is the hardest one for me!). I need to get out of my house and find other people who feel the same way. I’d love to take a gardening class or find a mentor that will help me learn. I want to meet a local farmer that I can buy meat from today but maybe trade for meat when I have something of value. I want to meet folks who tinker with cars and would do anything for a few jars of the jam I make every year.

I’m sure there are more steps. Learn to try things without fear of failure. Find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Meditate. Turn off the TV more, put down my phone more. Talk about my goal with others. Write about my goal 2 or 3 or 5 or whatever times a week.

I think I really will be find out how to do this as I go. I’ll be sure to write it down though.

 

Oh wait! The When! I left out one question – when. I’ve actually been thinking about this one a lot this week.

Obviously I’m starting now, or I’ve already started I guess, but when am I done? Better yet, because I know I’ll never be “done,” when is my target to have the production-to-consumption scale emphatically tilted to producing?

I’ve been thinking about 9 years, mostly because of my blog’s namesake. Well I called this blog 9 years later because I started it to document my second pregnancy, which occurred 9 years after my first pregnancy. So, you know, gotta follow that up with something equally epic (which is impossible, I know, as nothing is as grand as having a child). Plus, this is, like, a really big goal. I’m talking Make. All. My. Shit. (Hahahaha – so I’m proofreading and just now realize how funny that last sentence sounds. So I can’t remove it.)

9 years from now I want to have the skills that will enable my family and me to be free. Free to live anywhere we want – stay in our current house and build on, or maybe move to a farm, move to another country if we felt like it. I want to be free to decide whether or not I will continue with conventional employment. Free to make decisions about our future that are not hindered by questions like where will our food come from and where will we buy X, because those things won’t be major players in the decisions any more.

I know it sounds like a lot. I know it is a really lofty goal. I know it could fall apart at any moment! There will be successes, there will be failures. I’ll probably give up from time to time, but that’s why the blog is here! Oh dear blog, please keep me motivated by making me accountable. I can’t promise to post my progress and not follow through, right? We’ll see.