Friday, January 28, 2011

Five Months Down & I've Inspired Others!!

I'm happy to report that my lifestyle change is going along swimmingly and now, I've inspired others to do the same! My cousin has eliminated all the processed food from her diet and has lost 75 lbs!!!! Every day more friends keep asking me how I do it and what do I buy and the most popular question is, "isn't it more expensive?"  To that I will say that I too was very skeptical in the beginning. I asked my mentor and neighbor the same questions. So, today I'm going to provide some tips on how to get started. It's NOT that hard to do (as some friends complain to me). If I, the former Pop-Tart queen, can do it, YOU can too! But, the biggest hurdle is just making that first step and allowing yourself to believe that you and your family will be healthier by doing so.

Step 1: Open up your pantry, cupboard, food storage areas. If a product contains any of the following ingredients, donate or dispose of it. (partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, nitrates, nitrites, hydrolyzed proteins, artificial flavors & colors - and any other unpronounceable chemical!)

Step 2: Make a list of those things that were you favorites - like Pop-Tarts, Potato Chips, packaged ready-made dinners, Pasta Roni, Jimmy Dean Sausage, salad dressings, fat-free products, Nutri-Grain Bars, Special K, high-sugar cereals, Cheeze-its, etc...

Step 3: If you're on Facebook, "Like" companies like Horizon, Chobani Yogurt, Food Should Taste Good, Fage Yogurt, Athenos, Pirate's Booty, etc...for coupons. Do a search for organic foods and "like" them too. You can also find these companies' websites and join their email list and receive coupons that way, if you're not on Facebook.
Step 4: The Inaugural Shopping Trip! Make a list of the things you need to replace, like lunchmeat, bacon & sausage that doesn't have nitrates, chips, yogurt, snack foods, etc...
I spent 3 hours at Target on my first trip. I read every label and put it back if I contained the ugly stuff. BUT, I did find awesome tasting chips from Food Should Taste Good, Boulder Canyon Rice & Bean Chips and Organic Tortilla Chips (Target Brand). They all taste WAY better than Lay's or Ruffles!

I buy Natural Peanut Butter (either Skippy or Jiff), organic "spaghettio's", Annie's Mac 'n Cheese, Hormel Natural Choice Lunchmeats, nitrate free bacon (which Safeway now carries!), organic dairy products, limited canned products (too much sodium and cans can often be lined with BPA), and I just joined a farm that delivers Organic, grass-fed meat, dairy and eggs.
Wegman's (a local grocer) has a large selection of Organic products and I LOVE their chip aisle! They have grass-fed beef, pork and natural sausage. If you can't find these products where you live, you could consider buying then online from Amazon. My point is, you don't have to cook everything from scratch whilst ditching the processed gunk, they are healthier alternatives, but it's fun and rewarding when you do!

I believe that if more people choose to eat this way, the "food" manufacturers would change the way they make our food. Our bodies just aren't meant to ingest these chemicals. I only wish I had started this sooner, like when I was pregnant or while breastfeeding. I shudder at the thought of all the yucky stuff I used to eat. At least now my children can grow up eating real food and have an appreciation for all types of cuisine. It brings me joy when my kids try my concoctions of fresh fish, kale salad, and even BEG for broccoli! And their favorite is Yummy Earth's Organic Lollipops - THE BEST EVER!
P.S. And they do make Organic Pop-Tarts - but since I'm trying to lose weight - they're out!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The UGLY Reality of Food Today

It's been five months since I started on my journey to clean up my diet and change my lifestyle. The down side is that I haven't lost any real weight (Christmas de-railed the plan, big time!), but the upside, and this is a big one, is that I feel tremendously better, have more energy and have had almost no headaches. The true test comes next week when I go for bloodwork, including a cholesterol screening and more.

The first week of January, I started a local "biggest loser" contest for some friends. There are 14 of us. The winner, or loser as it may be, will receive $140! Every week we check in on our Facebook page and report results and challenges. There's also a small group of us working out in my basement gym. That's my favorite part. I love how I feel when I'm working out, but it's getting me to that point. Tennis shoes on, ready to sweat. We're having fun, let's just hope we can make it a habit and keep it going.

Over the holidays, my parents were here visiting us in Northern VA. My folks are from the South and traditionally we eat good old comfort food and tons of baked goods at Christmas. That's fine to do for a day or two, but a full week of eating badly resulted in seven pounds on the hips! Not good! I tried to share some of my new cooking habits with my mom. I showed her how I made my own croutons for her dressing recipe and I even made homemade marshmallows to put on top of the Candied Yams. She thought I had really lost my marbles with that last one. But then she tasted them and I won her over! The taste of real food versus something chemically made is a wonderful thing.

The sad reality is that food you buy today in a traditional grocery store is so far from its natural state that it's a wonder we can still call it "food!"  I subscribe to several food blogs and read websites from various organizations that are constantly writing about the dangers that lurk on the store shelves. One recently wrote that they are battling the FDA to ban synthetic dyes because they present “a rainbow of risks,” including allergic reactions, hyperactivity, and even cancer. Why would you knowingly eat something that causes cancer? Because you may not know it!!! One report stated that there are many financial ties between big corporations and the largest food allergy non-profit in the U.S., an increased presence of chemical additives and genetically engineered ingredients in our food supply, and statistics showing a significant increase in the number of food-related allergies in the U.S since their introduction. Gross!

It's really very simple. Avoid processed foods and live healthier and longer. Ask yourself, how do I feel? How are my children behaving/feeling? Do you sleep well? Do you have energy all day long? Do you get sick a lot? Your diet may be to blame. It's not as hard as it seems to change. After all, I did it and I used to eat Pop-tarts, Ding-Dongs and Fat-Free everything. I mean it took me a while to shop when I first started. My first organic shopping trip to Target took 3 hours. I read EVERY label on every product I bought. Take a weekend and clean the pantry out, make a pile for donation and head to your nearest grocery store (without the kids!).
Here's all you need to do:
1. Read the ingredient label, not the Fat content or calories
2. Put down anything that has partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans-fat!!), heart disease creator
3. No MSG, monosodium glutamate
4. Artificial sweeteners, all of them - ditch 'em
5. High Fructose Corn Syrup or Corn Sugar
6. Hydrolyzed soy/vegetable protein, another form of MSG
7. Artificial colors, dyes (Red dye #40, etc...)
8. Nitrites, Nitrates, found in bacon, sausage and lunchmeats. They make Organic bacon and it's SO good!
9. Look for Organic on the label. Target now carries many brands of Organic, as do many local supermarkets (Wegman's is the best) and if they don't, buy from Amazon!

If a product has a huge laundry list of ingredients - PUT IT BACK! If you wonder why your child is hyperactive, has trouble sleeping, you have constant headaches or that fact that you can't go one day without cholesterol medicine, it's time for a complete food makeover. I believe the more people that change their life and the way they eat, then perhaps the food industry will follow and make changes to the way they make our food. You can do this! It justs takes one baby step in the right direction! Ask me questions, provide feedback. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.
Don't believe me? That's fine, read for yourself:  - great site on money-saving tips, recipes - Organic Trade Association