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making healthy choices

After sharing my journey to a healthier, stronger, fitter me last week, a few friends reached out to ask me about my diet and the things that I feed my family.  I have shared a little about how I shop for food here.  I know that diet and healthy choices are something that we all struggle with at times. Gosh, for years I have been on that rollercoaster that has me in seasons of eating only the best, cleanest foods, and seasons of just not being able to get it right.  I’m an emotional eater. When things feel good in my world, I tend to eat well.  When emotions set in and the weight of the world rests heavily on my shoulders, I reach for all the wrong stuff.  Yup, I’m a comfort eater.

When I turned 16, I declared to my family that I no longer wanted to eat meat.  They all thought it was a passing phase and gave me a few weeks at best.  But here I am almost 30 years later (how can that even be!) and I still don’t eat any meat. For me, personally, it wasn’t a decision based on health or anything else because I was just a teenager and didn’t know any different back then. I just can’t eat an animal. These days my diet is mostly vegan.

Vegetarianism is something that comes with many questions and concerns.  “Where do you get your protein from?” they all ask me.  First question always. As the years have gone by and as I have learned and educated myself, I have become good at ensuring that I get plenty of protein from nuts, seeds, legumes, sprouted breads, hummus, green vegetables, tofu, quinoa, etc. There are so many places to get excellent, whole food sources of protein without eating meat.

The next question I am asked is always, “But do you cook meat for your family?” Yes, I do!  Always have and always will.  I have never forced my kids into eating the same way that I do. That’s their choice to make. Though I don’t taste what I cook, I’ve figured out how to cook a decent meal without trying it. And I have many tasters in my home who test the food for me before it ends up on the table. When I cook meat, it’s usually organic chicken, grass-fed beef, or turkey. I wait for our local grocery store to have specials on organic meat and stock up. Whenever possible, I try not to buy meat that contains antibiotics or hormones.

So what do I feed my family? Well, as much as possible we eat fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and clean foods.  We never eat a meal without veggies or fruit–even it means cutting up some fresh fruit and adding it as a side, or making a fruit salad, or cutting up strawberries and adding fresh whipped cream for dessert (my kids’ favorite!). Most nights I prepare meals cooked from scratch.

Dinner in our home includes homemade chilis, grilled meats with many veggies, vegetarian pastas, baked potatoes with yummy toppings, tons of salads (kale salad is a family favorite), soups and stews in the winter, healthy burgers (either black bean or organic beef) served on wholewheat buns with lots of lettuce and tomatoes and served with a large salad and fruit, Mexican food with all of the fixings (fresh!), stir fry (either vegetarian or chicken) made with many vegetables and brown rice, and omelettes filled with veggies are some of the things we enjoy. Anthony loves to make traditional Lebanese dishes for our family and those are always a hit.  Our kids love them! Hailee, Harper and Kael are gluten-free, and so we just give them gluten-free breads and pastas.  Kael and Hasya both eat a pureed diet, so we blend for them the same food that we eat.

I pack school lunches for our children each morning before they head off.  This year I invested in Bentgo lunch boxes.  They are awesome!  The little compartments make it so easy to add a variety of chopped fruit or vegetables and healthy snacks.  The kids either get a sandwich (made with almond butter, healthy fruit spreads, or cheese), eggs (scrambled or boiled), pasta, or sometimes leftovers from the night before. I add raisins, yoghurt, apple sauce, organic crackers, cheese sticks, veggie straws, or anything else that I can find that is healthy.

For breakfast my family loves oatmeal (sweetened with honey), fresh fruit, either gluten-free or wholewheat toast, yoghurt or eggs. My kids do enjoy cereals, but I don’t buy the regular kinds which are overflowing with sugar. Sugar suppresses the immune system, among other things, and should be avoided whenever possible. We sweeten with either agave or raw honey. I do everything I can to ensure that my children have very little sugar–especially through the winter months when their immune systems fight so hard to stay healthy.

I always have healthy snacks and a lot of fruit available. Nuts, cheese sticks, veggies and hummus (which they all love), and frozen fruit for smoothies. In the winter months I juice fresh oranges, apples, and any other fruits and veggies that we have available to get extra nutrition into my family.  We do everything we can to keep them healthy during those long, cold months here in Colorado.

Feeding my family healthy food takes a whole lot of planning and preparation.  I find that if I prepare in advance what we’re going to eat, we generally eat healthier.  If we’re scrambling and eating on the run, we don’t do as well.  We don’t eat out very much–usually only to celebrate birthdays.  If we are out and about or traveling, we try and find places that serve healthier, gluten-free options.  Subway or another kind of sandwich place is a good option for us. Drive-thrus are only used in emergency situations when we don’t have any other choice.

Some of the things that we try to avoid are saturated fats and fried foods, white, bleached flour, prepackaged dinners (which are laden with preservatives and additives), anything with a lot of sugar, soda (never!), milk and meat that contain antibiotics and hormones, foods that contain so many preservatives (most which you cannot even pronounce).  We try to eat food that is as fresh and natural as possible.  Of course there are times when we thoroughly enjoy birthday cake and yummy treats, but for the most part, we try as best we can to stick to eating as naturally as possible.

As far as supplements go, yes, we do absolutely supplement.  Anthony and I take IDLife customized nutrition every single day.  Their vitamins and supplements have changed our health in such a dramatic way. For so many years I tried many different companies and products. Nothing compares to IDLife!  The quality. The science behind their customized vitamins.  It’s an amazing, Christ-centered company that we love. For such a long time we paid way too much money trying out one vitamin after the next after the next (most filled with nasty ingredients and awful fillers)–guessing our way through what our bodies actually needed.  The IDLife science-based IDAssessment is such an incredible tool and gives us exactly what we need based on our lifestyle, health, and pre-existing conditions.  It has saved us a fortune in money that we wasted trying to figure it out for ourselves. We update our assessment every few months to ensure that we are always feeding our bodies the very best nutrition (because supplements really are nutrition).

It’s not easy eating well or feeding my family a diet that is well planned out and includes tons of fresh food. It takes a lot of time. I have days when the last thing I feel like doing is spending more time in the kitchen, but I will say that we have seen a huge difference in the health of our family since several year ago we became so much more intentional about what we eat.  Our children get through the winters with fewer colds. We have seen tremendous physical growth in our little ones who, it felt like, just weren’t growing or getting bigger for the longest time. As time consuming as it is, preparing nutritious, home-cooked meals is worth it!

What we feed our bodies makes a huge difference. If anyone has any specific questions, I’d love to try and answer them for you.  Just hit the contact button at the top of my blog and send me a message.