Wednesday, January 19, 2011

10 days of real food

I am eating chocolate chips as I write this. The first chocolate chips I have had in more than 10 days. That's a big deal for me, considering I used to have chocolate chips as an everyday snack. (That's probably part of the reason why the pregnancy weight is coming off more slowly this time around... but that's another blog post for another day...)

This is a really long post, but I hope you find it valuable.

About a month ago, Tony and I decided we wanted to try the "10 Days of Real Food" challenge, as posted on the blog (One family did this diet for 100 days.) The rules are inspired by one of my favorite books, In Defense of Food, and are as such:
-No foods that contain sugar or artificial sweeteners, except for those naturally occurring in foods like fruit, honey and maple syrup. (Honey and maple syrup should be used sparingly, though.)
-No white flour or foods that contain white flour.
-Nothing out of a package, can or box that contains more than 5 ingredients.
-No fried or "fast" foods.
-Grain products must be 100 percent whole grain.
-Only meat that is locally produced. Fish and seafood (wild-caught is best) is also allowed but doesn't have to be local. (The best we could do was the meat from the meat counter at Whole Foods, which includes where the meat came from in its signage. All of our meat came from the midwest.)
-Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds are free game. So are dairy products that contain 5 or fewer ingredients.
-Allowed beverages were milk, 100 percent fruit juice, water, tea and coffee.

We decided we would start after the new year and ended up taking the challenge from Jan. 9-18. I did a lot of research and planning ahead so I could be sure we would have plenty of "allowed" foods on hand. I planned a 7-day menu for the first week of the challenge, which was extremely helpful. What did we eat? Here is a general idea:

-Breakfast: Homemade granola, oatmeal, eggs, toast (from homemade bread or bread purchased from Great Harvest Bread Co., which makes some varieties with 5 ingredients or fewer and only honey as a sweetener), whole wheat banana pancakes, muffins (made with orange juice and honey)
-Lunch: PB&J; homemade mac and cheese; salads; wraps made with homemade, 100-percent whole wheat tortillas; leftovers from dinner
-Snacks: Unsweetened dried fruit, nuts, whole fruit and raw veggies, Triscuit crackers (only 3 ingredients and whole-grain!), cheese, Larabars that have 5 ingredients or less (my favorite flavors were lemon and cherry pie), smoothies
-Dinner: Soups, chicken fried rice, fajitas, roast chicken, etc.

The first day we started the challenge, I moved the "forbidden foods" to their own cupboard so they wouldn't be such a temptation. Tony and I were craving sugar like crazy during the first few days. It was then we realized we are sugar/white flour addicts. Also, we noticed our GI systems were taking a beating because of the dramatic increase in fiber in our diets (sorry if that's TMI - just keepin' it real!) After those first few days, though, we noticed we didn't feel as sluggish as we did before we started the challenge.

We had already agreed that we would just do our best if we had dinner at another person's house or if we went out to eat. But I had a big cheater moment on Saturday when I took my mom out for lunch and had a turkey melt (on white!) and french fries. Definitely didn't do my best, and I regret it.

All in all, it was a great experience. I even lost a few pounds! I would definitely recommend it to anyone thinking about changing their diet to include more whole foods, less sugar and fewer highly-processed products. Here is what I learned:
-You have to read the ingredients on the foods you buy! Who knew that shredded cheese has more than 5 ingredients? Who knew that some pastas that say "whole grain" are not 100-percent whole grain? Why are there so many ingredients in store-bought bread and tortillas? And why does regular sour cream contain a whole boatload of ingredients, while organic sour cream contains only two or three?
-Keeping highly processed foods out of our regular diet takes a lot of work. This was a very cooking-intensive challenge. Convenience foods are usually very processed. Planning ahead made the challenge easier, but still, there was a lot of cooking involved. Some days it really wore me out. I can see that it would take a lot of work and dedication to make this diet work for a large family.
-We (Tony & I) don't typically drink enough water. And drinking water is important, because sometimes we think we are hungry when our body is really telling us we are thirsty. It's also important to drink lots of water when you are eating a diet very high in fiber. I learned this the hard way!
-We love baking our own bread and eating Great Harvest bread. It was worth the investment.
-Switching to 100-percent whole grain foods wasn't that bad. Macaroni and cheese made with whole-wheat flour and whole-wheat noodles is not the same as the blue box version, but its still very yummy.
-Toddlers (and other children, I'm sure) do have the capacity to follow this diet without too much trouble. I felt bad because Ruth's snack options were fairly limited, as she didn't like a lot of the choices. But she survived and enjoyed many of the things that we ate.
-There are lots of minimally processed, whole-food options. I found lots of great, healthy, new recipes and products. We really love the dried, unsweetened fruit you can find at Trader Joe's (mango and pineapple!), Larabars, homemade granola, and homemade tomato soup.
-Eating less processed food can be more expensive. But the idea is that if you eat well and spend more money on nutrient-dense food, you will spend less money on healthcare expenses in the future.

We believe moderation is okay in all foods. If we eat at someone's house, we aren't going to ask if their noodles are 100-percent whole wheat. When Valentine's Day comes around, we aren't going to ban candy from the house. (I actually have plans to make heart-shaped rice krispies treats.) However, after this experiment, we also hope to make some permanent changes in our family's diet:
-We want to keep our sugar consumption to a minimum. We aren't going to buy ice cream or sweetened cereals on a regular basis. We won't make cookies, brownies, etc., except for on special occasions. Whenever possible, we will bake items using natural sweeteners like juice, applesauce, honey and maple syrup. We also want to avoid pop and other sweetened beverages. This will be good for all of us, especially since diabetes runs in both of our families.
-Whenever possible, we want to make our grain products 100-percent whole grains. We are going to continue using Great Harvest Bread and homemade bread and stop buying bread from the store.
-We want to keep increasing our intake of veggies and fruits (but mostly veggies).
-We want more of our food to be locally-produced. We are seriously considering joining the Nebraska Food Cooperative, which allows members to purchase locally grown/raised produce, meat, poultry, eggs and a variety of other items. We also plan on shopping at the Omaha Farmer's Market when it starts again.
-We'll buy organic whenever we can afford it - especially organic dairy (the Hy-Vee brand organic milk is produced in Iowa, so it's local, too), meat and eggs.
-We don't want to buy packages foods with long lists of weird ingredients. I don't mind so much if it contains more than 5 ingredients, as long as it's not too many more than 5 and I can pronounce all of them.

If you want to try this diet or get more information, check out The site author provides lots of meal ideas, recipes and tips.

By the way, after the 10 days, the chocolate chips aren't even that great! I never thought I would be able to say that!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Christmas and home improvement adventures

I know this post is very late. But better late than never!

We had a wonderful Christmas here. Opening Christmas presents became a week-long thing, though, with opening presents from grandparents on Sunday and Monday, presents from aunts and uncles on Friday and Santa's arrival on Saturday. We were blessed with some great gifts -- I got a stand mixer, some earrings and lots of other neat things. Santa brought Tony and I fly fishing poles and reels. Ruthie got some Lego blocks, a Princess kitchen, books, and lots of other toys and clothes. Eva got a tummy time mat, books and clothes.

Ruth and Jack also spent some time decorating graham cracker houses before Christmas. They did a great job.
And here is just a cute picture of them playing together. Jack is such a good sport. :)

Christmas is such a wonderful, magical time, especially for children, and now I can't wait for it to come around again this year!

And now for our home improvement adventures...
We decided to take down the wood paneling in the dining room. We did it on a whim one night as a "date" of sorts. It ended up being a fairly stressful date. Taking down the paneling was easy enough. It's repairing the walls underneath that will be stressful.

The previous owners did a really messy job when they cut the bar area into the kitchen. Since our walls are all lath and plaster, we will have to tear down and patch up what we can with drywall. But since there is probably lead paint in the walls of our 101-year-old house, we need to do it on a day when the girls and I can leave the house and Tony can spend the day doing demo, drywall, and cleanup work.

We also found another surprise under the paneling....

Mr. Moldy-mold made an appearance under the windowsill.
The mold was under the oldest window in our house (it is seriously extremely old and falling apart), so chances are good that it formed because the window is leaking. I cleaned up the mold with some household cleaners and we have plans to replace all three windows along the window seat. We are also planning on tearing out the window seat and completely replacing it along with the small section of wall that was moldy. There is no insulation under the window seat, and that area of the house is very drafty.

However, it's cold out, in case you haven't noticed. So the dining room project is on hold until it warms up a bit and we can get the windows replaced. *sigh* If you come over, please forgive my ugly dining room.

Here is a before:

And after:

We left the paneling up on the top part of the wall temporarily, because there are chunks of wall missing underneath up there, too. We will take the paneling down when Tony's ready to do the demolition and drywall.

In the meantime, we are going to tear down some wallpaper and paint the living room. Tony even went out and bought some paint and supplies. I'm incredibly indecisive about paint colors. It drives Tony a little nuts. I can't decide what color to paint the walls, and I also can't decide if I should leave the wood trim unpainted or paint it white. Right now I'm leaning toward painting the walls a basic taupe-brown color and painting the trim white. So if you have any feedback on what color you think I should paint my living room and whether or not I should paint the trim, let me know. :D If you want to see a pic of our living room for reference, click on this post.

Also, our little baby Eva is getting big! She is 3 months old now! My, how the time flies.

I think that's all for today. Tomorrow I'll post about our 10 days of real food challenge, which ends today!