Friday, January 10, 2014

Healthy Changes

Over the past few months I've transformed our family's diet. For years I've wanted to make a change, but it takes a lot of willpower and determination to make it happen--and sadly, I didn't have either. I also had a ton of excuses. It's too expensive, it's too time consuming, it's too confusing...and on and on.

I recently read a devotional on the Proverbs 31 Ministries website about the God moment that changes everything--the moment when you're woken up and you immediately jump out of the bed you've made and change it. For me, the bed I made, and that my entire family was sleeping in, was poor eating habits.

We weren't terrible eaters--we just weren't good eaters. I was being lazy. I made meals that were "quick & easy" like frozen pizzas, lots of canned and boxed foods, and processed, processed, processed. We went out to eat far too often, and we snacked on ready-made foods. A lot.

But the alarm clock went off and I jumped out of that bed as fast as I could.

What was the alarm? My health.

I've been dealing with some health issues for the past nine years. I've seen at least half a dozen doctors and I've had a plethora of tests, but they couldn't figure out what was wrong. I eventually stopped looking for the answer and just dealt with the symptoms by ignoring them. Every time the alarm went off, I just hit the snooze button and kept sleeping.

But the alarm clack went off again in September--and this time I couldn't ignore it. The symptoms didn't go away when I hit snooze this time.

I went back to my doctor and she referred me to a specialist...who referred me to another specialist. At this point, I still don't have any answers, but I do have a new direction.

It's called a lifestyle change.

I spoke with a nutritional doctor and have learned a lot about the consequences of the Standard American Diet, better known for its acronym SAD. Over the past three months I've recognized the hazards of poor eating habits, and I've made a dramatic change in the way we eat.

I've taken sugar out of our diets 100%*. Seriously. It was really hard in the first couple of weeks (especially over the holidays!), but we've all adapted and I've discovered some great recipes for healthy alternatives (like a smoothie made from avocados that my children call "ice cream"!). My children actually call fruit a "treat" now! You have no idea what kind of an improvement this is.

I now make meals from scratch--scratch I tell you! When you don't eat sugar, you'd be surprised at what you can, and cannot, pull off the shelves at the grocery store. I've learned how to use Stevia and Xylitol as our sweetners of choice.

We now eat two vegetables with supper (and very little starches like potatoes and pastas). I've actually cooked veggies I couldn't even pronounce before--and we like them! It's amazing how many great recipes you can find to heighten the natural flavors of God's creation.

I buy organic as often as possible. There's a helpful list called The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen that tells you which fruits and veggies you should buy organic (based on their pesticide levels) and which ones are "safer" to buy non-organic.

I also try to buy non-GMO products whenever I can. Visit this website to learn more. I always look for this seal when buying my food:

We've also started buying healthier meats. Last month we purchased half of a grass-fed cow (for about $4 less a pound than we would have paid for the same amount of meat in a grocery store) and I now buy organic, free range chickens and eggs.

I could go on and on about the changes we've made (like the fact that we now use coconut oil, flaxseeds, and almond milk), but that's not the point of this post. My greatest desire is for my children to learn how to eat healthy and take care of their bodies. I don't want a rude wake-up call for them someday. I know I can't prevent everything, but science has proven over and over that we can prevent many diseases with our diets. I've read some statistics that suggest we can prevent 87-95% of modern diseases with healthy lifestyle choices.

This change is hard--but when you don't feel good, you find the willpower and determination to say no to unhealthy choices. When you look at your children and know that you're making a positive change in their lives, you can do almost anything.

I no longer have any excuses. The money we spent to go out to eat before (we used to eat out several times a week, now we eat out about once a month) is now used to buy organic foods. It is a bit more time consuming to eat this way, but I've learned how to reduce time and stress by being prepared in advance. And I've taken things a step at a time, so it's not as confusing as I thought it would be. Next Friday I'll share some tips I've learned to make the transition smoother.

I have been feeling better, little by little. Each time I eat, I know I'm taking a healthy step in the right direction. If I could have my wish, I'd wish that everyone would wake up before their personal alarm goes off.

Your Turn: Are you a healthy eater? What prevents you from changing? If you are a healthy eater, what made you change? Do you have any advice?

*I should clarify that we do allow for special occasions. The kids have enjoyed birthday cake at friends' parties, a sweet or two over the holidays, and a little soda pop to ring in the new year. It's now legitimately a "treat" for our family.


  1. I needed this post today! Last year was a terrible year for my family and being a stress eater, I gained a ton of weight. I am now on a diet, but I know I need to eat more healthy. So let me just say, thank you! I am looking forward to reading more about it!

    1. Sherrinda, I know how difficult it is to lose weight, so I'll be praying for you! The best thing we can do is take control of our eating habits. They not only affect our weight, but also our moods, overall health, and future. Praying for lots of strength and stamina for you!

  2. I am right in the middle of eating healthy and eating poorly. But your post reminded me I could do better. It's the time factor that's the hardest for me. I'm really, really squished for time (which probably sounds ridiculous to say to you, a mom of four) but the thought of trying to make all my meals from scratch is enough to make me cry.

    Still, I can make small improvements here and there. I don't think I'm at a place where I can make a huge, drastic change but changing a few little things and sticking with it can probably make a lot of difference!

    1. Melissa, I know exactly what you mean! As I thought of changing our eating habits, and what that would mean for my already busy schedule, I wanted to cry too. But now that I'm dealing with more than just a desire to change (now I have a need to change) I've found the energy and time to do it. You're right though, even small changes are better than no changes. Take things a small step at a time, be consistent, and then add another small step when you've mastered the first. You'd be surprised at how many great options you have in a health food store that are already pre-made, but healthier and organic. Keep up the good work.

  3. I so admire you, Gabe! I'm trying to make the same changes you are, more or less. Still figuring out portion sizes and how much to eat to feel satisfied. That's one of my bigger struggles, I think. But I want it to be a lifestyle change, not a diet. So I am working at it little by little.

    1. Also, I'd find it helpful to know the types of meals you're eating (some examples of maybe a few breakfasts, lunches, and dinners) and how much you eat to feel don't have to post about it, but I'd love to know even if you want to email me about it. Since we're about the same size, etc., that would be a great reference point for me. Love you!

    2. Lindsay, I applaud you for taking the step toward eating healthier! It's not easy, but I've found it gets easier over time. I actually eat until I'm full. I don't have "portions," I just don't eat sugar, grains (except quinoa), dairy (except organic butter), or starchy vegetables like potatoes or corn. I'll eventually add grains back into my diet, but I'm doing a two month "cleanse" on these foods. I won't ever add back in sugar, and porbably not dairy, either. Another thing I've found that's helpful is making really great tasting recipes (as opposed to just a meat and veggie meal). I'll share some recipes with you--and probably here on my blog too. For me it's not about portions, but about the quality of what I'm eating. For each of us, though, we need to do what works for us. I've never been a big portion person, so this isn't an issue for me. We'll talk more. :)

  4. Congratulations for making this challenging decision!! I have been eating a vegan diet for nearly three years, and it's a fantastic way to live. It's an adventure - still learning after 50 years of shopping/eating/cooking another way. I hope and pray you and your family enjoy the fun!

    1. Jennie, thank you for stopping by today. And thank you for the encouragement. This is definitely a lifestyle change that will require years and years of experience before it becomes second nature. I've been eating the SAD (Standard American Diet) for so long, it will take a lot of rewiring for my brain! But, it has been fun in some ways. It's fun to see my children embracing this change, it's fun to try new recipes, and it's fun to know I'm making a difference in our family's health.

  5. Great thoughts today, Gabrielle. As a writing, homeschooling mom...well, it's easy to throw those chicken nuggets in the oven! I admire your determination to get those 2 veggies in at supper and at the very least, that's something I can work on. Thanks for sharing today!

    1. Heather, I hear you! I'm also a writing, homeschooling mama and it's hard to add another thing into my already busy schedule. At first it felt like I was spending a LOT more time in the kitchen, but now that I have a plan of action, I'm not in there as much as I thought I would be. Good luck on adding the extra veggies! Any small change is better than no change. :)


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