Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Top Real Foods to Add to Your Pantry and Fridge

I had a great question asked in response to my 100 Days Real Food Challenge Recap and it was "What are the top real foods to add to your pantry and fridge to begin eating this way?" I compiled a list of 10 real foods and how we use them in our home. These might be common sense to some people, but when I started out on eating real food I was clueless as to where to start. I've only arrived at this point after doing this for over 3 months and I'm not an expert by any means. This is just what my family has found we liked and what has been most beneficial in helping us begin and continue our journey in eating real food.

1. Instead of chips, buy nuts. We buy raw nuts (nothing cooked or coated in sugar or salt) and mix them in a big ziploc bag. I normally buy what is on sale, but I get anything from pecans, sunflower seeds, cashews, walnuts, almonds, etc. Nuts are so much healthier than chips and are very filling. All you need is a small handful and you've got a great side for your sandwich or an afternoon snack. If you absolutely must have chips, buy these kind. There are only 3 ingredients, and they are cooked in sunflower oil, which is better for you than hydrogenated oil (trans fat) and there is no added MSG.

2. Instead of refined white flour, buy whole wheat (WW) flour. Refined flour is stripped of almost all the nutrients found in the grains. I use WW flour in the same way as I do white flour. I use it in cooking as a thickener (instead of corn starch) and in baking as well. I have made pies, cookies, muffins and breads with wonderful results!

3. Instead of sugary, flavored yogurt, buy plain yogurt. Plain yogurt at first sounded yucky to me. I had always had flavored, sugar added yogurt and they thought of having nothing sweet/flavored added to it didn't sound like fun. I use it in smoothies (more on that later) and as a snack or dessert topped with homemade berry sauce. I also make my own yogurt every other time to save money because the organic Stonyfield yogurt that we buy can be a bit high (at my grocery store its $3.29 for 1 qt). This way I only have to buy about 2 qts of this per month, and make the other 2 on my own (we go through 1 qt a week because its so good!).

4. Instead of popsicles/frozen desserts, buy frozen fruit. Frozen fruit is something that we use mainly in conjunction with the yogurt mentioned above. I make the homemade berry sauce as a topper to yogurt, pancakes and waffles. I also regularly make green smoothies (just a couple bananas, a scoop or two of yogurt, some frozen fruit and a handful of spinach). Its a great way to get in your dessert cravings while having something sweet that's good for you!

5. Instead of sugar, buy pure maple syrup and honey. Maple syrup and honey are natural sweeteners. I use them in place of sugar in a lot of things, however they do not work as a replacement for sugar in some baking (as in cookies especially, they just make them a runny mess!). I have used them in pies and sweet breads/muffins and it has worked great!

6. Instead of vegetable oil and canola oil, buy olive oil and coconut oil. I use olive oil for cooking mostly and coconut oil for baking. Olive oil and coconut oil are unrefined oils as opposed to oils like canola or vegetable oils, which are processed, cleaned with chemicals, etc. They really are hazardous to our health, so stay away from them if at all possible. And don't be scared of coconut oil! I had never used coconut oil in my life until starting the challenge, so if you have no idea what you are doing, this article is very helpful.

Other things that I would recommend buying that don't really need explanation are in season fruits and vegetables. They are cheaper and provide the most nutrients for you. If you really need something that isn't in season, buy it frozen--they are harvested at their peak during their in season and then frozen, retaining their nutrients well. Also, I do not buy all organic. There is no room in the budget. I adhere to the budget version of this eating plan, as there is not an unlimited amount of money for food in our home. Because of that, I cannot buy all organic. There are some things that I do buy organic (mostly the dirty dozen) but the rest I do not. Eating conventional fruits and veggies are most definitely better than none at all!

Has this list made you think of foods that you can replace at your house? What things could you see implementing in your family's eating plan?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

100 Days of Real Food.

Our family recently completed the 100 Days of Real Food challenge. To sum it up, the challenge was to only eat "real" food for 100 days. That means nothing processed, no sugar (unless it was in its natural form, like maple syrup or honey), only whole grains, and healthy oils and fats (like olive oil or coconut oil). After raiding my pantry, I was shocked by the amount of additives, preservatives, and sugar in our food. We threw away the opened packages and the rest we gave away. It was time to start fresh.

The hardest part to starting the new way of eating was the fact that I was constantly reading labels. Everything I once thought was healthy (or somewhat healthy) suddenly wasn't. I used to only read the calorie content or fat content of foods; now I was reading the ingredient list.

Once we got the hang of it and had a good idea of what was "real" food and what wasn't, it was pretty easy to map out meals. To save money (because eating real food is much more expensive than eating processed, sugary food) I learned to make a few things from scratch. I make whole wheat bread and plain yogurt once a week. Occasionally I make whole wheat tortillas (always a double batch because I freeze half of it and I think they are a pain... but they are SO good) and granola cereal (so that we can have something besides cream of wheat or oatmeal). Yes, it takes some time. I normally do all my bread baking/yogurt making on Mondays, so I don't have to do it again the rest of the week. But in case you didn't know, homemade ANYTHING is 1000x better than something you can buy at the store :)

helping momma make whole wheat muffins

We noticed some differences in our health while on the challenge. Ryan and I both lost about 10 pounds each, which was awesome! Especially since I was eating MORE than when I started the challenge. It was just more of the "real" stuff and not full of sugar and empty calories. I was also prone to an afternoon "slump" before the challenge, but once we made the food changes I was able to have a much more stable energy level throughout the day. My face didn't break out as much either! Instead of my face rivaling a 15 year old's acne war zone, I had clearer, brighter skin.

One of the biggest questions we got throughout this challenge was how the girls were eating with the change in our food habits. To the surprise of most (especially me!) they actually ate more and better than they did before! They love oatmeal and cream of wheat, veggies, fruit (of course) and they are nuts about nuts! :) At their recent checkup, in the last six months Ruby gained 3 pounds and grew 2 inches and Piper gained 7 pounds and grew 4.5 inches! Healthy girls :)


Now since we've been off the challenge, we do maintain most of the "rules" at home. It is nearly impossible to do so if you go out to eat or to a friends' house, so we are flexible on that. I have not liked having all this sugar around the holidays though (my face is letting my know I've eaten too many sweets) so it will be nice when its over and I'm not so tempted to eat anything coated in icing or shaped like a snowman.

Overall, I would definitely recommend trying the 100 Days of Real Food challenge if you would like to help your family eat healthier.

Do you think you could do the 100 Days of Real Food challenge? Would you be more willing to try the 100 Days of Mini Pledges?


Friday, December 14, 2012


 Piper is my almost two year old. I really can't believe that my baby will be 2 next month...!


She was my harder birth of the two.... 22 hours. Sunny side up. And definitely worst pain of my life. I definitely remember being SO glad she was here and that was over :) 

  She's a daddy's girl. Always has been. Always will. 

She's also a little stinker. Likes to get into mischief. Ryan said to me the other day, "Honey, I'm sorry... but I think Piper is going to be like I was as a child." I've heard the stories. Oh joy. ;)

She's a cuddler. So much so that she wanted to sleep in bed with me or at least wake me up to nurse in the night until she was a YEAR OLD. Love her. 

But mostly, she loves her sissy. She wants to be just like her when she grows up.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Five Ways to Maximize Your Time (and Spend More of It With Your Kids)

These are just a few simple ideas that have helped me at home with juggling mommy duties, household duties, and having a little bit of (very) needed time to myself. This short list is certainly not all inclusive, but are five practical and easy ways to help manage your time and spend more of it with your kids.

1.  Have a cleaning schedule.  I hated this concept for so. long. Shuddered, really. I don't know what it was about it I didn't like. Maybe it was the idea of having to clean something everyday? Maybe it was that the way my mother did it might have... could have... been somewhat.... right? I'm not really sure about that one. Anyways. Mondays on my cleaning schedule there is nothing written. It's my "flex" day during the week. But if I don't have certain tasks lined up for the rest of the days of the week, then one day I realize that I haven't cleaned something in a long time (or can't remember the last time it was done) and feel like I have to do everything in one day. This is bad for me because a) I'm exhausted by midday b) my kids are cranky because their momma is kinda cranky and c) it's overwhelming. What works for me is cleaning one room each day, with daily small tasks incorporated throughout the day (dishes, picking up toys, etc). This is a great one, and you can definitely modify it for you and your family. Also, get your kids involved. My girls love using the stick vac and a wet rag to "help" clean with mommy :)

2.  Take breaks in between doing things. I know that for me personally, if I find myself cleaning, picking up, or cooking for more than 15-20 minutes at a time I start to resent it and get burnt out. I enjoy a job well done and a hot meal (nothing better than a clean bathroom and a roast chicken in the crockpot!) but taking breaks really helps keep me motivated yet not over doing it throughout the day. I play princess dolls, read books or color with my kids. It's not really hard to play :)

3.  Give yourself some time to do whatever you want. I need recharging time in the afternoon. If I don't have that, then I am usually not going to do well for the rest of the afternoon/evening. During that time, Piper lays down for her nap and Ruby has quiet boxes (a great resource for those are found here). They are so great for keeping my 3 year old busy while I browse the internet, eat chocolate, or both. This is "my" time that I look forward to every day.

4. Get up a few minutes early. This one is hard for me. Anyone else have this problem? I still get my 7-8 hours, but man. It's hard. Getting up 30 minutes before my kids normally do lets me shower, put on clothes, and makeup. If I do that, I am already ready and don't have an excuse to look (and feel) grungy throughout the day. Putting on clothes (other than sweatpants and a t shirt) and a little makeup go a long way for my self esteem and productivity level. I also am more awake when my kids get up, so I'm not stumbling into their room all groggy and sleepy. I go in singing a happy song and they love it :)

5. Don't be a slave to your schedule. Some days are great and I find that I can zip along doing things and the kids have great attitudes. Other days, notsomuch. This is when I take a deep breath, forget any preplanned activities and focus on my kids. Sometimes this is hard to do. Why would I want to stop doing something I had planned to deal with a disobedient toddler? Other days I just don't WANT to get up early. I tell myself its OK. It's normal and healthy. I don't want to do be so tied down to anything that I am constantly stressing myself and my family out because I didn't wash the windows/vacuum the living room/sweep the kitchen/whatever. It can wait and will be there tomorrow. My kids, however will be a day older. And I won't get today again.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Ruby is my 3 year old daughter. She is beautiful and cute and hilarious. In the photo above she wasn't quite one year, but her love for fun started young. 

She likes to call me "honey" and says that she needs her "Belle sleep" or "Ariel sleep" instead of "beauty sleep." Already has favorite princesses, apparently.

She loves parks. Slides are her favorite. She also loves other "kids" and recently asked where they come from. I dodged the question. This momma wasn't ready for it and at least right now she is easily distracted.

She can't say "polka-dots." She says "coco-nots."

She loves puzzles, coloring, and helping clean and cook. I hope that lasts for a long time.

Love you, my sweet Ruby Jane

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Who I am.

I am a person who likes to think she's a good mom but I still have insecurities and questions like,  "am I doing this right?"

I am not a person with a high quality camera/great edited photos but I am a person with pictures of my life and family who mean the world to me. 

I am a person who loves ice cream but gets a tummy ache if I eat too much (which is often).

I am a person with hopes and dreams but still can't figure out how to make them work or happen.

I am a person who loves the benefits of exercise but still can't force herself to do it most days.

I am a person who struggles sometimes with self image but I am made in the image of God.

I am a person who loves her sisters but wishes that Romania wasn't so far away.

I am a person who is not perfect but I have a God who is.

Friday, December 7, 2012


I have never met Cooper. But for some reason my 3 year old daughter thought he was important enough to bring up randomly today.

"Cooper!" she said with a shy grin on her face.

"Who is Cooper?" I asked.

"He's from church. He's my friend!"

Let's just say I was a liiiiitle surprised that the first friend she would ever mention would be a boy. Also it was a Thursday night, not Sunday, so she was obviously thinking about him. I know she has other friends at church and elsewhere, but they haven't been as pressing as Cooper to mention up to this point.

Who is this Cooper? I hope to meet you someday soon.