8 Tips For A Healthy Home: You Are What You Eat ⋆ Mama Says Namaste

8 Tips For A Healthy Home: You Are What You Eat

“You are what you eat.” Eat this…but don’t eat that.  Wait, that’s horrible for you.  Forget what I said last week.  Eat this instead.  But this kid has this sensitivity, that one is highly allergic, and this one just hates vegetables.  What are you to do??

Have you had conversations like this as well?   This week the Mama Says Namaste Podcast is all about physical health and well-being, so we’re going to carry it deeper in the blog with a specific hot topic: food.

 

What the Health, man!

My parents recently watched “What the Health” – a documentary I highly recommend to anyone questioning whether all of these food precautions are legit.

However, it left my Mom feeling even more overwhelmed and confused by food choices.  She came back from visiting with a friend, gung-ho on the Paleo diet.  After reading “Wheat Belly” and watching “Sustainable”, my father went gluten-free.  Now it’s not the grains, it’s the meat and dairy.  With no meat, dairy, grains, legumes, fruit…what the heck will they eat?

I understand.  It gets super complicated.

I will say that, when it comes to poor health, allergies, obesity and more, it has more to do with the quantity and purity than anything else.  One cheeseburger, fries and red velvet cake aren’t going to do you in (although you’ll feel like crap if you’re eating healthy all the time) – but doing this consistently is a whole other ball game.

How much actual “food” is on your plate?

There is one common theme with the big fads – paleo, vegan, gluten-free…any healthy eating campaign.  The more processed and synthetic your food is, the worse it is for you, period.  We are in a quick-order society where we want food ready-made, easy and on-demand.
Processed food complicates something pure to make it last longer – so when you’re buying those pre-made granola bars you’re getting the excess sugar, preservatives, carbs, GMOs, etc.  However, eating the same basics in their most simple form – just the actual fruits/nuts – make for a great filler.  (If you do eat granola bars, read this for ideas on what to eat and what not to)

Employ the 80/20 rule

In our home, we believe strongly in the 80/20 rule as being the most realistic option.  Don’t try to go full tilt boogie.

You have been living a lifestyle that is catered…literally – by eating out.  I believe your biggest issue with not being able to keep off weight and the gut problems are directly related to the amount you eat out.  No matter how “healthy” it may be…you’re looking at it in comparison.
It’s like the “Eat This, Not That” books – they may tell you Doritos are better than Cheetos, which is true.  But that doesn’t mean Doritos are a healthy option; just better then the latter.  So yes, grilled fish and greens at Captain Ds is way healthier than fried fish and french fries.   But a meal made at home without preservatives, butter, sodium…will always win.  When you eat out, you’re not just looking at what extra additives are in the foods, but also the portion sizes, the extras (like chips, breads, etc that are unlimited excess for your table and your gut), and the cost.  
If you eat out, keep these things in mind:  Best & Worst Restaurants to eat at and 5 Rules when eating out.   If you curb your eating out, this will make a huge difference.   It goes much further than simply the expense or the foods prepared – think about what all constitutes a meal at a restaurant:  drink, appetizer, chips/bread, salad, entree, dessert…how much will your stomach hold?
So explore the 80/20 rule.  80% of the time, make healthy food choices.  Don’t eat out – take full responsibility on what food you eat.  But don’t go to such extremes that you are overwhelmed and food is a stressor.  We live in a culture that surrounds social activities with food.  Give some grace – just err on the side of health instead of junk.

Being healthy is just for rich people

Yes, it’s expensive if you are buying alternative everything.  And, it’s expensive when you have a different elaborate meal every night.  Get back to simple.  

I know variety is fun, but it can end up being a ton of work, waste, and money.  Think about the Steve Jobs concept of wearing the same outfit – it’s one less decision to make. 
You can go down the Pinterest recipe spiral for healthy dish alternatives and elaborate recipes.  Each one calls for that one unique item or the thirty different ingredients.  It can be complex and yes, your life will be in the kitchen.
If you like creating food art, have at it!  But it doesn’t have to be like this.  You can pair back, be minimalist in your cooking, and still have food you enjoy.  Reduce the options.  Not only will it make things easier, but that random new dish you add in will be that much more appreciated.

In Our Home…

We have cut back our food options like crazy in our home.  And what has happened is it’s easier, we aren’t racking our brains trying to remember what ingredients to get, there is less arguing because everyone knows what to expect, and we literally have zero food waste in our home.  That includes sauces like maple syrup…and, we’ve cut back on sauces a ton in favor of actually tasting the food underneath it all.  
We have three  breakfast options that we do on rotation.  Oatmeal (steel-cut oats, dried fruit/nuts, dash of maple syrup), pancakes (vegan, homemade, bananas or apple cider as sweetener and then a dash of maple syrup), and breakfast burritos (super hearty – polenta as “cheese”, potatoes, sometimes tofu, squash, zucchini, peppers, onions, soy chorizo, etc).
When I say a dash of maple syrup, I mean just that.  Not enough to cover the bottom of the plate.  Enough so there is a hint of sweet, and when the plate is empty, there is no syrup left on the bottom – it’s all been used and scraped up.  Our meals are zero waste.  With a tiny fridge and no garbage disposal, every piece of rice or oatmeal is eaten.  And we only serve bite-size portions.  We serve up two scoops of food for Nathan/Clara/Me, and one for Ellie and Jules.  We have small portions, and we finish them.  
For lunches, figure out some staples.  For Nathan and me, coleslaw variations have been awesome – Nathan does peanut slaw one day, apple cider vinegar the next, etc.  Not only is cabbage an excellent source of protein, the slaws will keep longer than a regular salad.  Hummus and veggies is another big lunch item, or taking it a step further and having a cucumber/hummus sandwich.  (Most favorite combo right now? Cucumber round, hummus, cherry tomato and a basil leaf with a dot of siracha.  Your tastebuds will thank me!)

For dinners, this is where the meal plans can really help if you’re stuck, because you have some options that overlap so you aren’t getting different ingredients for everything…which ends up with food going to waste.  We do a lot of soups, beans/rice, stir fry and curry/masala dishes.  They are filling, one dish options full of goodness.  (Yes, we use the InstantPot almost daily).

What about gluten-free?

Here is my take on it.  It’s not the gluten that is the culprit.  There are numerous articles questioning whether the GF diet is actually good for anyone who isn’t celiac: Is A G
luten Free Diet Good For You.  There are legitimately people who cannot do gluten.
AND, there are a lot of people who have sensitivities to grain.  However, the more you dig, the more you may find that it has to do with the processed GMO versions…gluten has so many shapes and forms.  So is it the MSG in the soy sauce, or the gluten? Is it the pesticide that was used on the grain, or the gluten?

 

Then let’s look at this, which is another meal plan option that gives you a variation of the Paleo but vegan:

This plan isn’t about dieting, but instead for those with digestive struggles or severe grain intolerance issues. People with compromised digestion, blood sugar problems, or even celiac disease may find it helpful to eliminate grains from the diet at first, due to how they can affect digestion and raise the glycemic index.

Don’t get us wrong; whole grains are incredibly healthy for most of us, but they contain starches that can be harder for the body to break down. They also contain a natural nutrient known as phytic acid, which can hinder digestion and absorption.Whatever you believe, experimenting with a whole foods, plant-based grain-free diet can help you decide if it’s the right choice for you. Foods to emphasize are nuts, beans, legumes, seeds, vegetables, fruits, and

 leafy greens. Foods like avocados, almond butter, tahini, kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, hemp seeds, and any fresh piece of produce are commonly enjoyed.

We went gluten free for a while – it upsets Nathan’s and Ellie’s stomachs.  Nathan had such issues he was constantly dealing with, and I remember when we cut it out at first…he would walk in from work and snap and I immediately could tell he had a sandwich that day – it affected his behavior that significantly.  So we omitted it all.  BUT, this is the deal, we simply cleaned it out as our staple food.  We still eat gluten now.   But it’s not our staple that is at every meal.  Our staple is vegetables.  Anything outside of that is a bonus.  I think a lot of our “allergies” and food sensitivities have to do with how much we eat of them; not that they are horrible for you.

It can be pricey paying for substitutes.  Look for real foods to begin with, and invest in quality.  Sometimes the expense here is worth it in comparison to the medical bills you may save.

You can't expect to feel like a million bucks if you eat from the dollar menu. Click To Tweet

 

Maybe a meal plan is what you need to kickstart this

When I was the main chef in the family, I would get overwhelmed quickly.  I make decisions all day long, and heading to a grocery store is just complete overwhelm for me – too many options!

Here are meals directly created through “What the Health” – it may really help to get on a meal plan like this.  When we were starting out, the vegetarian plan from Fresh 20 was so great for me. 20 fresh ingredients, awesome meals, and minimal food waste because the meals all worked together.

Doing a meal plan really helps to take the guesswork out and keep the costs down, because you are purchasing a set amount of items to cover for a week. The What The Health meal plan above is fully customizable, so you can say you don’t like onions and it keeps them out.  AND, if shopping is overwhelming for you as well, check out Instacart  – on top of Publix, you can even get Costco and Whole Foods delivered!!  

 

Let’s scale back a bit now. We are individuals.

Now, before you go full tilt boogie, remember this.  You can find an argument for or against every food lifestyle that is out there.  What my body responds to is going to be different than yours.  For our family, embracing veganism in our home has been awesome.  80% of the time…or, in our home, we stick with this.  Yet when we go out to eat, have a meal with friends, etc., we may have some dairy or fish, or Nathan may even grab a burger.  It’s okay.  We don’t beat ourselves up for that.  Our children (gasp) do have a treat now and then.  Yet the treats in our home are just as often dried fruit and nuts as they are Halloween candy.  That’s a lot more rare.

Let go of what you should and shouldn’t eat.  Don’t have a “no-no” list that makes you feel more restricted and paranoid than confident in healthy food choices.
 I firmly believe that if you do these things here, you will see a huge impact in your home:
  • Replace processed snacks in your home with dried fruit and nuts.  Don’t keep them out all the time, and don’t eat in excess.  But when you are hungry, eat a snack of roasted almonds and some dried blueberries.  We keep roasted almonds, peanuts and raisins in the car at all times for a quick protein blast when we’re out and about.  We have cashews, almonds, pecans, dried cherries, blueberries, mangos, figs, apricots, and raisins all handy for snacks to cure the sweet tooth or the salty craving.   One handful is enough to tide you over.  Wait ten minutes before you go for another handful.
  • Pause with your food.  If your stomach is about the size of your fist, start with that to eat.  Then wait before going back for seconds.  Your eyes and mind see a restaurant sized display of food as a “healthy portion” – so just like “deschooling” is the process you go through when a kid comes from public school to unschooling, you will need a reset of what is actually “healthy eating”.  It’s not a large portion or just three large meals a day.  It’s a shift in food as being sustenance for life and not the center of it.
  • Come up with 3-4 go-to meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner that you can rotate.  Either use a meal plan option, or just find some tried and true meals and stick with them.
  • Shop on the outside of the grocery store.  Even the health food stores an have just as much processed junk as they recreate the “fake” meat and junk foods.   The outskirts are where the fresh things lie.  It’s rare we hit much of the middle of a grocery store.  We get some bulk items at Costco for our staples (oatmeal, rice, dried black beans), but at the grocery, it’s mainly produce.  Not for the month; but for the week.
  • Buy less, shop more.  Plan for once a week vs longer.  Get smaller amounts so food doesn’t go bad.  Fresh food and less preservatives means you simply buy more often.
  • 80% of the time, eat at home.  20% you can eat out, but eat smart.  And make that 20% powerful!  We don’t eat out often.  We even tailgate from our cars while we’re out and about to avoid hitting fast food.  But when we do, we search for the most delicious foodie option and we relish it.  Enjoy the 20 percent option and choose the nicer places with healthier options.  Apps like “happy cow” tell you vegetarian restaurants around, and I search Yelp all the time.  Places like Burger Up are a much healthier option than a McDonalds.  Chipotle is a better option than Taco Bell (although TB is honestly pretty high up there for your fast food at least).
  • Taking out the meat means you will be processing your food faster, and you may be hungry more often.  That’s okay.  Have your snacks.  You aren’t going to be able to eat one meal a day like this.  But it’s better to eat smaller meals more frequently than stretch your stomach and fill it up on one big meal.
  • If you do choose to eat meat, be wise about it.  These documentaries like “Cowspiracy” and “What the Health” are very vegan-biased.  I get that.  And, I could make an argument for meat being okay when it’s treated like a gourmet delicacy and not the cornerstone of your diet.  If meat were treated like chocolate cake – in moderation no more than three times a week – I believe we would see a huge shift with mass production (the environmental impact) and obesity/illness (the health impact).
  • Drink lots of water.  Not chemicals.  Water.  It helps to fill you up and flush you out.  Add in an essential oil like lemon or peppermint if you aren’t keen on just water.  We love our compromise from all the coffee we used to drink – we fill up our s’well bottles with green tea and a few drops of peppermint oil, with maple syrup as a sweetener.  It’s delicious and keeps us sipping all day long.
  • Don’t overcomplicate.  You can go down the black hole of Pinterest recipes and end up spending a ton on alternative ingredients to try out one recipe.  Again, that’s where I think a meal plan is an excellent option to get you started.  Not forever, but to get you rolling with some staple meals you know how to cook, can handle portions and quantity, and don’t have a ton of leftover ingredients.

The bottom line

I don’t want to live in a world of fear and “no-no” items.  And I don’t want to be obsessive about ingredients.  But the more I know, the more I recognize how much crap is out there – in our foods, our beauty products, household supplies and more.  So we keep things clean in our home.  We don’t flip when we go out in public, or make for difficult houseguests.  In our home, all cleaning/beauty products are chemical/synthetic free.  We have no synthetic fragrances or parfums.  In our food, there are no “natural flavors” and fake “healthy” labels.  We go for healthy, real, non-processed foods…that oftentimes have no box saying how great it is.  It’s simply greens from the produce section. 
And when we go out, we won’t shrivel up if we compromise a bit.  It’s that wonderful 80/20 rule.  It’s enough to keep us healthy, and because we are, by default, on the clean side, our bodies can only take so much of the unhealthy, anyway.  We notice when we’ve been around crap too long – upset stomachs, headaches, sluggishness, etc.

Keep it simple!

Don’t stress or overcomplicate this – it’s an easy thing to do, and that’s when people throw in the towel and give up.  It’s much easier to just eat whatever is easiest.  So keep things simple!  Follow a meal plan at first, or get serious about picking 3-5 options for every meal and JUST rotating those out.   I would suggest instead of trying to keep out everything, scale back and do things in moderation and see what happens.
We can all go deep with our opinions; the internet is chock full of contradicting “truth”.  But the common theme is this – simplify.  Make your top priority just to eat real food, and have “keep it simple” as your mantra.  Look for easy to read ingredients and remember that less is more.
You can do this, and it may open up a whole new artistic focus for you where you are playing with food and meals like you never have before.
Share with me your favorite healthy dishes or plans below!
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Mama Rose

Ashley Logsdon is a Family and Personality Styles Coach and Lifelong Learner. She and her husband Nathan are RVing the States and unschooling their 3 girls. Her mission is to shift the mindsets of families from reaction to intention, and guide them in creating the family they love coming home to. Looking deeper than the surface, we assess the strengths, triggers, and simplifying your lifestyle so you truly recognize how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Join the Mama Says Namaste Facebook Group

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