There has been a LOT of information presented in this series, and there is so much more that was left out. I wish we had more time to discuss many of the topics more in depth. I tried to pick those that were the important basics. A place to start the processes of illuminating inflammation in the body.
My goal in this series was not only to educate you on how food can change your inflammatory pathways (good and bad), but to also give you the information to encourage you to make the change. Lastly, my goal is to give you the tools you need to take charge of your own health. The knowledge into HOW to make these changes, and make them last.
Today, I want to bring it all together with some tips to help you implement and make this a lifestyle, not a diet.
Healthy Food Choices Start at the Grocery Store
Trust me, I am well aware that healthy groceries are expensive. But so are the medications that are keeping your inflammation "under control." Why not take all the money that are or would spend on medical expenses and roll that into healthy food to PREVENT the need for expensive medical treatments. Sure, there are conditions that will inevitably need medical intervention (I am not naive of this), but there are so many that you can prevent with healthy diet.
I have often considered doing an article series called "Shopping with Sarah." A Series that would follow my weekly grocery trips and I would show you the product I buy and explain how I choose them…Would love feedback on this idea!!! For now, let me give you a couple of quick tips for how to navigate the grocery isles.
Stay Close to the Perimeter
Most of the whole foods are on the outer aisles of the store. Produce, Meats, Dairy, etc… I always start in the produce section. I look, not only for what I use on a normal basis (Lemons, Limes, Apples, Cabbages), but for what is on sale. Remember, typically items that are on sale are also in season. I do not meal plan in advance, I meal plan based on the produce I see. (and what is in my garden….more later).
My next stop is the meat department. Again, I have my go to's and brands that I like. I look for those first, and if they are on sale….bonus! I do not shop at Whole Foods, I shop at my local Kroger, most of the time. So, I know there is a pile of poor quality brands to wade through. Look for the best quality meats that are available in your store. You'll save the most money buying in bulk, or whole animals (like whole chickens) and learning to butcher and freeze.
My next perimeter stop is the dairy department. Eggs are not dairy…why this is a confusion, I do not know. Eggs are eggs, dairy is anything made from milk. Look for the best dairy available. If it is available, choose grass-fed and cream top. If this is not available, look for products that are hormone free. ALWAYS choose full-fat, seriously people, stop choosing skim and 2%, you are not doing yourself any favors. ALWAYS choose a grass-fed Butter! If you want the nutritional benefits of food, you have to pay for quality. KerryGold is a good brand, that is found in quite a few stores these days (Costco sells it, as does Kroger and Safeway…but it's not in the butter section, it's in the gourmet cheese sections) When I choose eggs, I look for pasture raised. I want my chickens eating bugs, vegetarian feed is not natural for chickens, and the quality shows it.
Frozen section is the next section in my store. I do stock up on organic frozen veggies when they are on sell. Like Broccoli. It is nice to have some on hand for a super quick add in for soups. Remember we talked about frozen being the next best thing to fresh, seasonal, local. It is picked at the peak and frozen quickly, giving the best nutrition. If your fresh produce is looking really underripe, or sad, go for frozen.
Into the Aisles, Pick Whole
I love bulk sections, where you can see the products and pick your own quantity. Caution with bulk nuts is that they go rancid quickly, and can mold easily. Be smart, and look closely. If you do not have a bulk section, bagged is just fine. Just look for raw and/or sprouted. Kroger now carries it's own brand of organic sprouted rice, quinoa and other grains.
Remember to read labels. Just because it says natural or organic doesn't mean it is the healthier option. I will often pick the cheaper option because it has less ingredients. I really dislike Carrageenan, so avoid it like the plague, and it is found in many different organic products.
Avoid the Junk
If it doesn't end up in your cart, you can't take it home. If it doesn't come home, you can't eat it. Things like chips, cookies, sodas, etc… just don't buy them. If I am going to have a cookie, I make them. This is a great way to limit the amount you have. When you are making them from scratch all the time, you are less likely to sit and eat a box every day. It take time, effort, and you have a sense of pride attached. You savor them a bit more. (Except when you are pregnant and eating a batch of brownies a week…hangs head in shame, again.)
I have a strict rule about anything that is trying to sell me with cartoons, shows, and celebrities. They are trying hard for a reason. Their product isn't that good.
Avoid "Fortified" Foods
Really this is means it had all the nutrition stripped out of it in processing, and now they need to add it back in with synthetic vitamins.
Find a Farmer's Market or CSA
Want to get the healthiest, freshest produce and meats in your area? Find a Farmer's Market. Make it a family fun event. (They are fun), and go see what grows in your area.
In Colorado, we have a number of different CSA options. In other states, you will need to look and see if this is an option. A CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture), is basically buying a share of the produce and products grown on a farm. We've joined some in the past, and you have a pickup location once a week. It's like a surprise basket. You get your share, and it is full of what was harvested that day. It is in season, it is picked fresh, and it is really never the same. This is fun, and a great way to be introduced to new produce. Like Kohlrabi! Looking for a CSA in your area? Visit this website and search. Many offer different products, some offer meats, fruits, mushrooms, eggs and dairy as well.
Start a Garden
Do you have a backyard? Then you have plenty of space for a couple of garden beds. I have a very small yard, borderline patio home, and I am quite capable of growing enough vegetables for my family for summer, and some to store for the winter. Each year I learn a bit more and grown a bit better.
If you want, start simple. Think of the vegetables that you eat the most of. Look at the price for organic. Look at the price for seeds. Are the vegetables you consume high producers? Grow them! In my garden I grew a huge variety. I have learned my spring/summer/fall crops and rotate in my gardens for the largest yield and most variety.
My 4/8 garden produces 2 rounds of radishes, 2 rounds of beets, 1 round of kohlrabi, 2+ rounds of lettuce and arugula, as well as vegetables that produce all season; chard, kale, zucchini, and okra.
My 2/3 garden is home to my corn and bush beans.
I have 4 pots with tomatoes and hot peppers.
More pots with herbs; rosemary, stevia
Another pot with Rapini (broccoli rabe)
In my landscaping I have perennial sage, thyme, oregano, mint, strawberries, and chives.
New this year: another 2x 2/3 gardens yet to be planted.
Growing your own vegetables not only cuts your grocery bill, but you cannot get fresher or healthier than homegrown organic vegetables! They honestly taste so much better as well. A homegrown tomato is so much sweeter than a store bought tomato that was picked green and ripened in a warehouse.
This is also really fun, rewarding and encouraging for children. A large portion of my vegetables never make it to the table. My kids love to eat them while they play outside. I have NO PROBLEM with that. They are learning to love fresh vegetables that taste like vegetables, not ranch covered cauliflower that only tastes like preservative filled ranch dressing. Get them involved, let them have their own garden space. My girls each have their own strawberry patch.
Making Healthy Diet Changes Should Include the Entire Family
Research shows that family support improves dietary change success. If only one person in your household is suffering from chronic inflammation or autoimmune disease (that you know of), use this as a stepping stone to helping the entire family.
Poor diet is not an immediate effects. Often times the repercussions arise years down the road. This is a lifestyle change, not a diet, and thus should include the entire family. Especially if you have children.
It is very sad to me, the number of children with hormone, inflammation, immune, and weight dysfunctions. This starts at home. This starts with parents. As parents you are shaping your child's diet, and future health. It is your responsibility to make sure your children are given healthy foods. Gatorade and Doritos are not healthy, and should not be in the regular diet of a child. Is you child a picky eater? Maybe a little tough love is in order. A child will not starve themselves. If they are only given healthy options, they will eventually eat those healthy options. For those of you who did not follow my Lunchbox Series, and you have children, I recommend looking through it. If you need you will remember that my story of my two children and how very different they are in their eating habits. When I look back, I am 100% sure it was because of our parenting, and our differences in feeding our children when they were young. Palate beings in the womb (my brownie child is my worse eater…she loves brownies!) A fetus has more tastebuds at 6 months gestation than they do when they are born, and then number is reduced as they wean. Why? So they can develop a palate for the foods the mother consumes.
As a family, you support one another. To make a lifestyle change, everyone needs to be willing to commit. There will be times that it is hard. Family will be support, encouragement, and accountability.
How to Make it a Family Affair
Cook and Prepare Your Own Meals to Control Ingredients
So, you've probably noticed that there is a lot of cooking involved. For some this is not problem. For most (what I find in my office) this is daunting, and enough to derail your efforts. Start small, and start simple. Cooking your own meals should not be scary or frustrating, it should be fun and rewarding.
Many of the meals that I made these past weeks are quick. I typically get home from my day of work and kids activities around 5:45/6:00, and want to have my family fed by 6:30. That is not enough time to cook big and elaborate. I need simple weekday meals.
Navigating the Healthiest Options at Restaurants
Let's all be honest with each other. We are going to eat out! You cannot eat every meal at home for the rest of your life. It's not realistic. I love eating out. It is nice to get a break, especially on busy weeknights. Eating out can be hard though. Often restaurant food is full of added sugars, MSG, and other contaminants.
Get outside Support
If you need extra support, guidance, or help, an outside support person may be what you need. There are many options.
A diet and lifestyle coach is a professional trained to offer nutritional and lifestyle education and advice. These coaches are your partner through the process. They help answer questions, develop realistic meal plans, help with shopping, and keep you accountable.
This is one the services that I offer. We can do in office, and phone coaching. This gives you access to all of the above in a more specific and individualized set up. I not only guide and coach you along the way, but offer access to quality supplements if needed, shipped directly to your home.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is another way of looking at the body. Acupuncture is a modality of Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture involves the placement of hair thin needles into the body to stimulate biochemical reactions that promote homeostasis in the body.
Much research has been done to understand the reactions that occur during the placement of these needles into specific points. Many have anti inflammatory and pain reducing actions. Others help to regulate the immune system and hormone production.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine may be a good option to help you treat the underlying imbalance and speed the healing process beginning with dietary changes.
Functional Medicine is the application of natural healing and nutrition in cases of disease. This is another way of looking at the body. Applying what we know about biochemical connections and treating the entire body, not just the symptoms.
Functional Medicine practitioner combine the best of Western Medicine practices with alternative medicine and nutrition.
Breakfast #10: Coconut Banana Barley
I had some leftover cooked barley, so make this yummy breakfast porridge.
1 cup cooked barley
1/2 TBSP Grass-fed butter
1 cup Coconut Milk
1 VERY Ripe Banana
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
In a sauce pot, smash banana (my tip is to freeze and defrost. This makes them sweeter and juicier). Add in coconut milk and butter, milk butter. Add in cooked barley and cinnamon. Cook until thickened. Adding more coconut milk to desired consistency.
Lunch #10: Lunch Out - Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps; Jasmine Green Tea
Today was bring your daughter to work day, well at least for me. She is actually a big help. We snuck away for a mother - daughter lunch. Her pick was a Japanese place next to my office. She has shrimp rolls, and I had chicken lettuce wraps.
Dinner #10: Baked Oregano Chicken; Tabbouleh Inspired Green Salad
We've been picking salad greens and radishes from the garden for the last couple of weeks. Man they are good.
Preheat oven to 350
In a cast iron skillet, heat oil and add garlic. In a bowl season chicken generously with salt and pepper and roll in oregano. Add to skillet skin side down and cook on the stove over medium heat until skin is browned. Once browned, flip and move to oven. Cook 30 minutes, or until cooked through and skin is crisp.
Made 6 servings