A couple weeks ago, I mentioned my need to hit the diet reset button. Too much sugar. Too little produce and moderation. Not nearly enough water. So I put myself on a little fast from grain (especially wheat), sugar and dairy.
So how did it go? Well, this isn’t the first time I’ve done this. Yet it still amazes me how fast my body responds to a cleaner, more nourishing diet. Right away I saw improvements in allergies, energy, digestion and mood. In fact, by Sunday (I started on Thursday) my head and nose were so clear, I was able to sing on Sunday with a lot less effort. (Singing in the morning can be tough when you’re struggling with allergies.)
I had a lot more energy (which might explain why we burned the midnight oil painting our bedroom) and my moods were more stable. I really attribute this to more even blood sugar. When you eat a high protein and slightly higher fat diet, you’re digestion slows, evening out those spikes and dips in blood sugar.
And all the tummy grumbles and bloating went bye-bye.
So how long did I last?
I knew going into it that this was just a temporary reset for me. Once we started into a few more physically demanding projects (climbing ladders, moving furniture) I could feel my body crying out for more carbohydrates. For most folks, it simply isn’t necessary or wise to severely restrict a macro-nutrient (carbs, fat or protein) for a long period of time. I realize that there are exceptions to that, of course, but by and large, what most of us need is to find that balance that keeps us running at our best. For me, that still means I need to major on protein and fat and keep the carbs and starches around in moderation–not as the center of most meals.
Oh, I guess I never answered the question. I stuck with the restrictions for about a week. And I reminded myself yet again that I need to be intentional about my meal plans, instead of throwing together whatever is close or fast or easy. Not an easy task for any busy mom.
Got any of your own food wisdom to share? What’s your best ratio of macro-nutrients?
It’s been a while since we’ve shared some Tuesday tips. But I thought this one was worth mentioning.
The other day was one of those (unfortunately frequent) dreary summer days. Felt more like fall around here. My energy was taking it’s cue from the weather and I decided an afternoon cup of joe was desperately needed. So I fired up the espresso machine and started warming up a little milk.
But then, I had a happy revelation. There was a carton of heavy whipping cream in the frig. Whipped cream was in order. But I didn’t feel like hauling out the Kitchen Aid and creating more dishes. So I went this route instead.
If you’ve got an immersion blender and a wide mouth jar, you’re in business! Just pour the cream in to at least 1/3 of the jar. (You want to be able to keep the blender submerged in the cream–or you’ll be wearing it.)
Pour in a glug of real maple syrup. Or you could add vanilla extract and stevia powder. I don’t recommend honey, as it tends to thicken up and stick to the bottom of the jar the second it hits the cold cream. But to each his own. Then just start to blend. Move the immersion blender around and up and down just a little (not that you can move it too much in a jar).
It’s up to you when your cream is sufficiently whipped. (Just don’t go too long or you’ll have maple butter. Then you’ll be obliged to make biscuits. Bummer.) The one drawback with this method is that it won’t be as light and airy as when you use a mixer. But it’s still real whipped cream. With maple syrup. How can that be bad?
Plop a generous dollop in your coffee, or on your berries. Or, you know, just eat it off the spoon. I won’t tell if you don’t. And IF you have any left over, just lid up your jar and pop it in the frig. It will keep for several days. If you have that kind of self control.
Last weekend, my mom was cleaning out a bookcase. You know, the REALLY deep kind that swallows up books and old VHS tapes of yours truly’s senior play and lots and lots of pictures.
She came across a stack of photos from what seems like another life. Our old church from 1989-1991 in Melbourne, Florida. Lakecrest Baptist Church. It was a good size piece of land just outside of town with a tiny sanctuary, a fellowship hall, a separate classroom building and a pond. The pond where my mom was baptized. (Accompanied by Florida snakes and possibly an alligator.)
This is where I first learned what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. Where my incredible Puerto Rican pastor preached with passion and authenticity. Where I joined the choir and a little singing group with some of my dearest friends. Where my youth leader (probably the most influential person in my Christian life) led us in honest, unadulterated pursuit of Jesus.
My parents and I were reminiscing about that little church for a while. And we all admitted that we hadn’t experienced anything else like that place. Nothing against any of the other churches I’ve been, but sometimes there’s just a special place in your life–an anchor in your story–and Lakecrest is like that for us.
I was trying to explain it all to my husband, to put my finger on what made it so special. And I settled on a couple things. First, it was simple. Just the Bible, worship, and each other. No special programming, no media or apps or gimmicks. There wasn’t as much of a push to keep up with technology or the culture. Everything is just so fast these days–it seems churches are racing to keep up.
But there was something else. And I think it was the most important. It was JOY. Joy was everywhere. Not that everyone’s life was perfect. People still struggled. Loved ones got sick. Marriages had problems. But still, there was this contagious joy in every corner. Joy that was rooted not in circumstance, but firmly planted in the hope of Christ. They knew in whom they believed, and that He kept ALL His promises.
I’m so grateful to have cut my spiritual teeth in that place. For the prayers that were prayed and the songs sung. For all the genuine love (man, did those folks love each other) and grace. For faith that was uncomplicated and pure–they just adored their Savior and it spilled out into everything else.
I haven’t been back there since we had to move away–22 years. But that congregation has left it’s mark on us. And we’re better for it.
Praying to recapture some of that in the here and now. For all of us.
Do you have those spiritual anchors in your story?
It was the end of a long work day around here. Everyone was tired. Everyone was hungry. And it seemed to me that none of us had really had enough veggies that weekend.
What to do…
So I just decided to take a little bit of everything we had harvested from the garden lately and roast it up. I chopped some of our garden carrots, peppers, onions, tomatoes and herbs. Then I added in a generous amount of potatoes and slices of Italian sausage. Tossed it all with olive oil, salt and pepper and popped it into the convection oven at 425 until everything was tender and starting to brown a little.
But I still had our one and only beautiful zucchini we’d just picked. Not all my peeps love zucchini the way I do. So I tried a little experiment. Oven baked breaded zucchini sticks.
You see, when my hubby and I were dating, we used to frequent a little Italian restaurant around here that had AMAZING fried zucchini sticks, served with a spicy, creamy dipping sauce. So I sliced the zucchini rather thick to keep it from getting all mushy and assembled the breading station (rice flour, egg, and gf bread crumbs seasoned with herbs, salt and pepper). I rolled the sticks in their breading, drizzled with a tad of olive oil to help them brown and played them on my baking stone. In the oven they went with the giant pan of veggies.
Next I mixed up a little spicy sauce of regular mayo, lemon juice, jarred horseradish and a small sprinkle of cayenne pepper. So yummy I had to make a little more just to get us all through dinner.
Everything was a hit! (It didn’t hurt that we were ravenous.) They even like the zucchini sticks. Some of the breading didn’t want to stick as well as I’d like, but they were still quite tasty. And that sauce would have made cardboard yummy.
In the end, we had a dinner LOADED with garden veggie goodness. And it was super easy for me, too. Gotta love it.
How do you use up all the great summer veggies in season?
Yes, another post about pickles. You might say I have a problem with the humble cuke. That I’m obsessed, even. Fine. That may be true.
I canned dill. I canned bread and butter. Did a jar of refrigerator pickles just cause I had leftover brine. And I thought maybe I was done. But our sad little plants finally started growing, and growing. And the perfect little pickling cukes started coming.
But there is another way besides water bath canning to preserve those little babies. Lacto fermentation. This, my friends is the WAY old school way of preservation. Before pressure canners and mason jars. Think barrel pickles. Just cucumbers, water, salt and spice.
In lacto fermentation, you allow veggies to sit submerged in a salt brine (some add whey) at room temperature for a few days. I only need about 3 days during the hot summer. The pickles will get bubbly and the brine will cloud up. The presence of the salt keeps other unwanted micro critters from taking over, and allows the beneficial microorganisms lactobacilli to develop. In the end, the pickles are preserved, still crisp, just salty enough but with a nice tang, and you have the added benefit of ingesting helpful bacteria for your gut. After the fermentation period, they’ll keep in the frig for quite a while. But mine don’t last that long. 🙂
I used the brine ratio from Cultures For Heath’s recipe for Kosher Dill Pickles which is pretty much the same as this method from Shannon at Nourishing Days and just added garlic, peppercorns, a little red pepper flakes, dill seed, and some pickling spice. A couple bay leaves helps keep them crisp (cause I don’t currently have a source of grape leaves–it’s the tannic acid in the leaves that keeps them crispy). I’ve even added a pinch of black tea leaves. I’m a little new to this, so for all the tips on lacto fermenting pickles and keeping them crisp, here’s another post by Shannon that’s really helpful.
If it sounds a little intimidating, trust me, it’s not. You’re basically just layering spices, garlic and cukes in a jar and pouring the brine over top. You can customize the spices, herbs and garlic to your liking. Quick, easy and no giant canner heating up your kitchen.
A Note About Bacteria
I know we’re told that bacteria is the enemy…we’ve got antibacterial everything, specific cooking temps for all our foods and they even irradiate our veggies. But the truth is, your gut (digestive tract) NEEDS some bacteria. It needs help to digest and break down your food, to properly absorb nutrients. A little serving of probiotic foods like yogurt and fermented veggies can do a world of good.
And these pickles really hit the spot!
Have you tried any fermented veggies? What are your favorites?
Maybe on this Monday morning, you’re racing. Packing lunches, serving breakfast, gathering backpacks and little people. Maybe you’re dragging your pupils to the table for homeschool. Maybe you’re feeding a toddler who isn’t exactly a morning person.
For many of us, all the focus on back to school can also translate to back to weariness. Back to battles over homework and friends. Back to worries and doubt. And even though we know all of this work is for a much greater purpose–growing Godly, wise children–sometimes the focus dims, and we wonder if we’re getting through to them at all.
May I suggest a song for these child growing years? One to encourage and remind you of the incredibly important work you are doing?
I love this piece by Andrew Peterson (he’s a favorite of mine)–“Planting Trees.”
“They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:3
That is my greatest desire. That my children would be a planting of the Lord, displaying His splendor. Everything else is just a bonus.
Tend your little plants today. And dream of the harvest.
Ever read the book Too Much Birthday? It’s one of those Berenstain Bears books that I’ve read to my kids a few times. Well, that’s how I felt by mid-week.
My oldest’s birthday was Saturday. Mine was Tuesday. During that time there was fun food and lots and lots of celebratory cake. Birthday cake, cheesecake and cupcakes. All chocolate, of course. Some of it was of the real food variety. Some was not.
This sugar extravaganza was kind of the last straw for me, digestively speaking. I went to bed on my birthday feeling down right sick. It has been a summer of probably too much cookout type food. You know, too many burgers, fries, chips and dips. The great majority of the time we eat a whole foods diet. And most of these cookout types were. But it was still too much.
And after my one night of feeling ill ended up lasting for 2+ days, I decided I’d had enough. It was time to hit the reset button.
So I’ve kind of declared a self imposed detox or fast or whatever you want to label it. But basically it’s no grains, no dairy and no refined sugar. How long? For as many days as it takes for me to start feeling better. But I’m thinking about a week or so.
Why these three? Well, last summer my youngest and I went on a bit of a modified GAPS (starch, grain and sugar free) diet to see if it would help with any of the health problems she was experiencing. It wasn’t a good fit for her. But I felt great! I also lost a bit of weight, relieved my seasonal allergies and eczema and had a lot more energy.
But as my daughter began eating more grains, starches and sugar, so did I. While she stayed gluten free because of her wheat allergy, I did not. And what I’ve noticed over the years is that this kind of stuff just seems to build up in my system. I do okay with a little, now and then. But if I let myself over-indulge too often, I begin seeing the consequences.
The Plan Specifics
So I already mentioned cutting out the big three for me–grains, dairy and refined sugar. I’m also limiting, but not completely cutting out starchy foods. As in, no giant baked potato with dinner. And I’m trying to get a good amount of protein with every meal, which is something my chiropractor recommended to help maintain muscle tone.
In addition, I’m trying to drink lots of water and an herbal detox tea. (Affiliate link. It’s pretty good iced, so I just fill up a quart bottle and sip all day.)
Plus, to help with energy, sleeping better and to shed the weight I’ve gained back, I’m trying to be more consistent with exercise. I’ll probably add an epsom salts bath in there a little bit too. (Epsom salts is great for detoxing.)
Not a really complicated plan, which is what I need right now.
What’s For Dinner?
So what am I eating, you might ask? Well, the no dairy thing is tough for me. (That will probably be the first thing I add back in.) Breakfasts consist of eggs and fruit mostly. I like veggie omelets the best. My Apple Berry Breakfast Skillet is good too.
Lunches have been leftovers, or a snacky plate of chicken, raw veggies and hummus, lacto fermented pickles (my new favorite!) and garden tomatoes and cucumbers. Easy enough.
Dinner is a little harder because the rest of the family isn’t following these restrictions, and I don’t want to make two dishes. So last night, instead of eating my chicken cacciatore over rice, I just ate the sauce, peppers and chicken in a bowl like stew, with a little salad on the side.
Tonight, everyone was having burgers. So I decided to jazz up the boring bunless, cheeseless burger. Themed burger nights were something we did often last year. I decided on a Tex-Mex flavor, so I added garlic, onion and cumin to my burger. Then I sauteed some onions and peppers and whipped up a little sauce. Cilantro, lime, jalapeno mayo. Really yummy!
I piled the onions and peppers on the burger, dolloped the sauce on top, and finished it with a pickled jalapeno. IT WAS AWESOME. Didn’t miss the bun or cheese a bit.
So Far So Good
I’ve only been eating like this for a couple days. But I’m feeling a little better already. Post nasal drip is completely gone and my morning allergies seem just slightly better. I’m definitely over the upset tummy I was dealing with before. That alone is worth it to me.
I won’t be this strict forever. For one, I start missing grains and starches after a while, both psychologically any physiologically. So I’ll add some gluten free grains in first, slowly, and try to pay attention to how my body is reacting, especially when the wheat comes back in here and there.
And I already mentioned how I miss the dairy, mainly yogurt and cheese. They are great for snacks–super filling. I’ll probably add those back in by next weekend.
I do plan on trying to adhere to the refined sugar limit for as long and as often as I can, though. (There’s almost 4 gallons of local honey in the pantry right now, so I really have no excuse.)
I’ll let you know how it’s going a little later. I’m hopeful that this “reset” of sorts will help me feel my best as we get started on the new school year.