Posts Tagged ‘Healthy Eating’

GAPS Homemade Chocolate Chips (Grain-free, sugar-free, dairy-free)

If you’re anything like me, you simply have to find a health alternative to all things chocolate.  Since cocoa powder is allowed in the GAPS diet once digestive issues have been righted, I knew I had to come up with a source of chocolate that was sweetened with only honey.

The result was mouthwatering chocolate bliss.

Simple Homemade Chocolate Chips

2/3 cup organic virgin coconut oil

2/3 cup raw cocoa powder

2 tsp raw honey

Melt coconut oil over low heat on stovetop. Remove from heat. Add in cocoa powder and honey. Mix to incorporate.

Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Pour chocolate mixture evenly over paper. Place in freezer for 15 minutes.

Remove from freezer and place hardened chocolate onto cutting board. Using a large cleaver, chop chocolate in rows one direction, and then the other, forming chocolate chunks (whatever size you prefer).

Voila! A healthy alternative to a delightful treat! Keep in freezer until just before use, as they begin to melt quickly at room temperature.

Note: These melt when baked into cookies, so just be aware they sort of ooze out of the bottom of your cookies a little–but not too bad!


Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil Giveaway!

ImageI am excited to host my first official giveaway on this blog!

I recently had the pleasure of sampling Tropical Traditions amazing virgin coconut oil. Coconut oil is a nutritional powerhouse and can offer a wide range of benefits, including maintaining cholesterol levels, increasing immunity, and aiding in weight loss.  Coconut oil also contains antioxidants, and natural antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.  Unlike many oils used for cooking, it is safe when heated at high temperatures, thus making it ideal for frying.  Coconut oil is extremely beneficial, not only nutritionally, but for a number of other purposes, including skin and hair care.

Tropical Traditions virgin coconut oil is different than other oils on the market.  They are the premier supplier of virgin coconut oil in the nation and are highly praised for their amazingly superior oil.  Their oil is still made by hand using small scale producers and family farms, contains twice the antioxidants as any brand on the market, and is USDA certified organic.

Although it is pricey, Tropical Traditions is constantly offering sales and special deals that make it easier on the pocketbook.

For more information about the health benefits of coconut oil, check out this post by Passionate Homemaking.  There are also a wide variety of ways you can use this oil in your household. Its versatility is one of my favorite things about coconut oil–I literally use it for dozens of purposes, including moisturizing (all of us, especially the kids!), eating, frying, multiple personal care uses, and so many more!

Check out Tropical Traditions selection of coconut oil here.

To browse their website, including a huge selection of other quality, organic products, click here!

Tropical Traditions is offering one quart of their Gold Label Virgin Oil free to one winner!


1. Sign up for the Tropical Traditions Sales Newsletter (sign up through the link on their homepage), and come back and let us know in a comment below. Stay informed on future sales and specials!

2. For a second optional entry, “like” Tropical Traditions on Facebook. Come back and let us know in a second comment.

Giveaway closed.

Congratulations to our winner, Autumn Stan!!

Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose.  Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

If you order by clicking on any of my links and have never ordered from Tropical Traditions in the past, you will receive a free book on Virgin Coconut Oil, and I will receive a discount coupon for referring you.

Beginning Our Journey Through GAPS

Last year, when we were growing concerned about Jeshuah’s autistic symptoms, I began doing research on the explosion of autism in the recent years.  One of the books I found extremely helpful and compelling is Dr. Natasha Campbell’s “Gut and Psychology Syndrome.”  In it, she draws the correlation between our “gut” (intestinal) health and our overall health, particularly our mental health.

You see, our brain’s function is dependent on our body receiving the proper nutrients.  Over time, our bodies can become overloaded with toxins from the air that we breathe and the food that we eat.  In the last few decades, our diets have changed drastically.  Where people once used to live off of the natural, real food of the land, industrialization has now afforded us the ability to now eat primarily processed, packaged, manufactured “foods,” most of which contain chemicals or have been sprayed with pesticides or preservatives which are extremely toxic. (Obviously. They are meant to kill pests!).  All of these chemicals and processed foods are harmful to our bodies, and over time can cause excessive damage.

But the purpose of this post is not to provide proof that the American diet is harmful, or that the introduction of so many chemicals has done more damage than good.  There is ample proof for that elsewhere. My desire is to share how our family has (finally) decided to take these threats seriously and dramatically change the way we eat.

I have been convicted about doing this for some time now, but I have been so intimidated by the magnitude of the task, that I have put it off.  When Jeshuah’s autistic symptoms disappeared with chiropractic treatment, the urgency to change our diet was not there any more.  However, he still has allergies, skin irritations, pain in his arms and legs, etc. that leads us to believe there is more going on with him.

Eliana and I have also been battling thrush for weeks now and Stephen has had recurring digestive issues.  All of this can probably be treated by going on Dr. Campbell’s GAPS diet.  Her research has shown her that the reason for many of these issues is that the protective lining of the gut becomes worn down and then the toxins from our food go directly into our blood stream and affect our immune and brain function, causing a wide range of issues, including autism, ADHD, allergies, depression, chronic yeast infections, etc.

But the gut lining can be healed, and these issues can be greatly diminished or disappear completely.  The healing process typically takes at least two years on the diet, depending on the severity of the issues.  Once healing has taken place, you can usually begin eating many foods that were not allowed on the diet before–foods such as gluten and ones that have a high starch content like potatoes.  These things are not bad, they simply do not aid the process of healing once the gut has been damaged.  But while you are able to return to eating most foods, all foods should still remain whole and real in order to avoid re-injuring the gut.

And so this is the process our family is beginning.  That GAPS diet looks extremely overwhelming and intimidating at first, but the more I research, the more I find out my options, and the more comfortable I become.

We plan to start the diet in April, and commit to being on it for at least two years.  It means daily detox baths.  It means ridding our home of harmful chemicals.  It means all of our meat needs to be organic/grass-fed/hormone/antibiotic-free, etc.  It means all dairy products are organic and raw and preferably fermented (yogurts, kefirs, etc.). It means all produce must be organic and fresh–nothing canned. It means nearly everything we eat is made from scratch.  Obviously, this means no eating out. It means we will have to bring our own food with us when we visit other people. It means a lot of hard work and sacrifice.  But we trust it will all be worth it in the end.

For a full list of foods allowed and not recommended, visit here.

Developing a Taste for What is Good

I have a major sweet tooth.

Not only do I love all things sugary, but I love treats of any kind–special somethings at special times.  And they are usually food related.

I look forward to eating out at my favorite restaraunt.  I enjoy baking warm cookies for game night.  When we have an unexpected visitors, I search the shelves for something delicious I can pull out and feed them. And it seems like it is always unhealthy.

Lately, as I’ve been increasingly concerned about eating healthy, I’ve been really wishing I just naturally desired healthier foods. While I enjoy healthy things, I find that if an unhealthy alternative is in front of me, I will always choose the unhealthy.

I have always envied the people who view apples and natural peanut butter as a “snack.”  I look with awe at people who are satisfied with a fresh fruit and yogurt smoothie as “dessert.”  I have always just assumed this came naturally for them.  And I wish my tastes craved the natural, good things as my treat. I have waited all my life for that magic moment when I would suddenly have an appetite and a natural longing for healthy food, and a distaste for unhealthy food.

And then it occurred to me.

That point will never come.

Because of sin in the world, we are naturally bent toward wanting what is wrong. Please understand, I am not saying that eating unhealthy food is inherently sinful; I am simply drawing a parallel.  No one has to be taught to enjoy the taste of a cookie or some other sweet.  But how many kids love spinach, or beans, or plain oatmeal? Not very many.  I am finding that I have to discipline my taste buds to love what is good.

It occurs to me that the same is true in our spiritual lives.  We need to develop a taste for righteousness. It does not come naturally.  If we are Christians, we have the Holy Spirit within us, and he gives us the desire for holy, righteous things, but if we quench him out, we are left to our own sinful flesh. If we fill our minds up with unspiritual, worldly things, there is little appetite for the holy.

In the same way, if I am full on junk food, I will obviously have no appetite for what is healthy. When I continuously indulge in unhealthy foods, I will not crave the good stuff.

I have been thinking about this a lot in relation to Lent.  The point of Lent is to remove a desired item to practice self-denial and direct us towards Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf.  1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful.  ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything.”  If you feel that an object, item, person, etc. is required in order to be content, then you are enslaved.  What an awful thought!  And we are so deceived to think that we are not enslaved–that we simply have to have this thing to be happy, and to give it up would be unbearable!  But the very fact that the thought is unbearable reveals that our soul places to high a value on it, and that we are indeed enslaved.  And we should not be enslaved to anything but Christ.

That is why fasting is so beneficial. We remove the item of temptation and choose to go without it.  At the end of your fast, you realize that you don’t actually need that item as much as you thought you did. You realize you got along just fine without it, and in fact, you now have a liberty that you had not experienced before. And we now have real desires for the good things. They are not manufactured, but they are real! Denying our flesh enables us to develop affections for what is good and right.

But in our culture, we want everything the easy way. We want to simply naturally desire a life of studying and meditating on Scripture. We think that if we have to work at it, it must be hypocrisy or legalism.  We just assume the really “Spiritual” and godly people were just born that way–not that they may have cultivated that in their hearts through much prayer and sacrifice.  So we just go about our lives, unconsciously being filled up with all the things of the world, so that our appetite for righteousness is nearly nonexistent.

James 4:17 “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  This verse always convicts my heart, because I know the good things to eat, yet, if given the choice, I will always choose the bad thing to eat. If you set a brownie and a salad in front of me and I have to choose one, I will choose the brownie every time.

But if you remove the brownie and simply give me the salad, I love the salad. If the junk food is removed, I begin to desire the good food.  I see that my heart longs for so many other ungodly things to satisfy it outside of simply food.  In this period of Lent and examining myself, I find that much more sacrifice will be required in order to know God in the way in which I so long to know him. I want him to be my all in all, to fill me up so that I don’t want anything else.

But in order to have room for Him to fill me, I must get rid of all the other junk cluttering things up. I am so thankful for Lent…I will continue to spend this time searching my soul and praying to rid myself of all that is displeasing to God.

Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”


The Idolatry of Eating

Recently, I blogged about why we should celebrate Lent.  Today I want to share what I have given up for Lent, in an effort to encourage you and to be held publicly accountable.
The Spirit has been convicting me lately that I have serious issues regarding my love to indulge myself in pleasant activities.

Especially if it involves eating.

This never used to be an issue for me. In fact, I used to struggle with the exact opposite of overeating. But with this last pregnancy, it was like my “I’m full” button shorted out, and I discovered the ability to eat, and eat, and eat, and eat. And I really liked it! And then I realized I couldn’t stop eating. It was just too delicious. My palate simply had to be satisfied further, most of the time, until I had made myself sick on chocolate chip cookies or a half bottle of sparkling grape juice. Or I would find that I was craving something that we didn’t have on hand, I would load the kids into the car and drive out just to get it. If I did not have something I was craving, I found myself descending into a pit of depression.

I told you I had issues.

But as I am working through this and talking to multiple other brothers and sisters in Christ, I am realizing I am not alone in this struggle.  In fact, it seems to be rampant in our land of plenty.

One of the things we often conveniently overlook is the fact that gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Food in itself is neither good nor bad.  1 Corinthians 10:23 says, “‘I am allowed to do anything’–but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’–but not everything is beneficial.” It is not that food and eating are inherently sinful, it is our heart attitude towards food. Why am I eating? Is it because I am legitimately hungry? Is this food even nourishing, or is it simply fulfilling a lustful craving I have?  The truth is, we can actually be eating out of greed and lust, not a real hunger or need for nourishment.

The problem is, eating is one of those necessary evils. We have to eat, or we will die of starvation! So a person cannot simply give it up.  This makes it imperative to be disciplined in our eating.  We simply must learn to control ourselves.

If you are wondering if you have an issue with food, perhaps you might relate to some of my temptations:

If faced with a particularly doldrum task (like filing and paperwork), I cheer my spirits by allowing myself to enjoy a Pepsi and a chocolate bar. If the kids are not behaving well, and I am tired and stressed, I console myself with looking forward to eating dinner out instead of cooking. When I am lonely or bored, I raid the kitchen to fill my stomach with something–anything to occupy my hands and mouth. If I am gloomy, I decide the perfect treat would be playing games with Stephen after the kids are in bed and eating popcorn and drinking sparkling grape juice, my all-time favorite combination.

The problem, however, is not food. It is my heart. It is my flesh that craves satisfaction outside of Christ. It is my sin that causes me to hunger for something edible to fill a spot of loneliness in my heart. It is believing the lie that that brownie, cookie, or sugary beverage will not only fill my stomach, but whatever emotion seems to be lacking.

As I have been increasingly convicted about this area of sin in my heart, I recognize the temptation to attempt self-denial out of my own strength. And that has never worked before. The Lord has convicted me to give up high fructose corn syrup/corn syrup, a sugar that is in nearly everything processed and packaged, over the period of Lent.  And while I am choosing to not eat anything with that sugar in it, to be assessing my heart every time I am tempted to indulge.

To help identify the idolatry in my heart, I am listening to Revive Our Heart’s radio broadcast of “Love to Eat, Hate to Eat” with Elyse Fitzpatrick, as well as reading the book as a devotional.  Another helpful resource has been the Toxic Talk Tuesdays with the Fabry’s on food and eating right.

Over this period of Lent, I do not simply want to deny myself for the purpose of self-discipline. I want to rid my heart of the idol of filling up emptiness with food and pleasure. I want to seek God instead and find him to be more than enough for all my desires.  I want to say “no” to my flesh in something as simple as eating whatever I want whenever I want it, so that I can say “no” to my flesh when faced with a temptation to sin.

Aside: Because my hubby was not giving up HFCS and one of our special date night traditions is sparkling grape juice, I made the exception of allowing sparkling grape juice throughout Lent.  But though I am drinking it occasionally, I am checking my heart for motives and praying over it. Lent does not need to be legalistic–it is for the purpose of examining the heart and coming on our knees before God continually as we recognize our need for Him.

Crockpot Yogurt Recipe (and Greek Yogurt!)

Yogurt is one of those absolutely amazing, incredibly nourishing natural foods.  Packed full of  nutrients and healthful probiotic, its beneficial bacteria helps populate our gut with beneficial flora, which in turn helps us in our digestive process.

We eat a lot of yogurt in our household.  Jeshuah loves it for breakfast mixed with his probiotic and elderberry syrup, and Stephen and I enjoy it with strawberries, craisins and granola.  With the amount of yogurt we go through on a regular basis, the cost can add up fairly quickly!  A few months ago, I learned about a began making our own yogurt and have found the cost savings to be astronomical and the benefits immense!

Here is the cost savings breakdown:

  • Before: we would buy Stonyfield organic plain yogurt from Wal-Mart: (at least) $3.50/quart (most places $4.50)
  • Now: I make it out of our organic raw milk from the farm: $1.40/quart
  • Savings = $2.10/quart x 3/week = savings of $6.30/week = savings of $327.60/year
I feel the need to repeat that. By making my own yogurt, we save over $300 a year!!

Some of the other benefits of making your own yogurt (besides saving a ton of money!) is that you have complete control of what goes into it.  Store bought yogurt can contain very few (or no) live active cultures and can instead have a lot of added ingredients, including sugar and artificial flavorings.  By making my own, I know exactly what is in it, and I can choose my own sweetners and flavorings.  Our favorite sweetener is organic orange juice concentrate (with no high fructose corn syrup) and organic, frozen strawberries.  I can also use raw milk, which preserves many of the nutrients on the milk.  Read more about the benefits of raw milk here.

Raw Milk Crockpot Yogurt

(I make a gallon at a time, but this can just as easily be split in half to make 1/2 gallon)

1.  Turn your crockpot on low and add 1 gallon of milk.

2. Cover and warm for 2 1/2 hours.

3. Turn off crock pot and let sit for 3 hours.

4. Whisk warmed milk and measure out 1-2 cups of the warmed milk into a bowl and add to 1 cup yogurt starter (either from previous batch or plain, store bought yogurt with live active cultures).

5. Gently stir warmed milk and yogurt together, then reincorporate into crock pot.

6. Cover with a few towels or a blanket and allow to incubate overnight, 8-12 hours. I find 12 hours to be the perfect texture/taste.  More or less time can make your yogurt thinner/thicker or more tart.  Find what tastes best for you!

Obviously, we are Steelers Fans:-)

7.  Add a natural sweetener (honey, juice concentrate), some fruit, or whatever else you like! Don’t forget to keep an extra cup plain for starter for your next batch. I also use plain yogurt instead of sour cream.  Store in mason jars or other containers in fridge.  Best to refrigerate for 8 hours before serving.

Pasteurized Crockpot Yogurt

The same as above, except in step 2, allow milk to warm for a full three hours instead of 2 1/2.

Greek Yogurt

(Thanks to my friend Jamie for coming up with this version!)

Follow the above steps for the type of milk you are using whether it is raw of pasteurized milk, with the following substitutions:

Use Greek Yogurt for your starter culture

Let it incubate 15 hours instead of 12

Use a basic bread/flour sack towel for the straining of the whey. Put the whole amount in the cloth inside a large strainer. Then bind it up and let it sit. Every 10 or 15 minutes, scrape the inside of the towel to release the more thick yogurt from the cloth. Let it sit for 45 minutes or so doing this process to thicken it. Voila!

For more tips of great yogurt every time, check out this post!

Naturally Simple Solutions: Reducing Your Toxic Load

There has been a lot of talk lately about toxins and our toxic load.  We are surrounded by reports that new products, fragrances, foods, are proving to cause cancer, disease, and neurological disorders.  The information available is extremely abundant.  I have found it so overwhelming at times, that I find it easier to throw up the defense mechanism of “Oh, please, another study showing such-and-such leads to such-and-such and is dangerous. It’s probably inaccurate, and I shouldn’t worry about it.”

However, as overwhelming as all this new information can be, there is at least some truth to it.  I want to raise my family and care for my home in as healthy, informed way as possible.  But I do not want to become obsessed with this, or make natural, healthy living my gospel.  I want to learn and apply these things as a means of preparing my family to be better enabled to serve Jesus and spread the gospel and glorify God.  And for that reason, I plug on, sifting through the mounds of information out there to seek out what is true and beneficial for me and my family.

I know many of you feel the same overwhelmed, condemned, despair at all the information about dangerous toxins out there.  It is my desire to lay out some simple, step-by-step solutions to help ease our toxic load a bit at a time.  We all have a certain capacity for toxins.  Some have a higher capacity, some have a lower capacity.  But eliminating any little bit helps. Do not think about the grand scheme of things and all that you could be doing but aren’t.  Simply do the best you can with what you know. Rejoice in each and every tiny step you make towards reducing your toxic load!

Below are some simple steps you can take to reduce your toxic load. They are by no means comprehensive, and they are not in any particular order of importance.  Choose one or two that seem easiest to implement and go with it!

Simple Steps to Reducing Your Toxic Load

  1. Whenever possible, eat organic. This can seem like one of the most daunting and expensive steps, but it is so very important!  Produce are laden with pesticides that seep into the fruit and have an affect on our bodies.  This same produce is fed to the animals we eat, who are in turn bolstered with artificial hormones and antibiotics.  All of this makes its way into our system and harms our bodies.  There have been numerous studies done on the validity of these points, so I will not belabor the issue. I only want to reinforce the fact that what we consume does affect our ability to think clearly, live healthfully, and function properly.
    • Begin by downloading this list of the “Dirty Dozen” and, if nothing else, substitute one item for the organic.  For all non-organic produce, use a cleaner (like Veggie Wash) found at your local grocery store and scrub under hot water to remove as much residual pesticide as possible. Every little step helps! To help economize your food budget, try these suggestions: Eat out at a minimum, Menu plan, shop in season, homemake as many items as possible (you pay a premium for processing and packaging), create a budget and stick to it.
  2. Eliminate chemicals from your home.  We are, unfortunately, surrounded by chemicals.  They are in our food, in our utensils, our toys, that “freshly” scented air we breathe, even down to what we use to clean our house.  I have found that it is not as much that chemical-free options do not exist as we simply do not know about them!  I have been posting a series of very practical, helpful tips on how simple and economical this can be!  Check out the side bar categories for Toxic Talk Tuesdays and Naturally Simple Solutions. (I know there isn’t too much there yet, but it is growing!).  Start by replacing your cleaning options with more natural, eco-friendly ones. Melaleuca offers fantastic options while you are figuring out how to make your own out of four simple, natural ingredients! Also, opt for natural solutions to air fresheners. Open the windows (even when it’s a little chilly!), use lemon in your disposal and essential oil diffusers.
  3. Use the stove and oven, not the microwave. Microwave ovens not only emit harmful rays, but their method of cooking/reheating destroys the nutritional content of the food.  Whenever possible, cook and reheat using the stove or oven or eat your food cold.
  4. Reduce your use of plastic. Plastic is made out of petroleum and contains chemicals that are harmful to our health even at miniscule levels.  For an excellent online shopping resource, check out Life Without Plastic.  For our part, we are purchasing these sippy cups and using these utensils as a step in the right direction.  I am also looking into chemical-free toy options like wooden kitchen sets and Brio train sets.
  5. Drink purified, filtered water.  I am still searching for a filter or water source that will help take out the added fluoride to water, but for now we just use a Brita filter.  Avoid plastic water bottles, due to the toxicity of plastic and their carbon footprint.  Refill a BPA-free Nalgene multiple times a day and enjoy!
  6. Cut back on screen time.  Televisions, computers, and cell phones are some of the more recent inventions that pose a possible threat to our health. The effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are still being studied, but it is at least hypothesized over exposure to these fields are harmful.  At the very least, taking a few measures to decrease our exposure is not only beneficial to health, but also to the family and society as a whole! Limit television watching and computer use time.  Do not carry your cell phone in your pocket. Instead, drop it into a purse or backpack.
  7. Deny, delay, or space out vaccinations.  For more information on making informed decisions regarding immunizations, read my post here.  I hate communicable disease as much as anyone, but I have found that vaccinations are not the answer to stopping the spread of these diseases.  The effectiveness, validity and safety of immunizations and have been largely propegated by falsified information out of fear and monetary gain.  There is considerable evidence that they are causing far more harm than good by compromising our immune and neurological systems with numerous neurotoxins and heavy metals. Dr. Bob Sears has a revised immunization chart to space out the vaccinations and allow the body to absorb them at safer intervals.  This can be found in his book The Vaccine Book.
These are simply some of the first steps we are taking as a family, and this list is by no means complete.  I am still learning in all of this!
What steps have you taken to reduce your toxic load?