Skip the nutrition label and read the ingredient list

Stop reading the nutrition label. Seriously, it doesn’t do you any good.

Calories are not created equal. Even if they were created equal, our bodies are not. Fat won’t make you fat. Fat, carbs, and protein work best when consumed together in appropriate portion sizes (read more about PFC eating).

I strongly encourage you to check out the links in this article that will take you to other relevant articles I’ve written. This article is already 1,100 words so the links keep me from writing a novel!

A nutrition label is just a bunch of numbers and it distracts us from listening to our bodies because we are caught up with eating NUTRIENTS rather than FOOD. You can learn everything you need to know about a product by scrolling a little further down to the ingredient list. Here are some things to know:

1. Ingredients are listed in order of most to least
For example, if you read the ingredients in strawberry Pop Tarts- strawberries are at the bottom of the ingredient list long after 5 different types of sugar are listed.

2. Zero doesn’t really mean zero
Just because it says “trans fat free” doesn’t mean there isn’t any trans fat in the product. Confusing, I know, but the nutrition label will say zero grams while the ingredient list says otherwise. You can read how to identify trans fat in products here.

3. Identify added sugars
If you’re buying products that say “lite” or “light” you will often see the sugar content is less according to the number of grams on the nutrition label. However, a glance at the ingredient list will show whatever artificial sweetener that was added. Those are just as bad if not worse for you than regular sugar. Get to know the many faces of sugar if you don’t already; they are in everywhere. If you don’t know what the definitions are behind words like “reduced” or “light” I explain what they are here.

Currently, the grams of sugar listed on a label does not tell you if it’s from natural sugar versus added sugar. You have to look at the ingredient list to figure it out. For example, if you buy plain yogurt you will still see roughly 9 grams of sugar per cup. The only ingredient in plain yogurt is milk so you can conclude that the 9 grams of sugar is the natural sugar, lactose, found in milk. It’s another story if you buy flavored yogurt. You’ll see upwards of 23 grams of sugar; 9 naturally found in the milk, 14 from whatever type of sugar they added.

4. Health claims usually mean unhealthy products
Some claims sound healthy but the product itself is not healthy at all (ahem, whole grain Pop Tarts???). Ready to hear some gross facts? Michael Pollan shares a few in his book “In Defense of Food:”

When you buy fat-free products you’ll notice that the fat that gives product its creaminess is replaced with hydrogenated, highly processed oils or guar gum or carrageenan. Instead of eating real bacon bits, they’ve replaced the….bacon… with soy protein. That coffee creamer you love? Our fat-phobic culture got rid of the fatty cream and replaced it with corn starch and trans fat-filled oils. The list goes on.

5. Fortifying doesn’t make it healthy
Frosted shredded wheat has way more nutrients than plain shredded wheat because it has been fortified. That doesn’t make it healthier considering you have to eat a sugar bomb to get those nutrients and you hardly get any protein or fat if a bowl of cereal is your breakfast. If you’re eating more fruits and veggies and taking a multivitamin then you won’t need to rely on sugar-loaded cereals to get your nutrients.

6. Fats aren’t created equally
While oils like canola, peanut, or soybean will claim to have heart-healthy fats, they are damaged through so much processing that the benefits are essentially canceled out. However, these oils are way cheaper than olive or coconut oil so they are used in everything from salad dressings to cereals. Margarine or butter-imitations and many packaged products contain hidden trans fat (the devil). Lean cuts of conventionally-raised meat are fine since the hormones, toxins, pesticides or whatever else they feed the animals are stored in the fat BUT if you’re buying cuts of meat that are higher in fat your best bet is to get the grass-fed meats, pastured chickens, and wild-caught fish. A nutrition label won’t tell you that.

7. A long list of ingredients is a good indicator of a highly processed product
If you throw a bunch of peanuts in a blender for a few minutes, you get peanut butter. It’s hard to believe, but that’s really what happens. Nothing else is needed. However, if you take a look at a healthy-sounding product, Simply Jif, you’ll find the following ingredients:

ROASTED PEANUTS, FULLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OILS (RAPESEED AND SOYBEAN), MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, MOLASSES, SUGAR, SALT.

Here we find cheap, processed oils (rapeseed is another word for canola) and added sugar. That doesn’t sound very simple to me. You would think Simply Jif would have a simple ingredient list like, I don’t know, simply peanuts.

8. We have been brainwashed with good vs. bad nutrients
Saturated fat and cholesterol are two components of food that we’ve been afraid of for decades due to a couple inconclusive studies that kind of thought they might lead to heart disease but weren’t too sure. This led to doctors telling patients to only eat 1-2 eggs a week. Thank goodness that isn’t true because I regularly eat around 4-6 every day! You’ll find according to the nutrition label, one egg provides 62% of your daily allowance of cholesterol. That sounds alarming but now we know cholesterol is an indicator of inflammation that contributes to heart disease, not the cause. High blood cholesterol doesn’t mean you’re eating too many eggs, it’s your body warning you that something has gone wrong- high stress, hormone imbalance, smoking, artificial sweeteners, over-exercising, lack of sleep, excess sugar consumption… these factors lead to inflammation; cholesterol sounds the alarm. Now that you know cholesterol isn’t a bad thing, ignore that 62% and eat more eggs, yolk and all.

Start reading, stop counting
I apologize if this overwhelms you but the food industry is so tricky when it comes to marketing products. The copious loopholes with health claims makes it easy to lead us into thinking we’re making healthy choices. I hope this opens your eyes to what nutrition labels aren’t telling you. If you have questions I’d be happy to answer them.

What other “healthy” claims have you seen on food packaging?

Cookbook Ambassador: 100 days of Real Food

100 days of real food cookbook

Listen up, folks. Here’s a book you’re going to love.

I have the privilege of being a cookbook ambassador for Lisa Leake’s 100 Days of Real Food cookbook that was just released August 26th. She sent me a free signed copy and I get to tell you all about the book. I even get to share one of the recipes with you! How does a hearty veggie corn chowder sound? Mmmm smells like fall…

veggie corn chowderI started following 100 Days of Real Food on Facebook over a year ago because we share a common desire to avoid processed foods and simply stick with real food. While reading the intro to her book I felt like she was sharing the story of my upbringing in terms of the types of food we ate (uh, melted cheese on Doritos… Kraft Mac n’ Cheese with cut up hot dogs… anyone else relate?) Lisa started making changes to her food choices after reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food and embarked on a 100 day challenge to cut out highly processed and refined foods. This short-term experiment turned into a lifestyle and now she has a book to tell others about it!

Leake family at farmers market

Lisa does a great job of sharing tips and recipes for quick meals that are cost-conscious and made with wholesome ingredients. I appreciate that she focuses on the cost of food since many people think eating healthy means spending a ton of money. You know how much we love our budget so this cost-conscious concept is right up my alley. If you have kids then you’ll find plenty of real-food ideas for packing lunches; perfect timing for back to school season!

Enough talking though, let’s eat! Here’s your free preview of the veggie corn chowder recipe featured in 100 Days of Real Food.

Veggie Corn Chowder recipe

If you’d like to order a copy of 100 Days of Real Food you can find it on Amazon.

Check out the video below to learn more about the book.

How to plan a week of meals

It’s back-to-school time which means a busy season is about to start for many of us. Even though Nora isn’t in school yet, we live near a university so it seems like the whole city runs off of the school schedule. Everything is laid back in the summer then gets crazy come fall. Don’t let the busyness keep you from making healthy meals for your family. Whether you’re a newbie to meal planning or just need some fresh ideas, here are a few tips on how to plan a week of meals.

Use what you already have
No sense in spending more money if you’ve got plenty to work with in your home. I keep a list on my fridge upstairs that shows what we have in my beloved deep freezer in the basement. It’s nothing fancy and looks something like this:

3 packages- 1# ground beef
2 whole chickens
5 salmon burgers
2 mahi mahi filets
1# shrimp

When I take something out of the freezer, I update my list. This keeps me from buying more meat when I don’t need it and it also helps me come up with dinner ideas. I don’t keep a list of what’s in my fridge or pantry but I take a mental inventory when I’m reviewing my grocery list.

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Keep a running grocery list
I use the “notepad” app on my iPhone and add an item to it once we run out. This has become a helpful tip for me after learning the hard way. I wanted to make our favorite salmon dish and didn’t realize I was out of black bean garlic sauce until it was 5pm and I was about to make dinner! I add things to my list like yogurt, peanut butter, etc. when we’re close to running out as well. Can you imagine how awful it would be to run out of peanut butter?? Don’t let it happen to you.

Make a list of your favorite go-to meals
Sometimes we forget about those gems in our recipe box or Pinterest board. Again, the notepad app is great for keeping a list of favorite meals. I usually put them into categories of quick meals versus meals that take a little more prepwork. It can keep you from getting into a rut and making the same things week after week.

Write it down
I use an old calendar marker board from college that’s now hanging on our fridge. The only thing I actually write is the protein source for dinner and then I decide what veggies I want to serve with it the night I make the dish.This helps me plan ahead by knowing what I need to pull out of the freezer to thaw by the day I’m going to use it. This is what last week looked like for us:

Monday- Homemade meatloaf & sweet potato hash
Tuesday- My birthday! We went to one of our favorite local restaurants with my family. I ordered blackened swordfish topped with an avocado mango salsa. Instead of broccoli and couscous I asked for Brussels sprouts and a baked sweet potato.
Wednesday- Rotisserie chicken (leftovers in lunches) with sauteed zucchini & squash
Thursday- leftover chicken, a hard boiled egg, and oatmeal with blueberries, cinnamon, and nuts (odd combination but it worked!)
Friday- Wild salmon burgers (from Costco) and a big salad
Saturday- Veggie and egg scramble & sweet potato hash
Sunday- PFC salad with hardboiled eggs, chicken, kalamata olives, beets, walnuts, and my homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

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Get out your planner
Use your schedule for the week as a reference so you know when it would be best to make your easy go-to dishes versus dishes that take more prepwork. Mondays are like my catch up day when I get produce prepped for the week, boil a dozen eggs & peel them, and make anything else we need. Therefore, Monday dinners are usually an easy one because I’m prepped-out by dinner time. Last time I made a bunch of freezer meals with my neighbor I made a big batch of meatloaf to freeze. All I had to do was put it in a pan and leave it in the oven for an hour. No hard work on my part. Breakfast for dinner happens on a weekly basis because eggs are so cheap and easy to make. I also love having a crock pot recipe for days when I’ve got commitments and won’t be home because you don’t need to be home to “cook” dinner!

Make extra
Lastly, but very importantly, make extra when you cook dinner! Instead of making one rotisserie chicken, throw two in there (if you have room). You can use one for dinner and some leftover meals and then freeze the meat from the second chicken for a future meal. I’m always cooking for 6-8 even though it’s just Dave and I eating the meal because then it gives me enough for two dinners, leftovers for our lunches, and I can freeze the rest for another day. I always do this with taco meat, soup, or grilled chicken.

Start small
Meal planning doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal. Start with meals you already know how to make and gradually add in some new ones. I know how long it takes me to make one of our reoccurring meals from start to finish so that helps me plan better for the week. Adding a new recipe in might take longer than you think so maybe just add one new one a week to your rotation. A little planning ahead can pay off greatly as this busy season starts!

If you meal plan, what tips do you have to be efficient and budget-friendly?

Meal Baby Registry

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I’ve been wanting to share a wonderful resource with you but I guess this article kept getting put on the back-burner because Nora is 7 months old now! Oh well, people are always having babies so this article is obviously still relevant.

Let me tell you about Meal Baby! I’m not getting paid for saying any of this; my church sets up a registry for new moms so I reaped the benefits back in January when we had Nora. It was so nice not having to cook for an entire month. We received over 30 meals from friends and family, 20 of them were Wildtree meals from my friend Leslie.

Even though the meal registry is called Meal Baby you can create a registry for any occasion! A new face in the neighborhood, a family member recovering from surgery, a friend who had a loved one pass away, or just a friendly gesture for someone you want to bless with free meals.

It’s a breeze to set up- simply share any food likes or dislikes, pick a range of dates people can sign up to bring a meal, and email the registry to anyone you wish.

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The calendar makes it easy to navigate what days are open or taken.
Red= taken
Green= available
Blue= the date you signed up to bring a meal

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If you hover over a day highlighted in red you can see what other people are bringing so your friend doesn’t get lasagna 3 times in a week. I made my coconut chicken curry stew for a couple friends at church who recently had babies. Other meals I received besides the Wildtree meals were tacos from a yummy local Mexican restaurant, fajitas, chicken pot pie, goulash, and chicken stir fry.

I am so grateful for this resource and it made our transition as new parents a little easier and allowed us to spend more time with our new addition rather than grocery shopping and preparing meals (or ordering takeout!). I highly recommend sharing Meal Baby with friends or family who would benefit from a blessing like this.

Have you ever utilized a meal registry as a giver or recipient?

I completed the Whole30 challenge

whole30 challenge completeWe made it! Whole30 challenge is complete!
I’ve included a summary of the week along with what I made for meals and snacks. Be sure to check out the updates from previous weeks as well as the prepwork I did to make this a successful challenge.
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
If you want to see daily posts and more on Whole30 stuff you can check in on my Facebook page or take a gander at my Whole30 Pinterest board.

Week 5 wasn’t a full week since it only included days 27-30. However, you don’t just jump right back into eating whatever once Whole30 is over. You’re encouraged to introduce non-Whole30 foods back into your diet one at a time to see if you discover you’re actually intolerant to anything. We start with dairy for 2-3 days, then add in gluten-containing grains, then non-gluten-containing grains, then legumes like beans & peanuts.

Here’s a recap of the week:

What I ate: Week 5

Snacks
Hardboiled eggs, sweet potato muffins, veggies with sweet potato hummus, dates & pecans, or an odd combination like chicken, olives, and an orange.

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Breakfast
My beloved 3 eggs cooked in coconut oil with sauteed veggies. On multiple occasions I had double yolks! Crazy! I had a few mornings this week where I felt extra hungry so I ate a banana or plum with a handful of nuts about an hour later.

Lunch
Garbage stir fry and big ol’ PFC salads with homemade balsamic vinaigrette. I roasted my own beets this time to add to salads. It’s really easy; just wash your beets, make a foil packet to keep the juices from staining your oven, and roast at 375 for an hour. The skins peel off easily by scraping the beet with a butter knife so you don’t have to worry about staining your hands. Fun lesson I learned from this- beets can make your pee a pinkish hue… don’t be alarmed.

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Dinner

Day 27
Grilled chicken with sweet potato hash and cherries. We drizzled leftover gravy from the rotisserie chicken I made during week 1 over the chicken and hash. It made a lot of extra gravy so I froze it for later use.

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Day 28
I ended up staying the night at my parents so I had to pass on my mom’s spicy cabbage and noodle dish and had fried eggs & spinach instead.

Day 29
Moroccan chicken with yellow squash, cabbage, and tomato slices

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Day 30
Taco night with our bible study. I also had some grapes and blueberries.

Grocery Budget
In short, we went over budget. I was hoping to spend $350 since that’s been our usual grocery budget but we ended up spending around $400. Here’s how it broke down:
Protein (meat, fish, eggs…) $185
Produce- $137
Dry goods (nuts, oil, spices, etc.) $74

That’s with buying grass fed/pastuered protein sources and getting veggies ridiculously cheap at the wholesale market I love. I don’t even want to know what our budget would have been if we had to buy produce at regular price. I don’t know if it’s because Dave’s back at his gym lifting and training for a half marathon in October and I’ve been doing PiYo and still am nursing Nora full time but we seriously eat SO MUCH. I was amazed to add up our groceries and see the actual amount that we bought this month.

41 pounds of meat/fish/chicken (comes out to 1/2 pound per person per day)
23 dozen eggs (!!! Comes out to 5 eggs per person per day)

Veggies:
6# carrots
3# fresh mixed greens
3# onions
1.5# acorn squash
11 cucumbers
7.5# broccoli
2 large cabbages
2 pints grape tomatoes
25# sweet potatoes
10 avocados
3# green beans
1# okra
6 bell peppers
5# frozen stir fry veggies
3# frozen spinach

Fruit:
4.5# peaches
15# bananas
1# apples
2 mangoes
5# cherries
4.5# plums
1 cantaloupe

How I feel
My skin has been the clearest it’s been in awhile and I didn’t have one breakout this past month. Dave mentioned he doesn’t have any crashes at work since he was having something more substantial than a PBJ for a mid-morning snack. My nails have been really soft lately and I attribute that to the lack of Calcium in the diet as I explained in week one. Even though I took a multivitamin every day to bridge the gap I think it still might not have been enough.

Measurements
I lost a half inch from my stomach. The rest of my measurements stayed the same (bicep, legs, waist, and chest). Mindfulness, not weight loss, was my goal with Whole30 but I’m sure the combination of eliminating added sugar from my diet, nursing Nora exclusively, and doing Piyo contributed to that half inch I lost.

Overall
Like I mentioned in the Whole30 prepwork post, I don’t encourage eliminating food groups unless you actually find you have an intolerance to something. This month was a great experience in terms of being mindful of how often I would take extra food without thinking, especially desserts. After eating out 4+ times and attending 5+ potlucks I’m actually glad we chose July to try Whole30 out. If you have questions about the challenge that I didn’t cover ask away in the comment section or on any of my social media pages.

 What good eats did you have this week?

Whole30 Week 4 Update

Whole 30 week 4 is complete! I’ve included a summary of the week along with what I made for meals and snacks. Be sure to check out the updates from previous weeks as well as the prepwork I did to make this a successful challenge.
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
If you want to see daily posts and more on Whole30 stuff you can check in on my Facebook pageI haven’t had one Whole30 recipe pinned on my Whole30 Pinterest board that I didn’t love so head over there for some ideas.

What I ate: Week 4

veggies

Snacks
Often snacks include hardboiled eggs, fruit, and nuts or veggies with sweet potato hummus. I think we’ve relied too much on nuts as a fat source (not that nuts are bad but they are more expensive compared to other fat sources) but I don’t go to the store frequently enough to keep up with avocados.

Breakfast
I saved the stems from our broccoli and shredded them in the food processor to fry up in our usual breakfast with eggs & other veggies. I hate wasting food when the stems are perfectly edible!

shredded broccoli

Lunch
Day 22
We went to a coney island to meet up with friends visiting from out of town and Dave and I ordered the Gyro scrambler that came with tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and feta. Sadly, we skipped the feta since dairy isn’t allowed buuut it was cooked in butter, whoops.

Day 23
I was visiting my parents for the day so from their fridge I managed to throw together 2 fried eggs in avocado oil with a slice of ham (the ham contained dextrose…I want to say this was another oops but I decided not to care about a slice of ham), some big fat green olives and a few cherries.

Day 24
Grilled chicken in coconut oil, sauteed veggies, a hardboiled egg, blueberries, some mango, and cucumbers dipped in sweet potato hummus

Day 25
Egg salad made with 3 eggs, homemade mayo, dijon, cayenne pepper and homemade curry seasoning. I also had a plum and more veggies with sweet potato hummus.

egg salad

Day 26
Our church had a cookout and I ate THREE burgers without a bun, picked out some cucumbers and tomatoes from a pasta salad, and lots of fruit. Days like this make me both happy and sad that I’m doing the Whole30 challenge because I would have eaten one of each dessert. There were so many good desserts there- homemade chocolate cake, fudge-y brownies with walnuts, and homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Dinner

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Day 22
Damn fine chicken” was the name of the recipe. It was really good and I’d definitely keep it in my go-to recipe list. We enjoyed it with a baked sweet potato topped with sunbutter and sauteed spinach in ghee.

Day 23
Leftovers are a wonderful thing. We had green beans instead of spinach this time.

Day 24
Pan-fried salmon with sauteed green beans and cherries on the side. I drizzled olive oil on the salmon along with garlic powder and some capers.

Day 25
Leftover salmon with sauteed curried cabbage and cantaloupe.

Day 26
Taco meat over sauteed cabbage and green beans. Odd mix but it was delicious. I’m really enjoying our homemade taco seasoning.

Overall
This week went well but with only 4 days left I’m getting excited to start introducing foods we enjoy back into our diet like yogurt, cheese, and peanut butter. We plan to introduce dairy, grains, and peanut butter back into our diet on separate days to see if we learn that something doesn’t sit well with us.

I took my body measurements at the beginning of the month for my PiYo accountability group and will take them again at the end to see if there’s much difference. We’ve also talked about whether or not we feel any different since doing Whole30. After I recap our last few days I’ll share my measurement results, thoughts about the challenge, and a breakdown of our spending.

What do you think would be the hardest food to give up in the Whole30 challenge?
Dairy? Grains? PEANUT BUTTER? <– my answer.

What’s in my pantry

pantryI’d like to say I enjoy getting ideas from other people by seeing what’s in their pantry or fridge. I could also say I’m just nosy. Either way, it’s fun to see what people have stocked in their home. Let me preface the photos by saying they are from AFTER my first big grocery trip of the month when I stock up on all the meat and canned stuff we’ll use for the month. Produce varies week to week and yes… we usually have an unbelievable amount of eggs in our fridge. As the week goes by the fridge becomes empty and we rely on frozen veggies until I restock the fridge.

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Fridge
I cut up lots and lots of veggies to make packing lunches easier during the week. Besides the condiments on the door shelves you’ll usually find (when we’re not eating by Whole30 rules) full fat plain yogurt, cottage cheese, some type of block cheese, more eggs than you’d ever imagine in a fridge for two people (both hardboiled and raw), leftovers, a big container of organic spring mix, meat from our deep freezer that I’m thawing for dinner, hummus, and lots of veggies from the wholesale market we love. That jar on the bottom shelf with the red lid- that’s black bean garlic sauce. If you’ve never tried it you need to go buy it and make our #1 favorite meal. The takeout container on the top shelf contains canned veggies like beets and artichokes; it makes throwing a salad together a quicker process.

Photo: Time seems to be our biggest obstacle when it comes to healthy eating...</p>
<p>Here's my secret to getting more veggies into my diet:</p>
<p> Cut up a bunch of them at once for easy access. It will make packing lunches easier and you can toss a few in with your eggs in the morning. I always keep frozen veggies on hand for when my fridge stash gets low.

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Pantry
Our pantry is stocked with homemade strawberry jelly, our favorite food- PEANUT BUTTER, trail mix, baking staples, broth, various types of canned tomatoes, unsweetened shredded coconut, garlic, olives, tea, sweet potatoes, onions, canned tuna, salmon, chicken, other canned veggies, and nuts. We don’t do snacks you might think of like chips, crackers, etc. Our snacks usually consist of fruit, cheese, nuts, yogurt, or veggies & hummus.

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Freezer
I’ve already covered this when I shared about our handy deep freezer so you can head over to that article if you want to see what’s in there.

What foods do you always keep your home?