What We Learned from the 100 Days of Real Food Challenge

Posted on March 11, 2014 by Amanda Holliday | 0 Comments

Has it really been 100 days already? Time flies when you’re having fun, I guess. Living and breathing Real Food these past 100 days has made us realize a lot of things. We thought we’d take a minute to share our thoughts on the challenge and hope you will share your experience as well. We are so far from experts, but here are 10 things we learned during the last 100 days (we thought 100 would be overkill).

1. We already prepared a lot of real food, without even thinking about it. “I credit this to my mother, grandmother and extended family who always make everything homemade,” - Magge

2. The transition to Real Food was easier than we thought. “To make my homemade macaroni and cheese Real Food macaroni and cheese, I just subbed white flour out for some white whole wheat (that King Arthur’s stuff is awesome), and the regular noodles for whole wheat ones. Done. And awesome, BTW.” - Maggie

3. Reading labels is important. Not only does this help extend that precious alone time at the grocery store (when did grocery shopping alone become such a luxury, BTW?), it also changed what we buy. The staples like bread, bagels and yogurt we used to buy without thinking twice have now been swapped out for Real Food versions. It’s the little things that make a big impact. Here's how to read food labels

4. Eating Real Food is expensive. There just isn’t any way around this one, but we did find a lot of tips to make it more affordable. We know the cost is a big challenge, preventing a lot of people from eating Real Food. We are hopeful healthy, organic, whole foods will become more and more accessible to everyone in the coming years.  

5. Rethink fast food. We don’t eat fast food, but what kid (or adult) doesn’t love chicken nuggets. Have you ever thought about making homemade chicken nuggets? They are so good and there is no mystery meat. Here is a recipe we used for inspiration. You probably won’t be able to make them look like dinosaurs, but the kids will get over that once they taste them.   

6. Getting the kids involved is so fun. Stirring, pounding, mixing and pressing out tortillas was a highlight for Maggie and her boys.

7. Having a plan is key. This not only saved our sanity, but made it easy for everyone to be on board. “It’s easy for the nanny, my husband or my mom to look at the meal plan on the fridge and make Parker something to eat when I am away from home. It takes the guesswork out of cooking and makes feeding her healthy so easy.” - Melissa

8. Leftovers are the best. In addition to prepping and planning ahead, making a little extra of whatever we were having for dinner, meant we could turn it into lunch the next day.

9. The right tools make a big difference. “I would cook and puree a lot of fruits and vegetables for Parker on Sundays. But without a bunch of trays to freeze the purees in, I would have a bunch of pureed food that has to sit in the fridge while I wait for the trays to be available again. More trays would make it easier, but at $25 each, I just couldn’t spend the money for that convenience.” - Melissa. On the other hand, Maggie has already gotten her money’s worth of her newly acquired tortilla press.

10. We discovered new favorite foods. Farro, homemade ricotta, homemade almond milk are just a few of our new favorite things. We also learned to not fear fat

    

Now it’s your turn...what did you learn during the challenge? What are your Real Food tips?

 

Posted in 100 Days of Real Food, 100 Days of Real Food and Little Green Pouch, Almond Milk, Maggie & Melissa, Real Food, real food lunchbox

Real Food Making a Real Difference

Posted on March 04, 2014 by Amanda Holliday | 0 Comments

During our Real Food series, we have covered the benefits of eating and cooking Real Food. It is clear the nutritional value of Real Food is superior to that of processed foods. But if you are on our site, you probably already know that. What about when it goes beyond that? Can Real Food make a real difference? We think so and so does today's guest blogger, Meredith from In Sock Monkey Slippers. We invite you to read Meredith's story about the impact Real Food has had on her daughter's health and wellbeing. And then head into the kitchen and make her recipe for Carrot Apple Ginger Yogurt.



"I've always had a passion for food and cooking fresh but it wasn't until I had a family that I saw the importance of it all. Five years ago, I had a beautiful baby girl. She was born 16 weeks early at 24 weeks gestation and weighed only 1 pound. A hard road was ahead of her but she came through it fighting all the way. Her biggest and most severe complication to overcome was a digestion problem called Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC), a life-threatening  condition where the small bowel dies. She pulled through like a champ but for the first few years we had to strictly monitor what foods she ate. At the advice of her gastroenterologist, we stayed away from processed foods, additives, and dyes that would only cause her pain because she was so sensitive. We mostly did this anyway but now we were on alert. It became shocking how often anything processed contained a long list of man-made additives and it became even more apparent how important it was to choose fresh real foods. As my daughter got older she relied on every single calorie. At the age of 3 she weighed less than an 18-month-old. To give her anything processed was a joke as it did nothing nourishing for her. What was the point?

Today, she is a healthy and active little girl with a huge palate. She enjoys real foods and is far from a picky eater — something I truly believe has to do with feeding her a wide variety of FRESH foods from the very beginning. I am very thankful for every doctor that had a hand in saving her but I am grateful to her first gastroenterologist for putting me on the real food track and opening my eyes."


Posted in 100 Days of Real Food, Guest Post, Kids, Pouches Out and About, Real Food, Success Stories

The Health Benefits of Eating Real Food

Posted on February 27, 2014 by Melissa Winn | 0 Comments

By Adrienne Santos-Longhurst from Healthline

If the old saying “you are what you eat” is true then a lot of us are in trouble because the typical American diet has become one that’s full of processed and fast foods that are high in fat, sugar, sodium, and chemicals. This explains much of the obesity epidemic and plays a major role in the alarming rise of cases of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. It also shows that we need to get back to eating real food now more than ever.

The benefits of eating real food are endless and especially apparent when you consider what goes into prepackaged foods. Here is a rundown of some of the benefits of eating real food along with some interesting (and scary!) facts about processed foods.

You know exactly what you’re putting into Your Body

Eating real food that you make yourself allows you to control the amount of additives like sugar and salt that goes into your food. In Get the Facts: Sodium’s Role in Processed Food put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s reported that over 75 percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed and restaurant foods. Over 75 percent! Sodium is known to increase blood pressure which in turn can lead to heart disease and stroke making this statistic especially alarming.

Then there’s the hidden sugar in processed foods, including a lot of the foods that we think to be healthy like granola and fiber bars, yogurt, dried fruit, and more. Did you know that a 1.5 ounce box of dried raisons—yes, the same kind you threw into your kid’s lunch bag this morning or reach for when you want a “healthy snack”—can contain as many as 30 grams of sugar? We know that sugar makes us fat, but more and more information is coming out on the dangers of refined sugars and their link to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and inflammation which are linked to cancer, arthritis and more.

Along with sugar and salt there are the other dangerous additives that you get to avoid when you opt for real food. Chemicals that help to preserve packaged food and those used to add color are also shown to be bad for us. As a matter of the Center for Science in the Public Interest has referred to artificial food dyes as “a rainbow of risks” in their publication of the same name.

You Get to Keep All the Good Stuff

Even though you do lose a small amount of nutrients when you cook certain foods, for the most part eating real food lets you get the nutritional benefits from what you eat. The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and all of the other good stuff that keeps your immune system healthy and helps you feel and look your best stays intact when you eat real food so you’re not just satisfied (unlike when you eat empty calories in junk food) but you’re also healthier overall.

Fiber really is Fiber When You Eat Real Food

You know the products that you see at the grocery store with a big bright label on the package practically singing out about all of the added fiber they contain? There’s a good chance that the fiber they speak of isn’t what you’re thinking. Getting more fiber is something that we want which is precisely why more and more companies are trying to reel us in with the promise of more fiber. What they don’t tell you is that these isolated fibers don’t come close to providing us with the amount that we need. And that even in packaged foods containing whole grains, a lot of the nutrients and most of the fiber has been removed during processing with some being artificially put back in! Don’t settle for some added isolated fiber when eating real food gives you the health benefits you’re after. Get your fiber from whole grains, beans, and nuts, as well as fruits and vegetables and enjoy benefits like lower cholesterol and better bowel health and blood sugar levels.

As you can see, the benefits of eating real food go way beyond just your physical health—they help your peace of mind too by giving you the comfort of knowing that you’re not filling your body or that of your family with an endless list of ingredients that are full of health risks.

For more information on nutrition and its effects on your health, click here.

Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and fitness for more than a decade. When she's not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking about her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand up paddle board.

References

Posted in 100 Days of Real Food, Commentary, Guest Post, Healthline, Real Food

From Farm to Pouch

Posted on February 25, 2014 by Amanda Holliday | 0 Comments

No matter your intentions to cook, eat and serve Real Food, it is difficult. The grocery store is full of products labeled "real", "wholesome", "natural" and "organic". You have to decide what messaging you can trust when making choices for your family. When do you choose organic? How many ingredients on the label are too many? As a guide, we use the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen as a rough guide for when to choose organic vs. conventional produce (because, let's be honest, organic food is expensive). We also roughly stick to the "no more than 5 ingredients" rule set forth by 100 Days of Real Food. Beyond this, I wanted to talk about some of my favorite ways to ensure our family eats Real Food that you can try as well.

Join a CSA

My number one tip is to join a CSA. What is a CSA? CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of fruits and vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

Reasons I love being a CSA member:

It allows us to support local farmers

We know EXACTLY where our food is coming from

We know the produce is fresh, organic and local

It gets us experimenting in the kitchen

When I say we know exactly where the food is coming from, I mean it. As a CSA member, you often have the opportunity to visit the farm. Being able to tour the place where your food is grown makes you even more invested in eating healthy, local food. 

   

One of the best side effects of becoming a CSA member (besides playing with chickens and baby lambs) has been that it pushed us outside our comfort zone when it comes to the ingredients we cook with. While our household is a fruit and veggie loving one, we still tend to get into a rut, turning to the same go-to options.

With a CSA you don't choose what comes in the box each week—that's up to Mother Nature. When that gnarly looking celery root stares up at you from the box, what do you do? Why, you hop on the Internet (or our favorite, Pinterest) and research recipes. When the result is a creamy, rich alternative to mashed potatoes that is packed with fiber, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B6, all is right in the world. 

Visit the Farmers Market

Trust me, we know we are spoiled in California when it comes to the accessibility of amazing produce year round. And depending on where you live, you may not have the option to join a CSA. But there are other ways to enjoy fresh, local produce. There are also larger-scale CSAs throughout the national similar to Farm Fresh to You. Here are 10 to check out.

Also, look for a farmers market near you and make it fun for the kids by letting them choose a new fruit or vegetable each trip that they want to try. Just make sure they know one of the rules is that once you cook it, they have to actually try it. :) 

Grow it Yourself

Whether you have a windowsill, a porch, a small area in your yard, or an acre, you can take advantage of that space and grow your own herbs and produce. It doesn't get any more local than that. Check out our Farm to Pouch board on Pinterest for ideas and inspiration for growing your own produce.

Tell us: What are your favorite ways to eat farm-to-table?  

Posted in 100 Days of Real Food, 100 Days of Real Food and Little Green Pouch, Real Food

Real Food in the Lunch Box by Healthline

Posted on February 23, 2014 by Amanda Holliday | 0 Comments

 

This post comes to you from Healthline and is written by Adrienne Santos-Longhurst. Healthline's mission is to improve health through information. Healthline provides objective, trustworthy, and accurate health information, guided by the principles of responsible journalism and publishing. Enjoy this article on real food lunches. 

Knowing what to pack in your child’s lunch box isn’t always easy. From trying to balance between food that’s healthy and food that they’ll actually want to eat can be a downright pain! This can especially hard when it comes to sticking to lunches made up of real food and not just reaching for some of the quick fixes at the grocery store.

Why It’s Worth the Effort

Obviously, your child is always worth the effort, but it’s perfectly okay to admit that sometimes a hectic schedule makes it hard to prepare real foods for their lunches five times a week. Before you give into your crazy schedule or your child’s pleading for cheese and cracker snack packs like “all the other kids get,” think about these facts:

-According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 in every 3 children in America is overweight or obese.

-Contrary to popular belief, fast food isn’t the main cause of child obesity, according to a recent study. Turns out that the bigger issue is what their parents and caregivers are feeding them, which often includes very little fruits and veggies and loads of processed foods and sugar-filled beverages.

-Obese kids have a higher risk of several health issues such as bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and heart disease. They also have a higher risk of psychological problems like low self-esteem.

-A National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel concluded long ago that food additives and certain foods affect some children with behavioral issues, including ADHD.

Real Food Lunches They’ll Love

It won’t be easy to get your child to eat a lunch box full of whole grains, fruits, and veggies when little Suzy is sitting on one side with her cupcake treat and little Jared on the other eating a pizza pocket. The key to making it work is to create healthy alternatives that taste great and, since kids are visual creatures; look good too.

Since sandwiches are a lunch box staple, be sure to include them even if only a couple times a week. Make your own bread, or buy whole grain breads that list grains as the first ingredient on the label. Pack them with protein-filled natural nut butters and sweeten them up with slices of banana. Honey is also a nice alternative to highly processed jams and spreads. If getting them to eat sandwiches takes a little more coaxing, then add some whimsy by cutting the bread into a fun shape. It’s all in the details with some kids!

Fruits and vegetables can be approached much the same way, by cutting and arranging them into fun shapes. It may seem a little frivolous, but investing a few bucks into spiral slicer or taking a few extra minutes to spiral cucumbers and other veggies can make all the difference in the world! Baking veggies into “chips” is also a sure-fire way to get a child to eat their veggies without any moaning.

And, give them the special fast food treats they want without all the fat and additives. Ground turkey and chicken made into patties and placed in a whole grain bun is a great alternative to the traditional hamburger and making your own whole grain pizza dough and letting them add their own healthy toppings is a fun way to give them a healthy version of a classic kid favorite.

Other kid-friendly real food ideas are:

homemade muffins
homemade granola bars
oatmeal animal crackers
fruit smoothies
sweet potato fries (baked, of course!)

First Impressions Matter to Kids

The way you pack their lunch is also important. It may seem silly since most of us could care less what our lunch is packaged in when break time rolls around and we’re hungry. To a kid, the way the food is packaged matters, especially when they’re surrounded by other kids drinking out of bottles with straws and slurping snacks out of squishy tubes and containers! Look for cool containers to make the “real food” look like “fun kid food”. Snack trays with different compartments like bento boxes are great, as are bright bottles, and yes, the Little Green Pouch too. Its kid and slurp-friendly design is ingenious, along with being reusable and compact, of course. Basically, when it comes to packing a lunch that appeals to kids: If you can rearrange it, squish it, or slurp it; they’ll love it!

Getting your kids to eat real food at school doesn’t have to be a struggle. Put your kid cap on and think like your 6-year-old self when planning and preparing their lunches and snacks. And, don’t forget to ask for their input and include them in the process. You’d be surprised at how excited they get about lunch when they have some say.

Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and fitness for more than a decade. When she's not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking about her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand up paddle board.

References

  • Childhood Obesity Facts. (2013). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on February 13, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm
  • A Parent’s Guide to Diet and ADHD. Center for Science in the Public Interest. Retrieved on February 13, 2014, fromhttp://www.cspinet.org/new/adhd_bklt.pdf
  • Poti, J M, Duffey, K J, Popkin, B M. (2013). The association of fast food consumption with poor dietary outcomes and obesity among children: is it the fast food or the remainder of the diet. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2013; 99 (1): 162. Retrieved on February 13, 2014, from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/99/1/162

Posted in 100 Days of Real Food, Guest Post, Healthline, Real Food, real food lunchbox, Recipes

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