Play it Again: My Top 3

Originally Published December 2008

Three chocolatesImagine taking a chocolate-loving woman (so, that would be pretty much any woman) to some incredible chocolate store, perhaps in, say, Belgium. The shelves and counters are lined with incredibly decadent, melt in your mouth, sweet perfection and goodness. Chocolate truffles, chocolate covered cherries, chocolate toffee, hazelnut chocolate pralines.

As she stands there, taking it all in and salivating at the delicate smell wafting through the air, she is bluntly told, "Alright lady, take your pick. You get 3. That's it. No more, no less. Just 3." Can you feel her agony as I do?

So that's sort of how I felt when Judy so graciously asked me this:

I love all these posts on
nutrition and healthy eating — but I am SO overwhelmed of where to
begin. I guess I must unlearn 45 years of grocery shopping and food
preparation. I do some of the obvious — 100% pure juices — some
organic grains sprinkled in here and there. I used to think Soy Milk
was good but then I thought somewhere you might have said it isn't.
What would be your top three areas that I could begin to focus on?
and/or eliminate from our diet.

Three?!? I can only choose three?

Ok, calm down. Stop shaking. You can handle this. It's a simple question really, and all it needs is a simple answer. She's not asking you to never post about anything important ever again, she's just asking for a starting place. You can do this.

Deep breath. Here goes:

1) Move away from processed foods, towards a whole foods diet

I say this, knowing that it is a large step, but it starts in small ways, and that is all that I'm suggesting. Really, truly. It starts by choosing 1 or 2 processed foods that you regularly buy, and starting to learn to make them from scratch or to substitute a whole food in it's place. Don't even worry yet about whole grain, organic or natural, pasture-fed, etc, etc. Just concentrate on foods that are as close to their original state as possible.

This can be as simple as forgoing the pasta mix (like Lipton side noodles, Kraft dinner, or even a Prego sauce) that you like to purchase, and try making your own sauce to pour over some noodles. It could be attempting to make some homemade bread or muffins instead of buying them from the grocery bakery. It could be learning to make homemade white sauce or trying out some new soup recipes in lieu of canned soups. Chopping and steaming your own fresh veggies instead of the usual canned or frozen ones. Try battering and baking or simply seasoning your own chicken or fish, instead of buying frozen, deep-fried chicken strips or fish sticks.

2) Switch over from a reliance on vegetable oils and margarine, to truly good-for-you fats

What goes: Margarine or any half-half mix or imitation butter spread or spray, canola oil, sunflower oil (this one can still be used minimally, but really, keep it minimal), safflower oil, corn oil, generic vegetable oils, Crisco, Pam, all hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils (look in the ingredients on many packaged foods to find these)

What to add: Honest-to-goodness butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, palm oil, flax oil (not for cooking), and even animal lard or tallow

(For more on this, see these posts, Part 1 and Part 2, for more on cooking oils, and this post on butter)

3) Start to decrease and move towards eliminating refined sugars from your diet

There are just so many good reasons to cut out refined sugars entirely:

  • They contribute to weight gain and obesity
  • They contribute to blood sugar imbalances and Type II diabetes
  • They are empty calories and actually rob your body of needed nutrients
  • They damage your teeth
  • They are addictive (I kid you not!)
  • They are a major cause of hyperactivity and an inability to focus and learn well in children
  • They cause your body to be highly acid, rather than slightly alkaline as it should be, which contributes to disease
  • They feed cancer cells (did you know that one of the most effective cancer scans looks for cells that are uptaking glucose at a fast rate?)

Do we really need any more reasons to get rid of them? Work towards this by slowly finding replacement snacks and foods for the more sugary things you have a habit of eating (pops, store-bought baking, sugary beverages, candy, cereals, granola bars and many other processed foods- look at the ingredients!). Try having one or two days a week where you don't have any refined sugar at all, and gradually cut it down more and more. Learn to use natural sweeteners in your own baking and treat-making at home.

(And if you really want to know, the other suggestion that I really strongly considered was to add in a Cod Liver Oil supplement- it gives you crucial essential fatty acids like EPA and DHA, plus high amounts of Vitamin A and D, which most North Americans are lacking in but are vitally important to good health. So if you're struggling with one of the above suggestions, consider Cod Liver Oil another good step to take instead.)

Phew! That wasn't so hard… :) Think I'll go have a piece of chocolate now. (See, there's that addictive thing I told you about!)

Aren't you proud of me for not mentioning soaking and sprouting your grains? And working to avoid food preservatives, dyes, MSG and other such chemicals? And adding more fermented and cultured foods to your diet?  And drinking raw, not pasteurized, milk? And trying to buy more organic or unsprayed produce and learning to wash and peel to avoid pesticides? And finding a good source of…

I could have mentioned all of those things, but aren't you glad I didn't?

Truthfully, I don't know that it matters where you begin. The point is simply to start somewhere. Anywhere! These are just my suggestions, to give you a few points to focus on, and I hope you find it helpful! Blessings as you begin to make these positive changes for you and your family!

What are some of the small, baby steps that you have begun taking in the area of nutrition? Do these 3 things sound like something that you could do?

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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  1. How do I find resources for raw milk? This would be the easiest first step I could take since my family (my husband especially drinks a lot of milk). I’m just not sure that it would be affordable for us. If raw milk is not an option, is there a suggestion for a second alternative? Organic? Soy? Almond?

  2. I’d suggest that the more veggies (preferrably raw) that we can consume, then the less we are in need of or even tempted to eat the foods that are less good for us. Start lunch & dinner with a BIG salad or veggie plate (I have the veggies prepped early so my hungry dc start filling up on them) and that will leave less room for the other foods, PLUS it provides lots of natural digestive enzymes to help digest the food that will be piled on top ;)

  3. For our family actually learning how to cook was a big step. I thought I knew how to cook, but what I was really doing was reheating, nuking, zapping, toasting, melting and warming up. Now we are buying whole, real ingredients and making 90% of our food from scratch. NOW, i am cooking! We are starting our first vegetable garden next spring and I am so excited to take this one step further.

  4. Thank you so much for this! I am trying to get into a more healthier lifestyle now that my son is starting to eat solids. Thank you so much!!!! God Bless!!!!

  5. Good Ideas!

  6. Just wanted to say I LOVE your new family photo on the main page! :)

  7. This is a great post…I’m glad you chose to “play it again” since I am relatively new to your blog. In all of this we must remember that the Lord never gives us more than we can bear. Your advice to take it in baby steps and change something…one thing at a time is right on the mark. That’s how I approached it years ago and I am still learning and changing things along the way. We need to remember that even little changes will make a difference.


  8. The first one is particularly important for removing unnecessary/unwanted chemicals.

    My MIL (knowing i’m gluten sensitive) bought a boxed mix called “Dirty Rice” saying “it doesn’t have wheat.” And, no it does not. And i thank her for her consideration. But the list of chemicals including MSG & soy sauce (that might have wheat) is a mile long. I don’t want any of that stuff! And making rice with a broth & some peppers isn’t that hard.

    Also, muffins/cookies from the store have long lists of ingredients. (Not that i can eat them.) Stuff that you make at home without things you can’t pronounce taste so much better anyway.

    But i don’t want to sound unsympathetic, for i get overwhelmed trying to cook at home, too.

  9. I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned – baby steps. For me it started with making my own bread, then I learned the importance of the flour and I have now changed what I use to make it even better for my family. Then it was things like making my own laundry detergant, and dishwasher detergant. Many of the ones you have mentioned I am also doing too. Making these changes has been a fun and addictive process.

  10. Excellent advice. Just where I started over 11 years ago with the addition of moving toward whole grains – literally. We bought a mill and started grinding our own grain.

  11. Robin in Washington says:

    I am experimenting with coconut sugar because of it’s low glycemic index. I am not diabetic, but I just want to be able to enjoy a dessert with LESS guilt!

  12. Thank you so much for increasing my interest in living a more “whole” life! I am loving your e book also and learning so much along this journey!

  13. This is great information for getting started. I am actuality moving past this point right now. Into the sprouted grains, more raw foods(as much organic as the budget can handle or I can find). I have tried to go healthy before and just jumped in doing too much too fast and became overwhelmed.

    Some of my baby steps where not so baby. I have adult onset food allergies. No dairy, soy, gluten, or nutmeg. I can attest to the sugar being such a problem. I am also pre-diabetic. This past month I gave up sodas and most tea. 90% of what I drink is water. Some days I go without any caffeinated drink (tea) at all. This week we are starting whole grain breakfast. Soaked grains of course.

    Raye Ann