This is Part 2 of the Real Food Makeover for the Startup family, and the very last of all the Real Food Makeovers!
Lessening the Grip of Sugary Beverages
One of the 3 baby steps that I suggested in Part 1 was to decrease their consumption of sugary snacks and beverages. It's important to decrease sugar consumption in general for a million different reasons, but in particular processed sugary foods (like snack cakes and donuts, and especially syrupy soda pop) are full of High-Fructose Corn Syrup, a definite no-no and "food" (because no, it's really NOT a food at all) to avoid.
For those who regularly consume these foods, and especially drinks, there needs to be a weaning process.
I know first hand how addictive pop and sugar-drinks can be. For many people, the best way to get off of them is to do it gradually. Sure, it would be wonderful to just drop them cold turkey, and some do it that way, but it just doesn't work for most people.
Set some goals to decrease the amount that you drink in a slow and manageable way. If you drink multiples sodas in a day, start by cutting back to just one per day. If you drink one each day, try cutting back to 5-6 per week instead of 7. Once you achieve that initial goal, make another slow, incremental goal. Continue on this way until they became more of an exception, rather than the norm.
It helps to find some alternatives. Here are some ideas, moving from so-so compromise drinks, towards better choices:
- "Health food" store soda pops (usually made without high-fructose corn syrup, and no dyes/preservatives, but still quite sugary)
- Commercial carbonated juice drinks (Izze is tasty and fairly common)
- No-sugar soda alternative called Zevia (made with Stevia as the sweetener)
- Regular store-bought juice (look for the words "100% juice", and not "juice beverage"). Mixing juice with carbonated water or Club Soda is quite nice.
- Store-bought fruit smoothies (Odwalla, etc.)
- Fresh juice at home (from a juicer)
- Homemade smoothies (with yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit, honey, etc.)
- Water kefir (a homemade, fizzy, sweet pop alternative that is actually good for you!)
- Herbal iced teas (add honey or raw sugar to sweeten while still warm, if you like)
- Water with lemon, lime or cucumber (or just plain, easiest drink of all!)
Kim may want to try learning to make Water Kefir, which would provide a really healthy version of something cold, sweet and fizzy! This would be a wonderful addition to their diet!
The ultimate goal as far as beverages should be for water to be the standard drink, with dairy like raw milk or kefir pretty regularly, and occasional other drinks (maybe once a day or so) like fresh juice, smoothies, tea with sweeteners, etc. Water should be our main beverage because it most truly serves the goal of hydrating us, whereas other drinks are more for pleasure or fill us up like food (as dairy does).
Breakfasts in the Startup home tend to consist of mostly things like boxed cereal, pop tarts, donuts or bagels. Here are some alternative suggestions:
- What about breakfast cookies or breakfast cake?
- Pancakes or waffles (soaked is an easy transition to make) with butter and maple syrup. For fast breakfasts, make double or triple batches and freeze the extras. Reheat by simply popping in the toaster.
- Healthier, alternative boxed cereals (I discussed a few options here)
- Homemade granola with milk (raw if you can get it)
- Banana or zucchini muffins (yes, even with a few chocolate chips- it's still an improvement!)
- It would be great to add in more protein in morning- an egg (whatever style they will eat it in), some yogurt, even good quality breakfast meats.
Habits take some time to break. Start by changing up the regular breakfast foods once or twice per week. After a few successful weeks of that, add one more day. A few weeks later, another day.
Making changes in a slow, gentle manner like this helps to prevent them from feeling overwhelming, and minimizes the desire to just throw in the towel and give up. We're not looking for overnight change. We want long-term, sustainable change!
Image by Izik
I'm not too concerned about Mom's lunch choices at the moment, but want to address the men's lunches instead. They are generally sandwiches with chips/pretzels, snack cakes and a sugary drink (pop or Vitamin Water). One son eats boxed mac & cheese or frozen dinners instead of sandwiches.
Ways to improve lunches:
- Sandwiches can be a great lunch, so it's just a matter of substituting better ingredients. Start with moving towards whole grain, and then ultimately soaked or sourdough or sprouted grain bread. Replace storebought mayonnaise with homemade mayo (to avoid bad oils). Switch to nitrate-free sandwich meat. Find natural peanut butter (no sugar or hydrogenated oils) and 100% fruit jams (no added sugar). Add some lettuce or sprouts to meat & cheese sandwiches. Pick one change (not all!) and go for it, then pick another one when that one has been fully incorporated and accepted.
- Switch out the snack cakes for home baked goods, like cookies or bars of some sort.
- Instead of the chips or pretzels, look for some healthier versions- Terra Chips, organic corn ships, even whole grain pretzels.
- Better yet, fruit and nut protein bars are anther great option- sweet, portable and so yummy! The many bar recipes in this Healthy Snacks ebook are fantastic!
- Ultimately, chips/crackers should be replaced with a fruit or veggie option. As you try to add more fruit and veggies in, you will have to see which ones they go for the most. Dip always make veggies go over well (try a ranch dip). Easy portable options include: cucumbers, peppers, carrots, snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower or cherry tomatoes.
- One way to make fruit more interesting to naysayers is to make a sweet cream cheese dip (literally, a package of cream cheese mixed up with a bit of sweetener and some lemon juice) to dip fruit slices in (apples, pears, strawberries, bananas, grapes, melon, anything!).
Rather than offering a proper meal plan, I am going to suggest that Kim see the list of dinner suggestions given in the Anderson's Makeover. They are all family (husband and teenage boy) friendly recipes, similar to many standard North American meals, but made with better ingredients. Mom already meal plans according to the family's schedule and what's on sale (a great way to do it).
Another great resource for her is Heavenly Homemakers. Laura does a wonderful job of feeding her husband and 4 boys real, whole foods but in very appealing, fun and simple ways. Her recipes and meal plans are so helpful!
I mentioned that one of the baby steps is for the Startups to all begin to eat more veggies, a minimum of 1 per day for the boys (who are often not getting any, if you don't count corn and potatoes, which I really don't) and 2 per day for mom and dad. These are just initial goals, but for now, they're enough. :)
I know that it will be hard for the boys to get over their dislike (or at least, apparent dislike) of vegetables. It was hard for me, too. I hated most vegetables (or thought I did). The way that I got over it was to:
- Convince myself that it was actually worth it and commit to doing it.
- Choose 1 or 2 things that seemed less terrible than the other options. For me, the first was tomato soup. Another was more dark green (not iceberg lettuce) salad, but still full of dressing. I think another was raw mushroom slices with ranch dip. Random, yes. But it worked.
- Make it a goal to simply have a small helping. It doesn't have to be huge, but it does have to be regular. Just a small helping each night, of different things that don't seem quite so bad. Slowly, slowly, tastebuds start to change, helping size can be increased, new vegetables can be added, and it starts to feel easier.
- Add cheese on top. Honestly, it worked for me. Almost anything you dislike it made far more tolerable with cheese!
Image by thebittenword
Have a Family Meeting
One thing that I think is really important to do is to talk about your health goals as a family. Discuss what it will take to achieve those goals. Write them down and post it somewhere visible (more on these ideas in this early makeover).
Also at this meeting, I would do something difficult but I think necessary, and that is to apologize. For letting them eat as they have been and not requiring them to develop healthier habits. This is a tough thing to do but it breaks down barriers to making change. It may allow for a heart-to-heart discussion that really helps to bring about a willingness to change. My Mother-in-Law wrote a guest post a long time ago on Retraining Children's Eating Habits and I think that it has some helpful ideas.
I would also ask what types of alternative foods sound best to them. Run through some snack and meal ideas, which veggies and fruits sound the least scary to them, which types of dinners sound the most appealing. Particularly with children of this age (14 and 16) you want to bring them completely on board and make decisions together as a family as much as possible. This respects these nearly-grown young men and also helps to avoid mutiny at the dinner table.
Addressing the Health Issues
I would consider adding regular pro-biotics for everyone. You can get some that are very easy-to-take pills. This could really help with the allergies, asthma and eczema.
It would also be helpful in supporting healthy gut flora, which has been damaged by too many processed grains and other foods, too much sugar and a lack of beneficial bacteria (which would come from fermented foods, like yogurt or lacto-fermented vegetables). When the gut flora is unhealthy, many other parts of the body fail to function properly and toxins are even released. Foods are not digested properly and nutrients are not well absorbed (which means that there could be serious nutritional deficiencies contributing to health issues, even if you're consuming some nutritious foods).
Though a bit pricey, two brands that I would recommend are Bio-kult or Garden of Life Primal Defense. Taking these daily for a couple of months should begin to really improve the situation, although true healing happens over a longer period of time with better eating habits. More long term healing for these issues could happen through a more restrictive, cleansing diet (like the Maker's Diet or the GAPS diet), but this is something to consider once the family is happily eating a lot more real foods (maybe more like a year down the road?).
I would also suggest daily cod liver oil (if you've noticed that I have mentioned this in every single makeover, you might realize that I think this is crucially important!).
I know they're teens, but if they're really squeamish about taking a supplement, give them children's cod liver oil, usually well flavored and easy to handle.
For Mom and Dad, I'm not a doctor and don't want to presume to be. That's why this is about real foods, not alternative health suggestions. I think that simply losing the necessary weight and switching over to real foods will make a big difference for both of them. They are also both on medications, something that shouldn't be messed around with.
I would say this, though... make it a goal to lose the weight, to add in some more daily activity (perhaps an evening or morning walk together) and have your doctor monitor these issues. If there seems to be improvement, consider decreasing and eventually dropping the meds altogether. There are many other more natural ways to deal with these types of issues, like taking garlic for blood pressure/cholesterol, for example. If possible, meeting with a Naturopathic doctor would be very beneficial in giving you some alternative ways to treat these issues.
Image by Robert S. Donovan
What About Saturated Fats?
Lastly, there was one sentence in Kim's questionnaire answer that jumped out at me, and it was in relation to learning how to make foods taste good without using creams, sauces, gravies, etc....
Bottom line? I think foods should have all of those supposedly bad for us ingredients (like cream and butter and other animal fats) and that there is a good reason why they make food so incredibly tasty... because they were meant for us to eat and enjoy. God wisely made these nourishing animal fats not only full of important nutrients, but also absolutely delicious, ensuring that we would want to consume them!
I know that this is so very hard to wrap our minds around. It absolutely flies in the face of the conventional, current nutritional "wisdom" and advice. No butter, fat-free, skim milk-- bah! Eat your food the way that our loving Creator made it, fats and all. He put them there for a reason. Just make sure that what you're eating is real food, raised in old-fashioned ways (grass-fed, no hormones, etc.) and then relax and enjoy.
Want to delve into the science behind it a bit more? Here are some helpful posts to read:
- A Fat Full Fall (series) @ Kitchen Stewardship (many posts over the course of a month, discussing the health merits of various fats)
- Fat Is Where Its At @ Food Renegade
- Is Fat Consumption Causing Obesity? @ Cheeseslave
- Does Fat Make You Fat? Part 1 and Part 2, as well as The Oiling of America (very helpful explanation of why we've come to think that saturated fats are bad, discussion of cholesterol merits and more) @ Kelly the Kitchen Kop
To further help the Startup family with their Real Food Makeover, they will also be receiving:
- A copy of my ebook, Healthy Homemaking: One Step at a Time
- A 1 year Print Membership from ListPlanIt, to aid them in getting organized in the kitchen, with meal planning and with grocery shopping. Thanks, ListPlanIt!
That's it, folks! Four incredible, inspiring families have received just a bit of help and encouragement to keep them moving in the right direction, and I hope and pray that many of you have also been somewhat encouraged and helped along the way!