Chad and I generally follow the basic guidelines of a paleo diet. For us, this means we eat vegetables of all kinds, including starchy tubers and potatoes; grass-fed or pastured meats, (local if we can get it); wild caught seafood; healthy fats like nuts, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil and grass-fed butter; full-fat cheese (grass fed, raw unpasturized and organic if possible) and other dairy in moderation. We also eat dark chocolate, natural sweeteners like raw, local honey, and red wine as occasional treats.
We didn't always eat this way. In fact, we used to eat very poorly, like many Americans do. Chad's favorite food was (and probably still is, although he doesn't eat it nearly as much) Cane's chicken fingers and thin crust pepperoni pizza. I basically ate anything and everything, with a particular love of all fried seafood, fast food, and french fries. We would go out to eat all the time and kept unhealthy snacks in the house like potato chips and ice cream. Thinking back to the way we used to eat surprises me sometimes, because we are so different now. It's not that we don't like those foods anymore, because I'm not going to lie, we do; it's just that our concept of what food means to us has changed. Food has become a means of nourishing our bodies and keeping us healthy in addition to being enjoyable and delicious. We want to live a long, healthly, life, and we've come to the realization that eating healthy food will help us advance our goal of living a long, healthy, life.
I can't speak for Chad, but I know my journey to eating real food is a constant process. I was really lucky in that I had a good foundation growing up with an amazing mother, who made home-cooked meals almost every night and packed us healthy lunches for school. When I was old enough to make my own choices and I picked fast food over her delicious home cooked meals, I hope I didn't disappoint her too greatly. Unfortunately, I do still like the taste of unhealthy junk like french fries and king cake (probably because they are specifically engineered to be irresistable), but it's an occasional treat in moderation and I've found healthier alternatives to processed goods. Since my recent diagnosis of a very early form of celiac disease, sticking to a gluten free diet has become a major part of my lifestyle, and honestly it's no longer optional.
I first started thinking critically about the food we eat after watching the documentary, Food, Inc. I think that movie opened my eyes to how corrupt our food system is and how our food is supplied and owned by corporations. This is so wrong to me. Our food should come from farms where local farmers tend to their land and care about how their products are planted, grown, and harvested. My grandfather, "Dee" had a garden and I can remember the way the cucumbers from his garden tasted like no other cucumber I had ever had. My grandfather, "Papaw" owned cows, chickens, and grew blueberries and peas. We had fresh eggs and berries for breakfast and the food was amazing. Every time we visited them as kids I couldn't get enough food and I would eat my weight in fresh corn and butter beans. I will never forget how that food tasted. It was better than any french fry.
When my mom got sick with brain cancer, I googled diets that might be able to help her fight cancer and I learned of the ketogenic diet. It works by starving cancer cells of their food, glucose (sugar). If you don't eat sugar or carbohydrates, your body has to run on ketones instead of glucose. This is also a fast way to lose weight, apparently. Chad and I used this diet for a month when we were working on our "beach bodies." It's not a sustainable diet by any means, and we quickly moved on, but it introduced us to the low-carb and eventually the paleo lifestyle which we have stuck to ever since.
Unfortunately, I don't think any diet could have cured my mother of the horrible cancer she had. I like to think it would have prolonged her life, but GBM is a monstrous disease and it was too much to overcome. Losing her before her time and before I was ready to let her go makes me want to do everything in my power to ensure I live a healthy life. There are things beyond my control, but whatever I can control, I will. This extends beyond food. I try to use organic, natural products wherever possible including my lotions, soap, makeup, and cleaning products. I avoid radiation if possible at the dentist by extending the time between x-rays and I opt out of the TSA non-scientifically-tested, civil-liberty-violating, ionizing-radiation-producing machine at the airport.
There is a lot of research out there about what grains do to your body. A couple books I recommend are Grain Brain and Wheat Belly. I can read about how bad something is all day, but until it affects me personally I may not be convinced. A few months after I stopped eating grains and sugar I noticed a huge difference in how I felt and my energy level was much higher. I used to get very tired around 3pm at work; I could hardly keep my eyes open. Then, I would come home and nap on the couch until Chad came home. Since I've gone grain and sugar free, I never feel that 3pm crash. It's amazing. Now I come home and have enough energy to get started on dinner and excercise. I'm not exaggerating. I really can tell a difference when I eat the way I know I should. I also used to have stomach problems that I won't detail here. After I stopped eating grains, I no longer had those problems. As it turns out, grains including wheat, were contributing to inflammation in my stomach and intestines, and in April of 2015 I was told my lab results were consistent with early celiac disease! I believe that had I not changed my diet years earlier when I did, that I would have made myself very sick and had full blown intestinal damage which could lead to cancer. Since I cut out gluten entirely, removed any trace sources from my home, and take precautions when I go out to eat, my inflammation levels have dropped and I feel even better. The journey to wellness isn't easy, but it's worth it.
That just about sums up my transition to real food. I hope whoever ends up reading this blog will enjoy the recipes and hopefully it helps you start or continue your own journey of eating REAL FOOD!
One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. -Virginia Woolf
Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are. -Brillat-Savarin
Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food. -Hippocrates
The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook. - Julia Child