Eating Real Food

It seems like everyone is on a Whole 30 kick right now. People are making New Year’s Resolutions, looking for a quick fix, seeking a dietary cure for physical ailments. Cutting out sugar and most animal products has been the most positive change I have ever made in my life! Here is a glimpse of my experience:

Last year amid the seemingly endless process of making B’s baby food, I realized she was beginning to reach for the crap I was eating: soda, chips, granola bars…I would tell her “This is junk, you need to eat good food.” That did not make sense to her and I realized it didn’t make sense to me either when I said it out loud. I wasn’t taking care of myself or setting a good example for her. On top of that, I gained about 5 pounds post-delivery despite “dieting” by restricting calories with processed foods that were supposed to be healthy.

I stumbled upon Salt, Sugar, and Fat by Michael Moss of the New York Times and began to feel duped my the entire industry. Facing the parallels between processed food and the tobacco industries fueled my righteous indignation and gave a deeper purpose to a healthier lifestyle.Weeks later my husband found out he had terrible cholesterol numbers and he joined me on my healthier path. We watched tons of documentaries* on healthy nutrition and realized the highly processed diet we had slumped into over the years was killing us.

The whole idea that boxes of brand-name (or off-brand) “food” is cheaper than fruit and veggies is a bowl of turds.

Realizing the USDA food policies are infuriating doesn’t seem so powerless once I recognized the power of my wallet. It’s like my own little pseudo-anarchist passive resistance. Buying only vegetables and beans has been cathartic. Knowing I am not contributing to the 18% of fossil fuels that comes from animal production(more than from Transportation) is empowering. Eating real food–not Processed Food like Substances–has been amazing.

Biddi eats almost everything we do. She doesn’t yet like lettuce and still has fussy days or meals when she isn’t hungry, but all things considered she is a great eater. It’s so funny the things she adores-black beans, pesto on anything, tofu, and broccoli. It is probably a reflection of what we eat most but seeing how open she is to trying things is an inspiration as well!

After she turned one, I took Biddi to a nutritionist to check and make sure she was getting all the necessary nutrients. The advice I received was great and went along with my gut feeling- there is nothing special about meat, dairy, or any animal products. They provide protein which is not lacking in anyone’s diet really. A completely vegan diet would provide 10% protein, which is recommended. Adding non-dairy milks and the occasional animal product guarantee enough protein. The pediatric nutritionist’s directions were to provide breakfast, lunch an dinner and two snacks a day, each one of those meals was to be accompanied with a milk or milk-substitute of my choice. Given our midwestern climate, she also suggested continuing the D Drop supplements, whether I opted for whole fat cow’s milk or fake milk.

Breakfast for Biddi is typically Oatmeal with fruit, or shredded wheat cereal with almond milk, or a frozen waffle and peanut butter, depending on our plans for the day. Lunch and dinner are very similar and have all 4 food groups- a whole grain like bulgur or wild rice, a protein like smoked salmon or tofu, and veggies and fruit–plus fat usually olive oil drizzled on rice or the veg. Snacks are offered between meals and have 2 of the 4 food groups. Biddi only has water between meals and all snacks (ideally) take place in her high chair, our schedule allowing. Seeing the nutritionist was a nice opportunity to have a formalized plan for B’s meals. It reminded me of the baby nurse we had come by and show how to put her down for a nap–I felt like my head was spinning reading all these differing opinions on the internet and it is just reassuring to have an expert say “This is the best path and process.”

Cold turkey on processed foods was tough for me–even cocaine addicted mice will choose sugar over cocaine. So there is that! Hard as it was, it has been totally worth it: I lost all my baby weight–30 lbs– in 4 months and my husband lost 35 pounds with me! He has an appointment to get his cholesterol checked again in a month and we are so excited to see if the data in our veggie-centric documentaries holds water–that about 20% of cholesterol is from our diets and eliminating animal products will quickly lower cholesterol so he doesn’t have to take statins(he only needed to reduce his cholesterol by 20%).

We cut out sugars almost a year ago but at this point, we are enjoying rice, pasta, cheese, and bread in moderation without gaining back any of the weight. I still don’t use canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, or tomato paste when cooking. I credit substituting home-roasted tomatoes, eliminating OJ and diet soda as the reason I feel so good and I could never go back!

These are my recent cholesterol results, as compared to my results from my prior cholesterol test:
Standard Range

0-200 mg/dL

>=40 mg/dL

0-100 mg/dL

0-150 mg/dL
11/25/13 169 55 105
3/29/16 165 57 98 46

I have been a vegetarian since February ’94. In May 2010 I began eating fish. So even in 2013, I was an average-weight, healthy BMI, pilates-loving pescatarian, enjoying processed food like pizza and crackers, but no drive-thru fast food or sweets. And much of cholesterol is genetic. So my post detox numbers are basically the same: the overall cholesterol is slightly lower, the Healthy HDL is slightly higher, and the Lousy LDL is probably flat as well. However, look at those triglyceride numbers! That is the fiber and foliage doing its job ushering the bad stuff away from my body. That 46 is actually below the “low” range of normal and I credit eating avocado every day and basically drinking California olive oil as the reason for the improvement.

*Here is a partial list of the documentaries that have inspired me to eat healthier:

The Fifth Estate’s The Secrets of Sugar on YouTube, FedUp, PlantPure Nation, Forks Over KnivesSugar Coated, In Defense of Food, Sugar: The Bitter Truth on YouTube, The Weight of The Nation on HBO–especially Healthy Foods and Obesity Prevention: Increasing Markets for Fruit and Vegetable Farmers, Food Matters  on YouTube, That Sugar Film on YouTube, Food Fight, Cowspiracy 

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