When we started changing our modern, American diet to a real food diet I likened it to being in shark infested waters, floating on a candy sized life-saver, with no land in sight and a paper cut.
Do you feel that sense of doom welling up? Yeah, that’s how it felt.
Actually, it probably wasn’t quite that bad, but we really didn’t have any idea where we were. I guess you could say it was like being on an African Safari, chased by a pride of food deprived lions, with an eighth of a tank of gas in a wide open jeep 326 miles from anywhere.
I crack myself up.
If you’re in these shoes, just know we understand. Don’t be overwhelmed! If anything is confusing or you don’t understand it, I highly encourage you to research it yourself (it’s amazing how stuff ‘sticks’ when you do the footwork) or feel free to message me or comment below! This is here to be a HELP, not hindrance. It’s important to take things a step at a time, so there’s no guilt allowed if you (and your family) are not 100% to where you want to be nutritionally yet. Sometimes a drastic change is needed immediately (food allergies, Crohn’s/colitis, autism, leaky gut, etc), but most times doing it a step at a time is what is going to stick and inspire you to keep going.
These are our suggestions on what, where and how to get good, real food. Some might not be available options where you live, but rest assured there are always ways to eat well, including on a budget. Some things take more planning than others, but it’s always worth it, and there’s a fun adventure to be had if you look at it that way! 🙂
Number one best place to get good, quality meat is going to be a local farmer who raises his animals on pasture. Local Harvest is a great website we’ve used and actually how we’ve found several awesome farms in our area. You might try Eat Wild however there was nothing in our area, so I can’t really review them. 😉 Look for ones that note grass-fed, pastured or even organically raised meats. Don’t be afraid to ask the farmer what he feeds his animals. Often it is a long, expensive process to be certified organic, so if you can find a trustworthy farm that offers grass-fed, pastured stock, it’s up there with the quality of organic. Our local farm is run by a large Christian family (one of the daughters actually attended the birth of our son as back-up midwife!). We are so blessed to have beef and raw milk options only 20 minutes from home.
There are also online options for meat. If money isn’t as much of an issue for you, American Farmers Network, Texas GrassFed Beef and Greensbury Market seem to be reputable companies. I’ve also heard lots of good things about U.S. Wellness Meats. Getting meat this way can be great, but buying organic at a local grocery store seems to be more cost effective, at least for me here in Western NY. However, I recently found out the organic chicken I buy from Wegmans is fed a ‘vegetarian’ diet that includes soy. Definitely not optimal, and I’m looking for better options.
We have been researching whether grains need to be sprouted or not. A lot of experts say the Phytic Acid in grains binds to essential minerals and pulls them from your body. Other experts say Phytic Acid is already bound to the minerals in the bread and has to let go of those before it can bind to anything else. Also, that it is attracted to and binds to heavy metals, helping to detoxify the body. Confusing? Yes! We are still researching and haven’t made a personal decision on it yet, so our family eats both sparingly.
Organic Ancient Grain options (that I love) include:
Any of the above in sprouted version
We buy organic white spelt in 25 pound bags from our local health food store. It’s much cheaper per pound that way and easy to just stick in our chest freezer, getting large Rubbermaid containers out to keep in the pantry for quick access. It is also 1:1 with wheat. A lot of people are intimidated by it, because of conversions. Spelt is practically identical in recipes. Just always start light then add more until you get the hang of how it works. It ends up with the ‘right’ texture in any baked good, and is absolutely our favorite alternative flour.
I also absolutely love To Your Health sprouted flours. I’ve used their organic white wheat, corn, and oat flours, rolled oats, and popcorn. Everything has been impressively good when compared with sprouted flours I’ve used in the past. I can’t wait to try more of the gluten free flour options.
Some good options include:
Blanched Almond Flour
Coconut flour works well in recipes already invented, or if you love to be super-duper daring in the kitchen, which I do on occasion. Coconut flour goes a loooooooong way, so you have to use a lot of eggs and liquids to compensate in these recipes. You can NOT sub coconut for wheat or any other flour. It is super high in fiber, low in carbs, and gluten-free, so a good option if you know what you’re doing with it. Proceed with caution, then enjoy! 😉
I also use almond flour occasionally. The verdict is still out on the health/safety of heating or baking with it, so I don’t use it daily. I also do not advocate most ‘gluten-free’ flours or blends. Often they are just a combo of potato, rice, corn, (even sugar!) and various other additives with long names. (The general rule is if it’s got a long name – turn and run.) The wheat gluten isn’t there, but you’re just replacing it with a different inflammatory product to your life. I know there ARE more gluten free options, but since I haven’t made it that far yet in the journey, I suggest doing some research yourself and then making the decision for your family. 🙂
I never in my life thought I would like, let alone sing the praises of raw milk and dairy products. I grew up on skim milk (ICK), and thought that was the only way to go. (Don’t want to get FAT on whole milk, you know? *rolls eyes). Raw milk is one of the most delicious things in life. There’s a reason the long sought after promised land was written as a land flowing with milk and honey. Deliciousness! Back then there were no big dairy farms/corporations monopolizing and destroying the purity of the milk.
We buy raw milk from the farm where we buy grass-fed meat. We have a herd-share with them, so are entitled a certain amount of milk every week. Some states make it illegal (?!) to buy or drink it. Some states, like where I was born and raised, it is illegal unless you buy a herd-share (you technically own part of the cow). Farm-to-Consumer is a good site to check for your individual state.
We also buy raw cheese – mozzarella, havarti, jack, colby, cheddar, asiago, parmesean, romano, baby swiss, provolone, farmers cheese. Most of those we buy online from a great company called Farmstead Fresh. If you’re in the NY, PA, NJ area then God’s Country Creamery is another delicious option. You can also find some raw cheeses at specialty grocery stores that have bigger deli/cheese sections. We also use Daisy brand sour cream & Dannon All Natural Plain yogurt. Both are cultured and not pasteurized.
For butter we buy Wegmans organic or go to the local Amish store and look for butter that only states “cream, salt” in the ingredients.
My absolute favorite way to get veggies is from our CSA (Community Share Agriculture). A CSA is where, once you buy in, you have a share of veggies, fruits and sometimes eggs and meats. Some farms even deliver it to your door! Our CSA doesn’t do that, but it is a wonderful old farm that is being revitalized by the 5th generation. They have a wide variety of organic heirloom veggies, pears, apples, farm fresh eggs and they also carry local cider, non-gmo organic sweet corn, and more in season. It’s also set up like a farm market, where you can choose each veggie/fruit you want for your own share. Absolutely love them!
Note: Be cautious about co-ops, CSAs, and farm markets. Don’t be afraid to ask if they spray, use artificial fertilizers or gmo crops on the farm. I have been told to my face it’s impossible to grow strawberries organically (it’s not, see here). I have first-hand experience at what pesticides can do to the human body, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
Off season of the CSA, we go to trusted grocery stores (like Wegmans) and buy according to the dirty dozen/clean 15 lists. We personally buy organic celery, carrots (Hubby wouldn’t even touch one with his fork before, but actually eats these fine now), lettuces, green beans, sweet potatoes, gold potatoes and frozen broccoli.
If you’re able to eat fruit, organic is pretty necessary if you don’t want a huge dose of pesticides along with. It’s best to buy locally when you can, in season, but be sure to ask the farm whether they use pesticides on their crop. Some fruits are easier to find than others. Apples are very, very hard to find un-sprayed. I called more than a dozen fruit farms in my area and every single one sprays. Two boasted of being ‘low-spray’, meaning they only spray when they see a problem – either pest or fungus. That’s better than the alternative and unless you’re in a super health conscious area, you’re probably not going to be able to buy an apple without some form of chemical on it. Even the organic apples in the store are incorrectly thought of as pesticide free. If you are an apple lover like me, I highly recommend washing them well and peeling off the skin before using. The benefit of the fiber in the skin does not outweigh the toxicity of the chemical that kept them all pretty and blemish free.
Keep in mind, natural sweeteners are still that – sweeteners. You’re still getting doses of sugar (sans xylitol and stevia), but it is a natural, unbleached sugar. Certain ones actually have some nutritional value. 😉
Some options I use:
Local Raw Honey
Local Maple Syrup/Maple Sugar
Local Raw Honey has the most nutritional value of the above sweeteners, and it’s been found to have benefits for those who have seasonal allergies. We love using maple sugar or coconut sugar in place of white or brown sugar in recipes like cookies. Also xylitol works well in place of white sugar in most recipes 1:1. Stevia is MUCH sweeter than sugar, so you use a very small amount compared to the sugar called for in a recipe. Personally, neither Hubby nor I can stand stevia, so we rarely use it other than possibly sweetening tea.
We buy unsweetened, organic, pure canned coconut milk for the times when we are out of raw milk. It works great in just about anything you would add milk to: scrambled eggs, cakes, crusts, creamy dishes like healthy mac n’ cheese, stroganoffs, etc.
Organic, sugar-free ketchup or we make home made ketchup
Coconut Aminos – in place of soy sauce, so healthy and oh my goodness yum!
Arrowroot powder, tapioca or spelt flour – in place of cornstarch
Baking soda/Cream of Tartar mix (50/50) – in place of baking powder
If you have any questions or requests for feedback on other food items/groups I didn’t cover, feel free to message me or comment below. God bless you in your journey on the path to health!