Sunday, July 24, 2016

Promoting a Positive Body Image in My Daughter

This post is the second in a series about positive body image.

I think there is way too much emphasis in our culture on physical appearances. Already overly-thin
models are airbrushed to make them look even thinner and yet with larger chests. Normal events such as aging take on a dark cast, as we are told again and again that the normal processes of aging such as wrinkles and gray hair are not okay. It would be a rarity for a girl to grow up in this culture and feel completely content with her own appearance.

Having grown up with my own insecurities about my appearance, I want things to be different for my daughter. She is now 9 years old, and just coming up on the age when I first became self-conscious about my own body. I want her to accept herself as she is, to not be overly fixated on her appearance or judge herself as inferior just for looking the way she was made. I may not be able to prevent appearance-related insecurities altogether, but I'm certainly going to keep trying to make it happen. This post is about the steps I'm taking to allow my daughter to grow up feeling content with her appearance and yet not overly focused on her appearance.

Don't Focus on My Daughter's Appearance

One of the most basic ways I am teaching my daughter to not be overly focused on her own appearance is by not focusing on her appearance myself. I'm sure I have told my daughter she is pretty perhaps a handful of times in the 9+ years of her life, but this is not something I comment on regularly with her. In her book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, Meg Meeker MD writes about the damaging effects of focusing on a girl's appearance. When we repeatedly focus on our child's appearance (whether through positive or negative words), the child gets the message that their appearance is very important, and that their intrinsic self-worth is related to their appearance. This kind of thinking can be a huge factor in the development of eating disorders. I choose not to propagate the message that physical appearance is important with either of my children, instead focusing on traits such as honesty, kindness, and perseverance when I want to praise them.


Don't Talk About My Own Appearance in a Negative Light

For good or bad, whatever my kids see and hear me do repeatedly, they will be likely to do themselves. If I talked abut my own body and appearance in a negative tone, I would likely start to hear my kids do the same. I have seen this happen numerous times with mothers and daughters: mothers who frequently berate their own appearance have daughters who do the same. I purposely do not talk about my own appearance in a negative light. This benefits my own self-esteem as well as my daughter's.


Limit Media and Exposure to Commercials

Our society's preoccupation with appearance can be seen very clearly in video media, internet ads, and especially commercials.  Through those outlets, we are clearly told that we need to correct ourselves to look more like the "beautiful" people, through things like hair-dying, anti-aging products, dieting, tooth whitening, and the like. Repeatedly exposing ourselves to those messages serves to undermine any attempts at being content with ourselves and our appearance.  I purposely limit my children's (and my own) exposure to these influences so that we do not become overly preoccupied with our looks or judge ourselves harshly.


Guard What is Coming Into Our Home

Even checking the mail afforded opportunities for my children to become overly focused on appearances. A few years ago, I ordered undergarments from Victoria's Secret, only to then start receiving catalogs in the mail on a regular basis which were filled with images of scantily-clad, overly thin models. Something inside me revolted when my young daughter went to check the mail and returned carrying a VS catalog, which of course she had looked at on the way back from the mailbox. So I searched for the not-easy-to-find place on their website where I could unsubscribe from all mailings, and I will have to do so again in the future if I ever order from them again. 

I also purposely do not read magazines that propagate the messages that we must be beautiful in a certain way. I know that anything I bring into the house would certainly be looked at and read by my children, so I purposely do not read those types of publications.


Home Schooling

One of the unfortunate aspects of the school environment is the focus on appearances.  During my own childhood, I remember kids at school (including myself) becoming overly focused on appearances and what others were wearing. Kids were teased for looking different or for wearing clothes that weren't "cool". This would likely be exacerbated nowadays with the current bombardment of appearance-related images and videos that we can all be exposed to. 

While this is not the primary reason that I homeschool, it is certainly an added benefit that my kids are not being exposed to the school culture that includes such a high focus on appearances. My kids do have friends that they socialize with regularly at homeschool group activities, but I've never heard any of the kids talking about appearances in a negative light. The closest I've seen to any focus on appearances was one child admiring another's shirt.

 

Discuss Appearance Issues At Opportune Moments

As we go about our normal lives, opportunities arise when I can talk about body image with my children.  I purposely take time to discuss this with my children at those times. For instance, in reading the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, we talked about how absurd it seemed that as a young girl Laura was jealous of her sister Mary's blond hair. In the later books, as Laura moved into young adulthood, she complained of her own appearance and longed to be more long-and-lithe like some of her friends.  My children and I discussed this, as well.

In these discussions, I make the point that there are things that we can change about ourselves and there are other things that just are as they are.  For instance, we can work on learning to control our tempers, on learning to persevere when things get tough, and on choosing to serve others instead of ourselves.  But the overall shape of our bodies, the color of our hair and eyes, the color of our skin: these are things that are just part of how we are made, and choosing to be dissatisfied with those is pointless and can even be damaging. My hope is that these discussions will help my children keep a healthy perspective on themselves as they grow older.

Creating Contentment

My goal in all of this is to help my children be content with themselves, and to learn that there are much more important things to focus on than their appearances. There may be more challenges to this as my children grow older, but with this foundation laid I hope that they will have a more positive experience in adolescence and early adulthood than I had myself.  I will continue to find ways to promote positive body image and less focus on appearances as the years go on, because I think this is an important aspect in teaching my children to be kind to themselves and others as they mature.

 

Do you have any tips for promoting a positive body image in children? Or have any experiences to share?

 

Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!

 

Promoting a Positive Body Image in My Daughter

This post is the second in a series about positive body image.

I think there is way too much emphasis in our culture on physical appearances. Already overly-thin
models are airbrushed to make them look even thinner and yet with larger chests. Normal events such as aging take on a dark cast, as we are told again and again that the normal processes of aging such as wrinkles and gray hair are not okay. It would be a rarity for a girl to grow up in this culture and feel completely content with her own appearance.

Having grown up with my own insecurities about my appearance, I want things to be different for my daughter. She is now 9 years old, and just coming up on the age when I first became self-conscious about my own body. I want her to accept herself as she is, to not be overly fixated on her appearance or judge herself as inferior just for looking the way she was made. I may not be able to prevent appearance-related insecurities altogether, but I'm certainly going to keep trying to make it happen. This post is about the steps I'm taking to allow my daughter to grow up feeling content with her appearance and yet not overly focused on her appearance.

Don't Focus on My Daughter's Appearance

One of the most basic ways I am teaching my daughter to not be overly focused on her own appearance is by not focusing on her appearance myself. I'm sure I have told my daughter she is pretty perhaps a handful of times in the 9+ years of her life, but this is not something I comment on regularly with her. In her book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, Meg Meeker MD writes about the damaging effects of focusing on a girl's appearance. When we repeatedly focus on our child's appearance (whether through positive or negative words), the child gets the message that their appearance is very important, and that their intrinsic self-worth is related to their appearance. This kind of thinking can be a huge factor in the development of eating disorders. I choose not to propagate the message that physical appearance is important with either of my children, instead focusing on traits such as honesty, kindness, and perseverance when I want to praise them.


Don't Talk About My Own Appearance in a Negative Light

For good or bad, whatever my kids see and hear me do repeatedly, they will be likely to do themselves. If I talked abut my own body and appearance in a negative tone, I would likely start to hear my kids do the same. I have seen this happen numerous times with mothers and daughters: mothers who frequently berate their own appearance have daughters who do the same. I purposely do not talk about my own appearance in a negative light. This benefits my own self-esteem as well as my daughter's.


Limit Media and Exposure to Commercials

Our society's preoccupation with appearance can be seen very clearly in video media, internet ads, and especially commercials.  Through those outlets, we are clearly told that we need to correct ourselves to look more like the "beautiful" people, through things like hair-dying, anti-aging products, dieting, tooth whitening, and the like. Repeatedly exposing ourselves to those messages serves to undermine any attempts at being content with ourselves and our appearance.  I purposely limit my children's (and my own) exposure to these influences so that we do not become overly preoccupied with our looks or judge ourselves harshly.


Guard What is Coming Into Our Home

Even checking the mail afforded opportunities for my children to become overly focused on appearances. A few years ago, I ordered undergarments from Victoria's Secret, only to then start receiving catalogs in the mail on a regular basis which were filled with images of scantily-clad, overly thin models. Something inside me revolted when my young daughter went to check the mail and returned carrying a VS catalog, which of course she had looked at on the way back from the mailbox. So I searched for the not-easy-to-find place on their website where I could unsubscribe from all mailings, and I will have to do so again in the future if I ever order from them again. 

I also purposely do not read magazines that propagate the messages that we must be beautiful in a certain way. I know that anything I bring into the house would certainly be looked at and read by my children, so I purposely do not read those types of publications.


Home Schooling

One of the unfortunate aspects of the school environment is the focus on appearances.  During my own childhood, I remember kids at school (including myself) becoming overly focused on appearances and what others were wearing. Kids were teased for looking different or for wearing clothes that weren't "cool". This would likely be exacerbated nowadays with the current bombardment of appearance-related images and videos that we can all be exposed to. 

While this is not the primary reason that I homeschool, it is certainly an added benefit that my kids are not being exposed to the school culture that includes such a high focus on appearances. My kids do have friends that they socialize with regularly at homeschool group activities, but I've never heard any of the kids talking about appearances in a negative light. The closest I've seen to any focus on appearances was one child admiring another's shirt.

 

Discuss Appearance Issues At Opportune Moments

As we go about our normal lives, opportunities arise when I can talk about body image with my children.  I purposely take time to discuss this with my children at those times. For instance, in reading the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, we talked about how absurd it seemed that as a young girl Laura was jealous of her sister Mary's blond hair. In the later books, as Laura moved into young adulthood, she complained of her own appearance and longed to be more long-and-lithe like some of her friends.  My children and I discussed this, as well.

In these discussions, I make the point that there are things that we can change about ourselves and there are other things that just are as they are.  For instance, we can work on learning to control our tempers, on learning to persevere when things get tough, and on choosing to serve others instead of ourselves.  But the overall shape of our bodies, the color of our hair and eyes, the color of our skin: these are things that are just part of how we are made, and choosing to be dissatisfied with those is pointless and can even be damaging. My hope is that these discussions will help my children keep a healthy perspective on themselves as they grow older.

Creating Contentment

My goal in all of this is to help my children be content with themselves, and to learn that there are much more important things to focus on than their appearances. There may be more challenges to this as my children grow older, but with this foundation laid I hope that they will have a more positive experience in adolescence and early adulthood than I had myself.  I will continue to find ways to promote positive body image and less focus on appearances as the years go on, because I think this is an important aspect in teaching my children to be kind to themselves and others as they mature.

 

Do you have any tips for promoting a positive body image in children? Or have any experiences to share?

 

Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!

 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Cultivating a Positive Body Image

This post is the first in a series about positive body image. 

8th grade - I hated looking younger than everyone else







A Pattern of Discontentment

From adolescence onwards, I was never quite satisfied with my body and appearance. In the early years, it was that I was too short and looked too much like a little child. I was a "late bloomer" in that I didn't start menstruating until just before I turned 15 years old. Combine that with being younger than most of the kids in my grade, and the stage was set for having body image issues.

As I moved on into adulthood, I could still always find plenty to be dissatisfied about in my appearance: my freckles, my lack of 6-pack ab muscles no matter how much I worked out or how slim I was, the gap between my front teeth, my different proportions compared to the "ideal". And after becoming a mother, I could easily find ways to be discouraged in my appearance, with my new stretch marks, bigger hips and abdomen than before pregnancy, and an overall different shape than pre-pregnancy.
2008 - early motherhood

Although my negative body image was never severe, and never caused me to do anything drastic, it was like a splinter wedged under my skin, that inexorably kept poking me for over 20 years. Did I really want to let that splinter keep festering for the next 50 or 60 years?

 

Deciding to Change

A couple years ago I had an epiphany: I could just decide to let go of being dissatisfied with my body.  I could decide to be content with being as I am, knowing that I take good care of my body by eating a healthy diet and getting a good amount of physical activity. Rather than continuing to be unhappy with my appearance for the rest of my life, I could just decide to let it go!

This was a big shift for me. I made the decision to stop the internal self-criticism of my appearance, and promised myself that I would be happy to be just as I am. It was a tearful, sweet moment when I looked in the mirror and told myself that I was fine, just as I am. That I am just as I was made to be. That I would love and accept myself, just as I am.

Content to be me in 2016

Settling in to Contentment

Making the decision to change how I viewed myself has been one of the best self-care steps I have ever taken. Although there have been a few times when I have seen myself shifting back into that old negative thought pattern, by reaffirming my decision to accept myself, I have been able to quickly shift back into being content. Making the conscious choice to change this aspect of myself really has worked and allowed me to live the last couple years feeling happier and more whole.

In future posts in this series on body image, I will share how I am actively promoting positive body image in my daughter and the life-changing system that has revolutionized my wardrobe and appearance.

Do you harbor negative thoughts about your own appearance that are keeping you from finding joy?  What has helped you overcome negative body image?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Book Review: The Child Whisperer

In the 9+ years that I've been a mother, I've read many parenting books. Among the parenting books I've read in the last few years, one stands out far above the others: The Child Whisper: The Ultimate Handbook For Raising Happy, Successful, Cooperative Children by Carol TuttleOver the last two years since I read this book, it has really improved my life and my relationships with my children.

What Is Unique About This Parenting Book?

Most parenting books provide one-size-fits-all guidance for raising children.  The Child Whisperer is different. Instead of giving guidance that can be applied to all children, it seeks to give parents an understanding of different types of children.  By focusing more on understanding each of the different types of children, this book lays a strong foundation that can be used for parenting children who are very different from each other. 

One of the things that really surprised me as a parent was how different my son and daughter are.   They move through life differently, they need different things, and they react to corrections differently. Techniques that work for one of them often do not work for the other. The Child Whisperer has finally given me the framework to understanding my children, and how they are different from each other as well as myself. By knowing more about who they are as individuals, I am able to parent them each uniquely, and am better able to meet their needs.

The Different Types of Children (and Adults, Too)

The Child Whisperer describes four energy types that apply to children as well as adults. For children, the four types are summarized as follows:

image from http://thechildwhisperer.com/getting-started/

One thing I love about using Carol Tuttle's four energy type system is that it is much bigger than just a personality profiling system.  When determining a person's energy type, a person's body language and facial features are actually used in addition to personality and tendencies. This method seems to really capture the essence of each person, and that allows for a much greater understanding of each other.

Practical Tips for Each Type

Once the foundation of each energy type is laid out, The Child Whisperer includes tips for parents in supporting their children by gender and at different ages (Baby, Toddler, Pre-schooler, School Age, and High Schooler). The Child Whisperer provides insights into the learning and developmental tendencies of each type, and provides guidance on how to help each type develop their own unique gifts. One of my favorite sections in the book is the list of the Top 10 Things each type needs from their parents.

Understanding My Children

Understanding my children's dominant and secondary energy types has allowed me to finally
understand them at a much deeper level so that I can support them as individuals. Previously, I would often get frustrated at certain aspects of both of their personalities, mostly because they were different from myself and the way I do things. Now I am able to look at them from a perspective of understanding who they are and how they move through life, and that makes such a huge difference in having a happy, well-functioning household.


Here are some examples of how The Child Whisperer has made me a better parent:
  • I am a Type 3 with a secondary Type 2 energy. With my dominant Type 3 nature, I tend to move through life with swift determination, and love getting things done. With my secondary Type 2 nature, though, I am emotionally sensitive and love connecting with family and friends.
  •  My daughter is a Type 1 with a secondary Type 2 energy. I used to get frustrated with the fact that she would start a gazillion different projects, but finish hardly any of them. I would often tell her that she wasn't allowed to start anything else new until she finished her other projects. Well, it turns out that Type 1's have a gift for ideas. Ideas are the Type 1's gift to the world! I was imposing my own nature (that naturally wants to finish things) onto her; in doing so, I was stifling her own gift for having many new ideas. Now, I allow her to start as many different projects as she'd like, and instead of trying to make her finish them all, I help her learn to determine which projects are important enough to her that she would like to finish them. 
  • My son is a Type 2 with a secondary Type 4 energy.  Before learning about the energy types, I would very often tell him to hurry up, and would get frustrated that he seemed to take so long with tasks such as getting dressed, eating, getting buckled into the car, and many others.  After learning about the energy types, I realized that my son naturally has a much slower movement than I do. That doesn't mean that either of us is "wrong"; we're just different. Now I make sure to give him plenty of time for tasks, and I make sure to find other things to do while I am waiting for him so I don't get impatient and keep hurrying him.
  • With her fun-loving Type 1 nature, my daughter likes to turn everything into a game. With my own get-it-done mentality, I was often frustrated by this aspect of her personality, and would tell her to stop messing around. Now that I know about the energy types, I try to give her more freedom to find her own fun ways to accomplish things. I definitely still have some room for improvement with this, but I'm trying to support her nature. 
  • With his Type 2 nature, my son naturally plans things out in advance. His plans are very important to him, and with his Type 4, more serious secondary nature, he does not take it lightly when his plans are interrupted. Obstructed plans were the main cause of many of my son's emotional upsets, but I didn't quite understand that until I read The Child Whisperer. Now I can respect his plans, and let him take part when those plans need to change (often after giving him some alone time to process that there needs to be a change). This has made a tremendous difference in the number of emotional meltdowns.
These are just a few examples of how The Child Whisperer has helped us. It has been a real game-changer. Our relationships are better and I am now able to help my children overcome the challenges unique to each of their types, instead of trying to mold them to be more like myself.  I can't recommend this book enough!

Have you read The Child Whisperer? What is your favorite parenting book?



Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Einkorn Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are such a classic recipe, and for good reason. The chocolate is melty, in a chewy, sweet base of cookie dough. Mmmm.

I like baking cookies with Einkorn flour. Einkorn is an ancient variety of wheat that has never been hybridized. It is naturally lower in gluten and higher in protein than modern wheat. Combined with butter, sucanat, sugar, and chocolate, this is an stupendous cookie.

I like to make these cookies using a combination of sucanat and sugar for the sweetener, for classic chocolate chip cookie flavor. However, sucanat can be used exclusively if you prefer to stick with only unrefined sweeteners.

Einkorn Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 32 cookies
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the salt, baking soda, and Einkorn flour. Whisk it all together to break up any lumps.
  3. In another bowl (or stand-mixer), beat the softened butter, sucanat, and sugar together for a couple minutes, until well mixed and slightly lighter in color.
  4. In the meantime, combine the egg and vanilla extract in a small bowl. (I find that a Pyrex glass measuring cup works great for this because the pour spout makes it easy to add these ingredients to the mixer while it is running.) Do NOT mix up the egg at this point.
  5. Once the butter, sucanat, and sugar have become lighter in color, mix in the egg. With my stand-mixer, I can just pour in the egg while the mixer is still running.  Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice to get everything incorporated well.
  6. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until everything is combined. Do not overmix this recipe, since there is gluten in the Einkorn flour and overmixing gluten results in tough baked goods.
  7. Mix in the chocolate chips. 
  8. Scoop the cookies onto greased cookie sheets (or line the cookie sheets with exopats, which are wonderful since the cookies never stick and are less likely to burn).  I like to use a 1-Tb scoop for consistently pretty cookies, but you could just use a spoon. Flatten the cookies slightly with the back of a spoon (or your fingers).
  9. Bake the cookies at 350 F for about 10-12 minutes. They are done when the edges are golden brown. Watch these closely, as extra time in the oven will make these cookies crunchy instead of chewy. If you have to cook subsequent batches on an already-warmed cookie sheet, start checking them for done-ness a couple minutes earlier.
  10. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5-10 minutes.  Then use a spatula to move them to a cooling rack.
  11. Once cool, store these cookies in an airtight container.  They can be stored at room temperature or in the freezer if you won't be eating them all in the next few days.  When eating these cookies from the freezer, I like to re-warm these cookies briefly in a toaster oven, for ooey gooey chocolate yumminess. Storing them in the freezer will also remove the pressure of having to eat them all in a week or so, as they will last for months in the freezer. 


Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Homeschool World-Trip Without Leaving Home

Although we homeschool year-round, each summer I like to shift the focus of our homeschooling a bit. Some years, we have focused more on music and art, other years we have focused more on learning to swim, and other years we have focused more on nature study. This summer, I'm planning for us to take a trip around the world, but we'll do it without leaving home.

Taking a World Trip Without Leaving Home

To accomplish our world trip, I will be bringing together elements from different cultures around the world.  I plan to incorporate books, art, music, and recipes for each destination on our world trip.
This should be an engaging and entertaining way for us to learn about different cultures around the world.


Books That Highlight Different Cultures

The inspiration for our Homeschool World Trip came from three books that have recently come into our home:
  • "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats" by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio - This large book, filled with full-color photographs, shows what people around the world eat. While it focuses specifically on each family's weekly groceries, it also includes family recipes and a glimpse into the culture in each country.  
  • "Material World: A Global Family Portrait" by Peter Menzel - Like "Hungry Planet", this is a large book filled with full-color photographs. Instead of focusing on food, though, this book highlights the possessions and living conditions of people around the world. 
  • "Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time" by Jamie C. Martin - This book contains a wealth of information about books that give kids global perspective.  It includes over 600 children's book recommendations, categorized by different continents or areas of the world.
With these three books in-hand, it seemed like the next logical step to go on a virtual world tour with my children.  Each week, we will focus on a different country or region of the world. I will focus on places that are highlighted in "Hungry Planet" and "Material World", and will choose children's books from "Give Your Child the World" to supplement each location that we are exploring. 

Music and Art From Around the Globe

To broaden our perspective, I will be including art and music from around the globe during our world tour. I will feature international artwork in our ever-changing living room Art Appreciation display. We will also be digging further into art using Khan Academy's Art History resources, which include videos about art from many areas of the world. For music, we'll be relying on the World Music CD's available at our local library.

 

Recipes from Around the Globe

To get a taste of foods from around the world, we'll be trying out some of the recipes from "Hungry Planet", checking out books from the library about world cuisine, and sampling some of the international foods that are available at local restaurants. This will be a fun way to try out new foods, and perhaps find some new family favorites.

Language, Geography, and Science

We will also be spending a little time learning about the language, geography, and flora/fauna of each region that we visit on our World Tour. My daughter's eyes lit up when I asked if she would want to learn some simple phrases in the different languages from each region, as she thinks it will be so fun to speak to each other in different languages. I'll be relying on the internet to give us simple phrases in the languages spoken in each area. For geography, flora, and fauna, I'll be relying on library books. I generally find that the books in the adult section of the library are the best for finding beautiful, large pictures.

 

Putting It All Together

Our World Trip will be a fun way to expand our horizons this summer. I'll likely need to spend an hour or so each week planning out our world explorations for the coming week, but it should be well worth the time.  We're looking forward to the fresh, new experience of our summer World Tour.

Let me know if you are interested in seeing which specific resources, recipes, books, and CD's we end up using for each destination on our Homeschool World Trip.

Are you going on any trips this summer? What do you do differently during the summer in your home educational environment?

 

Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!


Monday, June 13, 2016

Peach, Goat Cheese, and Basil Appetizer (grain-free : gluten-free)

With summer in full swing here, we are starting to find locally grown summertime fruits at the store. Early peaches have arrived, much to our delight.  I have crafted a very simple, delicious appetizer that combines peaches, fresh basil, and chevre (goat cheese). Yum!

Peach, Goat Cheese, and Basil Appetizer
  1. Slice the peaches and pick some basil leaves.
  2. Place one basil leaf on each cracker. Top with a couple crumbles of goat cheese and a slice of peach.
  3. Drizzle with balsamic glaze. Add a small drizzle of honey if the peaches are not very sweet.
  4. Serve and enjoy!


Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you use these links, your price remains the same, but I earn a small commission. Thanks for supporting this site!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Why I Purposely Eat Both Refined and Whole Grains

There is much hype these days about eating whole grains. Breads, crackers, and cereals are covered with labels about their whole grain content. Amidst this, why do I purposely eat a combination of refined and whole grains?


Whole Grains in Traditional Diets

Weston A. Price's research into traditional diets around the globe showed that people who eat  nourishing, traditional foods have much better health than those who eat modern foods.  Rami Nagel's more recent research has increased our knowledge of traditional diets, and has uncovered the fact that, in traditional diets, much of the bran and germ from whole grains was actually discarded when the grains were ground into flour. It seems that the people knew, not from scientific research, but perhaps through experience and intuition, that there are parts of grains which are not nutritious and even act as anti-nutritients. Nowadays we have a name for the anti-nutrient in grains that is of most concern: Phytic Acid.
image from ask.com

Phytic Acid - Whole Grains' Dirty Little Secret

Whole grains are touted to be higher in nutrients than refined grains, and it is true that they do have more potential nutrients than refined grains. However, whole grains also contain phytic acid, which is an anti-nutrient because it can interfere with the absorption of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. This is why, in some cases, eating a lot of whole grains can actually have a detrimental effect on health, and lead to increased cavities.

Yet, traditional peoples the world-'round knew to discard much of the bran and germ from whole grains, thereby reducing the phytic acid content of their food. By reducing the phytic acid content of grains, they were likely able to assimilate more of the nutrients in their food. In Rami Nagel's research, he found that "the calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium in diets made up with 92 percent flour (almost whole wheat) were less completely absorbed than the same minerals in diets made up with 69 percent flour (with a significant amount of bran and germ removed)".

Sprouting, Souring, and Soaking to Neutralize Phytic Acid

image from wildyeastblog.com
In addition to discarding much of the bran and germ from whole grains, people in traditional cultures purposely used techniques such as soaking, souring, and sprouting in the preparation of grains. Now, we have scientific research which clearly shows that soaking, souring, and sprouting whole grains reduces their phytic acid content. The bottom line is that, in ancestral diets, people purposely discarded parts of the whole grains, and they used soaking, souring, and sprouting to increase the nutrient value of the grains they consumed.

The vast majority of "whole grain" foods sold in stores are missing these vital steps which would reduce the phytic acid. When whole grains are consumed without these special preparation techniques, it is possible that the phytic acid in the grains can actually lead to worse health, as the vital nutrients in food won't be able to be used by the body. So instead of having increased nutrition due to their whole grain content, such whole grain foods can actually lead to nutrient deficiencies!

How My Family Eats Refined and Whole Grains

Grain-based foods form a significant part of my son's and my diet.  (My husband and daughter both still do best eating little or no grains, so they only eat grains occasionally.) Given unlimited time and resources, I would do as they did in traditional cultures by grinding fresh whole grains, discarding much of the bran and germ, and then soaking or sprouting the grains prior to cooking them. But the reality is that, over the last few years whilst homeschooling and practicing homeopathy, I have chosen to spend less time in the kitchen. There are too many competing priorities for me to spend hour upon hour preparing food each day. (Been there, done that, during the GAPS Diet, and I do NOT miss spending an average of 6 hours per day in the kitchen.)

So, instead of making all of my own bread and grain-based foods, I often rely on storebought items. I still try to roughly replicate what was done in traditional cultures, though, by doing the following:
  • My son and I eat a combination of refined grains and whole grains, so that the overall balance is more similar to what was consumed in traditional cultures.
  • I ensure that most of the whole grains we eat have been prepared with sprouting or soaking to neutralize the phytic acid anti-nutrient.

 

Our Current Favorite Grain-Based Products

The storebought grain-based items we currently rely on are:

In my home-prepared, grain-based foods, I rely on the following:
I feel like I have found a happy medium between the techniques used by traditional cultures and our modern-day lives. Within this framework, I don't worry much about getting things perfectly right. Stressing out over food is likely just as detrimental to health as eating poorly, so I strive for a relaxed attitude within our mostly-nutritious diets. 

Do you eat grains? Did you know about phytic acid - whole grains' "dirty little secret"? What have you found works best for you? 

 

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole (gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

A few of you asked me to blog the recipe for Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole, so here it is! This simple recipe combines hash brown potatoes, cheese, and gravy into a yummy casserole.

Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole is my husband's current favorite lunch to take along to the office. I make a large batch and freeze single-serving portions in 2-cup glass Pyrex storage dishes, which he then re-heats in a toaster oven at work. He eats this as a main course for lunch, but it also makes a delicious side dish at any time of day.

Cheesy Hash Brown Casserole
Serves 8-10
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) of butter, preferably of the rich yellow nutrient-dense dense type
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped small
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth, preferably homemade 
  • 1&1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tsp fine-ground celtic sea salt
  • 6 Tb white rice flour*
  • 16 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Two-16 ounce bags of organic frozen hashbrowns (regular and southern-style both work fine; I use either Cascadia Farms or Sno-Pac Southern Style Organic has browns) 
  1. Melt the butter in a very large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion and saute for about 10-15 minutes, until the onion is translucent and soft. I like to use a bamboo spatula to saute the onion. It's okay if the onion takes on a bit of brown, caramelized color while cooking.
  2. In the meantime, mince the garlic. Shred the cheese using the large side of a box grater.
  3. Combine the milk and broth in a large bowl.  Whisk the liquid while pouring in the rice flour. Whisk it well, so there are no lumps.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. When the onion is done, add the minced garlic and saute just until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  6. Whisk the broth and milk mixture into the pan with the onion. Whisk in the salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for a few minutes. This mixture will get rather thick because of the rice flour, but that is just what it should do. Turn off the heat.
  7. Fold the frozen hash browns into the onion/gravy mixture. If you did not use a very large skillet, you may need to use a large bowl for this.
  8. In a 9X13 glass baking dish, layer half of the hash brown mixture, then half of the shredded cheese, then the remaining hash brown mixture, and top with the remaining cheese.
  9. Bake the casserole for about 45 minutes, until bubbling and lightly browned. If desired, the broiler can be turned on for the last 3-5 minutes to brown the cheese, but watch it carefully as it can burn easily with the broiler on!
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
*If you want to know more about why I use white rice instead of brown, check out this article.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

My Family's Spring Diet

When I blogged a few months ago about My Family's Winter Diet, I promised to share what our Spring, Summer, and Fall diets look like as well. We are still primarily eating a nutrient-dense diet, but rather than aiming for perfection, I am aiming for an unstressed, maintainable diet that my family can eat for many years to come. We do eat somewhat seasonally, so our diet changes a bit with the seasons to reflect which fruits and vegetables are in season.  

Each Saturday morning, I spend a few hours in the kitchen preparing baked goods for the coming week. Typically, this includes making one custard cake (clafoutis), one or two batches of muffins, and perhaps some cookies or waffles to freeze. By preparing these items on the weekend, our breakfasts throughout the weekdays are very quick-and-easy. Here is a snapshot of our Spring diet.


Breakfast

  • Since I wake up early, I often eat two breakfasts. My first breakfast is generally simple, followed by a more substantial breakfast a couple hours later. 
    • My second breakfast is most often sprouted whole wheat or white sourdough toast with eggs and frozen veggie mix sauteed in butter, usually with a glass of raw milk. I have a dose of extra-virgin cod liver oil with my second breakfast perhaps once a week (as determined by when I feel a craving for it). At this time of year, I spend so much time outside that I don't seem to crave cod liver oil as much as I do during the winter months, so I reduce how often I take it to match my desire. 

 

Lunch

  • My husband takes frozen homemade leftovers to work for lunch everyday, which he re-heats in a toaster oven.  This Spring, his favorite leftover lunches are:
  • This Spring, the lunches my children and I are eating most often are:
    • Cheesy scrambled egg sandwiches, with mayonnaise, served on sprouted whole wheat bread or gluten-free waffle
    • Lunchmeat rolls with cheddar cheese, homemade honey mustard, and fermented pickles, with a side of avocado oil chips or crackers (Absolutely gluten-free flatbread is a great, grain-free option that we all enjoy)
    • Leftover soup (from the freezer)
    • Canned sardines, served with buttered crackers or sourdough toast (or waffle for my daughter)

 

Snacks and Desserts

  • The only snacks my kids are allowed between breakfast and lunch is fruits or veggies, which they have to get for themselves. That makes it where they are certain to be hungry at lunch (whereas previously when they were allowed more-filling snack options, they often didn't eat well at lunch). In the spring, their fruit and veggie snack options are:
  • My husband typically has one of the following snacks while at work:
  • Perhaps 40-50% of the time, the kids will have a small snack after our afternoon Quiet Time, usually consisting of nuts, fruit, or cookies (such as butter shortbread or chocolate macaroons). I am always ravenous when I wake from my daily nap, so I always have an afternoon snack such as plain whole-milk yogurt, butter shortbread, apple and cheese, etc.
  • The kids and my husband have a snack before bed every night; usually fruit, fried fruit, yogurt, or applesauce. About twice per week they will have dessert such as ice cream or cookies. I'm not generally hungry after dinner, so I don't usually eat anything before bed.
  • Perhaps once a week, my husband and I will each have a package of Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

 

Drinks 

The drinks we consume the vast majority of the time are:

 

Dinner

  • I make a from-scratch dinner meal about 2-3 times per week (and I always make a large portion so there will be enough to freeze for my husband's lunches, or for us to have as leftovers). I can't stand eating the same thing two days in a row, so I plan to eat leftovers a few days later, or freeze them for a future use. This Spring, as the temperature is warming up, we move away from soup and onto other foods. The dinners I'm making most-often are:
  • Side dishes I've been making most often this Spring are:
    • Butter smash boiled potatoes (I haven't blogged this recipe, but I will if there is interest)
    • Coleslaw with cabbage, carrots, and celery (I could blog this recipe, too)
  • On days when I don't make a from-scratch dinner, we have leftovers or dinners which include some already-prepared ingredients (which I consider to be compromise dinners). The ingredients in our compromise dinners aren't absolutely perfect, but they are pretty good, and incorporating these items into our diets allows for busy days when I don't have hours to spend in the kitchen. Our most commonly-consumed compromise dinners this  Spring are:
    • Pizza made with Against the Grain crust, quick-and-easy homemade pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and sauteed mushrooms
    • Nitrate-free sausages such as kielbasa or hot dogs, served with frozen sweet potato fries or chips, and fermented pickles
    • Tuna salad or chicken salad sandwiches, made with canned tuna or chicken, served with kettle chips and fermented pickles
  • We eat out at a restaurant about 2-3 times per month. We also often eat Sunday dinner at my mom's house, and are often blessed with leftovers to often bring home which will make for an easy meal some other day of the week.

 

 

 

Do you find it helpful or interesting to see what we're eating?  What are your favorite Spring meals? 

 

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