Updated: Mar 1, 2019
Okay, so you're sitting here reading through my blog posts, searching Pinterest on how to be healthy, and having a mild panic attack about what you consume daily.
One more time.
This blog post is going to cover some simple swaps you can make with your current diet, to a more mindful one.
*sidenote: when I say diet, I am referring to what you eat daily, not a restrictive protocol that leaves you feeling crappy and less full than ever*
The first thing I ever eliminated from my diet was dairy, and although I was super happy to no longer be suffering from massive sinus congestion, out-of-whack hormones, headaches, constipation, and flatulence (excessive gas!); I was pretty bummed about not eating ice cream anymore.
I really enjoyed my occasional cookie dough pint with a side of Netflix.
I was also feeling nostalgic over butter.. I mean I'm pretty sure that fresh baked bread with melted butter on top is one of the best things this life has to offer. It's the beginning of the best Italian meal, it's the perfect addition to a warm bowl of chicken noodle, and it's the secret sauce to a perfect grilled cheese.
It took me a month or so to figure out that I actually could still have ice cream and butter.
Here's the thing.. People are smart. Like, seriously. Really intelligent beings. So if it's decided something is off the table because of the ingredients, they are gonna get creative and make something just like it with different ingredients.. or even something better.
One day, I was in the freezer section at the health food store, and I saw some ice-cream bars.
"Non-dairy ice-cream covered in dark chocolate!"
Say whaaaaa? In my world, this was not an option.
Upon further inspection, I realized the ice cream was made out of this wonderful, perfect substitute ingredient that was thick and fatty (just like creamy milk!), decadent, and wonderful tasting.
I was so excited, I bought the bars, and hurried to my car. I sat right there in my sunny little car, and ate an ice-cream bar.
It tasted amazing. Just like ice-cream!
Perfect consistency and sweetness. Perfect chocolate layer. Perfect ice-cream fake-ness.
I felt as if I had discovered a secret.
Seriously though. I ran home and called my mom and told her all about it.
Then I sent photos to my boyfriend and best friend.
I was clearly excited.
This was just the beginning. That day of discovery gave me new hope.
Maybe there were other substitute options out there.
And so in the past three years, I have NEVER stopped learning new options that society/ marketing/ grocery stores/ cookbooks had never previously presented to me.
It's often like this:
You think there is only one option, because you haven't experienced any others.
We know this to be true.
It's like buying clothes at retail prices your whole life, until you make a new friend who explains, and then shows you, how to shop at thrift stores.
You never knew these stores existed, you never knew you could buy cheap clothes, and you never imagined finding so many cool outfits in a place such as this. Once you figure it out, it's really hard to pay full price for all your clothes again, and you're grateful for this new knowledge that you would not have previously known without that guidance. This causes you to start finding new ways to do all your purchasing in cheaper ways- garage sales for furniture, Craigslist for used appliances, and used car lots for vehicles. You are on a mission to be a thrifty shopper from there on out. It only makes sense.
Let me tell you.
For everything you think you can no longer eat, because of the dirty ingredients, there is another option! There are SO many options out there that don't involve dairy, sugar, chemicals, or harmful additives.
I will give you some ideas. Most of these will be an ingredient substitute- meaning what to use other than. A few of these examples will just be better, healthier choices for you. My hope and purpose in writing this post is to help you understand other options, but to also inspire you to always be looking for a better option than mainstream food choices.
Let's start with butter. Because it's used often, and it's amazing.
Butter contains lactose which means it is a dairy product. If it's not organic, it also means it could have antibiotics, steroids, or hormones in it from the cow's milk it was made from. These things wreak havoc on the body and hormonal system.
The first "butter" I started using was Earth Balance Vegan Butter. It's sold in most stores now. It spreads well and mostly tastes like butter. It melts in the same way, and you can substitute it in your cooking in the exact same way as regular butter. But this brand is actually just made from soy and a few other vegetable proteins, and I was still craving something more.. real.
I kept looking and found something called ghee.
Simply put, ghee is clarified butter. Milk solids are removed from the butter, leaving you with real butter- but lactose free.
It tastes amazing. I use it all the time- to cook veggie burgers in the skillet, to spread on warm toast, and in my baking ventures.
You can find it at Walmart, Aldi, and most local grocery stores.
Instead of traditional butter, switch to Earth Balance vegan brand or ghee.
When I talk to people about the negative effects of dairy, they usually respond with "well I really don't eat that much dairy."
Unfortunately, that's usually untrue. I know this, because I used to think the same thing, and it wasn't until I started reading all my labels that I realized I was consuming dairy VERY often.
Some examples of food I was eating that I never thought had dairy- morning oatmeal, granola bars, coffee drinks, pasta/pasta sauces, pizza, chips, condiments, salad dressings, chocolate, frozen meals, soups, boxed foods like scalloped potatoes and macaroni and cheese.
I really never thought about the fact that cheese and butter were dairy. I only thought about milk and ice cream! It seems silly to think how ignorant I was to these things, but it was because I was never taught to learn about my food- only to consume.
So, the good news when it comes to milk is that there are a SURPLUS of options!
It's also amazing that you can substitute these milks into ANYTHING that calls for regular milk and it works just the same. If you need to substitute for heavy cream in a recipe, try using full-fat coconut milk from the can. The consistency works in nearly every recipe I've tried.
Instead of traditional cow's milk you can try almond milk, cashew milk,
soy milk (organic and non-gmo encouraged for soy!), hazelnut milk, macadamia nut milk, oat milk, coconut milk, or hemp milk!
When it comes to bad sugar, we are talking about white sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar, and the chemical versions like high-fructose corn syrup. High-fructose corn syrup hiding out in drinks and processed foods has been called a “weapon of mass destruction" by Dr. Axe.
I advise you to stay away from any products that have sugar in these forms, because they cause major issues in the body. Sugar was the cause of my hormone imbalance which caused me to have debilitating chronic migraines for years. Sugar intake is also connected to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers, leaky gut syndrome, and fatty liver problems!
You don't need the fake stuff anyways- because God gave us some really phenomenal sweeteners that are natural and taste so much better.
I actually heard a sermon once that compared the taste of real honey, the most wonderfully sweet taste, to the love and 'sweetness' God has towards us. He gave us something so sweet, to understand what it means to be delighted by Him. That's happy.
Before I tell you about these natural sweeteners, I want to make it clear that no matter how clean these are for you, they do still process as glucose in the body, and therefore need to be consumed mindfully.
So how much should you have? According to The American Heart Association (AHA), you should limit the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance. About six teaspoons per day for women and nine teaspoons per day for men.
Here are some of my favorite natural sweeteners:
Honey (look for RAW and local if possible because many are cut with corn syrups!)
Real maple syrup (usually in a glass bottle)
Brown rice syrup
Examples of how to use:
Instead of sugar and cream in your coffee, try some honey or maple syrup with non-dairy milk or creamer.
Sub coconut sugar in your baking anywhere the recipe calls for sugar.
When craving something sweet, dip a date in some almond butter and eat with a piece of dark chocolate.
Blend over-ripe bananas with a little water to make a puree, and sub one cup of the puree for one cup of sugar in baking.
Make some toast in the morning with nut butter and honey drizzled on top.
There's a little saying I love to tell people that goes like this:
"The whiter the bread, the quicker your dead."
Straight to the point, ya'll. That's how I do.
But, seriously. I'll start by saying- no. white. bread.
Does this mean you can never have a roll of white bread before dinner at a restaurant again?
Remember, the rules are... there ain't no rules!
Mindfulness is the name of the game, with each and every thing you consume. It's okay every once in awhile, but when purchasing bread for at home to make sandwiches, toast, etc. you want a good quality bread that doesn't damage your insides.
There are so many bread options out there, it can be slightly over-whelming..
Especially when you add in the 'gluten-free' dilemma everyone is talking about.
First, as you should do with everything you consume, read the label.
Does it have weird chemicals or additives?
Here are some key ones to avoid:
Azodicarbonamide (or ADA)
Partially Hydrogenated Oil
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (or BHA)
High-Fructose Corn Syrup (or HFCS)
Soy (unless stated to be non-gmo)
Also look for sugar and sodium contents. A minimal amount is okay, but you don't need to be consuming mass amounts of these products in your bread.. it's completely unnecessary.
When it comes to gluten, or wheat, this is personal preference. While I do my best to avoid gluten and believe it does have negative side effects, if I am going to consume wheat products- I look for organic or sprouted wheat.
Sprouted grain breads provide the body with grain that has already been broken down due to the enzymes that exist in the living sprouted grain. Nutrients are absorbed immediately into the body, and are not lost in the digestive process. Sprouted grain breads truly unlock the vital benefits our bodies need from grains. Some of the known benefits include: increased digestibility, increased absorption of minerals, increased antioxidants, and increased vitamin C and vitamin B.
If you are seriously concerned with gluten, or have a gluten/wheat allergy, then looking for a clean ingredient gluten-free bread is your best option.
Instead of white bread, or regular whole wheat bread I recommend looking for a sprouted grain bread, gluten-free bread, organic wheat bread, or sourdough bread (easily digestible, nutritious bread that has a low gluten content!).
Canola oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, and safflower oil are scaaaaary.
They are clear, tasteless, highly refined and processed.
These oils are full of omega-6 fatty acids and promote inflammation in the body, which causes chronic disease.
If you want to learn more about why we have been taught by the government and doctors that they are good for us, and why we should stop consuming them check out this article by Dr. Mark Hyman.
So what the heck do you use to cook with?
The best oils you can use to swap out for those stated above are:
Coconut oil- Perfect for cooking at high temperatures
Extra Virgin Olive Oil- Look for cold pressed, and use at lower temperatures
Macadamia Nut oil
Toasted Sesame Oil
People generally equate granola bars as healthy.
This can be true, but it can also be false.
I used to eat any kind of granola bar I could get my hands on. They are such an easy snack, and they seem healthy. Easy and healthy is something most everyone is constantly searching for.
In our culture, people are obsessed with easy and convenient- which is why granola bars are an amazing thing.
Unfortunately, a lot of granola bars are made from sugar, man-made sweeteners, preservatives, lots of carbs, tons of oils, and GMO (genetically modified aka BAD) ingredients.
Some of the top granola bars out there, are some of the ones to avoid such as;
Nature's Valley, Fiber One, and Quaker Oats.
Biggest tip? Read your labels! (noticing a theme here??)
The hidden ingredients you don't want are dairy (usually listed as whey), vegetable and canola oils, excess refined sugars, and weird chemical additives.
Some of my favorite clean ingredient bars you can look for instead:
Rx Bars (great after a workout!)
Purely Elizabeth Granola Bars
There are also a TON of easy recipes all over the internet for homemade granola bars, so try making your own- you'll save some money if you buy the ingredients in bulk, you can mix and match nuts/fruits/flavors to make something you specifically love, and you won't have to worry about bad ingredients!
Soda & Other High Sugar Beverages
I'm so irritated when I think of soda!
The drink I (and most likely you!) grew up on, the drink that these marketing companies never let us go a day without seeing, and the drink America prides itself on as a staple (ice-cold glass bottle of Coke at the baseball game anyone?) is absolutely terrible for us.
I had soda every day until three years ago.
Often, twice a day.
It's what you drink with dinner. It's what you have at the pool, at a sporting event, and at birthday parties. The world is over-flowing with it. It's hard to go a day without seeing it sold somewhere, or an advertisement promoting it to you.
Let me tell you- soda is nothing but bad for you!
There is no nutritional value in it- on the contrary it's very harmful and unnatural for your body.
Here's why it's bad for you:
Sugar content: A single can of soda contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar. This amount of sugar, especially in liquid form, skyrockets the blood sugar and causes an insulin reaction in the body. Over time, this can lead to diabetes, not to mention weight gain and other health problems.
Phosphoric acid: Soda contains phosphoric acid, which interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium and can lead to osteoporosis, cavities, and bone softening. It also interacts with stomach acid, slowing digestion and blocking nutrient absorption.
High Fructose Corn Syrup: Made from a processed form of corn, this ingredient is linked to the obesity epidemic of America, and is linked to diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
Dehydration: Because of the high sugar, sodium, and caffeine content in soda, it actually dehydrates the body.
Bad for teeth: Drinking soda regularly causes plaque to build up on the teeth and can lead to cavities and gum disease.
Artificial Sweeteners: In diet sodas, aspartame is used as a substitute for sugar and can actually be more harmful. It has been linked to almost a hundred different health problems including seizures, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, diabetes, and emotional disorders.
The reason you are so heavily marketed too, and in turn think drinking soda is completely normal, is to benefit these companies wallets. Soft drinks are a multi-billion dollar product, and they account for a quarter of all drinks consumed in the United States.
There is something called a 'sugar-tax' that stirred up some opposition from the soda companies.
The point of this tax on sweetened and chemical infused drinks, is to reduce consumer demand for unhealthy foods and beverages, improve the food environment, and make healthier choices easier for everyone. Super positive and necessary during our obesity and disease epidemic.
These companies don't care about your health, the chronic disease rate of the company, or how addicted you are to the soda. In fact, they count on it. They aren't about to lose all their money for the sake of our health.
This is why they fight so hard to prevent a beneficial health movement in our communities.
The sugar-sweetened beverage industry's lobbying group, the American Beverage Association, and its two largest members, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo, spent at least $67 million fighting local soda taxes and warning labels on drinks in 19 cities and states since 2009.
So sneaky, those marketers.
So, forget the soda. Ditch it. You'll crave it for a little while, but you will conquer!
I say this, because I did it- so I know you can.
Along with soda, most other bottled and canned beverages are not good for you.
Often they are filled with sugar and chemicals as well.
Even drinks that claim to be pure, natural and healthy can have mass amounts of sugar.
I recommend staying away from fruit juice, even if it's pure. A small glass is a nice occasional treat, but although it's natural sugar its A LOT of it at once- and it still sky rockets the blood sugar levels in your body, which can cause you problems.
So, what do you drink when you don't have soda, lemonade, or sweet tea?
Here are some options for healthy drinks:
Water (one of the best things to give your body!)
Unsweetened iced tea
Hot tea - there are soo many options for flavors out there!
Kombucha - an amazing fermented tea that has become quite trendy (so very good for you nutritionally!)
Yerba Mate- a type of canned tea with great health benefits
I think this can often be one of the more challenging areas for people when changing their diet.
It's easy to grab for chips, cookies, crackers, or candy. It's readily available at any time, cheap to purchase, and quite frankly- very addicting to eat.
But these snacks often leave you feeling more hungry and cause blood sugar spikes that end with a crash making you feel fatigued. No bueno.
Instead of Lay's potato chips with french onion dip, a package of peanut M&M'S, or microwave popcorn (these may or may not be my exact favorite junk foods in the past...) let's figure out some snacks that will taste good, give you energy, and actually nourish the body.
Snacks you can eat throughout the day:
Trail mix- there are countless options out there!
Nuts- healthy fats that keep you feeling full. Almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts.
Corn tortilla chips and salsa (non gmo corn!)
Dark chocolate (70% cacao content or more)
Sea Salt Popcorn (non-gmo, no added butter or chemicals!)
Chickpeas- If you can find dry ones at the store they are a great crunchy snack, if not you can make them easily at home.
Mixed berries such as strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries
Smoothies- Blend up one cup of coconut water, a frozen banana, and some strawberries for a quick drinkable snack
Granola- (my favorite brand ever is Purely Elizabeth!)
If you've never tried it, now is the time. Even my parents, who told me they could never like hummus, keep it in their house to snack on daily! It's so yummy and filling.
Dip tortilla chips, celery sticks, carrots, or little peppers in it.
I'm talking peanut butter, almond butter, and cashew butter. A filling, energizing snack.
Spread it on apples, bananas, celery sticks, or eat it by the spoonful!
All in all, I hope you will be enlightened to the fact that there are so many options out there for eating mindfully. You just have to be your own advocate, and read all your labels.
It's so worth it.
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health + happiness