Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Gradual Change

Rhyah's comment in my last post got me to thinking..."How did we get to the point that we're at now?" I know that our changes in eating habits didn't happen overnight and Shawn certainly wasn't turning down Doritos at the beginning of this food conversion. So, I've been trying to think back...

I would have to say that our food conversion officially started on Christmas 2007. From my parents, I received the NutriMill grain mill, hard white wheat, hard red wheat, soft white wheat, Sucanat (to replace brown sugar), Sucanat with Honey (to replace white sugar), and some raw honey. Prior to receiving the grain mill, I would bake cakes, brownies, and waffles from scratch on occasion, but I was using bleached flour and white refined sugar. If I made pancakes it would've been from a box of mix bought from Aldi. I started playing around with my recipes and converting them over. After much trial and error, I eventually found a bread recipe using freshly ground hard white wheat that we all really enjoyed.

Shortly after that, I stopped purchasing artificially flavored pancake syrup and we started only using real maple syrup. Also, around this time (early 2008) I stopped purchasing margarine and switched over to plain ol' butter. At this point we were still eating boxed scalloped potatoes, boxed breakfast cereals, Hamburger Helper, canned beans, canned cream of mushroom/chicken soups, canned chili, Velveeta... There was still a lot of processed foods in our diet, most were bought from Aldi because I was trying to keep our food budget down. Later that year, I stopped purchasing microwave popcorn. Instead, we purchased a big bag of popcorn from Sam's Club and borrowed an old popcorn popper from my mom. The baby steps happened little by little.

We kept this pattern of eating for quite a while. I continued to bake a lot and alter my recipes to use freshly ground flour, Sucanat, and Sucanat with honey. I would make small making my own spaghetti sauce instead of buying it ready-made in a jar or finding a local source of raw honey instead of purchasing it online from another state.

When Andrew developed eczema around three months of age (around February 2009) I started researching how my diet could be effecting him. I was exclusively nursing at the time. Up until this point, I had never really thought about how the food we ate effected more than just our waistlines. I soaked up every bit of knowledge I could find on food allergies and food sensitivities. I started omitting certain foods from my diet in order to try to give my baby some relief from the itchy rash. First I gave up wheat, then I gave up wheat and dairy. I was willing to do anything to keep my baby from scratching himself until he bled.

So, while I was doing this trial and error change in my diet, the rest of the family kept on eating as normal. One day a friend of mine (Hi Amanda!) witnessed one of Sam's awful meltdowns. She knew that we had issues with Sam exhibiting autistic-like behaviors, one of which was the "meltdown over nothing" behavior that came on a daily basis. She recommended that we look into the Feingold Diet. I did, and when I read about the symptoms that could be helped, I cried. This diet gave me hope that I could help Sam through changing our eating habits.

So, in July 2009 the whole family switched over to the Feingold Diet. The Feingold Diet eliminated all artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives from our diet. In the beginning stages, it also eliminated salicylates. The changes we saw were amazing! We saw an immediate improvement in Sam. He no longer would wake up screaming from his naps and he was finally able to be fully potty-trained. The autistic-behaviors did not go away entirely, but they did noticably improve. Drew's eczema, however, went away totally and completely! We were only on the diet for a week before his skin was beautiful and clear. This was my turning point. It was easy for me to see how the food we eat can drastically effect so many aspects of our lives.

I became a woman on a mission. In the week before beginning the Feingold Diet, I was serving the kids Froot Loops and Sunny D Smoothies for breakfast. I'm not exaggerating at all here. I remember serving it to them and being proud that I had gotten the Froot Loops for free with coupons and I actually made money, using coupons, by buying the Sunny D Smoothies. This is when our family's eating went through drastic changes. I had made a lot of food from scratch before, but I did even MORE now. I started trying out recipes for homemade granola instead of purchasing boxed cereals. I started making our own lemonade instead of using the CountryTime drink mix. I stopped using the cream of whatever soups and started making my own. I stopped purchasing cans of chicken broth and made my own. I tried and succeeded in making homemade marshmallows so the kids would fit in at Vacation Bible School. I found organic lollipops online to have on hand for spur-of-the-moment treats. We ate out so much less since there were very few restaurants that offered food without artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives. Home-cooked meals that were made from scratch became our new normal.

After being on the Feingold Diet for a month or two, I also decided to remove MSG, corn syrup, and sodium benzoates from our diet. In my mind, it just started to make more sense to eat foods that had been messed with as little as possible. I could see that, when our family ate foods that were closest to God's design, we felt better and were healthier.

Around September 2009 I found a farm two hours away that offered raw milk. We started making the trip there and began purchasing raw milk, farm fresh eggs, and free-range antibiotic/hormone free chickens.

In October we purchased our first grass-fed beef.

In November I started purchasing things with the organic fruits and vegetables, organic coconut flakes and I made my first purchase of unrefined coconut oil. Up until this point I still considered and regularly used canola oil as a healthy oil. I also purchased some cod liver oil at this time.

In January 2010 I started trying to switch over my recipes from using white/brown refined sugar and instead using only raw honey or real maple syrup as my sweeteners. This is still an ongoing process. I also began researching and experimenting with culturing dairy.

In February 2010 I joined the Weston A. Price Foundation. I succeeded in making my own butter, buttermilk, cream cheese, and whey from the raw milk that we purchase from the farm.

Now we're at March 2010 and my goal for this month is to work at soaking grains before preparing them. I've already made soaked bread, muffins, and oats. Tonight I'll be trying to make soaked tortillas for the first time.

When I look and compare our family's current way of eating to the way we ate prior to December 2007, there's a drastic change. If I had made that change overnight, Shawn would probably be in a fetal position in the corner. However, by making this change gradually (it's been over two years!) it's easier to accept. The biggest issue for us is becoming accustomed to a new normal. I remember when I first started making bread from scratch..Shawn missed WonderBread terribly. Now, when I mention trying out a new bread recipe so I can make bread from soaked grains the first thing Shawn said was, "So, are we not going to be able to have your bread anymore? It's really good bread."

I try to imagine what our new normal will be a year from now.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday over at


  1. Oh wow, I'm impressed! You've done such a great job of transitioning into a diet that nourishes your family the way God intended. Learning what that is AND implementing it is not as easy as it ought to be! :) Your journey sounds a lot like ours, slow and steady so we didn't miss things too much.

    If you are interested in a scoby for kombucha and kefir grains for milk kefir, I'm happy to send them to you for the cost of shipping (both fit into a box that ships for $5).

    I also look forward to what normal will look like for us in a year from now. I can finally say it's exciting now instead of scary.

    Keep up the great work and good luck with the grains. I'm trying making my own sprouted flour now to add to my sourdough, to make it less 'sour'.

  2. Sarah, I would love to take you up on your offer for the kombucha scoby and the kefir grains. I'd rather not put my email online since it contains my last name though. Do you have a way to contact you that's more anonymous? Although, I could always set up a new email account if it becomes necessary. Thank you for your offer!

  3. I love your idea of making things a "new normal." That's kind of how it's gone for us as we've changed one thing at a time. It's exciting how many changes you've had in your family through changing your eating.

  4. My family's change has been a bit more abrupt. But so far it has been worth the inconvenience. We've been at it just over a month now and I have noticed that my breathing has improved. Thing is, until now I didn't realize I was having trouble breathing! My kids (teens) faces have cleared up, and they sleep better. I regret my late "food wake-up call", but am so thankful to be on this new path now. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  5. This post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for taking the time to share. Your family is so lucky that your eyes have been opened.

  6. This is inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing.

  7. That is so wonderful! A modified Feingold helped my son, too. And I can tell immediately if he gets into "contraband" at a friend's house. Is it inconvenient? Yes, but it's sooo much easier than the unpredictable and horrible meltdowns!

  8. Just thinking about that kind of change is overwhelming. It's huge and it has an effect on every aspect of your life.

    It's a wonderful idea but I agree that it should be gradual. Also, having the support of your family is important. I think my husband would go crazy if I tossed the Ramen...

  9. Thank you so much for the kind comments! Our family is definitely a "work in progress." As much as I'd enjoy doing everything correctly right now, gradual change seems to fit our family better. As long as our change is in a positive direction, then I tell myself doing it gradually is ok.

  10. This is inspiring to me. My family has had a very similar experience. We're making progress one step at a time.

  11. I just Stumbled & retweeted this amazing post and hope all of you will come back and do that if you forgot when you were here before. I'd love for this post to go CRAZY on the web and get the word out about Real Food! :)


  12. We are slowly making that transition too! Congratulations on your success! Since we've been enjoying out bread machine, my next goal is to start milling my own grain for flour so we can get rid of the bleached stuff! Oh joy! It's already so nice to be another step away from HFCS and processed sugars (I try to use raw sugar as much as possible). We've been using real butter and EVO oil for several years now.

    My son is also recovering from autistic symptoms from vax in 2007. I hope to have him fully recovered by eliminating more junk that we are forced to eat by our food suppliers. It just sickens me that we have become THAT kind of society! This new recall really has me disgusted! I can't afford to buy the farm, but I am gonna try harder more than ever now!

    MSG is hard to get rid of... 'they' disguise the name and it's so not fair, it's criminal!

    Best of luck on your journey to better nutrition, I hope we can make it as far as you already have! God bless you and your family!

  13. Great post! And not just because I inspired it. ;) My goal right now is to include more clean foods into my diet. It will probably be a bit before we move onto the grass-fed beef and other meats.

    In my family, I'm the one with the health problems. Migraines that cause numbing on one side of my body from my face to my foot, anemia, IBS, and frequent cold sore outbreaks. I've found that my diet does affect those things greatly. I cut out MSG a long time ago because it affects my migraines. I'm currently researching the effects of coconut oil to help with cold sores.

    I already see in my kids some of my health problems. Gavin gets frequent stomach pains and Avlyn already has cold sores that she gets on occasion. I've put Gavin on a probiotic regimen for now, and that seems to be helping. It seems overwhelming if you try to figure it out all at once. But little steps make for big changes.