Friday, March 30, 2012

Current health goal #1: cure my pre-diabetic condition

It seems that mommy has spent too much time helping everyone else and not herself.


That's over.

This year, I'm determined to get off of my insulin-regulating supplements that have been working to replace metformin/Glucophage for the last 7 years. In fact, they're doing a better job than metformin ever did although I'm sure that the changes in my diet have helped that along. None-the-less, I want off. All this stuff is doing is lowering my sugar level. My body is still overproducing insulin--and that means that my body WILL eventually burn out and I will be diabetic. I'm also sick of being beholden to remembering to take pills every day. I'm finding that when I forget, it's a nightmare quicker and quicker. Where it used to take 2-3 weeks to really feel the effects of the excess insulin, it's now only taking a few days. The lethargy, the weepiness... it happens fast now. I find this ironic because the way I eat is so much better now than it was.

Back in February, registered for a blood sugar balancing retreat at Kripalu in late April with Dr. Mark Hyman. What I didn't know was that Dr. Hyman had a new book being published in late March called "The Blood Sugar Solution". So, I got the book when it was released and thankfully, the dietary changes really weren't drastic for us.

I decided to draw a line in the sand and start it on Monday. I had some trouble cutting out caffeine of all things--which is ironic because I generally don't drink it. But I've missed an entire month of chiropractic care and the result is that my headaches/migraines have returned with the stormy weather (mine are a reaction to barometric pressure). Caffeine is the only cure (usually paired with pain reliever if I don't catch it early enough). So the last two weeks have seen me with more caffeine than usual.

I think I stopped taking my insulin-regulating supplements Sunday. I'm not sure how wise that was. The book didn't say to do that. BUT, I will say that it's been a week and although I was really tired a day or two ago (physically--in a way I don't really recall and without any real provocation) and I've been agitated (which could very well be buildup, as I had been having a hard time already)... I'm doing okay. AND, I lost 2 pounds rather than gain (which would be the norm when my insulin is spiking).

Today I ordered all the bloodwork related to the Blood Sugar Solution--both the basic and the advanced panel (since I know I have an existing condition in the diabetes spectrum). Most of it is stuff that would've been run at our annual physical last June, but we missed that. So I'm running it now. Thank GOD I now live in IL because back in NJ, you can't just order tests yourself! Geesh! Since we pay out of pocket until our medical bills hit $7,500, I'd be paying for them either way. They have to get done, though.

Of course, I'd love to go take those tests tomorrow but my husband is running his first race at 8:30am. So looks like I have to wait until Monday. :( Probably less crowded on a Monday morning anyway, right?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Are you new to broth?

Looooove the broth. I have an online friend who entered making broth tentatively and with much concern about "doing it right". My Facebook friends being their helpful selves guided her gently through the process...

First, take whatever kind of animal boned carcass you have available. That includes the rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. But really--leftover bones from lamb chops or beef roasts... whatever you can get your hands on will do.

Pick the meat off the bones. I happen to have a batch of chicken broth on the stove as I type that was not picked clean. I'm regretting that. That meat would've made a nice soup. I'm currently contemplating how long it will take me to go through and pick out the meat. :/ Obviously there are going to be meat remnants. That's totally fine.

Break whatever bones you can. This exposes the marrow of the bone--which has some great health benefits.

Put all these bones in a large stock pot and cover them with water that has a splash of vinegar in it (if you're not a "splash" kind of person, use 2 Tbl. Yes--no matter how big or small the pot is. It's not an exact science ;) ). Let them soak in the vinegar for about 30 minutes. This helps extract some of the minerals from the bones into the water.

Now you're ready to cook. Bring the whole thing to a boil and then, once at a boil, add "other stuff". The list of things that comprise "other stuff" is completely unscientific. If you needed the 2 Tbl. measure during the vinegar step, you're not going to love this. I'll help: start off with 2-3 carrots, a small to medium sized onion, a few stalks of celery and three shakes of salt. But really, other stuff in my house is "Anything within arms reach" which today meant: carrot peels, chopped off bottoms of a bunch of spinach, some celery hearts, at least a large onion with the peel still on (but cut into quarters), definitely several cloves of fresh garlic (smashed) and a few good shakes of salt (worthy of note that my stock pot holds three chicken carcasses and is at least the size of my elbow-to-fingertips in diameter and just as tall). I don't think I threw anything else in there.

After it hits the boil, I let mine boil for a good 10 minutes before turning the heat down to medium-low. I want it bubbling but not boiling for the rest of the time.

Mine has been at low-medium heat for what is now about 10 hours. You can do this as little as 3-4 hours. Mine will go through the night and I'll strain it and jar it in my pressure canner tomorrow. Of course, I may just jar it up and put it in the fridge. It's still winter and we make soup every night--so it could certainly get used up in a matter of a week.

That's really the basics of it. You can find elsewhere online how to do this in a crock pot and my newbie broth-cooking Facebook friend did that. I just cook way too much of it to fit in my crock pot. :)

There are PLENTY of additional ways to tweak your broth. Many people will leave the lid partially open to reduce their broth down to a beautiful, condensed, tasty liquid. Many people will add the innards of poultry to their poultry broth (I did this with my turkey innards at Thanksgiving). Some people roast the bones before making broth with them. Some will use a saw to be sure to expose the marrow of the bones. Or maybe add chicken legs and leave the cartilage in there to get that serious gelatinous setup once it's cooled.

Most people skim the top and believe that they're taking the impurities out. In reality, it just gives you clearer broth. I thought something was wrong with my broth because there was no foam to skim. Turned out that bones from meat that was pasture raised and relatively "pure" won't foam--so maybe there's something to that idea of skimming the foam.

But try it out! Really--it's THAT easy. And it's the best thing in the world to nourish your body--even when you drink it without making a soup. Just like tea. The miracle of a good broth drunk regularly is amazing. Get your kids started on it, too!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Picture my morning...

Very large, black, enamelware stockpot 3/4 full of water, a splash of vinegar and chicken that is a little "too leftover" (if I boil it for 2 days, won't that kill EVERYthing? Stay tuned) sitting on the stove next to the frying pan from this morning's eggs that is not yet into the sink. Why? Not sure.

Naked 3yo running around. She's been told 3 times to go get underpants on to start the dressing process, but mom is engaged online and so she's not listening and mom isn't making it happen (which will change after this post).

Unnaked, but still in pjs 8yo has remnant Legos everywhere. When he finally moves them, he replaces them by putting something equally inappropriate in it's place: i.e. the BopIt that is now sitting on my kitchen island after he took up some huge 12"x12" platform

*pause to holler at 3yo up the stairs to stop tormenting dog and brother*

of Legos.

Three doubled up brown paper handle shopping bags from Whole Foods containing a case of canned black olives, a case of canned coconut milk and a case of cartons of almond milk are at the end of the island.

The chair in the family room is overflowing--literally--with the clean, unfolded towels from the laundry room. 3yo spent about 30 minutes--naked--hiding in them, then honoring my request that she pick up the ones that fell on the floor while telling Daddy (who made a brief appearance from his basement cave office) that "Dis is hard work!"

The older of the two dogs intermittently chirp-barks now. We have no idea why, but it's akin to Chinese water torture. Actually, I think 3yo locked the dog in a room.

*pause while I holler up the stairs to 3yo to let the dog out of wherever she is*

*twice--louder this time*

The dishwasher is running. The fridge is full of fingerprints that make me think "THAT is why people get the Silver Mist finish" every time I see it. A whole chicken is already in the oven for lunch and I am drinking a splash of readymade chai tea that essentially colors a cup of warm, vanilla-flavor-added coconut milk.

It's 11:15am. I'm off to get all of us dressed since 3yo just announced "We're goin' to bicyc-oos today!" (open gym playgroup that allows the kids to bring scooters and little kid ride-ons).

****************************** ETA ******************************

No sooner did I hit "Publish" and share on Facebook when I turned to get out of my chair and there was 3yo holding underpants, jeans and a top out for me to dress her. <3

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

When kids don't eat enough vegetables...

Not my kids. But today, my client's kids. Or rather, "kid"... Just one of her four. He's happy to eat meat, oatmeal (the real stuff--which I made for her family and this child ate up happily complete with goji berries :) ), cheese and fruits. Just notsomuch veggies. I know there's one he eats, but I can't remember which.

Mom was torn about how to handle it. Nobody wants eating to become an argument. This particular child is health with no obvious health challenges. The only negative behavior problem mom can detect she can clearly tie to something non-food related (and I agreed with her on that one). Mom felt that in her life, she had the same meal every night: meat, potato and either corn or green beans (because this is what her mother had access to preserve for the winter) plus some fruit mom had canned for dessert. So mom herself didn't eat a broad spectrum of vegetables. Actually, given that background, it's awesome that they're eating more than corn and green beans. But they are.

I noted that really, I only force my children to eat foods that they have regularly eaten without a problem in the past. I only force them to take 3 bites of a new food, and they're only off the hook if they gag. She noted the potential to fake a gag and I noted that up until recently, my kids had never gagged; but now having had the experience--I agree, they're likely to fake it (both of them--the 3yo and the 8yo). I'm on careful watch. The gag experience I think was far more about the texture of what we were eating than the taste (it was an acorn squash soup with a little broccoli--all pureed; and neither of my kids is particularly good with strange textures).

But alas... how to gently encourage her children to embrace more veggies.

Well, in my 2-hour session with mom, we discussed a lot of cool topics that included the value in raw food consumption and it hit me: put out a bunch of cut, raw veggies on a lazy susan in the middle of the table with dipping stuff in the middle (tamari, italian dressing, hummus and guacamole) and let the kids "play" with vegetables. Viola--raw AND veggies... and fun. :)

YAY!!! I may actually do this at my house!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What "superfoods" should you eat? (if any)

I went searching for a list of superfoods to incorporate into the diet and now I see why nobody does it. Whose list is right? One is too "everyday foods" that don't really SEEM all that super. Another is so far-fetched that the foods require special-ordering or seeking out a specialty store.

The reality is that every culture ate differently (and with a very limited number of foods in terms of variety) and were profoundly healthy because they were eating whole, unprocessed, sometimes raw foods (see the book "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration" by Dr. Weston Price if you want to be fascinated by this fact... there's even pictures!). So it stands to reason that a case could be made for ANY food being a "superfood" because in some culture before the industrial age--it probably was. Each food has it's own special qualities--it's own unique footprint left on your body when ingested.

Keeping all of this in mind, here is my own list of superfoods worth striving towards that are woefully absent in large quantities in the American diet, and make a monumental difference.

Water: Seriously. Not VitaminWater (have you seen the scandal about this? The Federal judge's review states "At oral arguments, defendants (Coca-Cola) suggested that no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitamin water was a healthy beverage."). Not tea. Not coffee. Not juice. It's NOT. THE. SAME. At minimum, alternate between water and your beverage of choice, but DRINK. WATER. Everyone knows "it's important" but it would stun you to learn the things (some small, some huge) that not having enough water will do to you. Got a headache when you wake up? Drink an entire, large glass of water and lay back down for 15 minutes. TRY it. Tired? Drink an entire, large glass of water and wait 15 minutes before grabbing the coffee. No issues? GREAT! DRINK IT ANYWAY! And get your kids to drink water. Switch them over to water from fruit juice. They're not getting anything but unstable blood sugar from it.

Current-season vegetables: If you can manage to go organic and local, great. But let's focus on the real deal: eating what is grown in your area at your time of year is what will feed your body in ways that we generally don't think of. Ayurvedic medicine focuses quite a bit on this concept. Some of the things you find in winter in the northern part of the country are things we are no longer eating--yet they're full of Vitamin C and other nutrients that we need at that time of year; in addition to the physiological benefits that come with eating within the cycles of nature.

Some kind of fats: Preferably the animal fats that you've been brainwashed to believe are harming us. The backlash of that is a country dying of health problems that they believe are CAUSED by fats and are actually being worsened by LACK of fats. Including cardiovascular disease (which has found to be worsened not by fats, but by sugars and refined starches). Fats make you feel full and carry you longer without having to eat--stabilizing your blood sugar. Some have cholesterol--which is critical to brain function and development in small children. Got a cholesterol "problem"? Let's talk (or do some of your own research instead of just taking the prescription the doctor hands you)--because cholesterol is generally not "the" problem, but a symptom of something else going wrong. Olives, nuts, butter (especially for people with ADD/ADHD), red meat, salmon... all of these things incorporated into a balanced eating plan are not only wonderful, but HEALTHY. And for children and pregnant women, this is all the more critical.

Some amount of raw food: Approximately 30% of our body's energy is devoted to digestion because we eat cooked foods. Raw foods still have living enzymes in them. Those enzymes break our food down for us. In fact, that's kind of why we cook food: TO destroy the enzymes that break down the food ("spoil" the food). But if you have fresh food available, eat it raw. In addition to improved energy, your body is not depleting it's own reserves of enzymes. Add to it that your body launches an immune response to cooked foods--putting your immune system (which is responsible for keeping us healthy, but also the system that controls allergies) into overdrive.

Some amount of fermented food: Fermented food also contains wonderfully healthful bacteria (probiotics) for our system. Yogurt is what we are all familiar with, but what about kefir (a fermented milk drink), kombucha (a fermented tea drink), sauerkraut, kimchi (a fermented cabbage that's a bit more spicy than sauerkraut), red cabbage (a red version of sauerkraut with more sweet tang to it), pickles, tamari (a wheat-free soy sauce), vinegar, sourdough bread, tempeh (a fermented bean cake--usually soy--that can be used in place of meat in some dishes), miso (a fermented bean and grain mixture in many varieties but also often sold made with soy and rice and used for soups, salad dressings, etc.), giardiniera (an Italian recipe of multiple fermented vegetables often used with antipasta dishes). TRY something! In our house, each person has a different favorite. Yogurt, kefir, home-made kombucha, red cabbage, vinegar, miso (we use Shiro miso in soup) and pickles... we love them!

This list is "content". It speaks nothing to how your overall eating plan looks, just what it contains that you may not be getting enough of--things that make a difference. Sometimes things we know are important and don't get nearly enough of; or things we've been beaten over the head to avoid--much to the detriment of the health of our country.

And sure, there are plenty of other foods out there with claims to great qualities. Unless you have a specific problem and are going to eat those foods en masse, I don't see the point. Incorporating them into a well-balanced diet when you can find and afford them is great. But you have plenty available to you that will serve you well without struggling.

That's my list. Are there plenty of other "superfoods" out there? They're all super foods. Eat them!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Meal planning

I think we've covered this before... the benefits of meal planning. Let's nutshell it:

If you've thought it out for the week and then taken the time to ensure you have what you need, then you know you're prepared to cook complete meals and will be full of home-cooked goodness instead of going out to eat (and/or looking for an unhealthy dessert if you only cook half of a meal).

Add to it that when you write it all down and look at the big picture of your eating, you either look at it and know it's healthy or you realize "Hmmm... something's gotta change!" and you change it for the better.

Less expensive
It's just cheaper to eat at home even if you're eating better quality food.

Less stressful
Even if you consciously decide to eat out somewhere in your meal plan (I do it), that is WAY less stressful than trying to hurriedly decide what to eat, realize you have nothing to prepare at-hand, and then struggle to decide where you can eat out.

Conscious eating
You can't be healthy on auto-pilot. Take the small steps towards a healthier you by doing this simple task. If you didn't do it over the weekend, do it now--for the rest of the week. Even one full day planned out and prepared for is a lot better than none!

Monday, December 12, 2011

State of the Union

To date, we are:

Dairy- and soy-free completely.

We have come to realize that smallboyishness has no issue with fresh, whole corn. We're starting to think his issue with corn syrup has nothing to do with CORN, but with metals that leached into the corn syrup--specifically mercury. It would also explain his issues and reactions to his shots (which have high levels of metal in them). So we are currently corn SYRUP-free and occasionally indulge in corn in it's whole state. Corn is a grain, though, and we are toying with the idea of going completely grain-free.

We cheat on gluten. Not often, but given the length of time it takes to get out of your system, I wonder if we're ever completely gluten-free. That being said, I am planning on our being COMPLETELY gluten-free soon for a full year. I'm thinking January 1st. It won't really be difficult since there's so little in our diet.

We ARE salicylate-free. At least smallboyishness and I are. We have the most significant reactions--mostly with the excretory system. Blech. No tomatoes, oranges, apples, berries, grapes/raisins (yup... I drink rhubarb, pomegranate, or hibiscus honey-meade wine... remarkably good), peaches... the list goes on. But we manage.

And we are artificial coloring and preservative free including nitrates and nitrites. We are also clear of artificial and "natural" flavorings that are unspecified (just lumped under "natural flavorings").

I am done with my nearly 9 year hiatus from being the chief cook in the house and have taken it over with a vengeance. Weird. As quickly as the aversion came, it left. *sigh* It's nice because I spend a lot of time in the kitchen doing stuff the kids can do with me. Score.

We do finally own a juicer (a Green Star GS-2000) and we use it for fresh juices. Especially in the fall with Mabon moon cider (a mulled cider with grape and apple juice that reeked havoc on smallboyishness and myself since both are on the "no" list :/ ). It can make a "sorbet" of sorts if you put it on the nut butter setting and put frozen fruit through it. :)

We also recently bought a dehydrator and I'm regretting the kind we bought. It was an inexpensive one from a local box store, but it doesn't have nearly the versatility of the Excaliber that I should've bought--which can allow me not only to lay things out on a larger, rectangular sheet but would also allow me to remove trays and use the unit for yogurt. I think I'm going to return this one (it's stackable rings). I'm hoping to use it to experiment with some raw food recipes like pancakes. :)

My pressure canner has finally been mastered!! YAY!!! I'm a boiling-water bath kind of gal, but my needs have changed. I needed broth to keep and my freezer was getting full. Half of my standing freezer has 1/2 of a grassfed cow butchered up and I'm looking for pastured chickens to fill the rest. If I can find another way to store my broth, great. Now I need to set up my basement pantry to store it all because the laundry room isn't cutting it.

Life in our house has become very "food without a label". It's kind of neat. Healthfully, it's awesome. We're busy people but eating this way has slowed us down in wonderful ways that have reconnected us as a family. We COULD eat foods that are "safe" that come in a package for the sake of convenience (and make no mistake--we've done it). But it's not cost-efficient. And it not only eats up our money, but it eats up our connectedness as a family. So I'm not really sorry that it's become like this. I enjoy spending time planning and preparing our food... often side by side with my kids. The house smells different. We feel different--in so many ways.

In effect, smallboyishness' food allergies are pretty much the best thing that ever happened to this family--on many levels. He's my best little guy in the land--my best little man. And I am grateful in so many ways I couldn't have ever imagined back in the days when I was overwhelmed with removing dairy from my diet 7-1/2 years ago.

That's not to say that we are food Nazi's. Yes, we still go out to eat on occasion and when we are guests in someone's home--we are far more grateful for their generosity and happy to spend time with them than concerned about where their food comes from. As long as it's not one of our major allergens--we're good. People sometimes think that we would lay judgment on their eating decisions. I guess I would feel the same way in their shoes. I'm not really sure why we don't feel that way, but none of us do. I mean, I'm GLAD we're not like that! I just can't explain why. It's not a conscious effort or something we have to mentally rationalize so I don't quite know how or why we're like this. But we're not.

Food is a big picture thing. Our big picture is predominantly in our own control where food is concerned. So we don't sweat the small stuff. ;)