Raising Kids to Be Healthy Eaters

Let’s talk about picky eaters. Are kids naturally picky eaters, or do we as their parents and as a society,  “allow” them to be picky eaters? I like to think that the latter is true, except maybe in a few rare situations. When we give birth to our babies, we have great intentions of nurturing their little bodies with super nutritious breast milk. As they get older, we feed them homemade organic baby food and we feel proud because of the nourishment we are giving them. At some point between baby and toddler, a lot of parents give up. They begin to  see happy meals as a rite of passage,and when their child says that he “doesn’t like vegetables”, they stop trying and declare their child as a “picky eater”. This is a vicious cycle that we fall prey to in America. We are one of the only countries that offers a kid’s menu at restaurants.  Its nonsense if you think about it. Why can't kids just eat off of the adult menu?  I get asked a lot of questions from friends about how to keep your kids from becoming picky eaters. My plain and simple answer is to not give them “kid food”. When I say “kid food”, I am referring to things such as processed macaroni and cheese, processed hot dogs, chicken tenders, french fries, refined pasta, grilled cheese on white bread, and the list goes on.  For those of you who have given your kids these items, I don’t want you to feel that I am scolding you or looking down on you,  I am simply saying to move away from the mentality that your child needs “kid food”.  Next time you go to a restaurant, how about letting your child use the kid’s menu just for coloring. Take a long hard look at that kid’s menu, chances are the nutritious options are very few and far between. Most restaurants will offer smaller adult portions or a la carte items for children if you ask.  So what should you do if your child truly doesn’t like a food? Just like adults, children are allowed to have aversions to foods. I hate peas! If they are in a dish, I must pick out each and every one!  If your child doesn’t like carrots, then don’t make him eat carrots. However, if he says he doesn’t like any vegetables, that is a problem that must be solved. It is important to remember that children have much stronger taste buds than adults. They can taste a bitterness in broccoli that we don’t even know is there. I am a huge advocate of making food fun for kids. At our house we try to make it fun by eating trees with snow (broccoli or cauliflower and homemade ranch), princess food (salmon, because its pink), and lion food (apples). Not really sure where that one came from....

I take a lot of pride in the way that my daughter eats. I don’t attribute her healthy habits to “luck”, I attribute it to the strong discipline of my husband and I in our decision to teach healthy eating habits from day one. James and I made a mutual decision after having Sophia, that healthy eating will be a huge priority in our family with major limitations of restaurants, fast food, and processed foods. Sophia has only had fast food once in her life due to an act of desperation when we were out running errands. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know that white bread exists because I only buy whole grain. She would rather eat grilled chicken dipped in homemade ranch than have store bought chicken nuggets.  When given the choice between french fries and roasted sweet potatoes, she chooses sweet potatoes. These are just a few examples of how her taste buds are adapted to eating real foods. I state these things not to brag or boast, I simply want to illustrate that it is possible to raise a healthy eater. Although Sophia is a super healthy eater, we definitely have our battles like any other family. A huge frustration of mine is that Sophia is very picky in what fruit she will eat. She loves berries whether they be black berries, strawberries, blueberries,  or raspberries. The negative aspect of this is that I insist on buying organic berries, and this gets super expensive. We are trying to teach her to like a wider variety of fruits (that won’t hurt our budget) by offering dipping sauces and fun fruit kabobs. We also have difficulties with her grazing all day and not wanting to sit at the dinner table. She enjoys eating small servings throughout the day and never wants to eat when it's a designated “meal” time. I’ll touch more on this in #6.  Using the skills I have learned in several courses regarding food and behavior, as well as my personal experiences, I have compiled a list below with tips on how to raise your kids to be healthy eaters. We adhere to these rules in our house and it works! I hope you all find it helpful no matter what age your kiddos are.

7 Tips to Raise Healthy Eaters

1. Start early if possible.
Breastfeeding and the introduction of solid foods are both great opportunities to teach your baby to be a healthy eater from day one.  Breast milk can have a very distinct taste depending on what the mother is consuming in her diet. If you eat garlic for example, your breast milk will have a little garlic flavor in it and your baby will become accustomed to the flavor. When you start solid foods, always choose vegetables before fruit. If you offer fruit first, your baby will be less inclined to want the less sweet vegetables. As your child develops into a toddler, resist the urge to give them “kid food” such as packaged macaroni and cheese, store bought chicken nuggets, hot dogs, etc. Try as much as possible to teach your little one to eat normal foods that the rest of the family is eating.

2. Teach your children why they should eat healthy food. Yes, you can teach an older child to eat healthy. If you have raised your kids on fast food and now you feel ready to make the switch, its not too late! I think it is important to tell your children why they are not allowed to have fast food or why it's not okay to have ice cream every night. Whether your child is 3 or 13, you can choose how to vocalize this to them. “We don’t eat McDonalds anymore because it is not healthy for our bodies”. “We eat broccoli because it has calcium in it to help us grow big”. "We need to eat a healthy lunch at school so that you can concentrate at soccer practice". With your older kids you could go so far as to talk to them about growth hormones, grass fed beef, pesticides, and even watch food documentaries such as Food Inc with them if they are interested. Kids don’t like to hear “because I said so” for an answer. If you are not allowing them to eat something, explain why and hopefully they will be less likely to ask for that food next time.

3. Don’t have food in your house that is off limits. This is a VERY important lesson. I have heard of several parents who don’t let their kids have sugar, fast food, packaged snacks etc, but the parents order pizza after the kids go to sleep or keep ice cream hidden far back in the freezer. I really don’t think this is a good idea. Kids are smart. If they find food in your house that they are not allowed to eat, they will question it.  My husband and I recently instilled a rule that ALL food in our house is food that Sophia is allowed to eat. (The only exceptions are alcohol and spicy things such as cayenne and jalepenos.) This is a controversial one I realize. Like I said, I know that a lot of you probably enjoy eating snacks after the kids are in bed. Just make sure that if you do indulge in  something once in a great while, it is gone by morning and not hidden in the house.

4.  Set a good example. This goes hand in hand with #3. If the kids have to eat broccoli with dinner, then so does dad. Just last night, we had Trader Joes frozen pizza for dinner- by the way, their pizzas are great! All organic ingredients. I put the pizza on the table and a big bowl of carrots with the rule that everyone has to have five carrots. Sophia saw James and I eating carrots, and without hesitation, she started munching away. If your kids see you eating healthy foods, they will be much more inclined to eat those same foods. This is also a great way to introduce new foods. I munch on raw bell peppers several times each week, and as a result, Sophia loves bell peppers.

5. Try try try to not make it a battle, You’re in charge. There are some days when I offer Sophia several options of fruits and veggies and she just says no. On those days, I leave it on the table and tell her that if she is hungry, she can go eat in the kitchen. Nine times out of ten, she is back in the kitchen a few minutes later eating what I offered her. I usually give Sophia two options during meals and snacks. “Do you want blueberries or apple slices, do you want chicken or peanut butter and jelly?” If they throw a fit, just be patient. Don’t allow yourself to raise your voice over vegetables. If your kids see how frustrated you become, it will make them less inclined to eat the food. Remember ultimately that you are in charge and you are not a short order cook! If you have more than one child, offer all of your kids the same few options, if they don’t like the options, they can go hungry. I promise, they won’t go hungry:)

6. Remember that kids will eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. I cannot tell you how many times Sophia will wake up in the morning and eat 2 pieces of toast and a bowl of oatmeal, then lunch rolls around and she won’t eat anything, she asks for chicken at 3 in the afternoon, and then when James and I are eating dinner, all she wants is a few spears of asparagus and some blackberries. This drives me crazy! I have to remind myself that kids are the perfect example of intuitive eaters. They will eat when they are hungry and they will stop when they are full. Just because you say its lunch time, does not mean that they will want to eat. A good friend once told me that kids are like flowers, they can survive on water and sunshine. This is sort of true. When it comes to a balanced diet with your kids, rather than focusing on each day, focus on the week as a whole. If they are not hungry when you want them to eat, try to relax. Like I stated above, they won’t go hungry:)

7. Let your kids help with preparation and cooking. My daughter is not even three and she already helps in the kitchen. I always make sure to give her a small job when I am making meals so that she feels like she is part of the process. Some of the easiest jobs for her include: mixing ingredients such as beans or rice, putting salt and pepper on veggies, and mashing avocados. If your kids are older, allow them to plan meals a few times each week. I have heard of moms who have success with having a color theme at each meal. For example: eating as many red things at dinner as possible such as pizza with marinara and red bell peppers, and strawberries for dessert. Get creative so that meal time becomes a fun and exciting event rather than a battlefield.

8. Don't use food as bribery/reward/punishment. This one seems to be very controversial. Some parents think bribing kids with ice cream is a great way to get them to eat their green beans. I personally think this is a huge problem. When you use food as a bribe every night at dinner, you are actually teaching your child that they shouldn't want the green beans. I hate when I hear parents say, "if you want dessert, you need to eat all your vegetables". Now those vegetables seem a lot less enticing because your child knows there is dessert involved. I admit I am guilty of this once in a while. I try my best to not put any foods on a pedestal and not use food as a reward. If we run errands and Sophia is very well behaved, I allow her a treat once in a while. Sometimes she chooses a lollipop and sometimes she chooses a small toy. The choice is hers to make.  During lunch at our house I usually give Sophia her meal and a small cookie at the same time. If she eats the cookie first, she knows it is gone and now she has to eat her protein and her fruit. I suggest not even mentioning dessert to your kids before dinner so that they don't realize it is an option. I also don't see a problem serving a very small portion of dessert with dinner. if your child eats their dessert first, they will most likely still be hungry. They will know that the dessert is gone, and they will have no choice but to eat the other items on their plate. Ultimately we need to be mindful to not use food as bribery or punishment. If we don't put dessert on a pedestal, then neither will our kids.Of course living in America, we are all guilty of using foods as bribery. It's how we were raised. I am simply saying to try to not allow this to be an everyday habit in your house.

I hope that these tips will be helpful for kids of all ages. If you have any specific issues or questions to be addressed, I am more than happy to answer them! Please leave comments below. I truly love to hear from my readers!


3 Balloons For the Birthday Girl

I cannot believe that my sweet girl turned 3 today. It feels weird to be the mother of a 3 year old. I feel like the baby in her is completely gone. I am no longer the mother of a baby. I am the mother of a little girl. Whoa.

James has been out of town all week which has been really hard. I sort of feel like a single parent when he is gone. Not fun at all.  I wanted to be a super rockstar mom and spend the whole day with Sophia, but the reality was that I had to go to class. I tried to make her lunch somewhat special with my homemade card and heart shaped sandwich. It was a pathetic attempt at creativity.  I was really sad dropping her off at preschool this morning, but I know she is in good hands.
After I got out of school, we headed to my parents' house. My mom was gracious enough to invite us let me invite myself to dinner. I have been mooching off of them a lot lately because it is really hard to cook for just myself and Sophia.  I really do feel like my mom does such a great job of taking care of me when James is out of town. Love you Mom! Although my dad is out of town also, my sister and my two brothers and my grandma were able to come for dinner. It was so nice to be surrounded by family to celebrate Sophia's birthday.  We made some delicious grass fed beef sliders with homemade sweet potato fries and fresh watermelon. Sophia got a kick out of the "baby burgers". What a great summer meal!

After dinner we headed out for gelato. Sophia chose chocolate. Big surprise. She is just like her mama. She LOVES chocolate.  I was shocked that she barely ate half of the gelato. I think it may have been too rich for her. Needless to say, I think she enjoyed it! We will be getting together with James' parents over the weekend for even more celebrating. I'm pretty sure Sophia thinks her birthday is the entire month of June because we have been celebrating so much! I am glad she is finally old enough to understand the excitement of her birthday! I think she has had more sugar this week than she has had in the past 3 years. I'm okay with it. Birthdays are the best excuse for having sugar overload ;)

Happy Birthday my sweet girl! I am so proud to be your Mama!


Avocado and Tomato Summer Salad

 I love everything associated with summer. Long days. The sun staying out until 8pm. Swimming. Grilling. Watermelon. Popsicles. Tank tops. My newfound summer love is fresh, flavorful tomatoes. Ever since learning that conventional tomatoes are picked when they are green and ripened with ethylene gas, I make it a point to buy local, organic tomatoes. Boy can you taste the difference! A summer tomato that was grown using only sunshine and water is crunchy, refreshing, and full of flavor. Despite the hot heat, we have continued to frequent the farmer's market. Now that summer is upon us, heirloom tomatoes are in season! I only recently discovered heirloom tomatoes. I love them! We are all familiar with regular, red tomatoes, but yellow heirlooms are something different and intriguing. The taste is similar to red, but I just love the idea of a yellow tomato!

This past weekend I found myself buying way more tomatoes than I bargained for. The best way I could think to use them was to make a cold, refreshing summer salad. I am a huge fan of caprese salads. Mozzarella, tomato, basil. Although this classic salad is a winner, I wanted to spice things up a little. By adding avocado and lemon juice, this traditional tomato salad has a little more pizzaz!

Avocado and Tomato Summer Salad
serves 4-6

1 pint red cherry tomatoes (organic)
4 yellow, heirloom tomatoes, or 1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes (organic)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1 avocado chopped
1/2 cup basil (organic) finely chopped
1/4 olive oil
1 1/4 cups fresh  mini mozzarella balls

Place mozzarella balls on a dish towel to allow all liquid to drain. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Cut yellow heirloom tomatoes into small chunks. Mix tomatoes together in large bowl. Add avocado chunks, basil, lemon, olive oil, salt. Cut mozzarella balls in half and add to salad. Mix well. Refrigerate before serving. Can be served as a side dish or a light lunch.


Family Fun Night

 I am officially at the half way point with summer school. 4 weeks done. 4 more weeks to endure. It has been rough so far.  My schedule right now is as follows: Wake up at 7am, shower, rush to get ready and eat breakfast. Take Sophia to preschool at 9am, I go to school from 10am until 3pm. Rush to pick up Sophia, spend some time together, make dinner, put Sophia down to bed by 8pm, try desperately to find enough energy to study. Whew! By 10:30pm, I am exhausted. Although I am loving microbiology, it is incredibly difficult to find enough hours in the day to study. Summer school is great in the sense that it is over and done with in a mere 8 weeks, but those 8 weeks are crazy chaos! I am thrilled to say that this is the last lab science I will have to take EVER. As of July 19th, I will be a measly 2 classes short of a Bachelor's degree. What a journey it has been! I am thrilled to be nearing the end. I am completely unsure as to what I will do after graduation, but I am anxious to be done!

Did I mention that James will be traveling for work most of the summer? As if life isn't chaotic enough, now I have to figure out how to juggle everything on my own! Ugh. Tonight we decided to have some extra fun family time before he hits the road. We started off by having some water fun. In this Phoenix heat, we do whatever it takes to stay cool. Sophia is completely obsessed with the hose right now. Although we were trying to water the trees, she would much rather water herself.
A great night has to include a great meal. We splurged on some wild salmon from Trader Joe's. Wild salmon is one of those things I don't budge on. If you want to hear my rant about salmon, you can click here. We only eat salmon once in a great while because it is not cheap! We paid $6.99/lb at Trader Joe's for wild, frozen fillets. The best way to know that your salmon is high quality is to look at the color. Farm raised salmon is pale pink only because they dye it pink. Take a look at the wild salmon below. The natural hue of salmon is a very deep shade of pink. We paired our salmon with an Israeli couscous/quinoa blend and grilled asparagus. It was delish!

We also can't live without this organic wine from Trader Joe's. For just $3.99, you can't pass it up!

What would a family fun night be without homemade cookies and a movie? We made some ridiculously good, ooey, gooey chocolate chip coconut cookies and watched Dumbo. Such a great way to bid Daddy farewell for a few days. Happy Thursday. The weekend is almost here!


Lazy Days at the Farmer's Market

Truly there is nothing that makes me happier than lazy Saturdays. These past 3 weeks have been filled with crazy, busy, erratic schedules. James has started traveling heavily for work, and I am taking Microbiology 4 days a week for 6 hours everyday! Last lab science I will ever have to take! Woo hoo! Sophia has been going to preschool more than usual as a result of our busy schedule. Today, we just needed to be lazy!

 I find so much joy in waking up early, slowly sipping my coffee, and enjoying the stillness before I hear my sweet girl trudging down the stairs. Today somehow I woke up at 6:45am, feeling wide awake and full of energy. I took advantage of the stillness by enjoying my coffee in silence and writing. Blogging is so good for me because I just love to write.  It is such an outlet for me. Even if I am writing simple, mundane things, it brings me joy and helps me feel calm and collected. Just like my dad, I am a much better communicator through writing than through speech.

Soon enough, I heard those little footsteps creeping down the stairs, and then the sweet voice of my girl: "Mommy, I wanna have bread with honey. And some butter. Um. I need milk in my cup too." :) Warms my heart. Just like her mama, this girl wakes up ready to eat! We made a quick breakfast with Daddy and headed out the door to the farmer's market.

Farmer's markets have become our favorite weekend tradition. Though we don't go every week, we try to go a few times each month. When the weather permits, I could spend hours browsing yummy foods and natural products. We decided to drive a little ways and check out the Gilbert Farmer's Market for a change of pace. We usually go to the Scottsdale Farmer's Market, although neither one is in our neighborhood.
The farmer's market is wonderful but also dangerous for the wallet! I always have to restrain myself so that we don't buy everything in sight! One thing I couldn't resist today was heirloom tomatoes. I LOVE heirloom tomatoes. What is more awesome than yellow tomatoes? It doesn't get much better than that! I am looking forward to making a fresh summer salad with these beauties. We also bought a rather expensive loaf of bread. $6. When we got home and made sandwiches with it, we decided it was worth every penny! 100% whole grain, but so doughy and delicious! Someday I will learn to bake my own bread; mark my words.
Much to my chagrin, James and I have both been on antibiotics all week. I cringe at the thought of antibiotics, slowly and violently destroying my lovely intestinal flora. Okay, maybe it is weird to call my intestinal flora lovely; but needless to say, we stopped at Whole Foods for some raw sauerkraut and kefir. Rather than taking a probiotic in pill form, I find it so much healthier to consume foods that are naturally bursting with probiotics to flood our GI tract with a healthy dose of bacteria. Did you know that kefir and naturally fermented sauerkraut are incredibly high in probiotics? I will be talking about this in great detail next month when I start a series on traditional foods in our modern culture. Until then, just take my word for it! Lunch today was sandwiches with Applegate Farm's natural deli turkey, avocado, and sauerkraut. Also a huge bowl of watermelon.
Just for your laughing enjoyment, let me tell you that our 3 year old will eat this straight out of the tub if we let her. She sure loves flavor!
Happy Saturday to all of you!


Herb 'n Flavors Restaurant Review

Within the past year I have come to loathe conventional restaurants. I care so much about the food we put in our body and restaurant food is most certainly not natural or healthy. Especially the kid's menu. Don't even get me started on the kid's menu. With that being said, we all like to go out to eat once in a while. It is a great way to celebrate a special occasion or take a break from cooking. We all need a break sometimes, but we also deserve to eat nourishing foods that are not full of unnecessary ingredients and additives. Recently we came across a new local restaurant that has become one of our personal favorites.

Herb 'n Flavors is located in the heart of Tempe. I discovered it by chance after my mom received a coupon in the mail for a free entree. The first time we went to the restaurant our waitress informed us that everything on the menu was organic and local. Me being the crazy nutrition nerd that I am, wanted to talk to the manager before we left because it sounded too good to be true. I asked the manager if everything is local and organic and he assured me that it is. He then gave me a list of all the farmers and ranchers that supply their ingredients.
 Grass fed beef and pasture raised chicken is received from Double Check Ranch, pesticide-free produce is received from One Windmill Farm and Maya's Farm, Hummus is made by the owner himself from Dr. Hummus, coffee and tea come from Cortez Organic Coffees and Teas, and pasta is handmade from Deceio Pasta. Although the salmon and shrimp are not wild, the albacore tuna is sustainably wild caught. WOW! Truly too good to be true. Now this is the question that boggles my brain and aggravates me the most. If this restaurant can offer entirely local and organic options and still have reasonably priced food items, why are more restaurants not doing the same? Is it laziness or lack of knowledge and resources? I don't know. What I do know is that I would much rather give my business to someone who is feeding me nourishing foods free from additives and pesticides than go to any other chain restaurant that is receiving frozen factory farmed meats and premade sauces. Did I mention Herb 'n Flavors makes EVERYTHING from scratch? Phenomenol! Below is a review of the overall quality of the restaurant.
Gluten Free Chicken Tenders with Fries and Vegan Spinach Dip

Chicken Fantasia with a delicious sauce as well as bell peppers and onions.

Herb 'n Flavors Review: 1 being poor, 10 being great
Atmosphere: 10 The atmosphere is very hip and bright. The color scheme is friendly and inviting. When you enter the restaurant, you are able to seat yourself wherever is most comfortable.
Staff:10 Every time I have been to the restaurant the staff is incredibly friendly and engages in conversation when appropriate.
Service: 8 The food service has always been great for us during lunch, with the food being delivered quickly and efficiently. We have only been for dinner once, and unfortunately our service was a little slow. I suggest running in for a quick lunch, but if you plan to go for dinner, make sure you are not in a hurry. 
Allergy Friendly: 9 The menu is very accomodating for all allergies and food preferences such as gluten free, dairy free, soy free, vegan, etc. Gluten free chicken tenders and vegan spinach dip are incredibly flavorful.
Variety: 9 The menu reminds me somewhat of Pita Jungle except better. Although the food is centered around Medditeranean, there are a variety of options such as salads, pitas, rice bowls, and tacos.
Taste/Flavor: 9 The food is very flavorful and uses a variety of Mediterranean-inspired spices. The sauces and dips that are served with entrees are very dense in flavor and accompany the meal well. My only disappoint thus far is the french fries. They are very bland and not fresh tasting. I would love to see some homemade fries in the future.
Price: 10 Considering all items are organic and/or local, the price is excellent. The average menu item price is $10-$12. Honestly, for such high quality ingredients, I would be willing to pay a little bit more. The fact that they are able to keep prices so reasonable is very impressive.
Real, Unprocessed Food: 9 Although there are menu items that are considered refined, such as the pita chips, sandwich bread, and refined oil in  the deep fried items, there are a wide variety of unrefined options including brown rice, grilled meats,  and homemade sauces and dips. All produce is local and free of pesticides and all meat is local and free of hormones and antibiotics. When finding what I consider "real" food at a restaurant, my top priority is high quality meat and produce. I can feel good about taking my daughter to Herb 'n Flavors and that makes me so happy!
Overall Rating: 9 Herb 'n Flavors offers high quality food, decently priced in a friendly, inviting atmosphere. If you are trying to eat at a restaurant offering local, truly healthy options, Herb 'n Flavors is the place to go.

As a family we have been to the restaurant several times. We are always pleased with what we order and our service is always excellent. We have tried all flavors of hummus as well as the vegan spinach dip. The spinach dip is delicious, but I don't like to eat a lot of it because it contains soy which is something that we try to avoid. On our most recent visit I decided to order the Gluten Free Chicken Tenders. They were delicious! The batter is made from garbanzo bean flour. Although they are probably fried in highly refined canola oil, they are a great option for anyone who is avoiding gluten. The biggest disappointment of my meal was the french fries. I expected them to be homemade when in fact they looked like any other average french fry from a steakhouse. James ordered the Chicken Fantasia on our most recent visit and it was delicious! It is served with brown rice, bell peppers, grilled chicken, and a delicious red sauce. Items we have also tried include falafel, cheese pizza, grilled chicken kid's meal, veggie pita wrap, turkey pita wrap and grass-fed tacos. Like I said, everything we have ever tasted has been delicious. If you want to eat at a restaurant that offers real food with integrity, you need to try Herb 'n Flavors!


A Man's Perspective on Eating Real, Unprocessed Foods

Hi everyone. My name is James. I am Delia's husband. Delia asked me to write a guest post about healthy eating from a man's perspective, so here it is. Similar to Delia, I grew up eating a typical American diet.  Although my parents did make me eat my vegetables as well as a balanced diet, our food choices were not organic or  entirely unprocessed.  As I entered high school and college, I ate what was quick and convenient and I didn't question it because I didn't know any better. Subway and McDonald's dollar menu were part of my regular diet. After I met Delia, she slowly opened my eyes to what healthy eating looks like.  Since our wedding four years ago, our eating habits have drastically evolved from the American definition of "healthy food" to a more holistic definition of healthy food. Below are a few questions that I get asked on a frequent basis.

Is it true that you travel for work? What do you eat on the road?
I typically travel most weekends each month, which means most of my meals are highly processed. Although I am grateful for the hospitality of others, most meals I eat on the road are quick convenience foods because that is all that is available. When I first started traveling, there were several occasions when I would come home feeling sick to my stomach. Now I try to find the healthier options when I can. Delia and I have found a couple tactics to help me stay on track. I found that eating a big healthy breakfast at home before flights helps those morning cravings for nasty airport food. Delia will also pack little snacks such as granola, fruit, and nuts to keep me from hitting up the nearby gas station. Because I cannot control all I eat when I travel, it's important for me to eat healthy at home. And one thing is for certain, Delia knows how to pile on the asparagus and broccoli. 

What was your reaction about eating unprocessed foods for 30 days?
As a supportive husband, I must support all constructive projects my wife embarks on. We both figured this would be a great way to kick off Delia's Kitchen, but I didn't realize what I was getting myself into. I never realized how many foods contain processed ingredients especially restaurant food. When we first started I was really pumped and figured we would just need to read food labels and everything would be fine. As the weeks when on it became hard to go out with friends and family. They can only tolerate going to Chipotle so many times. This was the only restaurant we found where we could eat entirely unprocessed by choosing brown rice and not eating tortillas or chips.  However, eating home cooked wholesome meals was easy, especially when Delia would make flavorful dishes. This challenge proved to me that its possible to eat healthy foods without compromising taste.

Now that the challenge is over, what exactly is your definition of healthy eating? 
After participating in this challenge I have learned that healthy eating is not only about a well balanced meal, but it's equally important to know the ingredients in your food. Moderation is key. I want us to strive to eat unprocessed food at home, so that we can afford to indulge when the occasion permits.

Be honest. Do you feel deprived? Do you wish that you could just eat a Standard American Diet?
Ha ha. I wouldn't say I feel deprived at all. I enjoy eating healthy, but I would be lying if I said I don't crave an occasional Chicago-style hot dog. Eating healthy most days of the week is a huge priority in our household. As a result of this, we can give in to our cravings once in a while without feeling guilt. I am grateful that we don't eat a standard American diet of lots of convenience foods and highly processed ingredients. I think that we are on the right path to health, and that feels great.


30 Days of Unprocessed Food- Recap

For those of you who may not have been following us closely through this challenge, let me fill you in. My husband, myself, and our 3 year old daughter decided to give up ALL processed foods for these past 30 days. Our decision to do this was not an easy one. I knew that in doing so, we would face obstacles along the way, and some days would be harder than others. Our biggest motivation in choosing to do the 30 days, was that we wanted to show through our meal plans that eating unprocessed food is not boring or tasteless. I will be posting the meal plans onto the blog for those of you who may want to use them as a guideline for your own healthy eating.

Today marks day 31! My husband Joked that he wanted to wake up early and run to the nearest fast food joint and order everything on the menu. I think he was kidding, but I'm not quite sure....  We actually ate very healthy today with the exception of a last minute trip to get some fro yo. James has been craving frozen yogurt, so we decided it was time to indulge. Frozen yogurt is such a great treat for Sophia because I can control how large her serving is, and I can load it up with fruit.  Unfortunately, I chose strawberry flavor for her, not even thinking that it is probably loaded with artificial dyes.  I went ahead and looked up the ingredients list because I am nerdy like that.
 Here it is:Non-Fat Milk, Premium Pure Cane Sugar, Dextrose, Maltodextrin, Dairy Blend (Whey, Nonfat dry milk, and Lactose). Yogurt Powder (Milk solids-Nonfat, Lactic, and Cultures), Citric Acid, Natural Strawberry Flavor, Guar Gum, FD&C Red #40. Strawberry Concentrate, Malic Acid, Potassium Sorbate. Contains Milk.
It's a good thing her serving was very small! Don't allow yourself to be fooled into thinking frozen yogurt is healthy:) Just like any other dessert, it is an occasional treat, and really no better than any ice cream shoppe.

James' and my serving was approx 1/2 cup of frozen yogurt.  Sophia's was close to 1/4 cup.
I decided that the best way for me to recap these 30 days, was to simply make a pros and cons list. Unfortunately, there are just as many cons as there were pros.

  • Being forced to make meal plans and grocery lists each week has cut a significant amount of money off of our grocery costs because we were diligent to only buy what was on the list.
  • Great conversation starter with friends and family as well as opportunity to teach people a little something.
  • Overall feeling of healthiness. I think this was mostly in my head. I don't necessarily feel like I have more energy, I just "feel" really healthy and I have a satisfaction in knowing that I am truly nourishing my body. 
  • Getting my readers excited about eating healthy foods. I am not sure if I have been successful in this regard, but it has been so rewarding when people ask questions and want to be educated. I love to educate people about why we eat the way we do. The more questions the better.
  • Trying to go out on the weekends was near impossible. Family BBQs and outings with friends felt awkward. I felt like I was constantly saying, "no thank you" when someone offered me food, as well as saying, "Oh Sophia can't have that. Its processed". This was by far the hardest part for me. I felt like the bad guy. I felt like there was a barrier between us and everyone close to us.
  • A select few people who we encountered were not only unsupportive, but actually thought that we were being ridiculous and "mean" for depriving Sophia of Standard American Food. This was disappointing to me. I expected everyone to give us a high five and be excited about the challenge. Knowing that a few people thought we were crazy was very upsetting to me. 
  • Dealing with food cravings. It wasn't until the middle of the third week that I really began to crave processed food. The only thing that I craved this entire challenge, was refined grains. It is so hard to eat entirely whole grain for 30 days and it is nearly impossible to eat at a restaurant. Even restaurants that claim to have whole grain bread, pasta, pita, is not truly 100% whole grain. I am definitely looking forward to indulging in the occasional refined bread and pasta.  
  How Will We Eat From Here on out?
It was never my intention to give up processed foods 100% 7 days a week. The harsh reality is that living in America makes this nearly impossible. My goal is to eat entirely unprocessed, local, organic foods at home so that when we do find ourselves going out to eat with family, or celebrating a birthday party, we can indulge a little bit without feeling any guilt. If we eat this way six days a week, and then we are invited to a birthday party on Sunday, I see no harm in having a slice of pizza and a sliver of birthday cake. It is one of my greatest goals to raise my children to understand the importance of nourishing foods. I want my daughter to understand why we eat the way we do as well as to know that there are certain foods that should be saved for special occasions. I never want her to feel deprived or different from her peers and I most certainly do not want her to have any disordered eating patterns because we limit her choices too much. There is a fine balance between being too lenient with what your family eats, as well as being too strict. I try to strike a good balance. I think that by allowing her "fun foods" when the occasion calls for it, she will learn the importance of balance and moderation.

Thank you to those of you who have been following us on this journey. In the future, I hope to have more challenges similar to this. If any of you should choose to embark on your own whole foods challenge, please let us know how it goes! Stay tuned for my husband's recap of these past 30 days!


A Farm Fresh Breakfast Party with Carrot Cake

Please excuse the over exposure. The birthday girl was ready for cake and I didn't have time to change my settings!

 We celebrated my daughter's 3rd birthday this morning by having our closest friends and family over for a Farm Fresh Breakfast. Although it may seem a little unorthodox to have a breakfast birthday party, it ended up being perfect for us!  Sophia is on a major waffle kick right now. She is loving waffles with butter and maple syrup almost every day of the week. I wanted to make sure that her party was very representative of her personality. What better way to showcase her individuality than to serve her favorite food of the moment? I also of course needed an excuse to use the adorable berry baskets that I ordered from Etsy. Remember when I mentioned my obsession with berry baskets? Yeah, I wasn't kidding. I came up with the adorable color scheme of red and teal; representative of strawberries in a teal berry basket. The overall theme of the party was "Farm Fresh", meaning, I wanted everything to look like it came straight from a farm.
Aren't the berry baskets just precious? I really do love them.
I made the farmer's market sign using rotting wood from our old fence.
We are on day 27 of our 30 day challenge right now. Just because it was my daughter's birthday did not mean I was going to let us cheat. We made a commitment for 30 days and we are sticking to that commitment come rain or come shine! Everything on our menu was 100% unprocessed and delicious. Our menu was as follows: Whole grain waffles, crustless spinach quiche, strawberries and blackberries, natural Applegate Farm's sausage and bacon, orange juice, organic milk, coffee.

Just because we are eating unprocessed foods does not mean that we aren't eating birthday cake. What's a party without cake? While I was planning the party, I knew that I wanted to make a cake that was low in sugar and sort of appropriate for breakfast. My mom suggested a carrot cake, and so I started experimenting in the kitchen. I have been trying very hard to reduce the amount of wheat in our diet because I believe wheat to be highly inflammatory and possibly a huge underlying cause of my daughter's eczema. With a little help from my mom, I was able to create a recipe using primarily almond flour. Almond flour is a great wheat alternative for those who cannot tolerate wheat/gluten. Although it is great for baking, it is much more course than wheat (see photos below) and therefore, when baking with almond flour, you typically need to use more eggs to keep ingredients from becoming too dry.

Almond Flour is pictured on the left, wheat flour on the right.
There is nothing I love more than letting Sophia help in the kitchen. There is something so precious about those tiny hands stirring a spoon. She was elated when I asked her to help make a birthday cake for her friends. I find that continually allowing her to help in the kitchen makes her much more excited and eager to try new foods.  I realize that this batter looks somewhat disgusting. Just try to trust me when I tell you that the cake will be delicious. Don't judge a cake by its batter ;)
 This cake is much lower in sugar than most cakes, and therefore I think it is very appropriate to serve as a breakfast item if you should choose to do so. Not all sugar is created the same. (More about that later). Because this cake is only sweetened with honey, it will not cause any abrupt spikes in blood glucose levels the way that refined white sugar does. If you do choose to try the recipe, please let me know what you think. Is there anything you would do differently? Enjoy!

Carrot Cake with Honey Cream Frosting
Serves 10-12

1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups almond flour/meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla
3/4 cups honey
3/4 coconut oil
4 eggs (organic)
2 cups grated carrots (organic)
1 1/4 cups unsweetened crushed pineapple (drained)
1/2 cup raisins (soaked in hot water)

Honey Cream Frosting:
16 oz cream cheese (organic)
1 pint whipping cream (organic) (whip until peaks form)
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. 
Add dry ingredients in large bowl and mix. Add egg, honey, and oil. Mix thoroughly with electric mixer. Using spoon, stir in remaining ingredients. Transfer batter to two greased 9 inch round cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes.* To make the frosting, beat cream cheese, honey maple syrup, and vanilla until smooth. Gently fold in the whipping cream.
*After cakes have cooled for a few minutes, use extreme caution when flipping them onto cooling rack. The cakes will fall apart if you try to rush. Take time to slowly scrape the sides of pans with a butter knife to keep the cakes from sticking or falling apart.

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