Finding Balance in Our Bellies: What & How We Plan to Eat in 2018

I'll never forget a conversation I had with my old roommate and good friend Anne right after I got married back in 2010. We were talking about wifey things like grocery shopping and cooking for our husbands, and comparing where we like to shop for foods we like. Anne asked if I'd ever heard of the "Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen" and I was like - "no??" so she continued to enlighten me and my world was completely opened to an entirely new outlook on my life as consumer - a brand new married consumer, starting her life as a routine grocery shopper, house cleaner, and home cook. But why would anyone put chemicals on or into the foods we eat? To this day, I have so many of the same questions about how and why processed foods are even in existence, much less how and why they're consumed. Some of those questions have been answered over the years as I've learned more, done a bit of my own research, and gotten further into doing my best to live a natural and organic lifestyle. Looking back, my mom always bought good food for us to eat, minimally processed, mostly whole foods, and hardly bought us crappy sugar-filled cereals or lunch meat - ever. So it's not like I didn't know what was good for me - I guess I just never realized that I could choose between organic and non, etc... So, it began.

Everything in our fridge and cupboards was trashed and I started from scratch. And as long as I kept some sort of cookies in the house, Tyler didn't care. Until I started bringing back these new organic products like Ranch dressing that was not Hidden Valley Ranch, and Nature's Promise organic BBQ sauce... I'd buy smaller amounts of produce (so we could eat them before they went bad) and grass-fed organic meats. 

After a couple of years, I started learning more about more about inflammatory foods and ways to eat for optimal health. Now of course we are all constantly hearing what's good for us from so many angles, with opinions from various health coaches and nutritionists everywhere we look. But I like to take in information from the sources I trust the most, and soak up bits and pieces from the others. The fact is, we never know when our time is anyway, so we shouldn't life a healthy life with the mindset of ensuring we'll live forever because that's just not going to happen - but living a healthy lifestyle is for just that - a healthier and hopefully happier quality of life. I want to feel good while I'm still on this earth. I want to have energy, clear skin, flexibility, physical capability, and just a great outlook on life! I truly 100% believe that it all begins with the foods I put into my body. Food is truly medicine. It just is. I've seen it's proof and have been changed by the dietary and lifestyle changes I've made over the past eight years.

The other part of what we believe in is balance. When the holidays come around, I love to bake. On birthdays, I make cakes. On Fridays, I'll have a drink. And if we want some ice cream, we'll get it - only it'll be made of organic cashew milk instead of cow's milk. Life is about balance and giving ourselves (and others!) grace. God has created so many things for us to enjoy - so we need to enjoy them! But that's just it - enjoy what He has created, not what man has created.

Have you read some of the ingredients that are in some of these man-made items that are being purchased on the regular? Oh my gosh - like, what are they even?! Most of them are to preserve the product so they have more time to sell it before it goes bad. Others are to make it smell better, look better, taste better. The dyes in foods cause countless problems, and just think of all the plastic that much of these "foods" are packaged in. Chemical after chemical after chemical! These chemicals are hormone-disrupting and mess with our symptoms. Did you know that Stevia decreases fertility? Read more about that here - I was floored when I read it and immediately threw out everything we consumed that included Stevia (which was unfortunately a good amount). It's not just at that one link - you can read so much about the topic all over the internet, so please - check it out. And consuming artificial sugars confuse your body's metabolism - read about that here if you'd like! It causes us to hold onto extra weight, feel cloudy-minded, and lacking in energy! Anyway, this wasn't supposed to be a health lesson. Besides, I'm not a nutritionist or anything - I just love to learn about all of this!

So let me tell you a bit about what Tyler and I are doing this year! He's been struggling with heartburn and acid reflux pretty much his whole life, so we're moving towards more of an alkaline (low-acidity) diet to see if we can pinpoint the foods that exacerbate this for him. We developed a list of "no-no" foods and have posted it on the fridge for him to see. He's doing great, aside from the occasional Oreo craving. He's been taking probiotics, vitamins, and drinking lots of water too. He used to drink black tea all throughout the day but has completely cut that from his diet. He's never been a coffee drinker, but definitely consumed too much tea. Caffeine doesn't affect him like it does to me though - his head hits the pillow at the end of the night and he's asleep in seconds! So hopefully in a few weeks, we'll see some real improvement and can start adding foods back into his diet like white potatoes, peppers, grapes, and oats and see if they have an affect on him. Did you know that acid reflux actually means there's not enough acid in your stomach - not too much like you'd think? The sphincter that closes your esophagus gets tired and worn out and starts working improperly due to all of the inflammation of the stomach, so acid creeps up the esophagus and creates that terrible burning sensation. Poor Tyler! And poor many other people who deal with heartburn all the time! It's all diet related, I'm telling you. :) 

And as for me, I've been reading Alisa Vitti's book called WOMAN CODE - and let me tell you - it has completely changed my approach to eating. If you're a woman who has ever struggled with weight loss, adult acne, infertility, anxiety, depression, PCOS, Fibroids, or just trying to lose the last 10 lb. of baby weight - please read her book. Even if you haven't had any of those symptoms and just want to live a healthier lifestyle as a woman - read her book. I'm telling you - it's incredible. I follow a girl named Lee Tilghman on Instagram (@leefromamerica) and she was talking about this book, so I checked it out because I'd been suffering from some pretty gosh-darn terrible anxiety and bouts of depression for years, and I'm telling you, I've been doing her protocol in a very half-ass way and have been seeing such strong results that have changed my life for the better, and I am so forever grateful for it. I've started an Instagram account to document my journey while on her protocol if you're interested in following along, too. The account is called Sunflower & Fig (there's a reason behind the name that's close to my heart) and can be found here. I took a break from posting for the holidays and plan to be back on to share in the next week or so. Alisa has a list of specific foods to eat for each week of our cycle. She believes that these specific foods have special nutrients that help to support our bodies during the course of our cycles on each different week (menstrual, follicular, ovulatory, and luteal). Supporting our bodies in this way promote our endocrine system to function properly and in turn, keeps our system moving and operating as it should. She explains it much better than I do. But for example, one week I'll eat chicken rather than fish, black beans as opposed to kidneys, and quinoa rather than wild rice. No counting, no tracking - just following specific foods that I've actually begun to memorize! So I take each list and create my weekly grocery list/meal planning from there! It's pretty simple once you're in the swing of it and I've been loving the way I've been feeling thus far. I can't remember the last time I had anxiety, and my depression is gone. I feel amazing and know that it's only UP from here! If you'd like to be on the journey to cycle-syncing and Flo Living with me, please follow my Instagram account and send me a message so I can reach out to you! 

I've cut out caffeine, and together we've cut out dairy, gluten, and white/added sugar. To sweeten anything, we use honey, date nectar (my personal favorite), or coconut palm sugar. I don't really miss my daily coffee, but if I want some, I'll make some decaf with the Chemex - so there's more room on our counter too without the coffee maker, which is nice. Any pasta I buy is made of garbanzo beans, quinoa, or rice. We don't really buy any bread anymore, but if I do, it's Dave's crazy multi-grain bread - though we've cut out wheat as well. I mean, sometimes you just want a sandwich. But when we do eat something like that now, we pay attention to our bodies and see how we feel. If we get a stomach ache, boating, a stuffy nose, rash, feel sleepy and groggy, or anything else other than feeling great and energized like we should feel when we eat - we know it's something our bodies must be intolerant of. 

We do eat meat still, but minimally. I feel like we could become vegetarians because it's not like we love eating meat like some people do, but we still incorporate it into our diets at this point, but only two or three times a week maximum. We eat fish once or twice a week, and then chicken or sometimes pork. We eat red meat maybe once a month, but not at all now since Tyler can't have it in his diet. We don't use a lot of eggs either - we go through phases with eggs. Sometimes I crave a deviled egg or an over-medium egg over quinoa for breakfast with some avocado, but then other times I crack one open to cook it and I'm like ew omg that's disgusting. 

I'm excited that it seems as though our generation is really jumping on this organic, clean eating, natural, etc. lifestyle and it makes me so happy! I'd love to learn more if you have anything to share with me that relates to healthy eating! Please leave it in the comments below or send me an email!

It's seriously a lifestyle as they say. I don't like the word "diet" either, but at the same time let's be honest - conscious eating is smart so we really do all need to be extra aware these days. Read your labels. Think before you buy. Research companies (no Kraft, Nestle, or Nabisco! GMO's!) and look into things to avoid when grocery shopping. Of course not everything that is posted on the internet is believable, but you can get a healthy general idea when you look into different things. Here's a site I've found that gives helpful pointers in avoiding GMO's. 

It can definitely be overwhelming so don't let yourself get distraught or anxious when you're trying to make decisions - just do what's best for you and your family! I know that when the day comes that we have children, I'll have to adjust a few things with what I buy because it cam definitely be expensive, but investing in our health is absolutely priceless! 

So here are a few basic bullet points that we like to try and follow in our kitchen:

  • NO dairy (sometimes Greek yogurt, maybe once a month) 
  • NO wheat, gluten 
  • NO added sugars (natural sugar in moderation is OK)
  • NO processed foods
  • Very little meat 
  • Lots of fresh organic vegetables
  • A cup of fresh organic fruits each day

My favorite resources to follow:

If you're interested in making a change, just start small and something new each week! Don't do it all at once because that can definitely be overwhelming. We are all always capable of improving something about our lifestyle - especially our diets. Again - food is medicine! It all starts there. In our bellies. Well - in our hearts first, then our bellies second. :)

I'm off to finish my snack of carrots and cucumbers and take a walk outside with Bax! Thanks sooo much for reading if you made it down this far, and I hope you've had a great first week of the new year! Lots of love to all of you from my kitchen to yours!

Oh and PS - we have our own little food blog too if you weren't aware, with recipes we like to make (some healthier than others, hehe...) called The Smith Kitchen so check it out if you want! Happy cooking and even happier eating! :) And most of all - HAPPY NEW YEAR!