Category Archives: Whole Food

Heaing With Food

I went to a workshop with the title “Healing With Food” a while ago, and I have to admit that I was pretty disappointed. Not that it wasn’t good, it was interesting – I never knew you could do so much with a potato. But it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I signed up for workshops at the conference I was attending. Dang, why so picky? You might ask. Well, it turns out I was thinking along the lines of healing with food by eating it. So here’s the deal – maybe I’m arrogant or something, and I think that some people probably think I am a bit of a snob when it comes to food. When I tell people I haven’t had a cold in almost 5 years and that I used to get bad colds at least twice a year, I don’t think they believe me.

That was the year that my cold went from a cold to bronchitis to pneumonia. 6 weeks of sleeping while sitting up in bed so you don’t feel like you’re drowning  can do funny things to a person. I knew at that time that food has powerful qualities – besides just filling your belly, it can heal your ills or it can kill you. It just depends on what kind of food you choose to eat, because pneumonia and colds are not the only illnesses that the right foods can heal. Or cause Illness.

Now rewind to 11 years before the year I got pneumonia. I had much worse problems – I just didn’t know it yet. When I was 28 I had my second child. I had also just graduated from BYU with my BA in English Teaching and had lined up a long term substitute teaching position, which would give me the experience teaching to help me land a permanent teaching job the next school year. Things were busy, finances were tough and packaged food was REALLY cheap, especially if you used coupons. I thought things were great. I loved teaching, but I was having issues with depression and fatigue and I had started to gain a lot of weight. After my first child, I banished fat from the house and by the next year I had hit over 320 lbs. Before I had the baby, I wasn’t thin, but I was about 175 after my first child, about 25 pounds more than my pre-pregnancy weight (which was really upsetting to me at the time) which means I had almost doubled in weight since then, which was really horrifying to me because when I was only 22 -( just 6 short years earlier) I was thin and athletic – I could run a 2 mile distance in a little less than 13 1/2 minutes, I only had 17% body fat – (You know it was a big deal if I knew that) so this was a BIG deal.

Even before that, after I had my first child I had tried to continue with my fitness routines, ramping it up to swimming 40 laps 3x a week, running 2 miles daily, weight training 2x a week and doing aerobics 3x a week, but in spite of that, I was slowly and steadily gaining, until I was so physically exhausted that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was also having miscarriages – one when my husband and I had been married about 3 months, another when my oldest was about a year old, and another a month or so before I found that I was pregnant with my second.

Halfway into my second year teaching I was in the doctors office – I never felt rested, I was extremely overweight, had stopped menstruating, and guessed that maybe I had a thyroid problem, so I requested the tests. When the results came back, I was told that I was fine. I asked if maybe the results were borderline, and I was told there is no borderline with thyroid your either fine or you aren’t, and I was FINE. Go home and get off your lazy but and lose some weight and all of your problems will go away. Not in those exact words, but I was so upset by the condescending way that he spoke to me that I never went back, and I never looked for another doctor.

I tried to eat better by following the USDA advice and following the food pyramid even more closely, cutting out all fat, being sparing with the meat, and ramping up on carbs. I developed sugar cravings and had dry brittle nails and itchy skin. My hair was shedding so badly that it was in the vacuum, plugging the shower, and it was in the laundry and all over the carpet through the whole house (because the vacuum wouldn’t pick it all up – I had to sweep the carpets and would pick up a giant ball of hair every time I did.)By the time my son was 3 I was having hot flashes and night sweats like a menopausal woman. I was only 31. I had given up on the idea of having any more children, and I felt so sick and tired that I would wish that I could die rather than drag myself through the rest of my life feeling the way I did then. I never acted on that feeling because I had two small children who needed me. I quit teaching in 2001, and concentrated what energy I had on basic survival, which with kids in the summertime means a trip to the library at least once every other week.

And that is where it all started to change. I found a book in the library discard pile that got me thinking. It was “Calories Don’t Count,” by Herman Taller. I had been considering getting a food scale and diving into the world of calorie counting, which I had always refused to do, because I have always believed that eating should be an enjoyable, natural part of life -like breathing. Counting calories in my opinion was the equivalent of counting breaths. It was unnatural. So I paid the librarian 25¢ and took the book home and read it. For the most part, it wasn’t even about dieting, but discussed in basic terms the physiology of fat and why our bodies need it. It seems silly to me now, but at the time, it was an eye opening read – I remember thinking it was nuts, and then question forcefully came into my mind “what if everything that you have previously thought and been taught about nutrition is completely WRONG?”

Taller had briefly mentioned some low-fat experiments with rats that he had done, and some research by Dr. Weston A. Price, having to do with dietary fat that really fascinated me. It really hit home because I was having all of the symptoms that the rats in his study had, and after researching Dr. Weston Price online, I realized that I was doing this to myself with my FOOD. It seems so obvious now, and I have always made an effort to be healthy, but how processed pasta 6 nights a week fits into that picture, I still can’t figure out. Luckily being a farm girl, I had the know how to cook real food, so I started doing it. Adding fat back in was weird – I remember choking down the grease in my hamburger which I had been rinsing off with hot water through a colander. I started feeling better. Over the next year, I went from 385 pounds to about 215. I changed out all processed flour for whole wheat flour and started making my own pancake mix. We switched from regular table salt to sea salt. We got rid of the sugar. We bought a freezer and dumped canned foods. With every change I began to feel a little more normal, but I was still infertile. I started looking for a source of raw milk – I was not trying to get pregnant at this point; after 5 years I had pretty much given up on having any more children.

I spent time calling every dairy in Utah, I even called the Utah State Department of Agriculture – all of who told me that it was illegal and dangerous.  I drove around in the countryside looking for milk cows and even got up the nerve to knock on a couple of doors to inquire about Bessy out in the field. I finally was directed (hush hush) by a goatherd to a ‘gray market’ operation, where I would go in and pick up milk at night and put my money in a box. I noticed for the first time in years that my strength was coming back, and my muscle tone was firming up. I got kefir grains and started drinking a quart of kefir every day. I had been having terrible trouble with candida and would get open weeping sores in the folds of my skin that were really painful, but after just one quart of kefir, they were noticeably improved. After a few weeks they were gone. When I started adding flax seed oil to my kefir, within two weeks, I found out that I WAS PREGNANT!  The pregnancy went without a hitch and I didn’t gain an above normal amount of weight. I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight within a few weeks after the baby was born.

Things still were not (and are not) perfect – for example, the thing with the colds and later came pneumonia that spurred me farther along the path to more complete healing. But now I have 4 children, and feel that my family is complete. They are healthy and smart and beautiful. So what more could I ask for? Healing with food is real – not just in a potato poultice, but in real whole food that you EAT every day. After all, as Hippocrates once said: “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food”

Kids in The Kitchen: 10 Tips for Teaching Kids to Cook

My mother never shooed us out of the kitchen. Instead she put us to work! Since I am from a very big family (12 children), in a word, it was chaos, but it was beautiful chaos. I prepared my first full meal when I was only 8 years old. My mother grew up in a family where everything was cooked from cans, so it was very important to her that we know how to cook from scratch. As a teenager she taught herself to cook real food and then took over the family meals. One of the first things that I ever learned how to make was bread, and the first job we had as kids was to knead the dough. I can imagine now that my mother may not have wanted to do all of the kneading herself – she baked bread every Saturday – but at the time it was great fun!

When I was in college, I found out that not everyone’s mothers thought that learning to cook was important – I taught a few roommates how to do some simple things – like read recipes, boil water to make pasta, make dinner rolls, and to bake cookies (a skill that no enterprising – and starving – college girl should be without!) But I appreciate the skills I learned as a child even more as a mom. After meeting people who didn’t even know how to boil water or follow simple instructions on a box of rice-a-roni (which I honestly had never even HEARD of until I was in college), I decided that ALL of my kids would learn to cook because there is nothing sadder than an adult college student struggling on a small budget, who can’t even take care of themselves in this most basic way.

So here it is! My list of ten tips to help you teach your kids how to cook:

  1. Never shoo your children out of the kitchen. Instead, put them to work! Even small children can do something, even if you just give them a small piece of dough to play with. At 3, measure ingredients and let them put the measured ingredients into the mixing bowl. At 4 and 5, you can hand them a vegetable peeler. At 6, let them read the ingredients out of the recipe book and show them how to measure. You can set them up with a knife to chop vegetables (supervised of course) and at 7, let them measure out ingredients for you, or even try a simple recipe all by themselves. At 8, let them prepare a simple meal for the whole family without any help.  Not only have they learned an important skill, but they have realized that they can be an important member of the family, and they have earned confidence!
  2. Provide your children with easy access to healthy recipes that are easy to follow, and that are in a format that is easy to use and can take a beating. You may be interested in my Healthy Kid’s Recipe Cards, which you can find online here
  3. Hold a weekly family night or regular family activities so that you can provide additional opportunities for your children to make snacks or treats to showcase their newly learned skills.
  4. Praise them when it is warranted. Do not overdo it by ignoring faults and flops though – good food is expensive and good instruction that includes correction when needed helps avoid unnecessary waste. I recommend a sandwich style praise and correction model. If the recipe turned out badly, praise them for what they did right (wow, you did this all by yourself?) and then provide gentle instructions (next time, call me in if you need help with measuring the salt.) Then another good thing (It looks like you baked these for just the right amount of time!)Your child will want to know what went wrong so that they can make it better the next time around.
  5. Expect your boys to learn as well as your girls! Boys need these skills just as much as anyone now! You can’t make the mistake of assuming that your son’s wife will know how to cook or you may end up with grand kids who are part of the McD’s generation. Besides, it might be just the thing that will help him catch the girl of his dreams! My husband cooked for me on our first date. Children who learn to cook are less expensive to support through college, and will be healthier as well.
  6. As your children get older, do not hesitate to give them more responsibilities. Alternate the responsibilities for making breakfasts, allow them to pack their own lunches for school, and assign them one night a week to make dinner for the family.
  7. Always verbally thank the one responsible for the meal publicly around the dinner table. Point out the best parts of the meal and say exactly what you like about it. This is not the forum for corrections unless the child acknowledges something himself – like if a cake fell or if there was too much pepper in the gravy.  If they point it out themselves  in this setting, you can down play it for the moment (“yes, but the potatoes are perfect!”) and help them fix it later.
  8. When your child is old enough, help them plan a month of menus and execute a shopping trip. This lets your child learn the logistics of planning a meal from start to finish, including what constitutes a balanced meal, what you have already on hand and which items they will need to buy, and how much those things actually cost.  A child should be able to plan one day’s meals at the age of 7 or 8, a week’s worth of menus at 9 or 10, and a month of menus at 11 or 12.
  9. Don’t hold back on letting your child make a complicated recipe. I made bread on my own for the first time when I was not even 8 years old. You as the parent can trust your instincts about what your child is capable of at what age. Allow your child to challenge herself even if you are not sure if she can do it on her own. I was pleasantly surprised the first time my daughter made apple pie.
  10. Avoid relying on boxed items or pre-made foods for teaching kids how to cook. Children can read and understand recipes and it is a good opportunity for kids to learn about measurements, how ingredients work in a recipe, and many other things that kids can’t learn by making ramen noodles or microwavable boxed macaroni and cheese. Children are capable of much more than we give them credit for, and besides, teaching from scratch allows your child to form good nutritional habits early on, which will allow them to have a healthier lifestyle and a better quality of life.