I did not become a crazy food ninja overnight

Raspberries and blackberries from our garden

These raspberries I picked from my garden, and the blackberries grow along our property line.

It all started innocently enough with a little curiosity, some questions, a few articles … that turned into books, experimenting and tons of eating. In a few years’ time I’ve made a lot of changes in my shopping, eating, cooking and thinking habits — but it all happened just a little at a time. And I still have a lot to learn, which is good, because I love to learn.

I want to encourage you to choose an area of your diet that you want to maximize, do a little research and start changing the way you live. It’s a learning process that will pay off in better long-term health. It can feel intimidating, but one small step will take you a long way.

chocolate bacon brownies

I made delicious deep dark chocolate, espresso, stout and bacon brownies for a coworker’s birthday last month.

For instance, I used to eat excessive amounts of Reese’s peanut butter cups, Dove chocolates and peanut butter M&M’s. After reading some compelling and disturbing research on what refined sugar can do to your brain and your body, I decided to begin limiting my sugar intake greatly. I already wasn’t a big dessert eater, but chocolate has always been my muse. So I started trying darker and darker chocolate and experimenting with richer, less sugar- and flour-laden recipes. (Don’t judge me for having a Christmas sugar cookie party last weekend.)

I was astonished a couple months ago to realize I don’t even like milk chocolate any more. It isn’t even palatable to me. WAY too sweet. Totally grosses me out. It’s the same with most desserts. My sugar tolerance used to be very high and now I’m very sensitive to it, which is good news since it wasn’t doing my health any favors.

Cattle

I photographed these cattle at Pasture Haven in Syracuse, IN, where we participate in a herd share program.

Another big concern of ours has always been meat, dairy and eggs. I don’t want to support massive confined feeding operations. I want to support sustainable, local producers as much as possible. When we choose to support sustainable farms and businesses, we help protect the environment, claim better health for ourselves and family, promote animal welfare, save local farms and empower and protect workers, among many other positive benefits.

Grano Padana

We bought this this grana padano at Oh Mamma’s on the Avenue and used it in many wonderful dishes.

My Mom has always been a helpful guide in this area as she has done a lot of research and has connections with local producers. Purple Porch Co-op, DC Meats, and the South Bend Farmer’s Market are all good places to start to find locally produced products. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You should know what you’re really getting. You will taste the difference.

eggs

These gorgeous eggs came from Hebron Farms and can also be purchased at Purple Porch Co-op in South Bend, IN.

Another big factor in my hunt for better nutrition is always flavor. So much of the food I used to eat was missing something. It was lacking soul, lacking a richness and depth. Artificial flavors do not satisfy. Animals raised on inappropriate diets and environment don’t taste that great. Vegetables grown in sick soil taste anemic. They might trick you for a while, but once you’ve had the real thing, there’s no going back. Same with beer.

Sweet Potatoes beets onions

I bought the beets, sweet potatoes and red onions at the South Bend Farmers Market from two of my favorite vendors there.

Along the way, I’ve read several wonderful books that have helped me learn about sustainable agriculture, the consequences of our food choices and so much more — Omnivore’s Dilemma, Almost Amish, Fast Food Nation, Food Matters, Deep Nutrition, Food Rules, Folks This Ain’t Normal, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and more. But the one book that boiled it all down for me in a way I felt I could quickly apply and communicate best to others was In Defense of Food.

If you’re looking for a little direction on how to navigate our messy food system, consider reading “In Defense of Food.” I love Michael Pollan’s writing style. So entertaining and accessible. In fact, I wrote about this book about a year ago, and I still think it’s an excellent introduction to eating well. He gives 7 basic rules to help you make every day food choices. This book is an excellent starting point to help launch you and your family into healthier food habits.

So pick one thing. Maybe you could join a CSA next year, plant a little garden or read a good book about food. Or maybe you just want to eat less refined flour or sugar. It doesn’t really matter. Just start somewhere.

NOTE: If you know me at all, you know I need to start a similar journey with a bit of exercise. But for now, let’s just talk about food.

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