Monday, May 25, 2015

Making a Healthy Diet Healthier

We're really trying to eat more healthfully these days, for a number of reasons.  One is that I recently found out that I have slight hyperthyroidism, which means that my thyroid is slightly overactive, and could lead to bigger things down the road.  We've also recently had a family member diagnosed with cancer, which is treatable, but has been a reminder to us that we could be doing more to support our bodies and prevent disease down the road.  Because of this, we're trying to be more conscious of how we eat, mostly by adjusting two categories.

Eating Less Refined Sugar
This one has probably been the hardest for me.  I didn't realize how much I craved sweets until I started cutting back on this.  I'm working to find some natural substitutes, but in the mean time, we've done several things.

1.  I am now eating oatmeal for breakfast about five days a week.  I make this up the night before with 1/2 c rolled oats, 3/4 c milk/almond milk/unsweetened coconut milk, a handful of dried fruit and a few tablespoons of nuts and seeds.  This has been really filling and cuts down on the sugar I was eating in muffins.

2.  When we do bake for breakfast, I cut the sugar in half.  I also try to choose recipes that are naturally sweet with bananas, winter squash, etc.  When I bake cookies, I cut the sugar by about a third.

3.  I splurge once a week and have something really decadent.  And I don't feel guilty one bit.  It's been great.

4.  We've been making smoothies several nights a week for dessert or to take on our walks, and it's been great.  I usually start with a banana, add some frozen fruit or berries, a scoop of unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon, and some flax or chia seeds, and it's really good.  We've also had fun adding in some of our fresh herbs like lemon balm (which is good for thyroid health) and mint.  This is also a great way to use up leftovers... winter squash, cooked rice, and avocados are all great in smoothies.

Eating More Whole Grains
We've been working to trim back on the all purpose flour in our routine and eat more whole grains.  Overall, this one has been easier, but also a little more expensive.  Here are a few ways we've tackled this:

1.  Brown rice or barley instead of white rice.  This has been a super simple switch and we really haven't minded the change.  There are a few dishes we still like white or jasmine rice with, like stir fry or fried rice, but in general, this has been easy.

2.  Whole wheat flour in place of part or all of the AP flour.  This is easier in baked goods and pancakes than loaf bread.  In cookies or muffins, I can easily substitute half of the flour as whole wheat.  In bread or pizza dough, I tend to go with about 1/4 whole wheat to 3/4 all purpose.  I have found some whole wheat pizza dough recipes I want to try, but haven't done it yet.

3.  Whole wheat flour tortillas instead of white flour.  These generally cost about $1 more a package, but the boys are still happily eating corn tortillas, so it's really not too bad.

4.  I've also been trying to incorporate more flax, soy, and alternative flours into our baking recipes.  These have to be done in much smaller amounts, but are easy and add a little more nutritional benefits.

These two things combined mean less blood sugar spikes, which means the whole body isn't working as hard.  The added fiber from increased fruits and veggies (another reason for the smoothies) also helps the body to process increases in blood sugar, as well as being really helpful nutritionally.  We're so looking forward to our CSA starting up again soon and having more local veggies to work with.

So, what about you?  Have you been working to eat more healthfully?  How are you making some easy switches?  I'd love to hear from you!

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