When I was pregnant with my second daughter, who is now 18 months, I was gaining weight at lightning speed. I was still in my second trimester and I had already hit the high end of the recommended total weight gain. Oops? I was afraid that carrying even more extra weight would exacerbate pregnancy symptoms (like, for instance, the feeling that your pelvis is going to crack in half when you roll over in bed), but I didn’t want to count/restrict calories or go to bed hungry every night, which had been my weight-loss tricks in the past. I decided to follow the “rules” from the blog 100 Days of Real Food. I already liked to cook and did most nights, made a lot of foods “from scratch”, and didn’t drink soda, but I also had some habits that didn’t make the cut – like eating large hunks of chocolate chip banana bread from the freezer while my older daughter was napping, and a nightly mug of ice cream (theoretically, the mug offered portion control, but you can fit A Lot of ice cream into a mug if you’re trying).
Since I considered myself a healthy eater (just, y’know, with a sweet tooth), I was really, really surprised at the results of my real food experiment. After less than a week, I no longer had a blood sugar crash that required raiding the freezer for something sweet every afternoon, and I didn’t crave sweets at night, either. I didn’t even miss them. I felt…great. And during my third trimester, I actually lost a pound! (At every doctor’s appointment, I kept waiting for someone to exclaim over the fact that I wasn’t gaining weight, so I could say, “oh, yeah, I just stopped eating sugar,” but no one ever did! Possibly/probably because my total weight gain was still on the high end of the recommendations, and the baby was measuring right on target!)
I continued to eat mostly real food for about 8 months after my daughter was born, but then we moved, and Jay started a new job, and in the course of the life upheaval my commitment to avoiding sugar and processed foods…wavered. I’ve found myself once again needing something sweet every afternoon, and a lot of evenings, too. (Jay traveled for work in December and at the end of the week I realized I had worked my way through a large Ziplock bag of still-frozen leftover brownies. That’s a gallon of brownies, my friends.)
Turning unhealthy eating habits around in January is such a cliche, but I know I need to make some changes. We’re experimenting with eating a lot less meat, and still sticking to the other “real food” rules that have worked for me in the past – using honey and maple syrup but not sugar to sweeten foods, whole grains instead of white flour/rice/etc, and packaged ingredients with 5 or fewer recognizable ingredients. (To see the rules that I generally abide by, see the 100 Days of Real Food blog!) Full disclosure: I’ve decided I’m okay with some exceptions – I don’t like natural peanut butter, and tortilla chips are totally whole grain and probably healthy in my book. And chocolate chips are really just misunderstood, I think. We’re also still working on improving the quality of the meat we buy.
One of the most interesting results from my reader survey last fall was how many of you are also working to avoid processed foods. It was the most agreed-upon in the “cooking frustrations” category, so I know a lot of you are with me on this! The majority of my recipes use whole foods, with some
notable delicious obvious exceptions, or can be easily adapted (for example, using whole wheat pasta for spaghettios and eliminating the sugar in whole wheat pancakes).
If you or those you cook and buy food for are reluctant converts, here are a few of my favorite “easing in” recipes – i.e., they’re real food ingredients but they’re crowd-pleasers!
Breakfast cookies – customizable and an easy replacement for store-bought granola/breakfast bars, which often have a lot of sugar.
Pita Pizzas – the quickest path to a whole-wheat crust!
Nana’s Potato Soup – creamy and, frankly, awesome, but no rule-breakers.
Oven Fries – my favorite baked fries. I honestly enjoy them more than most restaurant fries!
Brown Rice in the Oven – a hands-off, foolproof method for perfect brown rice every time. Good for stir-fry and burrito bowls, adding to your favorite casseroles, or throwing into soup for an easy noodle-replacement!
Flourless Chocolate Chip Zucchini Snack Cake – pretty much vegetables and almond butter. (Remember, chocolate chips are my favorite exception, so judge not!)
I’m planning to share my top 5 real food snacks and some other resources in upcoming posts. Please let me know in the comments if there’s anything specific that would help you in your own real food journey! :o)0