'Peanut Allergy Princess' is the story of one mom, one Princess with food allergies (to peanuts and brazil nuts) and our journey through the stress of life with food allergies. Here you will find many recipes, tips on living (and enjoying life) with food allergies, thoughts from a mother of 3 kids (The Brothers and The Princess) and insights into our life. Welcome!

Monday, February 4, 2013

My Food Philosophy in a Nutshell

I thought that this post had posted last Tuesday... but I'm not sure that it did. I can see page views, but it it doesn't show up on the blog. Weird!! I was using the internet at a hotel that obviously wasn't reliable. Hence.... there may (or may not) have been a post on Tuesday and there was no post on Friday. I might have forgotten to post on Friday, but even if I hadn't forgotten it probably wouldn't have posted anyway. So, my apologies for dropping the ball and going on vacation again where there was only unreliable internet. Now I am paying the price big time for that vacation... a super dirty house, tired, ornery kids and no energy due to eating junk food for a week. But anyway... back to the post. 

Every person has some kind of food philosophy... something that guides the food choices they make. Some food philosophies are based on convenience and ease, some are based on taste and pleasure, some are based on nutrition and health and obviously many are a combination. And, of course, some food philosophies are dictated by food allergies.

We develop our food philosophies from our parents and even grandparents and other family (things we learned growing up), from roommates, spouses and friends. Our philosophies can also be influenced by what we hear and read, research we have done and our current situation in life.

I am going to lay out my food philosophy in this post  (so stop reading if that doesn't interest you), not because I think you need to adopt it, but to explain why I choose to make what I do and where I am coming from when I create/recreate recipes and choose ingredients.

I feel like I have always eaten a 'healthy' diet and therefore my family ate a 'healthy' diet (because I am the family chef). But the definition of a 'healthy' diet is so arbitrary. So, when someone says they eat healthy, what does that really mean? I asked a bunch of people (on Facebook - very scientific, I know) what their definition of healthy eating is and everyone's answer was a little bit different. So instead of just telling you that we eat "healthy", I will lay out my definition of healthy.

I have chosen to take a "real" food approach to eating. It hasn't always been the case, but in the last year we have made some changes in our diet and it revolves around whole food (or "real" food). For those who might be confused when I use the term "real" food (because what else would we eat, right?), here is a definition:

REAL FOOD is defined as…
  • Whole foods that typically only have 1-ingredient like “brown rice” or no ingredient label at all like fruits and vegetables!
  • Packaged foods generally made with no more than 5 unrefined ingredients.
  • Dairy products like whole milk, unsweetened yogurt, eggs, and cheese (organic).
  • Breads and crackers that are 100% whole-grain.
  • Wild caught seafood.
  • Locally and humanely raised meat like chicken, pork, beef, and lamb.
  • Dried fruits, nuts, and seeds.
  • Naturally made sweeteners including honey and maple syrup.
  • Foods that are more a product of nature “than a product of industry”*
REAL FOOD is not…
  • Labeled as “low fat” or “low carb” or “low calorie” (in most cases).
  • Made with refined or artificial sweeteners like sugar or aspartame.
  • Deep fried in refined oils like canola oil.
  • 100-calorie packs or any foods made from refined grains like white flour, which is
    often labeled as “wheat flour” without the word “whole” in front of it.
  • In packages with loads of ingredients, some of which you cannot pronounce or would not cook with in your own kitchen.
  • Highly processed foods that are labeled as organic (like organic cheddar crackers, organic cookies, or organic candy).
  • From a drive through window or gas station.
*Source: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Now, just as a disclaimer, this is what we strive for. It can cost more to eat this way and as of now, we pick and choose certain things to stay in our budget. We currently don't do organic dairy or all organic fruits and vegetables... only what I can find that fits in our budget.

I prefer to make things from scratch with ingredients I can buy and read/pronounce. Now, before you freak out, we do NOT eat perfectly all the time. I do have 3 kids who can by picky at times. We do our best and don't feel guilty when we aren't perfect. Yes, my kids eat fast food on occasion (but only seldom on occasion, not "once a week" on occasion). I try to have fruits and vegetables and other healthy snacks always available (raw nuts and seeds, homemade muffins, granola bars, popsicles, etc...) but sometimes we do crackers, bagel and other convenience items. But, when it comes to cooking in my house and what recipes and ingredients I choose, I have a few guidelines that I follow:

1. Some of you may have noticed that I (almost) never use all-purpose (or white) flour. We have chosen to do only whole grains (whole-wheat, spelt, kamut, wonder flour... those kind of whole grains). Does this mean my recipes can't be made with all-purpose flour? Of course not - sub away if you like.
2. When possible, I choose to use raw sugars (like turbinado sugar, raw sugar and sucanat) and sweeten with natural sweeteners (like honey and maple syrup). This isn't in everyone's budget (sometimes it isn't in our budget). No worries though, sugar is sugar and it is best to eat it sparingly in any form (natural or processed). To minimize our sugar intake, we also choose to buy the "plain" version of many things and sweeten them ourselves.
3. I have chosen to use only coconut oil, real butter (never margarine), olive oil, flax seed oil and sometimes grapeseed oil. I realize others have their opinions on coconut oil, canola oil and other oils (and what is healthy and what is not).  Choose what is best for your family and situation. 
4. We eat a lot of whole fruits and vegetables... namely leafy greens. We try and have a salad every night for dinner and (are still working on) green smoothies every day.

5. We eat (or try very hard to eat) "dessert" once per week. You can read about my reasons for this here.
So, are you wondering why I am even posting this? Well, first because I want you (my reader) to realize why I choose the recipes (and ingredients) I do. Please feel free to make adjustments according to your food philosophy. And don't feel guilty if your philosophy is different from mine (or your neighbors, or best friend or the lady at the gym etc...). Just make sure that your philosophy is working for your family in providing the healthiest food and lifestyle possible.

Also, I have noticed that The Princess seems to be very sensitive to food (especially preservatives, additives and food colorings that are added to processed foods), lotions, soaps, laundry detergent and many other things (as I believe many people with food allergies are).  As the person who is most involved in the care of The Princess (along with her daddy), it is my responsibility to make sure she is as safe and healthy as possible. I feel this is best done by feeding her the most healthy, highest quality "real" food that we can afford (with minimal preservatives, additives and artificial and processed ingredients). This not only keeps her safe, but gives her (and The Brothers) the best chance of a healthy future!


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