If I was giving advice to someone just starting this journey toward real food, I would first of all tell them that it is about taking small steps, not leaping off a cliff. There is so much to learn, to consider, and to do, that it cannot be accomplished quickly or easily. It has to be a process, where layers are built as you learn and grow.
One of these days I will write about the twisting and turning path that my revolution has taken. For today, I am going to focus on how I would have done it, had I known then what I know now.
For a step by step process, check out Kurt Harris' Archevore. This 12 step list is straightforward and simple. Go down the list in order, over time. Don't do all the steps at once. Dr. Harris gives a thorough explanation for the rationale for each step on his blog, so I won't repeat them here. Just click his links and read.
I am going to focus on his first four steps because in my mind, they overlap and can become a first step in your kitchen revolution. I am going to add my own step, as well, switching to raw dairy. If I were starting all over, I would focus on these things. I would not try to do everything at once, but would implement the easiest changes first and work toward the more difficult ones. I would be forgiving and gentle with myself and not expect perfection, just progress.
The first step is to eliminate sugar and flour. When you do this, you will have to eliminate all processed foods. Get rid of the boxed meals, pasta, bread, cookies, crackers, bars, cereal. Last summer I cleaned out my pantry, literally throwing away two thirds of the food in it. Ultimately, I threw away most of that last third, but that was part of the process. Throw away all the snack foods. If it comes in a package or a box, get rid of it. There were certain things that I threw in the trash and certain things that we ate but I did not replace. You could approach the process either way.
This was huge for my family. My kids were horrified. I had many conversations with my eight year old about why we were changing our diet. I explained why sugar and wheat were bad for our bodies and we agreed that on Saturdays he could choose to have a treat. My husband took the change a little better than my son, but only outwardly. Since I have always been the one who grocery shops and cooks in our house, he eats what I buy and prepare. He will go to the store and get the kinds of snacks that are banned from my kitchen but he keeps them at his office or stashed in his little hiding place on the top shelf of the pantry. He has agreed to not to eat them in front of the kids.
It seemed like a major hurdle to figure out what to give my kids for snacks. I struggled with this idea until it occurred to me that I was making it more complicated than it had to be. I have always kept a big bowl of fruit on the kitchen table and carrots and celery in the crisper drawer. I also buy cheese, sausage, and ham. There is plenty of water and milk to drink. They don't have to eat something made of flour and a sugary drink to have a snack. We had some whining and pouting for a week or so. I ignored it and eventually it went away. Now, my kids take for granted their choices for a snack...and the truth is, I have noticed that they snack less. That is probably a healthy development.
At this point in the process I began to feel more energy and I lost 15 pounds effortlessly.
The next step is to learn to use natural fats. This step can be done at the same time as eliminating sugar and flour. You can replace the lost sugar and flour calories with calories from good fat. Don't be afraid to eat fat. It will make you feel good and it won't make you fat. Understanding the truth about fat was a huge step for me. The moment that I realized that the assumptions I had held about saturated fat were dead wrong was an epiphany for me. I was reading Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes and the light bulb went on. I realized that I had been lied to and misled. I understood that my poor health was a consequence of bad information. I was so angry, I threw the book across the room.
Buy butter. Get some coconut oil. Use either or both of these to cook with and on your vegetables. I originally bought my coconut oil from Whole Foods but have since started to buy it in bulk on the internet. I buy the unrefined, virgin coconut oil that has a light coconut flavor. If you don't like the taste of coconut, you can buy the refined kind that is flavorless. I have read that it is just as good.
You can also reserve the fat from bacon. Just pour it from the pan that you cooked the bacon in and save it in the fridge for the next time you need some fat to cook with. You can strain it through a coffee filter if you want. Eggs are especially delicious cooked in bacon grease.
I have since moved on to render my own lard from fatback bought from a local farmer, but this is not necessary. I cooked for a long time just using butter, coconut oil, and reserved bacon grease.
I read Eat Fat Lose Fat by Enig and Fallon and started eating a teaspoon of coconut oil before each meal. It sounds a little gross but it is actually not bad. When I started this habit, I noticed some amazing transformations. My energy levels soared, my libido bounced back, my periods settled down, and I felt happy for no reason. There is something magic about coconut oil. It contains medium chain fats which are not processed by your body in the same way as other fats. It gets converted directly into energy and has several different anti-microbial compounds. It makes me feel good.
The third step is to eliminate gluten grains. Hopefully you have already done this by eliminating flour. But now tighten it up. Don't let gluten touch your lips, ever. I am convinced that years of eating "healthy whole wheat" in the form of whole wheat bread and pasta has destroyed the lining of my gut and is the root of my depressed thyroid. Gluten is a protein in wheat and other grains that is difficult to digest and causes a whole host of problems. It turns out that if you are exposed to gluten, even a tiny bit, it takes 6 to 9 months for your body's inflammatory response to settle back down. And gluten is hidden in everything. It's in soup, sauces, added to packaged foods, even added to bread--which already has it, of course!
I see many places where people talk about eating grains that have been properly prepared to make them more digestible...but I choose not to eat them at all. I have read that soaking and sprouting grain makes them better but still not optimal. I stick to "safe starches" (as explained by The Perfect Health Diet) like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and sometimes white rice (which I cook with bone broth instead of water).
Every Sunday I take communion at church but I bring my own little gluten free rice cracker and pass the plate of wheat crackers on to the next person. It's my belief that it is the act of eating that is the communion, not which cracker I eat.
The fourth step is to eliminate grain and seed derived oils. You have already done this when you switched to natural fats but now become militant about it. Get rid of all bottled oils, margarine, and imitation butter spreads. Throw away the salad dressing, mayonnaise, and other oil based products in your fridge. All of them are made with seed oils (usually soybean oil). Polyunsaturated seed oils (canola, corn, soy, safflower, cottonseed, vegetable) are unnatural, rancid, and turn to trans fats in your body. Olive oil is a good fat but since most olive oils that you buy in the grocery store are cut with inferior oils, you have to be really careful about what kind you buy. In any case, don't cook with olive oil. When you eliminate these oils from your diet, you will once again discover that you cannot eat packaged foods since they almost always have soybean oil in them. All fast foods and most restaurant foods are off the menu since they are cooked with seed oils. We still eat in restaurants every once in awhile but we NEVER eat fast food anymore. This has certainly been a good thing for our budget.
Make your own salad dressing using good olive oil and vinegar. Choose a nice vinegar like balsamic or wine to make the dressing special. Combine the oil and vinegar in a jar, at a ratio of 2 to 1. Add some finely chopped garlic and salt and pepper. Shake well. You can also add finely grated parmesan cheese, onion, or any herbs that taste good. Make your own mayonnaise with egg yolks and olive oil. Use your homemade mayo as a base for a creamy, ranch style dressing.
At this point, your kitchen has been completely changed and you are probably feeling some amazing effects from having eliminated many modern toxins and incorporated many healthy, real foods. Archevore goes on to list other steps that you will want to incorporate as you continue down the road.
I would add one more thing to change at this point, especially if you have young children. Switch to raw dairy. Go to realmilk.com and search for sources of raw dairy in your area. Different states have different laws about how and where raw milk can be sold. This website will give you lots of information about why you should only give your kids raw milk and it will also give you sources for raw milk in your area. You can also go to the Weston A. Price Foundation website and look for your local chapter. Contact the chapter leader and ask where to find raw milk.
Here are some great sources of help for making the transition to real food:
Kelly the Kitchen Kop
Weston A. Price Dietary Guidelines
The Perfect Health Diet