Over the last few weeks I have been thinking about the Lenten season as an opportunity to practice both an embrace and a refrain for 40 days.  However, I was having a bugger of a time figuring out what to do!  Our church is practicing a daily prayer and lectionary reading during Lent.  I was planning on incorporating this into whatever I decided, but I was really struggling with the rest.  Thankfully, Rachel Held Evans wrote a helpful post yesterday:  40 Ideas for Lent.  I took a couple ideas from there and came up with a plan:

  • I joined the Lenten Wilderness Meditation Practice:  Spend 10-20 minutes each day outside in prayer / meditation / just being (rain, snow, or shine).  What a great idea, and it will work perfect to do alongside the daily prayer and lectionary reading. 
  • No Meat:  From RHE: “Traditionally, Christians abstained from eating meat during Lent, so consider joining millions of Christians around the world in this fast. It’s a great way to feel connected to the historical, worldwide church.”  I have been thinking lately that I would like to reduce my consumption of meat anyway, mainly for the health benefits.  This will be a good opportunity to move in that direction as well.


Real Food – Review

I sure was excited to have a bag of peanut butter m&m’s for our road-trip that started July 1!  In the month of June, our family tried as best as we could to stay away from processed food.  We did quite well.  We made a few concessions on our camping trip, but overall we ate a ton of “real” food.   We (mostly my wife) made much of it ourselves, and we ate a ton of fruits and vegetables.  We won’t be quite as hard-core moving forward but we will retain a lot of the principles and “rules” from last month moving forward.  Here are some random thoughts on the month:

  • I’m not sure if it was connected to our month-long project or not, but at one point on our trip north this week, my 3 year old son exclaimed that the blueberries we were eating were better than his Mike and Ike’s!
  • We learned early on that much of the bread and bagels we normally bought at the grocery store really didn’t qualify for non-processed.  That meant we needed to make our own.  We skipped the bagels and just went with bread for the month.  The kids definitely missed bagels.  Store bought bread just doesn’t taste the same after a month of having freshly baked home-made bread.
  • Our kids missed their morning cereals.  We made our own granola, but they were a bit bored with that and oatmeal by the end of the month.
  • I didn’t miss “sweets” nearly as much as I thought I would.  It helped that fresh, locally picked fruit was readily available.  This wouldn’t have been the case as much if we did it January.
  • I had a harder time getting enough calories.  I was riding (bike) quite a bit, and found myself constantly hungry.  Many of the  snacks that I would normally eat (like granola bars, crackers, cereal, etc) were processed foods, and I struggled with finding substitutes that filled me up.  On the plus side of this… I lost about 10 pounds.
  • Eating this way takes more planning!  We also had to go to the store more often, because much of what we were buying was fresh.
Overall, this was a fantastic month.  We learned a ton, tried new foods, and are on a path to eating healthier as a family.


Camping Food

Our family is heading out on a short camping trip today.  As we have been in the process of packing, some of our “normal” camping food turns out to be a bit problematic.  Hot dogs, marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate bars, store bought granola bars, etc… all these seem to fall pretty squarely into the processed foods category we are trying to avoid.  For the sake of ease, and for our kids, we made a few concessions.  Not a lot, but a few.

We have also encountered a bit of a storage problem.  One great thing about a lot of processed foods, is that many of them don’t need to be kept cool.  As we have loaded up on fresh veggies and fruits, much of it needs to be refrigerated or put in a cooler.  Our dorm-size refrigerator and medium size cooler are bulging at the seams!  We will probably have to take a second cooler for this 4 day trip.  If we are still practicing “real food” in July when we go for 7 days, we might have to search out a local farmers market to hit mid-week.  Now that I think about it though… that is probably a great thing to do anyway!

Clarifying “Processed”

All attempts will be made to stay away from processed food.  The only processed food we will be eating is the kind we process on our own.

At the pub the other night, I was telling a friend about our month of “real food”.  I told him that we are tying our best to stay away processed food.  He replied that one of the hardest parts about that would be flour.  Hmmm.  Although we knew flour is processed, we didn’t think about whole-wheat flour as something we were going to stay away from.  There are certainly various levels of processed.  When I got home, I figured I had better clarify what types of processed foods we are trying to stay away from.  Here are the “processed” parameters that we came up with:

  • Stay away from high fructose corn syrup!
  • Anything with more than 5 ingredients is probably processed to a fairly high degree.  This is an interesting one, as it takes out most bread products that we have found at the store.  We are making our own bread for most of this month (trying to stay away from white flour).
  • Even if there are less than 5 ingredients, if you have no idea what one or more of them are, that’s a bad sign.  The classic example here is monosodium glutamate (MSG).  Turns out, I don’t really know what that is.  We were at the store just today and one the items on our list was peanuts, but most of them had MSG as one of the ingredients.  My wife finally found kettle roasted peanuts in the produce section that didn’t have MSG.

That should help as we move forward.  We’ll see if we have to make any more modifications as the month goes on.

Real Food… First Shopping Trip

Farmers markets are still a couple of days away here in Hudsonville, so I had to do our main shopping at the grocery store today.  I stayed mostly at the edges, where all the fresh food is.  I had a few things toward the center that I was thinking about getting, but the ingredient list was a bit too long for me to decipher…  which basically means something in there is processed.  Notably missing from the shopping cart where cereal, granola bars, chips, and bread products (we’ll be making our own breads this month).

We planned our meals for the week ahead today as well.  At first, it was a bit challenging, but after looking at some helpful blogs we ended up with a pretty good menu.

Starting it off right…

My month of eating real food started off at the perfect place this morning:  The Real Food Cafe.  It’s my favorite breakfast spot in Grand Rapids (MI), and it was a great way to start off the month.  It was a bit earlier than I prefer, but the conversation, food, and coffee were fantastic as usual.

Time to get to the parameters of the month.  We are going to keep this pretty basic, and we’ll tackle any issues (is this food allowed?) as they come up.

  • The focus is on eating “real” food.  That means food my great grandmother would have recognized as food.  This actually could be our only rule… as it rules out a ton of stuff!
  • All attempts will be made to stay away from processed food.  The only processed food we will be eating is the kind we process on our own.
  • NO FAST FOOD.  Thankfully, we don’t eat much fast food anyway.  We will definitely be staying clear of it this month.
  • Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables!
  • Local meats are good, mostly as a side dish instead of the main dish.
  • Anything in our house is fair game.  No, we didn’t go stock up on junk, quite the opposite actually.  We do have a few things around that wouldn’t fit on the list…. but instead of wasting them, we’ll finish them off and be done with it for the rest of the month.
  • How we eat is important.  We are going to try to relax, slow down, and enjoy as many meals as possible together as a family (and with friends).

Well, I think that about sums it up.  Anything I missed?