January 24, 2011 by Stacy McDonald

Simple Steps to Healthier Living

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Rising in the morning,
the sun shines on God’s abundant earth,
alive with plants and animals
and the crown of creation—men and women.
Fifty years after, the production of chemicals
has left an indelible scar
in the soil, in the sea, and in the sky. – Renee DeGroot

Healthy living involves more than just one aspect of life. The air we breath, the food we eat, the chemicals we put in and on our bodies, the moderation we use, the sleep and exercise we get, and the germs and toxins we expose ourselves to all affect our physical, and sometimes our mental health. Our lifestyle choices play a big part in the level of health we enjoy.

With films like Food Inc., King Corn, Super Size Me, and the Future of Food becoming more and more popular, it’s clear that people are beginning to see the folly of living off processed foods loaded with chemicals, and they are beginning to pay attention to the importance of good, quality “whole” foods.

But, learning to eat healthy can be a little daunting for most people, especially for those of us who were raised eating Hamburger Helper, canned biscuits, and processed cheese spread (melted barbie dolls); so, I’ve compiled a simple list to get you started. But, take it slow at first; it may take a while to create new habits and change your family’s tastes and thinking regarding food.

Begin by becoming a rabid label reader. Once people begin to carefully read the labels on the foods they’ve been eating, they are usually shocked by what they’ve been putting into their bodies…and the bodies of their children. Take it slow and look up ingredients on the Internet. Become familiar with words like monosodium glutamate (MSG) and when you see it…run! (The link I provided warns you about some ingredient names that MSG hides behind.)

Next, examine your pantry and refrigerator and decide which foods you should purge from your regular grocery list; then make a deliberate choice on what you’ll replace those foods with. Replace “junk” food with “power” food!

For instance, if you’ve been eating margarine, you may want to switch to butter or coconut oil. If you’ve been snacking on flavored chips and dip or crackers, try fresh fruit, nuts, or hummus and veggies. If you must have a “chip” fix now and then, choose chips that contain only potatoes, corn, or rice and oil and salt. Dried banana or plantain chips serve as a good replacement chip too – especially dipped in salsa or Chimichurri Sauce!

Start by focusing on one or two aspects of the list below at a time. And make it fun! Look for recipes and snacks that are delicious and fun!

Healthful Living Tips:

1. When possible, try to buy organic produce, and from local farmers and orchards. Look for local farmer’s markets. Avoid fruits and vegetables that have likely been exposed to pesticides. Print this handy wallet sized chart for choosing which fruits and veggies are best and worst when it comes to pesticide residues.

2. Try to find a source for organic raw milk.

3. Buy organic, grass fed beef – if possible, find someone local who raises their own beef, chicken, lamb, or pork. If you can’t find or afford organic, at least try to buy meat that is hormone, antibiotic, and MSG free!

4. Only buy sustainable seafood. Click HERE to get a “watch list” of sustainable seafood choices for your area. At present, there are no federal organic standards for fish, even farmed fish. But one label you can look for is the Marine Stewardship Council‘s “eco-label” for wild-caught fish from sustainable fisheries.

5. Try not to use processed white sugar or white flour in anything (I admit, I cheat when we’re making something light and fluffy for a special occasions). When possible sweeten your food with honey, agave, maple syrup, date sugar, Sucanat, or even Turbinado sugar (this is what I use in my coffee!). If you must use white flour for a birthday cake or other special treat, at least use unbleached flour.

6. Look for local raw honey and buy it in bulk. Pour it into jars, in case the sugar in the honey begins to crystallize. This way, it will be easy to “melt” the sugar by simply placing the jar in a bath of hot water.

7. If you can find good quality maple syrup in bulk, pour it into mason jars and freeze it. This will keep it from getting that layer of mold on top that sometimes happens in gallon jugs (depending upon how fast you eat it, this may not be necessary!)

8. Check and see if you have a local co-op. If not, start one. I get my sugars, grains, rice, beans etc. in bulk from a co-op. If you have a small family, you may know a few friends who would like to go in with you to split an order.

9. Start using healthy oils in your cooking. Click HERE and HERE for good information on dietary fats and oils that will help in determining what’s best for your body. Good quality extra virgin, cold pressed olive or coconut oils are my personal favorite choices when used raw. You can use “extra light” olive oil or peanut oil for sauteing and for high heat cooking. I do some sauteing in coconut oil; but, I try to save the “good stuff” for the many assorted salads, and “raw” dishes we eat. These are cheapest bought in bulk.

10. Eat at home when possible, rather than eating out. If forced to eat out, choose places that serve the freshest foods. Restaurants like Chipotle serve organic meat and offer raw vegetable toppings. A Subway salad or sandwich is far better than a greasy (trans fat) hamburger loaded with MSG, beef from a feed lot, and white flour.

11. At all costs, avoid MSG, chemical food dyes, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, soda (especially diet), and preservatives. They don’t taste good anyway.

Basically, try to use foods that are as close to the way God made them as possible – good “whole” foods. When we start to process our food to death, our food starts to do the same to us.

Additional Tips:

  • When possible, avoid drugs. If you have a headache try drinking a large glass of water. Many times headaches are caused by dehydration. Also, try applying Deep Relief essential oil blend on your temples and the back of your neck. Lay down for a few minutes, inhaling the powerful aroma. (Other oils to try: Lavender, M-grain, Peace & Calming)
  • Avoid using toxic chemicals to clean your home. Vinegar, baking soda and water, and essential oils are good alternatives. Try Thieves essential oil-based cleaners you’ll love the scent of your home! You can purchase it HERE

If you’re interested in learning more about essential oils and how to use them, please check out my new blog, The Common Scents Mom!

I plan to do a review soon of a wonderful book I am reading, Health for Godly Generations. For anyone just beginning to “reform” their eating habits, I highly recommend this great resource.

You may also be interested in this POST

“Health is synonymous with wholeness, or, the completeness that God created in us; it relates to holiness, because the state of our body and spirit do and should influence one another.” – Health for Godly Generations

The following “diet” video by Nutiva is interesting in light of what we discussed above…

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25 Responses to “Simple Steps to Healthier Living”

  1. Great post, very informative and very needed! I would also suggest incorporating green smoothies into the family diet. When it comes to eating healthy and trying to get more green foods into the diet, green smoothies can effectively win over children and husbands alike. They are easy, nutrient dense (depending upon ingredients) and taste great. We make our green smoothies in a VitaMix and I just noticed yesterday on QVC that VitaMix has come out with a new model that will fit easily under your Kitchen cabinets (the other models are quite tall). A good book for green smoothie recipes is “Green Smoothie Recipes & Other Healthy Smoothie Recipes” by C Elias. Be Well – Dr. L

  2. Belinda says:

    O.k. Now I feel guilty about the monkey bread I made this morning. Well, actually, I already felt guilty.Thanks, Stacy, for helping me get back on the right track;)

  3. Caroline says:

    Love this post!

    Takin’ our time back and living simply is best, after all.

    xoxo Caroline

  4. Becky says:

    What I found that worked best when switching my family over to a heathier way of eating was to gradually exchange things. Like 1c. of unbleached flour (you can’t taste a difference in it and bleached) with a cup of whole wheat in recipes. From time to time you switch another, and then another, and before you know it they’re eating whole grain bread and loving it. Along with doing that I also started making my own cream of (whatever) soup from scratch and using that instead of canned. By gradually switching one thing and then another we ended up eating almost no processed food without any tears – just a few sighs from time to time over a favorite, like shells and cheese, but even my homemade mac and cheese eventually won out.

  5. Thank you so much for your post! I am so thankful that the Lord has opened my eyes and I have found wonderful resources to learn all I can (your blog is one of those!)

    Thankfully, by God’s mercy, we follow everything that you have mentioned in the above post. I have walked through this path of learning with my children so they wouldn’t view it as “mom’s” way of eating, but have accepted it as their own way too.

    I was wondering, what you would suggest I do about a sister-in-law and her family that has recently moved to town. We are her only family here. Her love language seems to be food and she is constantly inviting us over. Everything she makes is opposite of what we eat and I don’t want to offend her.

    Any suggestions, I would so appreciate!

    May the Lord continue to bless you Stacy and your precious family! Thanks again for sharing what the Lord reveals to you in your life. You have mentored me in so many ways and I am so thankful!


  6. Stacy McDonald says:

    Thanks for the suggestion Loretta – I’ll look it up!

    Belinda – LOL!!!!

    Becky – I totally agree. Pace yourself – it’s a huge change, but don’t go too slow!

    Malinda – Perhaps you could sit your sister-in-law down (on a day when you aren’t invited over for dinner) and just talk to her about your family’s decision to eat healthy. If it were a one time dinner, I’d say let it go, but since she’s moved close and it sounds like you’ll be eating there frequently, I think she would appreciate knowing your family’s health convictions.

  7. Hi Stacy,
    What a helpful and insightful outline you have presented. I wish I had read this many years ago.

    We are blessed here in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to be living in Amish farm country where we take advantage of the farm stands. Over the years we’ve been able to gradually adopt much of the principles of healthy cooking that you have outlined. The last two years, however, I have been even more particular. When an organic farm joined our little town’s farm market it became so nicely convenient.

    My father’s side of the family are all Italians. My father spent his New Jersey boyhood each summer obeying his grandmother’s bidding, to weed and water her enormous garden of eggplants, peppers, and of course tomatoes – grown on an abandoned one acre lot on the block where they lived (15 miles west of NYC.). With this produce she cooked (and canned) in her basement kitchen and invited neighbors in. She regularly left meals at the doorsteps of neighbors who were in need. I asked her daughter (my grandmother) if she ever used pesticides or fertilizers and she looked puzzled and shook her head “no.” Every scrap of fruit or vegetable was put back into the soil and this was what kept the garden nutritious, and her roses thriving. My Italian grandmother came to America at age 5, is now 99 years young, adamantly insists on living on her own and shovels the snow in the corners of her walk when the forty-year-old “boy” doesn’t do it properly.
    Karen A.

  8. Theresa says:

    This is a great post! Thank you so much for the links too. I would say I am about 90% on board with everything you shared…. in my mind. It’s getting it to my kitchen and table that seems to be the problem (not to mention my love of diet Pepsi). I liked Becky’s approach on slowly switching things over. I think that might be the best approach with my picky teenagers.

    On another note… do you have a place to order your talks? I was looking through your speaking topics and there are so many of them that I would love to order and listen too.


  9. Hannah says:

    Hi Stacy, thank you for this wonderful post. I have been reading about agave lately and from what I’ve read it is just as processed as high fructose corn syrup and so while it is low on the glycemic index, our bodies don’t have a way to process it.
    Thought I’d share because it was news to me.

  10. Waw!!!!!
    My family gets an A!!!
    Serious, this is one of the areas that we got right, i think. we live in upstate NY, what is full of farms. We are blessed to have near us an organic farm run by a christian family. we buy there raw milk, organic produce and meat from their own animals.
    we also found a place to go for raw mil, and of course we buy pure maple sirup (we live in NY!!!!) in bulk.
    i come from spain, so i cook with aceite de oliva, of course, and i like to spread my bread with it too.
    and my husband always finds the deals in the health food stores, so we do not spend as much as one would think by buying organic.
    when we go to canada for something we buy cheese there, because it is less processed (i believed).
    thanks for your post.

  11. sarah beth says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I admit that its very exhausting to find good wholesome food, and weeding out the bad. Its also everywhere and the good food comes at a cost. Also you have to put more energy and living this way. BUT it is worth it! I like that you said to start slow.. thats the best advise you can give. I tried doing it all right away but I got burnt out. So far, we avoid high frutose corn syrup and have been sucessful with that! I also read the labels but I need to keep reading up on those ingrediants. I removed air freshners, cleaners and detergent. I make my own laundry detergent and all purpose cleaner. So far havent removed windex but I only use alittle and not much. Its all about making a list, checking it off while praying for wisdom and guidance!! I have to say the cheaper route is learning to make alot of your own goods!

    I also learned how to make my own mayo and ranch! I am loving learning how to make alot of things myself!!!!

    Blessings, Sarah Beth

  12. sarah beth says:

    Forgot something~~~ thank you for the headache tips!!! I do get them sometimes and I HATE taking pills, everyone always tells me, just take some motrin but I dont want to! I will remember those tip! And I need to get oils!

  13. Lisa Beth W. says:

    Stacy, that’s a good list! I wish we could get raw milk here in Canada, as that is one of last major things that I would want to change about my family’s diet. I don’t have room for a cow in my tiny back yard, so that will have to wait for the future, hopefully, some time.

    I do have a comment about one of your points. Your list is titled “Healthful Living Tips”, and point number 4 says to only buy sustainable seafood. I don’t see how sustainable = healthful. I understand the need to be good stewards of the earth, but I would be careful about injecting environmentalism into a list about eating/living healthily. The government and schools do a good enough job of putting that in our faces wherever we look.

  14. Stacy McDonald says:

    Hi Lisa,

    My point about looking for “sustainable” rather than simply “wild caught” (which is what I was doing) wasn’t an attempt to be politically correct (you know me better than that!! ;-)

    It is my understanding that, and I could be wrong, “sustainable seafood” includes fish that are “wild caught” and not farmed in filthy, cramped, diseased conditions (much like a feed lot for cattle). In addition, to be included under this title, you have to be a “responsible fishery”, which I am all for. I don’t think it is a godly action to risk our supply of fresh, healthy fish by overfishing or “wasting” the fish fisherman don’t want by catching them, letting them die, and throwing them back. So, I don’t mind encouraging people to buy sustainable when possible.

    But your point is well taken; it’s not necessarily “steps to healthier eating” by buying sustainable. As far as health is concerned, it would probably be sufficient to buy only “wild caught.” That is what I look for first.

  15. Theresa says:

    Stacy, did you see the question at the end of my comment? I am wondering if you have audio copies of your speaking topics available anywhere to purchase. I would love to listen to them.


  16. Stacy McDonald says:

    Hi Theresa,

    I do have CDs, but we usually just make them available at conferences. It’s a matter of getting organized around here, so we can make them available through the mail. My husband has talked about making them down loadable. I’ll pass on your request to him.

  17. Bethany J. says:

    Thank you for this useful list of tips and links! As a young expectant mother (and wife to a wonderful husband who happens to love hot dogs!), I am always on the lookout for new tips on feeding my little family healthfully.

    With all respect, I must admit that the first time I read this posting it upset me; I had to readjust, come back later, and read it again with a more open mind before I was able to appreciate the good tips you set forward. I felt (mistakenly) as if you were stating “godly Christians eat all-organic food”.

    That really bothered me! With a small weekly food budget and limited opportunities to shop (we are a one-car family), it is not possible for me to buy many organic/local foods. Organic is expensive! I certainly aim for a healthy weekly menu, but for the most part I only buy organic when it is on sale, although I am well aware it is healthier. (My husband and I shop together, and being from a very frugal family he prefers that I not spend extra on specially organic products.) So it was upsetting to me to think that we might be “ungodly” in the way we eat, merely because we put up with chemicals in some of our foods or pesticides on our produce. I don’t believe that is the case.

    When I read the posting for a second time, it came clear to me that you were NOT saying that, and in fact you were merely advocating some easy tips to move toward an organic lifestyle (which is what I’d like to eventually do, especially with a baby on the way!). So please know that I am not upset anymore, at all. It was just a misunderstanding on my end. :)

    But I would like to say here, for the sake of other readers who may be in similar situations to mine – it isn’t always possible for everyone to buy all-organic foods, even if we want to do it! It is important that those of us who can’t do that… 1.) be content with what we have, 2.) be creative with our resources (get organic when we can!), and 3.) be confident that God is in control of our health (whether or not our vegetables were once sprayed with pesticides). Just as He kept Daniel and his friends “fat in flesh” even though they were not eating the king’s meats, the Lord can bless us and keep us healthy if we trust in Him to do so (and naturally, we should eat healthfully! – I’m not advocating lots of burgers, fries, and processed cheese here). While organic is great, we can be good stewards of our bodies and glorify God in our eating habits even if we can’t strictly buy only organic foods.

    It is my hope that I will someday be able to buy organic foods more regularly (and maybe organics will eventually become more common and less pricey!). This list and the links have given me some good ideas on ways to work toward that goal. Thank you again for posting it, and for letting me share my thoughts here. :)

    — Bethany J. in NH

  18. Theresa says:

    Thank you Stacy. :)

    Stay warm and safe in that blizzard!

  19. Stacy McDonald says:

    Theresa, if you tell me which ones you want, I’ll see if we have them in stock and pop a few in the mail. You can write me privately for details.

  20. Stacy McDonald says:

    Hi Bethany,

    I’m glad you reread the article, so that you were better able to understand what I was trying to communicate.

    We have a large family, so we’re not able to buy exclusively organic either – it’s just too expensive. But we do the best we can. We don’t eat perfectly, but I am committed to working toward feeding my family as close to the outline above as possible.

    Thanks for writing!

  21. Stacy McDonald says:

    Hi Karen – I don’t know what happened to my response to your comment, but I just noticed it wasn’t here. :-(

    Good to hear from you! It’s been a long time!

    What a blessing that you live in such a beautiful area with a bountiful supply of fresh organic food!

    And your grandmother sounds adorable! What a blessing to be so healthy at that age!

  22. Lisa Beth W. says:

    I see, Stacy. :)

  23. Excellent and much needed post. I started a Eating God’s Way group on Facebook. I hope all Christians heed your advice here. Thank you!

  24. Nicole says:

    Thank you for your helpful information and book that I enjoyed!
    On this particular blog entry about healthful eating, I noticed you recommended turbinado sugar. I, too, use this kind of sugar, because I have been told it is “less-bad for you”.
    Do you know what makes it better than regular sugar? Is it just because it is not refined?
    I am wondering if it is really worth the extra expense!
    Thank you and God Bless!

  25. Jon Thompson says:

    Thanks a lot for the excellent post. I am a DIY enthusiast myself and now have finally developed my very own coop! My blog is here if you ever get bored :).

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