Baby Steps to Nutritious Eating: 12 Steps to a Real Foods Diet

Screen shot 2009-11-10 at 3.39.12 PMPam asked: I have started to look at some of the stuff you have on your blog in order to change the way that my family eats, I am just so overwhelmed, can you offer any advice about where I should start.  I am not happy with how my family is eating.  And as the wife and mother, it is my responsibility to make sure I am providing the best possible foods for them.

This is one of many similar emails I regularly receive asking: “where do I start?” Yes, entering the whole/real foods camp can definitely be overwhelming and intimidating. Soaking grains? Grass-fed meat? What does it all mean? I want to begin by encouraging you to see it as a work in progress. You will not be able to change your whole diet at one time. Take baby steps. I hope this will be a practical baby steps guide to eating better. This is basically an overview of where we started as a family and from top down in the priority list. You may decide to re-arrange the steps in the order that you feel is a priority. Whatever works for you…just take one step at a time. Start by adopting one change in a month’s time, or whatever time period is suitable without being overwhelming. And just have fun with it! It takes practice and experimenting. It won’t always turn out the first time! But try and try again and you will succeed.

1. Use real butter instead of margarine.

Real butter is not only far superior is flavor, but it is also very good for you. The best choice I have found here includes Organic Pastures Raw Butter (for CA residents). US Wellness Meats sells organic grass-fed cultured butter. Trader Joe’s and other health stores carry Kerrygold Butter that has been made from entirely grass-fed cows milk and cultured, although pasteurized. Tillamook Butter is a good back-up, as it is made from cow’s that are mostly grass-fed, but it has the disadvantage of having being pasteurized. Otherwise, look for rBST free butter (you can learn what it means later ;) . Why Butter is Better? for further reading.

2. Limit beverage choices to filtered water.

Drinking more water is probably the best step towards better health. Get a good stainless steel water bottle and start drinking! Removing pop and other highly sweetened beverages from your diet is huge! You just really don’t want to go near HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup). There are no HFCS varieties available at health food stores if you cannot drop the habit…but it is definitely worth it for the cost savings alone. Tea and coffee are good beverages if you choice fair trade versions. Kombucha and water kefir soda are also good nutritiously dense drinks. If you can, purchase a good water filter. Berkey is reasonably priced option. Otherwise, a Brita is better than nothing.

3. Eliminate white flour and white sugar. Throw out the refined!

I began by slowly weeding out white flour and white sugar usage in our house and replacing it with more nourishing alternatives. White flour has been refined and processed, eliminating all nutritious content in the grain. Start by gradually adapting your recipes, cup by cup (equal in replacement with most flours), and replacing with whole grains and wholesome sweeteners. You may want to start out by doing half white and half whole wheat and slowly pumping up the whole wheat to help gradually adapt your family to the change. Look for 100% whole grains on your labels and watch out for the sneaky high fructose corn syrup on your store bought bread products. Sprouted grains and bread products are some of the most digestible options.

4. Use brown rice and brown rice pastas instead of white.

The only difference here is you have to use more water to rice in your measurements and cook it longer. I use 1 cup brown rice to 2 1/4 cup water. Cook for about 45 minutes. If you have a rice cooker, it will it it for you! Use brown rice pastas for their easier digestibility than other whole grain pastas. Tinkyada is a good brand of brown rice pastas.

5. Buy grass-fed and pastured beef, chicken and eggs.

Nina Planck recommends to start at the top of the food chain! This is where the most damage is caused by feeding animals corn and dead chicken carcasses, resulting in poor quality of meat. Feeding corn also results in health issues (e-coli for one) for which they will pump animals full of antibiotics and chemicals which collect in the fat. Find a local farmer that raises them right. You want chickens that have seen the light of day and have freedom to roam. You want grass-fed meat that is fed grass and allowed to roam pastures resulting in a superior product for your health. You want free range eggs from pastured chickens. U.S Wellness Meats is a good online source for grass-fed meats. Trader Joes and other whole food stores offer grass-fed alternatives. Stay away from nitrates as well – sodium nitrate is a harmful preservative, most commonly found in pork products. If you cannot find grass fed, go for an organic version. At least this is free of the chemicals!

6. Use healthy fats in your cooking.

I stick with coconut oil, olive oil and butter for everything in my kitchen! Avoid the processed or genetically modified products such as vegetable oil, soybean oil, canola oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil. Learn more about healthy fats here. Coconut oil is mainly for all my baking, and some sauteing. Olive oil is for salad dressings and some cooking. Butter is for everything in between! ;)

7. Find a raw milk source.

Raw milk is incredibly delicious! It’s the real thing! If you can, seek out a local farm that offers raw milk. Real Milk has a detailed list, state by state. Or order online through Organic Pastures Dairy, offering raw milk, butter, cheese and other products shipped directly to your door. If not possible, check out the good milk alternatives: goat’s milk, organic milk, hemp milk and coconut milk.

8. Learn how to make kefir and yogurt.

Make kefir with kefir grains. Homemade yogurt can be made with a countertop culture or in the crockpot.

9. Pick one product on your grocery list that you can begin making from scratch.

Breads, tortillas, muffins, dressings, condiments – just a few ideas to get you going. Homemade beans in the crockpot is easy and a great way to safe on canned beans. Make spaghetti sauce and chili from tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Returning to the whole product and making it yourself is so beneficial! Canned products are highly processed, contain high sodium content and often have BPA (a harmful plastic) in the lining of the jar. You can find lots of homemade recipes here. Just take one item per month and have fun learning! Homemade versions will be free of preservatives and other loads of additives that are added to extend shelf life. Start moving away from processed, packaged foods, and make the real thing at home.

10. Buy organic or spray free vegetables and fruits – and eat lots!

If you cannot afford organic produce, ask farmers in your area if they use sprays (pesticides and herbicides). Try to avoid the sprays if possible. If not, then still eat lots of fruits and vegetables because they are so nourishing to your body. Studies show that  your health is much superior for eating more vegetables and fruits, whether they be organic or not. Check out the Dirty Dozen list for a helpful guide to what produce contains more sprays and chemicals.

11. Buy wild fish.

While not strictly organic, it is important to buy wild fish and avoid most farmed fish, which can contain high levels of contaminants. Look for “grown in the wild” labeling when you buy salmon especially!

12. Begin soaking your grains.

I put this on the bottom of the list because it can be the most intimidating and complicated step. Take your time with this one. This step is the first to go out the window in busy seasons of life at our home. Soaking brown rice and whole grains help make them more digestible for the body.

Again, take one step at a time and have fun with it! Read, learn and explore the world of whole real foods! Here are some other excellent resources to get you going. Above all, start looking for real foods. If the label has tons of unpronounceable words, then it probably is not real food. If it is fortified, refined, or tweaked in some way, it is probably not real food. Unfortunately, it will cost more to eat real food. But I believe you can always afford what you prioritize in your budget!

A few helpful resources:

Baby Steps to Better Health – this is a wonderful e-book by Shari Graham of Graham Family Ministries. This is the best and most simple guide I have found to help the newbies. She start by encouraging you to drink fresh filtered water and lots of it! Then she follows this by encouraging you to start by replacing one store bought thing with a homemade variety. One by one, have fun with learning to make things yourself. She offers recipes, meal planning tips, bread making tips (including her own soaked bread recipe), using healthy fats, making yogurt, etc. She also covers briefly natural cleaning and body care recipes and tips. I highly recommend this guide! She also offers the contents of this book free on her blog, The Nourishing Cookbook, but the ebook includes helpful printable checklist charts, forms and recipes.

Resources for Beginning a Healthy Lifestyle – a few of my favorite book recommendations

Nutritional Eating: What is Most Important?

Getting Real with Food series (from Heavenly Homemakers) – where to start?

The Real Food Revival: Aisle by Aisle, Morsel by Morsel by Sherri Vinton – a helpful beginners guide to learning all the terms and finding the real whole foods in the supermarket.

Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck – a step up from the Real Food Revival in providing further history, science and knowledge into defining real foods. She details meats, dairy, fats, and vegetables and what to look for. I loved this book!

Natural Living 101 – my compiled list of food sources, article and more on natural living!

Do you have any steps you would add to the list? How do you prioritize real food eating?

Stay tuned…Next we will be taking a closer look at my own food budget, and letting you see what exactly we buy!

Photo above is the cover photo of Nina Planck’s Real Food: What to Eat and Why.
This post is a part of Real Food Wednesdays.

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

88 Responses to Baby Steps to Nutritious Eating: 12 Steps to a Real Foods Diet

  1. Mauro Hedeen August 10, 2011 at 4:41 am #

    Entertaining article, thanks for your efforts.

  2. Lisa March 11, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    I’m curious about your thoughts on white whole wheat flour. I’ve read that it has all the same benefits of whole wheat. If you don’t mind sharing your opinion, I’d love to hear it! Thanks

  3. Gina October 2, 2010 at 4:37 pm #

    I agree that real butter tastes so much better than the alternatives; however, I am concerned about the fat content and the impact upon one’s cholesterol counts. Thoughts?

    Re: Soaking, say brown rice, where do you keep the pot of soaking rice for the seven hours? I know without a doubt that we cannot keep a pot of soaking rice on the stove or counter for seven hours. We live in TX and bugs become an issue if any food is left out. Also: Where does one find acid medium (I believe that is what you called it)?

  4. Amy July 19, 2010 at 8:01 pm #

    Maybe this is too personal of a question (if it is – sorry!), but I am curious what you budget for food per month. I really enjoyed reading your suggestions and I am inspired to take baby steps towards natural eating! Since I decided to stay home full-time when my little girl was born 14 months ago, our family budget has gotten a bit tighter…and food seems to be the “hot item” up for discussion often ;) . We want to live frugally and wisely and I want to feed my family nutritiously at the same time (if that’s possible). I am just curious what you think feeding a family of three might be while taking your suggestions ;) .


  5. Emily June 28, 2010 at 4:37 am #


    I have moved to Minnesota, am currently getting my home organizing binder in control while adding a higher notch of health to our routine. Your website continues to be such a help for me, thank you thank you!
    ? is, how did you know coconut oil is less refined than safflower, sunflower, etc oils? I read your link and saw that palm, sesame and flax oils may be just as good. I had heard Canola oil isn’t as healthy and now understand with your explanation of the rape seed. Are safflower and sunflower also modified?

    I have told you about also having insomnia, I can’t believe it this fourth baby’s pregnancy has almost been completely insomnia free. (Due in 3 weeks!!! :) Email me or visit my blog to ask if you want to hear the story, and it may also be that pregnancies just vary thank goodness. However insomnia was a problem after 3rd pregnancy so I think I have found some answers. or [email protected]

    …..I sent this twice as my computer didn’t indicate whether the message was being saved or not. :)

    • Lindsay June 28, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

      Weston A Price does not recommend sunflower or safflower. You can read more about nutritional oils here.

  6. Kat @ Inspired To Action April 30, 2010 at 1:30 am #

    Soooo helpful. Thanks Lindsay!

  7. [email protected] After The Alter January 29, 2010 at 6:55 am #

    I am so excited to have found this on the kitchen stewardship faceoff. I have just decided to start LEANING towards a more natural diet, and this is a great place to start. AS a matter of fact I just posted this link on my facebook fan page! :) Thank you so much I will be following your blog for more ideas!

  8. Mommy4girls January 15, 2010 at 6:16 pm #

    Oh, I think I just found my new best friend! I stumbled here because a friend suggested a recipe of yours and I can’t stop reading your blog! I have yet to find ONE thing I don’t agree with!! You are doing a great job here! I’m a missionary in southern Mex with four little girls and a lot of the same passions as you.
    And I have a sweet little old lady who delivers fresh milk to our door every morning! I am very blessed!

  9. Deanna November 14, 2009 at 6:20 pm #

    Having become mysterously very ill after eating cheese made from raw milk (visiting at a farm), I just can’t bring myself to buy raw milk. Little by little, every month we have added something new or changed something in our diet. This month was milk. I buy Straus Family Creamery brand organic milk. It’s pasteurized (as compared to ultra pasteurized which kills jsut about everything good in milk) and non-homogonized and tastes wonderful. They have different percentages, but I noticed the only difference was the amount of cream at the top of the bottle. Including the $1.50 deposit for the glass bottle it costs me about $8.00.

    For me, it’s been a slow process of weeding out and experimentation. Whole grain pasta instead of white, olive oil or coconut instead of crisco, organic instead of regular, etc. Currently I’m experimenting with palm sugar to see if I can get rid of the artificial sweetner in my coffee.

    I find too that even though I’m on a weight loss journey (using Weight Watcher’s system)and real foods a lot of times are higher in “points” they leave me satisfied and I eat a lot less. God didn’t make a mistake in how He made food grow!

    • Amy November 16, 2009 at 6:28 am #

      Deanna, I know that getting sick is a HUGE deterrent. But I would really encourage you to not give up.
      It may have been just a freak occurence on that day at that farm. Or it could have been totally unrelated. I have a friend who prepared raw ice cream and gave some to her nephews. They came down ill the next day, and everyone blamed the ice cream. Turned out it was strep throat! I don’t mean to make light of your situation, but I would recommend that you read up on the health benefits of totally raw milk as well as the relatively small risk involved in consuming it (especially in comparison to the risk involved in consuming the majority of the standard American diet).
      That being said, it’s also very important to make sure that your source is clean and safe, but raw milk is health-giving, plain and simple!

      • Deanna November 16, 2009 at 2:16 pm #

        Amy, I am reading up on it and thinking about it. I haven’t ruled it out. I have a good source at my local organic foods store that I am pretty sure I can trust. I just can’t make the jump yet. The doctor couldn’t determine if I had brucellosis or Hepatitis A (why he couldn’t determine? I don’t know) and got sick again 2 times afterwards. Granted, being here in the U.S. now I would be more willing to try. Thanks for the encouragement!

  10. Chelsi Lacine November 13, 2009 at 9:08 pm #


    We are in the market for a water purifier. I saw that you recommend Berkey in this post. We are very interested in getting one, but wanted to know if you had any other recommendations we should consider before we make our purchase. Not sure whether or not you’ve written anything exclusively about water purification that I could reference… Thanks!

    • Lindsay November 16, 2009 at 2:03 pm #

      Berkey is the best for a purifier that you could move around and not a potential permanent installment. There are a few other good systems if you want something that will filter your water from the source, such as the multi-pure system. For other purifier recommendations, check out this post.

  11. Natalie November 13, 2009 at 8:39 pm #

    Hi Lisa Beth W,

    I buy my milk from Avalon dairy. They recently started selling un-homogonised milk. It has a white lid with red writing and says old fashioned standard. It is about twice the price of regular homo milk, so we have just limited our consumption to about 1 full cup per kid each day. It actually tasted different, but good. We buy ours from Whole Foods, but Save-on also sells it. You can also gat it from Avalon themselves if you are in the Vancouver area.Hope this helps.

  12. Natural Mama November 12, 2009 at 9:17 pm #

    I’ve just found your website and I want to thank you in advance for many sleepless nights in the future when I will be up reading your archives. :) We currently implement all your suggestions and I’m so glad to see your list! If ppl will just take baby steps to improving their diet/health, it is so beneficial, esp to the kids! Thanks again for your wonderful site.

    • Kristen November 14, 2009 at 8:10 am #

      Great post! One thing I do to not get myself stressed or feel like a failure that I haven’t done all of things, is realize that I have a God that protects my family and knows my heart as I try my best to give the proper nutrition for my family. Not saying that I pray before I eat from a fast food place for God to bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies and believe that stuff is gonna turn into a healthy meal. But I as I venture on this journey there is no sense in feeling horrible that I haven’t quite made it to where I desire to be. In His time, that will come and in the meanwhile I will thank Him from where I came from and how He has blessed my family and I and be content where I am at the moment.

  13. Stephanie November 12, 2009 at 7:32 pm #

    Great post! Does anyone else live in oregon, (the Willamete Valley South of Portland) that gets raw milk, preferably from a farm… I can only find raw milk in Portland, and other cities that are about the same distance from me, also at health food stores, but I would rather have it fresh…any suggestions? I would really love to try it! We don’t drink a lot of milk every week, so it is something I feel I can budget in.

  14. Chasity Short November 12, 2009 at 3:31 pm #

    I’ve begun buying raw milk and can not tell you how happy I am with the quality. This is good timing b/c I’m baking my VERY FIRST homemade bread right now… though not soaked it is whole grain- pray it’s not a brick!

    A question: I want to soak my bread, but can’t quite afford the grain mill to mill my own grain. Do any of you know resources where I could do this without all of the equipment? I’m a little confused of this topic…

    Thanks! Chasity

    • Lindsay November 12, 2009 at 3:55 pm #

      You can soak whole wheat flour for bread. You don’t have to have a grain mill, it just gives you a more fresh option and more varieties of grains to choose from, as you can typically not find ground versions of kamut, spelt and the like.

      • Chasity Short November 14, 2009 at 8:30 am #

        Thanks, Lindsay! Well, my bread turned out flavorful… but a bit like a chewy brick. Fortunately, my kids and husband said they liked it, but I’m going to try a different recipe next time. I think I’m just going to save up for a mill… do you use a mixer (bosch) too? Or do you knead by hand?

        • Lindsay November 16, 2009 at 2:01 pm #

          Yes, we use a bosch mixer at our house.

  15. Lani November 12, 2009 at 3:23 pm #

    It was great to read this list, and to realize that I am very close to my goals, as I am doing most of this stuff. I just had to share something rather ridiculous that happened to my husband at work the other day. One of his co-workers commented to my husband that he eats really weird food, and my husband asked him what he was talking about and the guy said something about the fact that he always had odd vegetables that he is munching on. One of my husband’s favorite veggies are red peppers, so I send slices in his lunch. I am simply boggled that we now live in a country where you are looked upon as very odd when you snack on veggies, nuts, seeds, and fruits. Anyway, thanks for the info, it is always enjoyed.

  16. Jen November 12, 2009 at 1:00 pm #

    For those of you using real butter, I’m wondering what consuming ‘lots of butter’ equates to? For our family of 4, 2 adults and 2 preschoolers, we eat on average one stick of organic butter per day between putting it on toast, grains, cooking, and baking. And I’m really not a big baker, so it’s mostly what we put on our food. Would this be considered an ample enough amount? I have no idea on this, I just always hear to eat lots of butter but never have seen any concrete amounts.

    • Elizabeth from The Nourished Life November 12, 2009 at 2:44 pm #

      Hi Jen! We have a similar family and we also go through about one stick per day. I think this is a healthy amount of butter for us, since we also eat plenty of fatty cuts of meat, whole dairy products and use coconut oil, too. My personal diet is about 60-70% fat so I’m obviously getting enough from it! I would imagine my husband and children’s to be similar (though I haven’t actually run those numbers).

      It’s interesting to note that when I first switched to butter my kids would eat it by the spoonful! I figure they must have been healthy-fat deficient, because they stopped after a few weeks (although every once in a while they still ask for a “slice of butter” lol).

  17. kc November 12, 2009 at 12:50 pm #

    And for Caitlin Steng: Have you considered the GAPS diet at It has been used effectively for healing these types of issues in many families. BTW, your children may very well be able to tolerate raw dairy as it is a completely different food from homogenized, pasteurized dairy sold in stores. All of the enzymes necessary for its digestion are intact in raw dairy along with the natural fat soluble vitamins and minerals, but industrial dairy from stores has been sterilized by the high temperature treatment (meaning all the good bacteria are killed as well as the bad), tainted with chemicals, and has synthetic vitamins derived from corn added back in to replace the natural ones that were stripped out (can you believe it?!). Most people that cannot tolerate butter can tolerate ghee (clarified butter) with no problem since the milk proteins are no longer present. Try Pure Indian Foods for organic Ghee from pasture raised animals. Also, your children could be reacting to the synthetic vitamins or “natural flavors” (manufacturer euphemism for unnecessary free glutamic acid) or even “salt” (salt used by industrial food manufacturers has many ingredients besides sodium chloride) present in most of the butter on shelves today. Even if you decide not to do the GAPS diet, I urge you to remove all food additives from your diet on a trial basis to see if it helps your children.

    The Weston A. Price foundation website:
    can be a good source of information for farm fresh items produced the right way. and are also very good sources of information.

  18. Monica November 12, 2009 at 11:14 am #

    Thank you so much for all the information you post here. I have been reading your blog for a little while and really enjoy reading it and learning for it also. I am trying to change my family’s diet, and all the information you post here is so helpful and informative. I am taking baby steps because all the information and knowledge can be a bit overwhelming, but we will get there slowly. Thank you!

  19. Jennifer November 12, 2009 at 7:45 am #

    I personally believe the best change anyone can make to their diets is cutting down on refined sugars. It is very hard, and I don’t recommend trying to cut all sugar out at once because you are just setting yourself up to fail that way, but try reducing the sugar you put in tea, coffee, baking, etc. Use natural sweeteners like rapadura or sucanat, honey, and real maple syrup and avoid HFCS at all costs! These are more expensive than their refined counterparts, but if you learn to use less it balances out. I have found that if I keep sugary foods around I will eat them, but if I don’t even buy candy, soda, and other sweet treats I don’t even want them.
    I also have to put in a plug for raw milk. It is amazing! I have never like the taste of pasteurized homogenized milk, no matter what percentage, but raw milk just tastes so creamy and fresh and delicious. My aunt and uncle are dairy farmers and they are having a very hard time financially because stores just are not paying enough for milk. They sell raw milk on the side (by word of mouth) and that is a nice supplemental source of income for them. So if you are able to go to farm and support the farmer’s directly that is an added bonus! Whole Foods sells raw milk for $10/gal and my aunt and uncle sell it for $3 a gal!

    • Elizabeth from The Nourished Life November 12, 2009 at 10:20 am #

      And remember it’s easier to cut down on those refined sweeteners if you eat plenty of healthy fats like butter and coconut oil. I’ve always had a major sweet tooth, but the battle is not so hard now that I eat lots of saturated fats.

  20. Lori November 11, 2009 at 10:00 pm #

    Just a quick clarification on Tillamook butter. I have some in my fridge – not ideal but so much more affordable so we use it for baking. Anyway, it does not list any dye in the ingredients but it does state that it is pasteurized. I have the unsalted sweet cream butter. Is there another type that is not pasteurized?

    • Lindsay November 12, 2009 at 10:07 am #

      I got my facts a little mixed up there…sorry. I meant to say that is made for cow’s that have been mostly grass fed. Unless you buy the Organic Pastures raw butter as linked to above, all other butter is pasteurized. Kerrygold is also superior to Tillamook because it is cultured. Hope that clears that up!

      • Chasity Short November 12, 2009 at 3:45 pm #

        I called the suggested dairy and they said they can’t ship and raw milk or butter outside of Calidfornia :( Sad for us in Texas!

        • Lindsay November 12, 2009 at 3:51 pm #

          Check out US Wellness Meats for another good alternative.

          • Amy November 13, 2009 at 5:00 am #

            I have family that get raw milk, eggs, etc. in Georgetown, TX. Are you anywhere near there? (I know Texas is HUGE!) :)

        • anna November 13, 2009 at 4:42 pm #

          Chastity, where are you in Texas? Did you check the real milk website? they have dairies listed. If you are near San Antonio I might be able to help you.

          • Chasity Short November 14, 2009 at 8:28 am #

            THanks guys for your suggestions! I do get raw milk (I live in Fort Worth) and pay $10/gallon for it. We’ve had to re-arrange our budget a bit, but really since we stopped buying all processed foods, it doesn’t make the total grocery bill much higher.

            I just don’t know where to buy raw butter, cheese, keifer (spelling?). But, I’ll check the suggestions yall gave- Thanks! Chasity

  21. Jessica November 11, 2009 at 8:13 pm #

    You are wonderful. I am a newbie for sure and I love your vibe and encouraging tone. You help me to feel excited about making all of these changes rather than overwhelmed, which is definitely what I need right now. Thank you, thank you!

  22. Michelle November 11, 2009 at 7:01 pm #

    Thank you so much for this post. I do almost everything on the list and I’m trying a couple new steps a month. One thing that I want to start making is green smoothies and adding fresh fruit juice. I have a Bosch with a mixer. It does ok. I noticed you mentioned your blender. Can you tell me how it compares to the Bosch? I really appreciate it.

    Thank You,

    • Lindsay November 12, 2009 at 9:58 am #

      The Blendtec is far superior in durability to the Bosch. My Bosch jar started to crack on me under the challenges of making fruit/kefir/green smoothies. The Blendtec also does an amazing job giving such a smooth product. The greens especially come out so well pureed, making it easy to enjoy! I wanted something that could endure intense usage, so I invested in the Blendtec. Another option is the vitamix. They are just made for these more challenging tasks! Plus I love how the Blendtec can do so many different things in one!

      • Amy November 12, 2009 at 7:39 pm #

        Lindsay, I was just wondering how the Blendtec is for grinding grains? I am thinking about getting one and this is one thing I would really want to be able to do with it (right now I am using a coffee bean grinder, and it doesn’t do the best job).

        • Lindsay November 16, 2009 at 2:07 pm #

          It works perfectly fine on small batches of flour. You cannot do huge loads at once, but would definitely be a huge improvement over your coffee grinder. But if you want to do large batches of flour, you may want to look into an actual grain mill. The Blendtec’s really plus features include it’s ability to make great smoothies with frozen fruit, homemade peanut butter, food processing, ice cream, hot soup, etc.

  23. anna November 11, 2009 at 7:00 pm #

    I would like to share a seafood guide from Monterey Bay Aquarium that shows which are the best and worst options, based on sustainability and environmentally friendliness, by region. I was surpised to find out that wild may not always be the best option.
    Great post and really wonderful blog!

  24. Michelle November 11, 2009 at 6:22 pm #

    Lindsay- This is such a great post. You always have such detailed information. I have been so inspired by what you share.

  25. Camille November 11, 2009 at 4:19 pm #

    Fabulous post!! Would you mind if I link back to you on a post on my blog?? I would actually just refer people over here…you have said it all SO well!

  26. Deborah November 11, 2009 at 3:10 pm #

    Thanks Linsay so much. This is just what I needed. I think I am half way through the list. Soaking grains has been intimidating to me. I also haven’t been sure I can afford to go organic so I look forward to getting a glimpse at your food budget.

  27. Lisa November 11, 2009 at 2:53 pm #

    Great list. I need to do better about this.

  28. Anna C. November 11, 2009 at 2:45 pm #

    Lindsay, how much do you pay for a gallon of raw milk? I just spoke with a local farm and he told me $10/gallon for cow’s milk, $14/gallon for Goats milk and $10 Kefir starts. That seems really high!

    • Lindsay November 11, 2009 at 3:28 pm #

      Raw milk prices vary significantly across the nation. Here in the NW we pay anywhere from $7.50-$10 per gallon. Goat’s milk is usually at least $6 per half gallon. It is so worth it for us!

      • Amy November 12, 2009 at 9:55 am #

        I agree. We pay $7/ gallon ($24.50 for milk EVERY week) – but that’s $7 I don’t spend at the doctor or on OTC medicines anymore!

        • Elizabeth from The Nourished Life November 12, 2009 at 10:18 am #

          We pay $6 per gallon here in Alabama. It can really add up, but I made room in my budget because of all the amazing health benefits. It’s $18-24 a week I’m happy to spend (plus you can make great butter from the cream!).

          • Jen November 12, 2009 at 12:55 pm #

            In Wisconsin we get ours for $4/gal., but I think our farmer is not the norm. I’m sure it’s a bit higher at other farms, probably $6 or so. For a $4 gal. of milk I can make the equivalent of about $16 in kefir if I bought it at the store. They better not change WI’s legislation over raw milk! I know that the non-homogenized organic milk that’s still not even raw is $5/half gal. at the health food store. I also get our free-range, organic eggs for $2/dz. from a young girl in our area. They’re about $4 and up in the grocery store. Hoorah for going to the source!

  29. Natalie November 11, 2009 at 1:57 pm #

    WE have made most of these changes, but like you said, we did it slowly. It took a few years for us to get to where we are. Now my family enjoys brown rice and whole wheat flour for everything.I also make chicken stock often and add it to many of our meals(tastes good in your rice) The last thing we changed is our milk. In Canada you cannot buy raw milk unless you buy a cow with other people. This is too expensive an option for our family of 9 for the little amount of milk you receive each week. What we have done though is found a source of unhomogonised milk and the taste is quite different, but better.I still struggle with getting my bread and cookie flours soaked, but don’t stress over it. I figure I will get into that routine eventually. I have definitely seen my families health improve over the years; we are hardly ever sick and when someone does get sick it doesn’t linger long. It is definitely worth making the changes even if it is one little thing at a time.

    • Amy November 12, 2009 at 9:53 am #

      Are there any milk-share farms in your area? KY has the same rules. Actually, it’s illegal to buy raw milk here at all. But there’s no law against milking your own cow or paying someone to milk and care for your cow. So we have “milk shares” here. We own something like a two-hundredth of a cow – for about $10. :) And the money we pay for our milk each week is a “boarding fee.”

    • Lisa Beth W. November 13, 2009 at 10:11 am #

      Natalie, would you mind telling me where you find your non-homogenized milk? I am in Canada as well, so I know how impossible it is to get raw milk unless you have your own cow.

  30. Lorrie November 11, 2009 at 1:54 pm #

    I am starting a series on my blog about this exact subject tomorrow. Thank you for posting. It has given me some inspiration and new ideas to share.

  31. ChristineG November 11, 2009 at 11:21 am #

    Thanks for sharing your terrific list with us. I do virtually everything on the list except for soaking my grains. I definitely want to work on that!

    • Elizabeth from The Nourished Life November 12, 2009 at 10:17 am #

      Oatmeal was the easiest for me. Just soak 1 cup of whole oats in 1 cup of water overnight. Use a little whey, raw milk, yogurt or lemon juice if you want to accelerate the benefits (I just do it plain since my family doesn’t like the taste). Then in the morning, add about 1 cup of water (depending on how thick you like it) and cook as usual. We eat this about three times a week, and it’s a very easy breakfast!

  32. alexis November 11, 2009 at 9:11 am #

    What a great post. I am just starting to read Nina Planck’s book Real Food for Mother and Baby, and I’m really excited about it. I am currently in the process of revamping all of my holiday recipes to make them a bit more healthy, using natural sweeteners, whole-grain flour and good fats. One thing my family loves is fudge…I am finding it very dificult to substitute the tried and true ingredients of fudge. Do you have a healthy alternative fudge recipe?

  33. Jill November 11, 2009 at 8:51 am #

    Hi Lindsay,
    I have recently learned about healthy oils, and am having a hard time converting my recipes. I don’t know which oil to use for what, and it seems very expensive and intimidating to start.

    When a recipe calls for crisco, what should I use instead? (like in cookies or in homemade biscuits)

    When a recipe calls for 1/2 c. oil, such as for baking a cake from a box or in homemade granola bars, what should I replace it with?

    When using coconut oil, should it always be melted before measuring?

    What is the shelf-life of coconut oil? I’d like to buy it in a large quantity, but I don’t want it to go bad.

    Thanks Lindsay!

    • Lindsay November 11, 2009 at 9:02 am #

      Jill, great question! The best replacement for crisco is coconut oil in its solid state. I use coconut oil for all these purposes myself. For baking purposes where the original oil is a liquid, I just melt the coconut oil in a pan. So if you want crisco style, for biscuits and such, keep it solid. If you need it liquid, melt it. For cookies, the best option is softened butter. The shelf life of coconut oil is at least 6 months, but some say it can last up to 2 years.

  34. Sharon November 11, 2009 at 8:39 am #

    I very much enjoyed reading this article! I have been eating Smart Balance for awhile; is this considered butter or margarine?

    I think that whole grains are a very important thing to have in your routine diet. I have some great whole grain recipes if you are interested:

    Feel free to comment! :)

    • Lindsay November 11, 2009 at 9:07 am #

      Smart balance is made of canola and soy oils, two oils that are best to be avoided because they are genetically modified. It is not considered margarine, but it is also not butter. Learn more about canola and soy here.

      • Sharon November 12, 2009 at 9:24 am #

        thanks so much. I was always wondering. Back to the healthy stuff then!

        • Elizabeth from The Nourished Life November 12, 2009 at 10:14 am #

          Definitely make the switch back to real butter! You can’t get much more natural than that. It’s the first switch I made when I changed the way we were eating, and it was the easiest (and the yummiest, lol). I just posted today about why I use real butter in our house – it’s my absolute favorite!

  35. Kimberly November 11, 2009 at 8:21 am #

    Wonderful post!

  36. Anna C. November 11, 2009 at 8:21 am #

    I’ve always made most of our food from scratch as that is how I was raised. However, I wasn’t buying the healthiest food to cook with. The first thing we did, as I said above, was cut out cereals. Then I switched out all of our flours, sugars, honey, syrups, etc. for all natural products. The rest was pretty easy from there. We still struggle with the meat and dairy as buying all organic meat and dairy is a little beyond our budget. Sometimes our local health food store will have a sale on organic, local whole chickens or beef roasts. We’ll scrounge some savings together and buy in bulk to supply us for a few months =) But overall, it is so much simpler to eat whole, natural foods. It’s sad that most of our population can’t figure that out.

    I have a friend who is 23 weeks pregnant. She craves french fries, oreos, and all kinds of processed foods. She gives in to all of her cravings. She isn’t educated about food like I am and I try to give her tips in baby steps, but I don’t think she’s taking them seriously. I just wish the best for her and her baby, but it is something that worries me.

    • Sarah-Anne November 11, 2009 at 1:45 pm #

      When I read The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook, by Cathe Olson, I seem to remember that she said sometimes we crave the processed food and the sweet food because really our body is craving protein. So, perhaps you could encourage your friend to read this book, as it has great suggestions for ways to get enough – and the right – nutrients when pregnant (and afterwards as well). I’m sure you know, but does your friend know about getting 80-100 grams of protein each day when pregnant? This is soooooo important.

      On an encouraging note, I had a friend who was quite convinced about making changes in her life to be “green”, but she didn’t care about the foods she ate, and ate only processed things. Once she became pregnant, I lent her Raising Baby Green, by Alan Greene. After reading this book, she made HUGE changes in her life. Now she loves to cook and eats so much better! So… sometimes being pregnant and seeing how food is connected with other issues that one cares about can spur one on to eating healthier foods. Hopefully this will happen with your friend, too :)

      • Anna C. November 12, 2009 at 8:20 am #

        Well after reading this post yesterday I encouraged her to not only order this book but Real Food for Mother and Baby. She called me 10 minutes later to tell me she ordered both of them from Amazon (btw, Amazon has great prices on both of these books!). She had just finished watching Food Inc. and I explained to her that there is a lot more to healthy eating than just watching what kind of meat you eat. I hope she really reads the books and takes them seriously. Her and her husband are very “social” and enjoy going to eat a lot with friends. So we’ll see how this goes.

  37. amandaginn November 11, 2009 at 7:06 am #

    Hi Lindsay,

    We tried organic, non-homogenized milk and butter recently. I COULD NOT handle the taste or odor. Does raw milk have a similar quality?

    When did you start offering your little ones raw milk?

    • Lindsay November 11, 2009 at 7:12 am #

      Raw milk is incredible! It is far superior to organic milk by far as it is rich and creamy. We offer raw milk by 1 year of age, but I honestly am not concerned about giving it to them earlier, just because it is so nutritiously dense.

    • jessica November 11, 2009 at 8:15 am #

      i think raw milk is great, but i wouldn’t guarantee you’ll like it if you’re used to 2% store milk…it’s definately a change (but for the better) i used to think tea without sugar was gross, now i prefer it unsweetened, so you can change your tastes. My sister always drinks skim milk and to her just drinking 2% is gross, let alone whole milk! (and she won’t touch raw…) but my husband who is used to whole milk thinks drinking skim milk tastes like water!

      • Shannon Hazleton November 11, 2009 at 11:06 am #

        When we made the switch from store-bought organic to fresh, raw milk, we loved it. It was so much better, and there’s no odor or strange smell at all. The farm we buy from has Jersey cows – maybe the type of cow makes a difference? I’d definitely “shop around” and give real milk another try. We found this farm by joining a “real milk” Yahoo group online.

        By the way, I don’t know if it’s like this in other areas, but around here, the cost of store-bought organic milk has gone up in price so much that it’s actually more expensive than the raw milk we buy!!

        • Amy November 12, 2009 at 9:44 am #

          Raw milk is a living food. It can change a little from season to season. Even if you’re drinking wonderful Jersey milk, it can taste a little “off” during the spring if the cows have gotten into onion grass.
          It took our family a little getting used to. At first my husband and I both felt as if we were tasting “the cow.”
          And if we go on vacation for a week and don’t have access to our raw milk, it takes my tastebuds a few days to adjust once we get home.
          Give raw milk a try! Winter’s coming, and I think that’s the BEST time. There’s fewer “grass” factors and the weather’s nice and cold so the milk easily stays nice and cold – ensuring good taste.
          The immune boosting benefits of raw milk are so innumberable that we’d still get it even if it was less palatable – I’d just hide it in smoothies! :)

  38. Hannah November 11, 2009 at 6:54 am #

    You’re absolutely right, in the pursuit of a healthful diet, it’s so good to just take one step at a time. I think the tip I would add is simple: eat more vegetables! Very few Americans eat as many veggies as they should, and the health benefits of vegetables are undisputed.
    Then along with that, be sure to get lots of healthy fats. Just eating some raw nuts or seeds every day is an easy step.
    I prioritize our eating by focusing on nutrient density, getting the most nutrients per calorie.

  39. Tutti @ Tribal Talk November 11, 2009 at 6:04 am #

    One more thing…I might add to take cereal out of your diet. See:

    • Anna C. November 11, 2009 at 8:15 am #

      That was one of the first things my husband and I did; we took cereal out of our diet. I started making fresh eggs or oatmeal for breakfast. He needs something filling and full of protein to get him through until lunch =) Next we changed our flours and sugars. It was all very easy from there.

  40. Tutti @ Tribal Talk November 11, 2009 at 6:01 am #


    Thank you for simplifying and putting into words the how to take steps towards eating nutritious, real foods. Real food is so contrary to the American diet right now that it can be overwhelming for someone to start eating real food instead of processed food.

    Although I have been working towards a real food diet for over a year now, it was still very helpful to read your post because it reinforced some things I already know and some that I had forgotten. There’s always a lot to keep up, you know?

    Thanks again!

  41. Caitlin Steng November 11, 2009 at 5:51 am #

    What would you use if your children could not have butter or any dairy products at all? My kids have many many allergies and something called EE, I have been buying an olive oil margarine, what else could I use? Thanks so much. I enjoy your blog soooo much!! In Christ, Caitlin

    • Lindsay November 11, 2009 at 7:10 am #

      Have you tried raw milk products? A lot of times people are actually allergic to commercial milk because of all the processing, chemicals, etc. I would start there. If they are, I would first try goat’s milk, as that is less allergenic then cow’s milk. You can find raw goat’s milk through as well. A good butter alternative is called “Earth Balance“. Trader Joe’s sells it. It is a spreadable butter made from olive oil, I believe.

      • Mandy November 12, 2009 at 8:13 pm #

        I went to the Earth Balance website out of curiosity and found that all of their varieties – even their “olive oil spread” – contained either soy oil or canola oil. They don’t use GMO’s, but I have a feeling you still would not consider those healthy choices. Unless there is a type not listed on their website. Just thought you’d like to know!

        • Lindsay November 13, 2009 at 7:56 am #

          Thanks for sharing! It definitely is not an ideal choose. I have a dear cousin who is very health conscious that is allergic to all dairy. She uses it just for spreading butter on certain things, so that is why I included it. For all cooking, she uses coconut oil and olive oil.

    • Jessica O. November 11, 2009 at 1:11 pm #

      I would try raw jersey milk. If you kids can handle anything it is raw jersey milk b/c it has a A2 protein where other breeds have A1 & some people can not handle that. I have 6 kids highly lactose intolerant & my youngest 2 really bad & they can handle raw jersey just fine. Try it out slowly….

      • Caitlin Steng November 12, 2009 at 5:34 am #

        Thanks ladies so much. I will try to find the earth balance. I am temporarily in Canada right now and you can’t buy/sell raw milk so that won’t be easy for me to get my hands on. I did not know that about the Jersey milk Jessica, thanks so much. The part my kids are allergic to is the protein. They are allergic to the protein in most foods such as beef, dairy, soy, nuts, wheat, gluten, some veggies, oat, tomatoes….. the list goes on :( But thanks sooooo much for this info Lindsay and Jessica :D .

  42. sara November 11, 2009 at 5:50 am #

    These are great tips! Another thing I can think to add is adding more fresh fruits and veggies. If you make soup, make a salad to go with it instead of bread. If you want a snack, grab some fresh fruit instead of something packages (bars, crackers, etc.-which I know you would eventually want to break away from anyhow)or perhaps a handful of nuts and dried fruit for a snack.

  43. Cara November 11, 2009 at 5:42 am #

    Great post! I’ve read Real Food and several other books, and I’m trying to make changes to our diet too. It can be overwhelming to try to do everything at once. I love how you’ve broken it down into simple steps.

  44. Shannon Hazleton November 11, 2009 at 5:07 am #

    I agree these are the most important areas of change. And changing everything all at once is very difficult, if not impossible for some. It’s a good recommendation to try changing just one or two things a month. We started with sugar and flour, then milk and meats… Once I was used to changes, I began to try making things instead of buying them packaged. Maybe you could start with something you eat a lot of, like macaroni and cheese out of a box. Learn how to make a good home-made, healthier version of mac and cheese one month. The next month, if you buy pizza a lot, learn how to make a good home-made dough and sauce. And keep adding to your repertoire monthly.