The Gluten Invasion

It seems like daily we hear about gluten intolerances and allergies.  More restaurants and grocery stores are offering gluten-free options than ever before. I am, in fact, one of those “people” who can’t handle gluten.  I discovered my gluten sensitivity about a year ago – and let me tell you, my health has been better without gluten in it (I won’t go into my whole story here, you’re welcome 🙂 ).  While on my gluten-free journey I began to wonder why so many Americans are dealing with genuine gluten sensitivities – from uncomfortable intolerances to full-blown, potentially life-threatening Celiac’s disease.  We know the idea of gluten sensitivity is very new, because wheat was a nutritious staple of many peoples for centuries, and because of an interesting study discussed here.  So this begs the question: what happened?  Here, I’ll do my best to summarize what I think are the largest culprits.

The Green Revolution

Beginning in the 1940’s scientists wanted to find a way of farming that would result in higher yields; thus the introduction of chemical fertilizers (blech!) and “new disease resistant high-yield varieties of wheat” (History and Overview of the Green Revolution).  In the 1960’s scientists developed our modern cultivar of dwarf wheat.  It gave a high yield with “larger seeds heads and thick, short stalks that could bear the weight” (Mark’s Daily Apple).  As a result, these hybrid stalks could receive less sunlight and a smaller space while maintaining a high yield.  So what’s the problem?  This dwarf wheat is not only less nutritious – lacking in numerous minerals, including zinc and magnesium – but it packs a wallop of specific gluten proteins nearly non-existent in ancient wheats.  These gluten proteins in modern wheat have been shown to be a common reactor in people with Celiac’s disease.  It is no wonder, then, that anyone who already has a propensity to gluten sensitivity would be more likely to be effected by our modern wheat.

The “Heart Healthy Diet” + The USDA Health Pyramid

In the 1950’s doctors began to assert that there was a link between saturated fat consumption and cardiovascular disease (a myth that has been thoroughly debunked here).  In my opinion, the result of that assertion has been disastrous for those with gluten sensitivities (and really for ALL Americans – I’ll deal with some of those health concerns in part 2).  Consider the USDA food pyramid, with grains near the bottom, insisting that a healthy, well-balanced diet consisted of a large portion of grains (namely wheat based products).  From that point, not only did a vast majority of Americans cut out animal fat products (the horror!), they filled in those gaps with gluten heavy carbohydrates.  The almost constant gluten assault on our bodies has taxed our systems to the point of rejection (think allergies – for many, allergies to various things don’t show up until later in life after your body has had one too many encounters with a substance). 

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)

Many of us are aware of the ethical horrors of modern commercial meat and dairy operations; and we’ve seen the pictures and videos of animals cramped together with no room to move, living in their own filth.  The CAFO diet is a large contributor to gluten sensitivities and flare-ups.  These animals (cow, pig, and chicken) are given grain feed, the gluten of which passes into their meat and into us when we eat it – thus increasing the gluten saturation of the American public.  This unnatural, grain-based diet also leaves the animals highly susceptible to illnesses which requires the much publicized use of antibiotics and other drugs in the animals, which is a whole other problem in itself.

So there we have it.  The three largest culprits of the rise in gluten sensitivities in America (in my humble opinion, of course).  I have so much more I want to say on this issue, so I’ve decided to make it a two-parter.  So, please keep your eyes open for part 2 when I’ll discuss how gluten took over our food supply, hidden sources of gluten, both common and unexpected problems caused by gluten, and what you can do to reduce your family’s gluten intake.

Smiles and healthy eating,


Chicken Re-Run

Unfortunately, my family doesn’t have an unlimited budget for food – let’s face it, who does? Yet, since we’re determined to eat the healthiest meat we can, I’ve pushed myself to find ways to stretch our dollar as far as it will go.  Today, I wanted to share one of the ways I do that.  Currently, I get our whole chickens from Whole Foods (they are at a Step 2 on the Animal Welfare Rating chart).  I typically pay around $13.00 for a chicken.  I’m sure some of you think I’m crazy for paying that much – sometimes I think so too 😉 – BUT here’s my dollar stretching process:

First Use: I roast the chicken with veggies (simple enough, right?).  Once we’re done, I pick off all of the leftover meat and refrigerate it.  Then, I save the carcass (ewww…), bones, joints, etc. in a separate plastic bag.  Within a couple of days, I toss the bones in a stock pot, fill with water, add a Tbsp of Apple Cider Vinegar (to draw the nutrients and minerals out of the bones) and set the stove eye to “simmer”.  I usually leave it to simmer for about 24 hours, adding water as necessary.  When it’s done simmering you’ll have an amazingly tasty and nutritious traditional bone broth*.

Second Use:  I take my bone broth and leftover chicken, add some root veggies (onions, potatoes, turnips, carrots, rutabaga, etc. whatever floats your boat) and seasonings (my faves besides sea salt and pepper are garlic, basil, and thyme).  Add your veggies and seasonings to the broth and bring to a simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Once that’s done, add your chicken until it’s heated through.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as you see fit.  Sometimes I add some spinach or kale at the end – if you do this, just let the greens cook in the soup for about 2 minutes before serving.  For extra fun, you could add some half n half or heavy cream to make a creamy chicken stew.  Since we are a mostly gluten free family we don’t add noodles, but you totally could if it works for you. 🙂

If you have ways you stretch your grocery dollar with food re-runs please comment!  I’m always looking for inspiration. 🙂

*Properly made bone broth extracts gelatin naturally found in animal bones.  This is extremely beneficial and nourishing to the human body.  When the broth is refrigerated it will have the consistency of soft jello; don’t be alarmed this is how it’s supposed to look.  It will liquefy once heated. 

Eating Local Without Going Broke

So, here it is!  My tips on how you can eat local, support sustainability, and still afford to pay your other bills.  I’ve already written about the importance of choosing grass-fed / pastured meat (check out that post about Traditionally Raised Meat); and it’s logical to most of us that eating produce covered in pesticides / insecticides or that which has been genetically manipulated isn’t the BEST choice for our families.  Most small, local farmers are going to practice these organic or natural farming methods, even if they aren’t certified as such by the government.  To verify how produce and livestock are raised takes only a phone call or visit to the farm, most farmers are glad to discuss their practices with you.

All of that being said here are my tips:

  • Buy a cow (or a pig or some chickens): My farmer (Oliver Farms) offers grass-fed, organic beef quarters that work out to about $5.60/lb.  These quarters are made into a variety of cuts (ground, roast, steak, etc.).  If this seems like too much beef for your family, these are great to split with another family.  Pork: Oliver Farms offers 1/2  – whole pigs that average out to $4.50/lb (with an additional $.55/lb for smoked meats). Chickens: Whole, pastured chickens vary in price among farmers from approximately $3.50-$5.00/lb.
  • Find a Local CSA (aka Food Co-op): You may be shocked to find local CSAs making food deliveries in your town, right under your nose.  The beauty of these programs is that they give communities the opportunity to support a farmer’s crop season, in turn reaping the delicious and nutritious benefits of a bountiful harvest.  There is usually a weekly pick-up where each family receives a box of freshly harvested produce. Typically, you pay for the season in advance, but the weekly share pretty much averages out to $20-$30 per family (not too bad for fresh, local, *ready to harvest* produce if you ask me!).  The one possible drawback to consider is that each member of the CSA assumes the risk of a bad crop season.  For me, the benefits would outweigh the risk.
  • Visit your local Farmer’s Market: Happily, these little gems are popping up everywhere (or so it seems)!  Most towns within a 10 mile radius of where I live now have Farmer’s Markets.  A good amount of produce available at Farmer’s Markets are organic or naturally grown, and the prices are often comparable to CSAs. Sometimes you may find a Market vendor with meat for sale, as well.  A bonus to Farmer’s Markets is that there are usually non-food vendors as well.  It’s a great chance to check out and support a variety of local craftsmen and business owners.

So that’s it (for now ;-))!  I wanted to keep it simple for you all.  Below are some resource links for local farmers, CSAs, and Farmer’s Markets.  If anyone has their own tips on how to eat local and sustainably, I’d love for you to leave a comment with your ideas!

Chocolate That’s *Actually* Good For You

Chocolate That's *Actually* Good For You

Yes ladies, that’s right – chocolate you can sneak in the afternoon with your cup of coffee and not feel guilty! Can I get an “AMEN!!”? What’s so great with Righteously Raw is that you won’t just “not feel guilty”, you can feel totally happy that you just ate it because it has nutritional value that will give your body a boost! It’s raw chocolate so it hasn’t lost any antioxidant value from being heated. It’s sweetened with dates and raw agave nectar instead of refined, high-glycemic sweeteners. My faves so far are the Maca Bar (rich, dark, boom-I’m-in-your-face chocolate) and the Goji berry (dark, cocoa-y, with the sweet tangy-ness of the berry). I just noticed they have Caramel too, that one will be my next purchase!

I’m sure you’re thinking, “This is amazing!” I know, right?! I’m sure you’re also thinking, “I bet it’s expensive… (insert sad face here)” You’re sort-of correct. It’s only expensive if you compare it to, say, a Hershey bar – which, let’s be honest, really shouldn’t be classified as chocolate anyway. But compared to Godiva – one of the most expensive chocolate brands I know of – it’s a bargain! Consider this: Godiva heats their chocolate which causes it to lose most of its antioxidant value, they use artificial vanilla flavor (what?!), corn syrup to sweeten, and partially hydrogenated oil (the oil devil himself!). And their truffles are almost $2.00 EACH! Compare that to my delicious, amazing, satisfying, nourishing Righteously Raw chocolate bar at $6.99. Especially awesome is that these bars are perforated into 3 easy to break sections so it’s relatively easy to stick with one serving (which, of course, I always do…). I know you’re chomping at the bit to find out where you can buy this little piece of chocolate heaven, so here you are: Whole Foods and Amazon.

Finally, I will prove to you just how simple and non-junk foody this chocolate is. Here are the ingredients from my very own bar I have sitting in front of me:
Organic Cacao Butter, Organic Cacao Powder, Organic Dates, Organic Golden Hunza Raisins, Organic Maca Root, Organic Mesquite Pod Meal, Organic Agave Nectar, Organic Vanilla Bean, Himalayan Pink Salt.
That’s it. No chemicals, no preservatives, nothing artificial. Just pure, delicious, cocoa-y chocolate. Enjoy!

Raw Chocolate-y Smiles,

P.s. I don’t receive any compensation for endorsing Righteously Raw. I just love it, flat out. 🙂
P.p.s. Click on the pic above to see the Nutrition Facts of each bar.

Traditionally Raised Meat: It’s more expensive, but is it worth it?

There’s much debate nowadays on whether traditionally raised meat (and eggs) is worth Americans’ hard earned money.  From the “healthier” food industry we hear terms like grass-fed beef and pastured eggs, see the price tag attached, and pass on those items in favor of the less expensive, “conventionally” raised meats.  We assume that if it’s in the grocery store, approved by the USDA then it’s perfectly fine and the other stuff is just high-priced, hippie hype.  But does the average American really know where their meat comes from and just how nutritious it really is (or isn’t)?  Probably not – at least not if you’re anything like I was until about a year ago.  I’ve done almost a year’s worth of research: reading blogs, reading articles, and going down the rabbit trail of study after study (after study, no joke).  Here’s the meat (ha!) of what I’ve learned

  • Grass-fed Beef: Besides being totally “NOM” worthy grass-fed beef is packed with nutrition, while grain-fed beef is drastically lacking.  As most of us know, cattle have 4 stomach compartments.  This design allows them to digest cellulose – a component of raw plants that humans cannot digest.  The ability to completely break down those raw veggies ensures complete nutrition for the cattle resulting in fewer injuries and illnesses, therefore eliminating the need for antibiotics.  Those plant nutrients that nourish the cattle are also absorbed into his meat and fat, which we then ingest.

    Grass-fed beef is rich in Omega 3s, found in the green leaves of plants, i.e. grass.  The type of Omega 3 found to be most prevalent in grass is called Alpha-Linolenic Acid (LNA), which has been found to reduce inflammation and has been shown effective in the prevention and treatment of cardiac disease.  Studies have shown that commercial grain-fed cattle have almost untraceable amounts of Omega 3s.

    Probably the most interesting thing I learned about grass-fed beef is that it is lower in total fat and calories than grain-fed beef.  In fact, grass-fed beef has only slightly more fat than skinless chicken breast.

  • Pastured Chicken/Eggs: Pastured chicken are the ones who roam their pasture, not closely confined with other hens, and are free to munch on grass, bugs, small seed, and/or whatever they find that they feel like eating.  Factory hens (eggs and meat found in a typical grocery store) are fed a grain diet mixed with arsenic (yum!).  Like grass-fed beef, pastured poultry has a lower fat content and won’t contain residue from pesticides, drugs, or other chemicals.

    Pastured Eggs (compared to factory eggs) have been found to contain:
       1/3 less cholesterol
       1/4 less saturated fat
       2/3 more Vitamin A
       7x more Beta Carotene

  • Pasture-Raised Pork:  Similar nutritional benefits as grass-fed beef and lower in fat than factory raise, grain-fed pork.

Once we realized how healthy traditionally raised meat is compared to factory raised meat we decided it would be worth the impact on our grocery bill (which hasn’t been as much as you might think).  Coming up soon I’ll give some of my tips on how you can eat grass-fed/pastured meats without going broke.

 Smiles and bacon-scented hugs,


Here are some of my resources for this post:

Meet Girl Meats Food!

Hey there!  Welcome to my blog!  Let me start out by saying I LOVE FOOD!  Not just any food, though.  Real, traditional, whole, unprocessed food.  Health, nutrition, and finding ways to reduce one’s toxic load are my passions.  So here, you will find our real food and clean living journey so far, recipes we’ve tried from some of my fave Real Food bloggers, reviews on real food packaged goods (uncompensated), updates on the ongoing battle for food in America, and probably more. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, I hope you come back soon!!