Back to Earth Tacos | Got To Be NC Beef

This post has been sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. I received both monetary and product compensation in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

Nestled along the banks of the Uwharrie River near Asheboro, North Carolina is the picturesque home of Tom and Janice Henslee. They share their home with Janice’s mother, as well as a number of bees, free-range chickens, three adorable Brussels Griffon pups, and a field of grass-fed cows. There is plenty of wildlife, too, on the 110 acres that is Back to Earth Farm.

I had the pleasure of spending a morning with the Henslees. They welcomed me into their home to chat about the history of the farm, explain how their farm operates, and share their plans for the future. As I hung onto their every word, I was excited to hear that we share similar beliefs in holistic health and nutrition.

Tom and Janice Henslee
(
photo courtesy of Back to Earth Farm)

In 2013, Tom and Janice moved to North Carolina from Texas to establish Back to Earth Farm. They wanted a place where they could regain and maintain their health: body, mind, spirit, and environment. They “walk to talk,” so to speak, by reconnecting with nature to promote a well-balanced life. Tom and Janice are passionate about renewing the health of the land through regenerative farming practices, connecting communities with a healthy food source, and offering a place for people to learn, rest, rejuvenate, and have fun.

Tom and Janice explained the details of their sustainable farm model. They focus on healthy soil, which produces healthy plants, that will be eaten by healthy animals. That combination makes for healthier people. I was fascinated to learn that Janice had acquired a microscope specifically for viewing soil samples. She explained that she would look for live microbes, which promotes a healthy environment.

These microbes are often nonexistent in farms that use artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. However, the Henslees do not have a need for artificial fertilizers because they choose to utilize managed grazing. Simply put, their cows are contained to an area to feed for a certain period of time. The cows are moved before all of the grass is eaten, allowing the grass in that area to regrow before the cows return to that specific part of the pasture. Using this method allows the cattle to spread their own manure as natural fertilizer.

Did you know that grass-fed beef has 80% less total fat than grain-fed, along with more antioxidants and vitamins? Tom and Janice’s cattle are also GMO free and raised without growth hormones or antibiotics.

After our morning of great conversation, I received a guided tour of the property. There is a serene beauty the encompasses the still-growing farm.

Map of Back to Earth Farm

(image courtesy of Back to Earth Farm)

As we neared the river, the hidden gem of the farm appeared. It’s a hand-crafted cabin made from cedar and pine. The 2 bedroom, 1 bath retreat is available for rent, and includes a full kitchen, heating and air, fireplace, TV, wraparound lower porch, 2 upper-level porches, and a carport. It sleeps 6 comfortably but is not child-proofed.

BTE Cabin

I immediately fell in love with the charm of the cabin. From the gorgeous dining room table handmade by Janice herself to the hammock on the wraparound porch overlooking the river, guests are sure to fall in love with this peaceful getaway. Janice went on to share her dreams for Back to Earth Farm. In addition to their sustainable farm producing nutrient-dense food, she envisions one day offering wellness retreats and educational workshops. For now, she is focusing on growing her most recent inception – a wedding venue! [I plan to write a future blog specifically about Janice’s wonderful ideas.]

BTE Cabin Kitchen

When we arrived back to the house, it was time for me to become Farmer Tom’s chief farm hand. He and I headed out to the pasture to move fencing. The cows heard his whistle and hurried through the field to meet him at the fence line. Like well-trained pets, they knew what was about to happen; it was time for fresh grass to eat. As he reeled in the line, I removed the temporary fence posts from the ground. The cows were very interactive, and seemed just as interested to see me as I was to see them. Tom took the fence posts from me and started to reset them in their new location. I followed behind, securing the line to the posts. And just like that, I became a tiny part of their efforts to leave the land healthier than when they arrived. Restorative farming at it’s best.

BTE cattle
BTE newborn calf
(
The newest member of Back to Earth Farm, a 5-day old calf.)

Before I said goodbye, Tom filled a bag with a selection of meat, from ground beef to filet mignon. I admit that I was a little sad to leave my new friends and the amazing farm that they have created, but I was equally as excited to head home and prepare something tasty with local, grass-fed NC beef.

I love simple, whole food recipes and from-scratch meals. I decided to make tacos with organic, non-GMO ingredients to pay homage to the Henslees and the holistic philosophy that we share.

Ingredients:
1lb grass-fed beef
1/2 small onion (organic)
1/2 bell pepper (organic)
1 zucchini (organic)
3/4 cups water
1T chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1T olive oil

Additional Organic Ingredients:
1 tomato (diced)
black olives (small jar, sliced)
shredded lettuce
guacamole
non-dairy shredded cheddar cheese
gluten free taco shells and/or gluten free soft tortillas

Instructions:
Prepare by dicing the organic vegetables. I love adding fresh veggies to any main dish. They provide extra nutrition as well as offering more flavor and texture to a meal.

vegetables

Add olive oil to a medium-sized saucepan; heat on high. Then add diced vegetables. Sauté until tender.

saute

Remove the sautéed vegetables from the saucepan and set aside. In the same saucepan, add the grass-fed ground beef. Brown thoroughly.

beef

When the beef has finished cooking, drain grease (if there is any; my Back to Earth beef had very little!) and return beef to saucepan, along with sautéed vegetables and taco spices.

combine

Side note: I use spices instead of a prepackaged taco mix. However, there are several great choices available if you do not have individual spices on hand. Check out: Wick Fowler’s Taco Seasoning or McCormick Organic Gluten Free Taco Seasoning. Both are available at local grocery stores.

Add water, mixing ingredients well, and heat to boiling.

taco mix

Reduce heat; simmering uncovered 4-5 minutes, stirring often, until thickened.

To assemble taco, select preferred taco shell. I used both a Garden of Eatin’ brand yellow taco shell and an Udi’s brand plain tortilla, which mimics a soft taco shell.

Add beef mixture, then layer with lettuce, tomato, olives, guacamole, vegan cheese, [I prefer Daiya brand cheese.] or any other topping of choice.

Back to Earth Tacos

There you have it! A simple, whole food taco that is delicious, healthy, and takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook.

I have had so much fun learning about local grass-fed beef. There are a lot of choices for consumers when it come to NC Beef, available throughout the state in farm stores, at farmers’ markets, and online. Back to Earth Farm offers online shopping, as well as scheduled deliveries. If you’re interested in learning more about Back to Earth, or scheduling your own farm tour there, please visit their website: Back to Earth Farm

As I mentioned earlier, this post was sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It is an honor to be featured alongside eight amazing bloggers who also toured NC farms and shared their recipes. Please check out their posts below.

Got To Be NC Beef Farm Tours

And What To Make with Your NC Beef

Red Lentil Spaghetti {with Sauteed Vegetables in Tomato Basil Sauce}

Feed A Cold, Fuel Your Body

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I started to feel under the weather. I started taking cold medication, hoping to ward off any germs but apparently I was too late. On Monday, I was diagnosed with a sinus infection – my first in nearly four years – and given a prescription for antibiotic.

I did nothing on Monday but sleep, hence the reason for the missing blog post. Apparently my body was exhausted, and the only way to slow me down was to knock me off my feet with this “crud”, as I call it. It’s Thursday, and I’m still not feeling well. (Although I am feeling better!)

I had planned to blog about another topic today, but this sickness has really be interesting to me from a food perspective. I thought I would delay the other post and share with you my cravings, and my take on them.

When 21 months pass between sinus infections, you would think that I wouldn’t remember the details. Oh, but I do! I am quite certain I picked up something on the plane to Haiti and, while I spent the week in the third-world country,  it developed into the worst double ear infection and sinus infection of my life. I knew I was sick, but I had no idea how sick until the day I flew home. The truth is, I probably shouldn’t have flown home. I was THAT sick. It took a month of strong antibiotics and lots of rest to recover. I will spare you any other details. In the next year, I developed other health problems and eventually learned of my food allergies. After learning that I had to give up dairy forever, I was told by my physician that I would likely see a decrease in sinus infections… and I did. I was actually surprised at this one. But she did say “decrease” and not “an end.”

When I learned of my food allergies, I obviously adopted a new way of eating… but it wasn’t entirely due to the elimination of gluten, casein, and whey. I started to eat more whole foods. I try sticking to the simple, natural ingredients when I can. I figure the less stuff, the less chance of worrying with food allergies. I avoid genetically modified foods and shop organic and local when I can. I now eat farm fresh eggs “right out of the chicken”, honey that is harvested and bottled by a coworker, and produce grown by farmers that I’ve built relationships with and know now on a first-name basis. I didn’t view it as a fad diet, like some who eat this way on occasion to drop a few pounds. It was my new way of life. I did see immediate changes: weight loss, more energy, and better skin, to name a few. But two years later, I am still seeing changes.

I remember when I returned from Haiti, sick and pouty, all I wanted was comfort food. My brother had picked me up from the airport, and I begged him to stop and buy me french fries & a sweet tea on our drive home. When I got home, I recall waking up from naps on the couch and eating things like grilled cheese with mayonnaise, mac & cheese, or Doritos. I was out of work for nearly a week following my return because all I wanted to do was sleep. Granted, I was more sick than I am now, but I suffered from fatigue in addition to the infections.

Jump ahead to this week. It dawned on me last night that I have only reached for comfort food once during this sickness, and it was at the very beginning on Sunday morning. And it was eggs, gf/df toast and milk gravy. One meal. One proportioned meal of decent ingredients. Comfort food doesn’t have to equate to junk food! The rest of the time, I haven’t really been able to taste anything. (My nose is so stuffy that it has affected my smell and taste.) However, I have noticed that I still crave certain things: fruits and vegetables! The only things I wanted to eat after that comfort food meal were oranges and bananas, so I listened to my body and ate those. The following day, I continued to crave the same thing but also ate small portions of rice. I couldn’t taste anything, but my tummy wanted it. By Tuesday, I had an insane craving for a giant salad. I filled it with veggies, tossed in some hard boiled eggs for protein, and topped it off with banana peppers and jalapenos, hoping their kick would offer up some flavor. Despite not being able to taste it either, I enjoyed the crunch of the fresh veggies that I wasn’t getting with the fruit. I only missed one day of work, and have had more overall energy than I expected with this sickness. I can’t help but to think that the fuel that I’ve been feeding my body this time around has played a key role in recovery. Because of that, I am planning to blog more about whole food and the benefit of food as fuel for our bodies in upcoming posts.

This morning, I woke up with one thing in mind… spaghetti with sautéed veggies! I know I must be feeling better to actually want to prepare a meal. 🙂 Luckily, this is an extremely easy meal to prepare.


I love sautéed fresh vegetables as a base for almost every meal.


Red lentil pasta has two ingredients: lentil flour and brown rice flour. It is low in carbs, sodium, and sugar, and high in protein.


Doesn’t this look delicious? I save leftovers to make homemade pizza! (I use a store-brand sauce from my local grocery store.)

Ingredients:
2 oz of red lentil spaghetti
1 medium-sized zucchini, halved and sliced
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
coconut oil
tomato and basil spaghetti sauce

Instructions:
Boil 1 qt of water in a medium saucepan
Add pasta and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally

While waiting on water to boil, prepare vegetables
Heat frying pan and add 1 T of coconut oil
Sauté vegetables in coconut oil
Reduce to low and add in spaghetti sauce
Simmer until warmed thoroughly

When pasta is cooked to desired consistency, empty saucepan into strainer. Allow water to drain from pasta thoroughly, then place pasta back into saucepan. (Optional step: add butter or vegan substitute to pasta to help spaghetti to not stick together.)

*Some people prefer to combine the pasta with the sauce and mix. I plate mine separately so that I can use leftover sauce!

Serve as is or with a simple side salad. Quick, easy, allergy-friendly, and nutritious!

Trail Mix Bites: A Healthy Sweet & Salty Snack

If you’re like me, you’re on a mission to keep your New Year’s Resolution(s). But the later into January we get, it seems to become more of a struggle to stay on track. Am I right? One of my goals for this year is to make healthy eating choices. This goes above monitoring calories, fats, and carbohydrates. I want to choose organic, whole foods as my options for both meals and snacks. What I am finding is that there aren’t many ready-made selections available that are also gluten- and dairy-free. I have to confess… that makes it harder for me to stick to my resolution because I am guilty of wanting convenient options. Listen, I get it. Life is busy. And the longer it takes to prepare healthy meals and snacks, the less likely we are to eat them.

Fortunately, there are some natural choices that are ready-to-eat with no preparation. I keep a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits in my kitchen at all times. (It’s time to restock… some of my canisters are dangerously low! haha)

I keep them in a resealable bag, too, and carry those with me in case I need nourishment while on-the-go. I love adding sprinkles of walnuts and sunflower seeds to my salads. They’re great in yogurt. Nuts make a tasty addition to stir-fry veggies. Dried fruit is a perfect compliment to a hot bowl of oatmeal. Cashews, soaked in water and then blended in a food processor, create a fantastic non-dairy cream for things like casseroles. Nuts, seeds, and dried fruit are versatile, healthy, and delicious.

Today, I want to introduce you to a great snack that combines all three with one of my favorite things… chocolate! Dark chocolate, in moderation, is healthy too! It is a powerful antioxidant, can improve brain function, and may lower risks of heart disease. Let’s face it; sometimes we just want chocolate. This quick and easy recipe will satisfy your sweet tooth and salty cravings while providing nutrition. Healthy and guilt-free — that’s my kind of snack!

Begin with chocolate. I use a gluten-free, dairy-free, nonGMO chip that I find at my local grocery store. If your local store does not stock these types of chips, they can be found at specialty grocery stores or online. For this recipe, I used all of the 10 oz bag. You do not have to use a gluten-free, dairy-free option but do look for dark chocolate that is a higher percentage of cacao, with as few additional ingredients as possible.

Next, select a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. I have chosen to use dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and almond slivers. Be careful when selecting these items in grocery stores and supermarkets. Often times, the selections will contain additives or high volumes of sodium.  A great source for purchasing nuts, seeds, and dried fruit is Nuts.com. Ordering from them is easy, and the items are shipped to your door. Remember how I said that I like convenience because it keeps me on track? Nuts.com makes purchasing organic items a breeze. (They even have dark chocolate chips and pre-made snacks too, among other things! Please click here to check them out!)

The last step in preparation is lining your cookie sheets with parchment paper. This recipe will yield approximately 30 snacks, so I use two cookie sheets.

To assemble the snacks, start by heating the chocolate in the microwave. I suggest 30-second increments, stirring after each. This helps to ensure that the chocolate does not burn. You want the chocolate to be smooth but not too thin. I achieved these results after approximately 2 minutes.

Spoon small amounts of chocolate onto the parchment paper. I would say use no more than 2 teaspoons per snack; then spread the chocolate to 1″ – 1.5″ diameter. You will want each snack to be able to hold the nuts, seeds, and dried fruit… but you want the chocolate to be thin.

Add a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit to the chocolate, pressing lightly to ensure they stick to one another. When you finish, slide the cookie sheets into the refrigerator for two hours. Once the chocolate has set, the snacks are ready to eat!

These snacks store well and are great on-the-go. Just keep them in a dry, relatively-cool location. I like to put a couple in a resealable bag and keep them in my purse. They’re also great in lunch boxes, and are a tasty contribution to an office potluck. (Just be cautious of anyone with nut allergies! You may want to make them with just seeds and dried fruit if that is the case.)

There you have it! A quick, healthy snack to enjoy on-the-go. This snack has it all… protein, fiber, nutrients, and flavor! It will only take one or two to curb your sweet and salty cravings, and to keep you satisfied between meals.

Veggie Spaghetti

My brother and sister-in-law recently gave me this Joie Veggie Spaghetti. I have been debating on purchasing a zucchini noodle maker for quite some time, but couldn’t decide which option to buy. There are so many! I’m glad that I waited because I love the option that they chose for me.

At first glance, it seems too simple. Will this small kitchen utensil really do the trick? To my surprise, it really is a great little tool. I love that it is compact, and I can toss it into a drawer with my other kitchen gadgets. I also love that it is safe; the blade is encased so it’s virtually impossible to cut yourself. The Veggie Spaghetti also requires little cleanup. And it’s so easy to use!

Although I’ve been out of college longer than I care to admit, the single-girl-cooking-for-one in me often reverts back to quick and easy meals for dinner most nights. I love to cook, but it is hard for me to justify the time and effort involved in preparing a large meal on a regular basis when I’m the only one eating it. And let’s not even talk about cleanup. Washing dishes has to be my least favorite chore!

It isn’t quite as easy to eat like a college kid these days. I have dietary restrictions now that prevent me from opening up the discounted, processed, canned pasta and meat concoctions that I practically lived on back then. I watch sodium intake, avoid gluten and dairy, and aim to eat as organic as possible. Plus, my taste has changed.

The Veggie Spaghetti made dinner prep extremely easy. I was able to make this delicious and satisfying meal in a matter of minutes. I wanted to share this simple recipe with you, so that you can see just how effortless it is to make healthier choices when it comes to eating!

I started with my Veggie Spaghetti and three small zucchini. I washed the zucchini, cut the stalk off of each, and inserted them – one at a time – into the gadget and twisted. It took less force to turn the zucchini than it does to open a twist-top bottle, so if you can do that… you can use the Veggie Spaghetti!

There were two small downfalls with this product. The first? If you do not trim the noodles as you go, the end will create a spiral cap that will eventually prevent the zucchini from turning any further. TIP: After a couple of turns, take a knife and trim the noodles from the Veggie Spaghetti. This will prevent the build up, and will give you the perfect noodle length.

When you’re finished, you’ll end up with a pile of zucchini like this! When you pick the zucchini up, it will begin to fall apart into individual noodles. You may have to peel a few of the noodles into individual strands, but it does not take long to separate them. I was very impressed with the precession of the cuts made by the Veggie Spaghetti.

Downfall number two, for me… I couldn’t twist the zucchini past this point. Perhaps that is a safety feature? It certainly prevents your fingers from getting close to the blades. I have seen other kitchen gadgets that come with an attachment that would stick into the zucchini and allow for a few more twists. There may be a way to alter this one (I guess I could have tried a fork?) but I’m not sure that anything will actually work. This small snafu results in some unused veggies. For some, this may not be a problem at all. For others, like myself, I don’t want to waste anything!

Once your zucchini noodles are cut and separated (even if you use something other than the Veggie Spaghetti), did you know that cooking the noodles is as simple as steaming them? That can be done on the stovetop or in the microwave!

This is a yummy-looking bowl of zucchini noodles, isn’t it?

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 6.54.30 AM

How do you steam your veggies? I have this Pampered Chef Small Micro-Cooker that I use for steaming anything from frozen broccoli to these zucchini noodles. I just popped them in the microwave for two minutes and they came out completely cooked. I do want to mention that it is not necessary to add water to the zucchini when steaming in the microwave. There is enough water in the veggie itself to handle the two minute steam. What I also want to recommend is that after you remove the zucchini noodles from the steamer, place them in a colander and allow them to drain while you prep the rest of your meal. If you skip this step, you may end up with some watery pasta sauce in the end.

Since I am always looking for the quick and convenient route in cooking, I do not make my own pasta sauce. Many of my friends do, but I stick to a jar of organic pasta sauce from my local grocery store. I always check the label to make sure there are less than seven ingredients, that it is low in sodium, and that it is gluten and dairy free. If you do not have dietary restrictions and are just looking for a quick meal… use any pasta sauce that you’d like. You could even grab an alfredo sauce if you prefer! [I heated a small amount of my pre-made sauce in the microwave, and then poured it on top of my steamed and drained zucchini noodles.]

Since I have a dairy allergy, I use Daiya brand cheese. I have found that this cheddar block-style cheese is great for shredding.

I grabbed a slice of my favorite gluten free bread and toasted it. While it was toasting, I softened a tablespoon of nondairy butter and added minced garlic to it. When the toast was finished, I spread the garlic butter on top to complete my meal. From start to finish, this took less than 30 minutes to make. I believe now that I know how to use my Veggie Spaghetti tool, this could easily be a 15-minute meal.

If you have a little more time on your hands, you can do so much with this meal. Need more subsistence? Brown ground turkey or extra-lean beef and add it to your pasta sauce. Want chicken fettuccine? Add grilled chicken breast (or strips of rotisserie chicken) to alfredo sauce. Be creative! Healthy doesn’t have to be boring.

Spaghetti Squash

The first time I purchased a spaghetti squash, it came with a little sticker complete with cooking directions.  The directions said to bake the squash at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. It seemed like the longest preparation time ever. I was reluctant to purchase the squash again because of it. However, the squash had such a unique consistency and a delicious flavor that I decided to try it again.

Years later, I have perfected a fast, healthy recipe for anyone who loves food with Italian flare!

Ingredients:
spaghetti squash
zucchini
tomato
extra virgin olive oil
garlic
Italian seasonings
nutritional yeast

First, split the spaghetti squash in half using a large knife. Depending on the density of the squash, it may be a little difficult. Take your time and be careful. Once the squash is in half, spoon out the seeds and pulp. Place the squash halves face down on a plate and microwave for 8 – 10 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, cube zucchini and tomato. Set tomato aside.

In a saucepan, add just enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Add garlic cloves (these can be chopped if you prefer) and let cook for a minute. Then add the zucchini to the pan. Sprinkle with Italian seasonings.

Usually by the time my squash has cooked and slightly cooled, the zucchini is tender. With a fork, begin running in a stem-to-end direction to separate the strands of your spaghetti squash. You will immediately see the resemblance to spaghetti noodles. Remove as much of the squash as you can and place it into a bowl.

Add cooked zucchini and fresh tomatoes, and toss. You may want to add more Italian seasoning at this point, depending on your taste. Top with nutritional yeast.

A small-to-medium spaghetti squash usually makes two servings.

There you have it; a tasty Italian meal in under 30 minutes!

Bring on the Broccoli

The thing I love the most about gardening is the whole growing process. I love to see how something comes from such a small plant or seed and what it can turn into. Unfortunately, when you plant everything at the same time you end up with an abundance of the same types of vegetable all at once. Obviously the scale at which I currently garden isn’t ever going to be conducive to producing all of my own food, but it is nice to be able to grow as much as I can.

This week my first vegetable other than lettuce was ready for harvesting. I planted four broccoli plants and they were all ready to harvest this week. I decided to use half now and safe the other two for later. As I have mentioned before I am going to try different types of food preservation this year. Broccoli isn’t something that is canned so this was another easy one that can be frozen.

Harvesting the broccoli is very simple, cut the head of florets with a few inches of stalk from the plant with a sharp knife. If your broccoli is a variety that produces off shoots and possibly additional heads of broccoli don’t cut away the part of the stalk that contains the new shoots.

To prepare broccoli for freezing you must first cut it into uniform or bite size pieces.

Put leaves and any unhealthy pieces of the plant in your compost bucket, and make sure you’ve removed any bugs or caterpillars. Wash the pieces of broccoli well and then put them into a pot of boiling water to blanch.

Blanching helps preserve the food longer by delaying the enzyme deterioration process within the vegetable.* Boil the broccoli pieces no longer than 3 minutes. Once you drain the boiling water put the broccoli immediately into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.

Once they have cooled put the broccoli in freezer zip top bags and remove as much air as possible or use a food sealer if you have one. Don’t forget to label the bag with the contents and the date and your extra broccoli should be ready for the freezer.

*Blanching info from “How to Store Your Garden Produce” by Piers Warren

Healthy Eating: Changing the Way We Think

I’m back on my health kick. There is no reason why I shouldn’t be taking better care of myself. But with bathing suit weather here, I feel like it’s now or never to get in shape.

I have started buying organic food again. Although this time of year makes it easy to find fresh fruit and vegetables at local farmer’s markets, other organic foods are harder to come by. My local grocery store stocks very little options. I even struggle finding specific items at the bigger specialty markets in Winston-Salem. This makes shopping tedious, difficult, and somewhat expensive.

What I also do not like about “healthier” food is that it takes longer to prepare meals. After spending hours driving around looking for key items, the last thing I want to do is spend another hour in the kitchen making a recipe. By the time it is all said and done, I would be too tired to eat! Who is with me on this?

Frustrations are common when I’m first getting back on the healthy track. It’s like the universe knows just what to toss my way to keep me from doing better. It’s aware of my low tolerances and my lack of patience. It takes a lot of focus and determination to fight past distractions in the first few weeks.

As I was shopping yesterday, I could feel myself getting discouraged with organic food selections and cost. When I walked away from a healthy item because of its price, it dawned on me why the USA is so overweight…

Restaurants, grocery stores, and food manufacturers have caught on to our struggles. Most fast food chains offer a reduced-price menu to help those of us on a budget. Between buffets, drive-thru windows, and deliveries, we can literally have dinner in under ten minutes! Many of the items featured in sales fliers and coupon inserts are less-than-nutritional… but they’re non-perishable, quick, and easy. There is literally something for everyone’s convenience; soccer moms, single parents, bachelors, etc. Why bother with the tedious and pricey stuff?

I have a friend, Ginny, who lives in Haiti. She spent the majority of her life in Ohio. She went to Haiti on a three-week mission trip in 2008 and returned in 2009 to work as a missionary nurse. She now lives there full time with her daughter, running a mission that she founded, and is getting married at the end of this month. She has a great blog that I encourage you to follow. Recently, she blogged about how much it costs to purchase “American” food in Haiti. It was eye-opening to see that Tide laundry detergent costs the equivalent to $50.00 United States dollars, a bag of frozen chicken wings – $56 USD, a pint of fresh strawberries – $23 USD, and a box of Pillsbury cake mix – $5 USD.

The following week, Ginny posted a blog showing how much Haitian food she can buy at the open market on very little cash. Everything shown in the photo below, along with transportation costs, was only $12.00 USD!


(Photo Credit: GinnyinHaiti.com)

My point? It does seem like the United States has it backwards. Fresh food, healthy food, and locally-grown food should be sold at a muore affordable price. It should be abundant and easily attainable. There should be more incentives for farmers and less tax breaks for franchises and corporations. But at the same time, when you compare the price of fresh fruit and veggies from the farmer’s market to the price of a combo meal at restaurant, the fresh food actually does costs less!*

I’m sure you are thinking, “Even if the food becomes more convenient and less expensive to purchase, it is still to much work to prepare it.” I am guilty of thinking that way too. Sometimes I’m willing to go out of my way or spend more just to save time in the kitchen. But again, Ginny’s blog reminded me that it is all about organizing priorities, avoiding laziness, and being grateful for all that we have here in the States.

Ginny lives in a third-world country. She once lived in a shack that didn’t have a kitchen (she had to literally cook meals over an open flame) or running water (they caught rain in barrels) and she went nearly a year without transportation. These are everyday struggles for many Haitians. Yet, I am pouting over how difficult it is or how long it will take to prepare a meal? In a kitchen that is equipped with above-average amenities? How messed up are my priorities, and the priorities of many people in this country? We would rather jeopardize our health for the sake of a few minutes and a few dollars. Why? What on my schedule is more important than making sure I am healthy enough to fulfill my giant to-do list? And what in my budget am I spending money on that I can do without? Because I am certain there is something… like monthly pedicures… that I could give up if money is so tight that I can’t buy healthy food.

It’s time to stop making excuses. Our health and well-being IS a priority! There is no one else capable of managing it but ourselves. We are worth the time and the money. If you are struggling with the same obstacles, I invite you to join me in an effort to eat more organic foods and prepare fresh meals. It’s the healthiest way to lower calories, fat, and sodium intakes. Don’t see what you need in your neighborhood grocery store? Ask your manager if they can order it. If the demand for healthier food increases, I feel like more could be available and costs could come down. Who knows… if we start allowing time in our hectic day to cook, we may even enjoy it. That, in itself, could lower our stress levels!

Let’s push past the frustrations. Let’s reconsider our priorities. Let’s change the way we think about being healthy!

*If you’re interested in reading more about the comparison of fresh food to fast food, check out Mark Bittman’s article, Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?