Food Rules to Live By

I grew up on white bread and processed American cheese. Candy and pastries were abundant in our home, thanks to my dad’s insatiable sweet tooth (thanks for passing that on Dad). I don’t remember eating many fresh veggies, but it could be that my picky eating habits prevented that.

You would have no idea by looking at our food now.

Photo credit: Monica Arellano-Ongpin

Changing from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to one based on whole foods has not been easy. In fact, I’ve heard it said that it is far easier to change a man’s religion than his diet. After seeing Ian fight some of the changes I’ve made, I’m inclined to agree.

But through gradual (okay, okay, sometimes extreme) changes, our diet is starting to look like I think it should:

No processed food – almost all of our food is made from scratch. I want to buy all food as close to its natural state as possible. After all, I want real food, not a science experiment.

Lots of fresh fruit & veggies – Eating plenty of fruit has never been a problem, but now I eat way more vegetables than ever before. I even add them to my smoothies.

And I can’t tell you how cool it is when my oldest daughter says in her sweet little voice, “Mama, I love onions more than fruit.” Wow. I never would have said that when I was four. Or 24.

Balanced – My aim is for 1/3 carbs, 1/3 fats and 1/3 protein. We’re getting closer to that by embracing fats like butter and coconut oil and shunning foods high in sugar. Since making this simple switch I’ve watched my weight melt off – and it hasn’t come back.

I’m not pointing this out to brag. I stumble and fall off the wagon. In fact, I’m craving cherry Pop Tarts so bad right now, I’ve had to stop myself from driving to Miller’s Discount Grocery to pick up a box.

If I can make these changes, anyone can. And, more importantly, we need food rules; guidelines that we live by that put our health and nourishment at the forefront.

Because what we eat dictates how we feel and if we always feel like poo, then it’s hard to live a life that fulfills and inspires. I’ve seen this first hand since I’ve changed the way I eat.

For years, I’ve had an extremely itchy rash that would not go away no matter how many prescription creams I applied. I finally got rid of it by omitting certain foods (most dairy, corn, wheat, sugar).

My new food rules seem crazy to some a lot, but they make me feel better. I have headaches when I eat the stuff I shouldn’t. Stomach cramps make me double over in pain. Acne flairs up on my face. Call me crazy, but not feeling like that is way more important than Oreos.

But now, the question is, what food rules do we live by? This is a sticky subject because there are so many different opinions. One of my best friends is a vegetarian, while I go with the Primal crowd (grain-free, lots of meat). Some don’t even cook their food.

Are we all wrong? That’s debatable. Should we be intentional about what we eat? Absolutely. And whether we eat meat or not, cook our food or eat it raw, I think that if we eat lots of fresh produce, healthy fats, minimal natural sweeteners and food as close to its natural state as possible, then we’re on the right track.

And I fervently believe that if you’re being that intentional about what you’re eating, then you should know why you’re eating it. If you switch to a Primal diet because I say it’s awesome, you’re missing the point. If you switch because you agree with the philosophy and the research available supporting said “diet”, then I’m happy.

I’m not here to tell you how to eat (though any recipes I post will probably be of a grain-free nature), I’m here to encourage you to be mindful about what you are eating and know why you are eating that way.

There are many facets to nurturing wellness and diet is just one of them. But it’s one that should be a top priority.

Do you live by any food rules?

By the way, if you’re interested in more grain-free meals, Kate at Modern Alternative Mama has an excellent book, Against the Grain, that’s full of tasty recipes. I had the privilege of reviewing it and liked that each recipe called for similar ingredients, meaning that I didn’t have to buy a bunch of new stuff.




  1. says

    My current fave book on food rules is conveniently titled…’Food Rules.’ It’s a great little read!

    And yeah, we’re ultra weird; have been for about 20 years now – our kids don’t know any different.
    – Partial vegetarian – eggs (free range), fish (wild caught), cheese & ice cream as a rare treat, but otherwise, no animal products.
    – Little or no processed foods
    – fresh & raw & whole fruits & veggies, nuts, beans, seeds – core of diet
    – whole-grain only for breads & pastas
    – 2 liters of water every day, and always 8 oz or so first thing in the morn
    – fruit on an empty stomach – in the morning – never combined with other foods (read ‘Fit For Life’ for other great food-combining revelations!!)
    – sweets & treats only on ‘S’ days (Sat, Sun) – from ‘Food Rules’
    – no fast food
    – ‘vote’ with my pocketbook, for non-GMO foods, for local farm produce, for wholesome & organic foods
    – breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper
    – lunch is our main ‘family meal’ – dinner is light, usually leftovers

    okay, well, there’s probably more…but that’s all I can think of now…!!
    (yeah I know, we’re seriously weird!!)

  2. says

    Ok, I’m going to have to check that book out. Sounds really good. I especially love the “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper” bit. I’ve talked about eating bigger lunches and smaller dinners because it makes more sense to me to refuel midday but take it easy before bed.

    And yeah, you’re seriously weird. 😉 LOL! Glad I’m not the only one.

  3. Gloria Richards. says

    I’m trying to get back on track with eating properly. While my kids were growing up I was ultra careful about what we ate and this was long before it became really popular to go organic. I am trying to get back into much better habits and I’m sure it will come back around again with blogs like your to follow. :)

  4. Tasmin says

    Hey Nina,
    Can I just say for starters – I love your website, and your writing!
    Now, onto the food rules..
    My boyfriend and I, ever since becoming independent from our parents (2 years ago, we’re 20 now) have really begun to appreciate having control of our own kitchen. At home it was like, whatevers mom has bought, i’ll eat. That didn’t work out so well for me, being the only vegetarian in my family (since I was 13 might I add) there wasn’t anything very exciting for me – so I was one of those ‘bad’ veggies! Now, its fresh (organic) food, full stop! Anything we wanna eat, I’ll find a way to cook it. Gluten and wheat are out, good fats and proteins are in! I got most of my inspiration for whole foods from Candida cookbooks, but its not something we strictly follow. Our *only* vice are homemade gluten free waffles with raw honey… so yum, we can’t resist! In saying that, we are quite scrawny so I tell myself that the sweet treat is needed 😉 My body has been going through a serious detox for the past year or so, with many underlying skin issues and stomach problems surfacing, but now I am fitter and healthier than ever.

    Can I just say that it is thanks to you, and other wonderful bloggers, that we were able to get our inspiration, ideas and can-do attitude! Being a crunchy student is easy, and fun, but only with the help of like-minded others (and some motivation too!) – thank you!

  5. Andrea Kedley says

    I have been a vegetarian since April of this year due to wanting to live a more compassionate lifestyle (and other health benefits I have researched). I strive to be a vegan, but it is hard not to compromise when going out to eat or eating with friends and family – I guess those would be my splurge days. Each morning I start the day with a ‘nutri-bullet’ drink which contains kale and/or spinach with a variety of fruits and flax. I am interested in learning more and more about how to eat better – better for me, better for the environment, better as a culture, etc. especially on a budget. Nina, I am so thankful for your blog. I find your writing not only to be informational, but I also believe it to be very motivating, welcoming, and helpful in expanding my mindset! Thank you….
    Oh, and @ Teri and Nina – This isn’t the first time I have heard about eating a bigger meal at lunch instead of dinner, but thank you both for mentioning it because this makes me want to begin implementing it to see the benefits.

  6. Nancy A. says

    I am new to your site and love it! I am trying to get the processed foods out of our diet and have been feeling a lot better. Need new ideas, the family still loves their cookies and such. I do eat a bigger lunch, then a small dinner. Makes me not bloated and sluggish before bed. Now, I can’t stand that full, bloated feeling in the evening. It does work.

  7. DeLane says

    One wonderful food rule that I have adopted over the last 12 years or so is to start the night before on the next days meals. This is in addition to a meal plan. If I think every night about the things I am going to cook the next day, it helps me maintain our goal of eating totally from scratch and within our budget. Whether it be soaking beans, putting out meat to thaw, or whipping up a quick breakfast casserole to pop in the oven in the morning, I always give myself 10 minutes in the evening after cleaning the kitchen (with my kiddos) to plan for tomorrow. This is great for the children to put into practice as they are helping with cooking and preparing meals now. It seems to be the key to me being able to keep up with our busy life and keep healthy meals on our table. One book I love is Nourishing Traditions from Sally Fallon. She has introduced me to the art of traditional cooking, which includes a lot of planning ahead!

  8. says

    That is SUCH a great habit, DeLane! It’s such a simple thing to do but it makes a huge difference in the budget since you’re not tempted to go buy something at the last minute when you find that you forgot to thaw something. Thanks for sharing!

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