Staying Whole in a Processed World: Getting Your Protein

What’s this series all about? Check out the intro post here: Staying Whole in a Processed World: Introduction

There’s really no argument about the fact that we need protein in our diets, but it seems that the source of protein and whether or not it comes from an animal is one of the most heavily debated topics when it comes to nutrition. Even more so than grains.

Like the last post, I’ll tell you where we stand on the issue and why, and then you can make the decision you feel is best for you.

We eat meat in our family, but we’re very careful about what type of meat we buy and eat on a regular basis. We believe that we, as humans, are biologically designed to be omnivores and have thrived as such for thousands of years. There are nutrients our bodies need that are best obtained (and absorbed) from animal products. If you happen to be vegetarian (or vegan) for one reason or another, I totally respect your decision. If we had absolutely no access to “clean” animal products, we’d probably be mostly vegetarian ourselves.

So what classifies an animal product as “clean”? It’s all about asking the right questions.

The Most Important Question

The first couple questions most people ask about meat are “how much is it?” and “how much saturated fat/cholesterol does it have?”

Forget about fat (until next week) & cholesterol. Price is important, but forget about that, too, for a minute. There’s a much more important question to ask, and it should always be first:

“What was this animal eating, and was it healthy and active while it was alive?”

This question applies to all types of meat, poultry, and fish, as well as their by products (dairy & eggs). Animals are genetically designed to eat certain things to be healthy — cows need grass, chickens need grass & bugs, salmon need krill, etc. When animals are fed a diet of cheap grains (usually corn), chemical changes occur in their bodies (changing the types and amounts of fats and other nutrients), and they also get sick. If they’re living in cramped environments, walking around in their own feces, that can make them sick as well.

To keep them alive and somewhat mobile, antibiotics are added to their feed. So now we have animals on drugs eating a diet they weren’t biologically designed to eat. (Not to mention hormones given to some types of animals in order to get them to grow faster or lactate. I’m looking at you, cows.)

Sound appetizing? Unfortunately this is by far the majority of the meat that is available today, sometimes the only meat available in regular grocery stores. I don’t know about you, but I’m not excited about eating meat from sick or drugged animals.

What to Look for When Shopping for Animal Products

Finding good sources of meat, poultry, & fish can (ironically) take as much effort as actual hunting. Marketing and packaging can be so misleading with its claims of “all natural” and “select cut”. Even “organic” doesn’t guarantee that something is necessarily clean. High-quality animal products are there, though, and here’s what to look for…

Beef

Look for: “Grass-fed” or “Grass-finished”

Shopping for beef makes me laugh sometimes. Cows need to eat grass. If a package of meat doesn’t specifically say, “grass-fed” or “grass-finished”, then you can bet those animals were fed a diet of cheap grains. Sometimes they’ll even put “grain-fed” on the package or in their advertisements…. like it’s a good thing. (?!) The best thing you can buy is organic, grass-fed (or finished) beef. If for some reason you need to choose between the two (it’s happened to me), choose grass-fed over organic. Beware the luring statements of meat being “USDA prime cut” or “top quality Angus”. Like something being “all natural,” those statements are meaningless.

I’m willing to bet your grocery store doesn’t have grass-fed beef. I asked the guy at the meat counter once if they carried it, and he pointed me to the grain-feed beef. The only stores I’ve seen it at (around here) are Whole Foods & Trader Joe’s. You can also buy meat online (see Resources below) or from a local farm or butcher shop.

Buying a share of beef is often the most economical, and you can meet the person who’s taking care of your food. (And see the animal yourself in some cases.) (UPDATE 8/24/12: We finally purchased half a cow! Check out the details on this post.)

Poultry & Eggs

Look for: “pastured” and “organic”

The cleanest kind of poultry you can buy is organic and “pastured”. That means the chickens lived outside, foraging for bugs and eating grass. They lived the kind of lives that are pictured on most poultry packaging. I’ve only seen pastured poultry at Whole Foods, but again, you can hunt around for a farm that raises chickens and buy them in bulk. (See? I wasn’t kidding about hunting.)

If it says, “cage-free” it means the chickens aren’t confined to battery cages, but are still cramped in a big barn. “Free-range” just means they leave a little door open for them to “range free” if they like. Most don’t usually leave the barn. The type of poultry we buy these days is organic & free-range. By law, farmer’s aren’t allowed to give chickens hormones and if the feed is organic, there won’t be any antibiotics in there. It isn’t the best option, but it works for us right now until I can find a better and more affordable source. (And buy a big freezer.)

Eggs are the same way. Raising backyard chickens is becoming more popular these days. If that isn’t an option for you, find someone who raises them and is willing to sell you the eggs. I talked about pastured eggs in a previous post. There’s just nothing like them! If you have no access to (or can’t afford) pastured eggs, at least find some that are free-range and organic. The Costco near us sells them at a very affordable price.

Fish & Shellfish

Look for: “wild-caught”

This is an easy one. Wild-caught fish have the diet they were intended to have (unlike farmed fish), and are easy to find. Regular grocery stores even sell wild-caught fish, although you may have to settle for frozen instead of fresh. I usually buy my fresh (and frozen) wild-caught fish at Costco, but I’ve noticed, like vegetables, it’s seasonal. Wild salmon is offered in the warmer months, so stock up when you see it!

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guide is great to keep in your wallet when shopping for fish. It tells you which fish are recommended and which to avoid due to farming practices that harm the environment or overfishing. I added a link in the Resources section below for you to find a guide for your region.

Pork & Processed Meats

For fresh pork look for: “pastured”, For processed meats look for: “uncured” or “nitrate/nitrite free”

If you haven’t noticed by now, I don’t have a single pork recipe on my blog. I’m talking about pork loins and pork chops… that kind of pork. Why? Except for the occasional pulled pork sandwich at a picnic, I usually don’t care the taste or the texture. And after I started being more careful about which meat I buy, I wondered if you could even find clean pork. Pigs eat pretty much anything (even in their natural environment), so that aspect of it made me nervous. I believe the best source of pork (correct me if I’m wrong) is to find “pastured” pork from a local (or online) pork farm.

As far as processed meats like sausage, bacon, deli-cut meats, etc., it helps to find those that are uncured. The curing process that meat goes through usually includes cancer-causing nitrites and/or nitrates. Uncured meat products are free from those chemicals, but it doesn’t tell you what kind of diet the animal had when it was alive. If you’re hopelessly in love with processed meats (ahem… bacon), aim for uncured, but don’t make them a large portion of your diet.

How to Eat Clean Meat and Not Go Broke

Making the transition to clean meat is probably the most expensive part of creating a whole food-based, clean diet. Up until almost two years ago, we were a student family, and even now that Steve has graduated, we’re still not “rolling in the dough”. We’ve managed to eat this way during that time. Eating clean meat may take some sacrifices, but don’t think you have to make six figures for it to work. (Some of the cost will be offset by the absence of processed food. We’ll talk about all of that in a later post.)

First off, you’ll need to realize that paying under $5 per pound for meat, poultry, & fish, and under $2-3 per dozen eggs are things of the past — unless you have some awesome connections. As you wistfully walk past the $1.49/pound specials on chicken, just remember that when it comes to meat, you definitely get what you pay for.

Here are some other tips (we use these all the time):

Eat less meat

This one might be obvious. I’m not a fan of eating a whole lot of meat anyway, so we were OK with this one. In an average week we probably eat animal-based protein 3 or 4 out of the 7 days. “Meatless Mondays” are becoming popular, so if you’re used to eating meat every day, try going meatless one day a week to start off.

Stretch your meat further

One way to get the most out of your meat is to use it in recipes where a little meat will feed a lot of people. Soups, stews, tacos, & stir-fries are great for this, as I can get by with less than a pound of meat to feed my family of four. I included some recipes that stretch your meat further in the Resources section below.

Also, be smart when you use whole chickens and bone-in roasts. After you use all of the meat, make homemade stock with the bones! If I’m going to pay $10-15 for an organic, free-range chicken it helps to remember 1) it’ll feed our little family twice and 2) I can get nearly a gallon of organic stock out of the bones. Considering how far it goes, it doesn’t feel quite as extravagant.

Buy in bulk

I mentioned before that buying a share of beef is economical. If you’re not familiar with beef shares, you buy a certain portion of a cow (whole, half, quarter) and the meat is divided into several different cuts (steaks, roasts, ground beef) for you. You’re able to meet the person handling your meet, research where the animals are raised, and you’ll get your meat far less per pound than buying it at Whole Foods or somewhere similar. You can do similar things with poultry and pork, I believe. You’ll need a place to put the meat, though, so invest in a freezer.

If this isn’t a viable option for you (we’re not quite there yet either… hopefully soon!), watch for sales. Whole Foods has specials on their organic, free-range chickens and ground beef periodically. And when Costco carries wild-caught fish, I usually stock my freezer.

Eat more eggs

Eggs are a great source of protein, and even if you’re spending an extra dollar or two per dozen, it’s still cheaper than clean meat. I included some eggy dinner recipes in the Resource section if you need ideas!

Cook at home

As we were transitioning to cleaner meat, I realized (painfully) that not only do grocery stores not (typically) carry clean meat, but restaurants don’t either, unless they specifically mention it on their menus.

That means if we go out to a nice steakhouse (which rarely happens anymore) and pay $25+ for a nice steak, that steak (which is usually grain-fed, commercially raised beef) probably costs more than an organic, grass-fed steak I can cook at home. And when we make our monthly pilgrimage to In-N-Out (no, we’re not 100% all the time) it costs about $12 to feed the four of us. That’s about as much as I pay for a whole organic, free-range chicken. In both cases we’re paying a whole lot for convenience with very little nutrition.

The Dairy Debate

(Deep breath) Dairy is tricky. It’s another one of those topics that have a lot of differing opinions and recommendations.  (I find it interesting, though, that both the vegans and the paleos share the same opinion — avoiding it entirely. It’s the government recommendations that lead the dairy train, which is no surprise considering the dairy council helps create those recommendations. Conflict of interest much?) I’m not going to go into all of the details here about the controversy surrounding dairy, but instead I’ve included some articles in the Resource section that I found helpful.

From what I’ve read, diets that are heavy in dairy are just asking for trouble, and because of this we’re not milk drinkers. I might buy a half gallon a month if I’m making ice cream or need it for something special. The dairy that we do consume is mostly yogurt, cheese, & butter. We also make sure to eat a lot of dark, leafy greens, which are high in calcium. FYI – calcium that is obtained from plant-based sources is absorbed by the body better than from dairy.

If you choose to consume dairy, your best option is raw. Pasteurization kills all of the helpful enzymes in milk, but because of the non-ideal condition in which most cows are raised, pasteurizing their milk is necessary to avoid spreading disease. (Farms that raise their dairy cattle on fresh grass don’t have this problem.) Raw (non-pasteurized) milk isn’t even legal in some states. (Mine included.) Your next best option is to find a local dairy that offers dairy products from grass-fed cows. If you can’t find (or afford) that, choose organic dairy products, or at the very least, hormone-free, from your grocery store. Hormone-free dairy products are pretty easy to find these days. Look for “RBST-free” or something similar on the label.

A note about yogurt — buy organic, full-fat plain yogurt. (I personally like Greek.) The flavored stuff is full of sugar, flavorings, and preservatives. If you buy it plain and unsweetened, YOU can decide how sweet you want it (if at all) and what type of sweetener to add. Why full-fat? When they take the fat out of a product, it has to be replaced with something — more sugar, more flavorings, and even thickeners are very common. Just buy full-fat (this applies to all dairy) and consume less of it. (Or make your own! See Resources below.) We’ll talk more about fat next time.

Some choose to avoid dairy entirely, sometimes due to intolerance, and that’s not such a bad thing. Human beings really don’t need dairy. There’s nothing that we get from dairy that we can’t get from other sources. Our family would probably do away with it completely, but… the problem is… I really like cheese. And yogurt. And ice cream. Everyone has their hang-ups in this whole process, and dairy is truly my kryptonite when transitioning to a cleaner diet. I’ve quit drinking cow’s milk, but I have a long way to go still.

Animal-Free Protein Alternatives

Legumes

Like grains, strict paleo/primal eaters don’t consume beans or other legumes. We do, once or twice a week, because we truly can’t afford (or want) to eat meat every single day. I used to be scared of cooking dry beans, but I found a few sources online that helped out with that (See Resources below). I rarely buy canned beans anymore. I cook a big batch and freeze them in empty yogurt containers. Not only is it much cheaper this way, but we avoid the BPA which is common in canned goods. Sprouting beans and other legumes helps to boost their nutritional content and helps them to be more digestible. (Same with grains — see the article in the Resources section) I haven’t ventured into sprouting, but it’s next on my list.

The Deal with Soy

Soy should be avoided unless it’s been fermented, like miso, tempeh (common meat substitute), and tamari (true, wheat-free soy sauce). We don’t eat tofu, edamame or consume any kind of soy-based dairy replacements. Here’s why soy isn’t the “health food” it’s proclaimed to be. (If you don’t want to read the whole article, you can get the basic idea by reading the conclusion.) I’ll just leave it at that.

Assignment!

Are you still with me?? This topic is kind of a tough one to navigate. If you have any questions about anything in this post, leave a comment or shoot me a message. For this week…

1. If you eat meat daily, try going meat-free for a day or two this week!

OR

2. Research and price out clean meat sources in your area. You may be surprised how affordable it can be.

Not too hard, right?

Resources

Helpful websites

Sites for finding sources of meat and other organic products: Local Harvest, Eat Wild, Eat Well Guide
Sources for raw milk around the US: http://www.realmilk.com/where.html
Download a Monterey Bay Seafood Watch pocket guide for your region!
Proper Preparation of Grains & Legumes (soaking & sprouting) – Weston A Price website
Cooking Dry Beans in a Slow Cooker – Kayln’s Kitchen
Making Yogurt in a Slow Cooker – A Year of Slow Cooking (I’ve tried this several times and LOVE it when it’s strained like Greek yogurt!)
Homemade Greek Yogurt (stovetop/oven method) – Annie’s Eats

related Articles

Splendor from the Grass – Weston A Price website (A bit long, but an EXCELLENT article about grass-raised animals and the effect factory farming has on the animals, the nutrients in their meat, and the environment.)
Why You Don’t Want to Drink Pasteurized Milk – Mercola.com
The Soy Controversy – Weston A. Price website

Recipes

Recipes to stretch your meat

Hidden Veggie Chipotle Taco Meat
Sweet Potato Foil Packet Tacos
Stacked Chicken & Zucchini Enchiladas
Crispy Shredded Chicken Tacos
Balsamic Grilled Chicken Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette
Mexican Chicken & “Rice”
Thai Shrimp Curry with Summer Squash
Southwest Chicken & Barley Soup (good with or without chicken)
Russian Palace’s Borscht
Hearty Cheeseburger Soup
Zuppa Toscana

Eggy dinner ideas

Egg Curry
Roasted Chiles Rellenos Bake
Mayo-Free Egg Salad
Huevos Rancheros in Tortilla Cups
Fried Eggs with Southwest Cabbage Slaw
Bacon, Kale, & Sweet Potato Breakfast Burritos

Our vegetarian favorites

Chipotle-Roasted Vegetable Layered Salad
Curried Potato, Chickpea & Corn Burgers
Portobello & Black Bean Enchiladas
Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas (a crazy-popular one on my site! Just add some beans for protein if you like.)
Spiced Lentils
Lentil-Scallion Fritters with Goat Cheese
Vegetarian Sweet Potato Chili

Are you enjoying the series so far? If so, spread the word!

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Other posts in this series: (links will be added as posts are published)

Introduction
Fruits & Vegetables
Whole Grains
Healthy Fats
Processed Food
Sweets

Photo Credits: Shutterstock, Perry’s Plate (eggs & chicken)

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42 Responses to “Staying Whole in a Processed World: Getting Your Protein”

  1. 1

    Kathryn — April 24, 2012 @ 8:25 am

    Another great post, Natalie!
    And I feel your pain. I’ve been on a clean meat kick for a couple months now, and it’s difficult (and expensive) to find it. My grocery bill is getting ridiculous, but hopefully my family will be able to transition to eating out much less to save the money. I also sympathize with your dairy dilema. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give up cheese. Maybe it’s my undying love for Italian food :)

    [Reply]

    • Natalie replied: — April 24th, 2012 @ 8:35 am

      I think some of the cost (for us at least) is offset by not getting sick and having to pay for doctor visits/medicine, etc. I’m glad you can sympathize :) I’m such a sucker for cheese…

    • Kathryn replied: — April 24th, 2012 @ 10:17 am

      oh I forgot to ask you… have you actually made yogurt?? It sounds like a great idea! But since I can buy the good stuff at Trader Joe’s for about 2.99 a quart, I wonder if it would be more economical to make my own? Does the milk evaporate a bit and result in smaller quantities?

    • Natalie replied: — April 24th, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

      YES! I went through a phase last fall where I made yogurt for a couple of months. (I used that crock pot method I linked up there.) It works really well (when you don’t forget about…. oops.) I really liked it, especially strained. I didn’t notice any significant evaporation either. I did a 1/2 gallon of milk at a time and ended up filling 2 quart-sized yogurt containers. I strained it, too, a few times (which I like better), and ended up with one quart of Greek yogurt. I went back to buying yogurt, though. I think if I was using raw milk or a really high quality of milk it might have made it worth it. We go through a lot of yogurt, and it was becoming kind of a pain to keep us stocked. So I just buy that kind at TJ’s or a Greek, hormone-free kind at the grocery store.

  2. 2

    Julie — April 24, 2012 @ 8:43 am

    What a timely post for me! My hubs and I just wanted Forks Over Knives on Sunday and we have been having a discussion about cutting our meat consumption (you can go to my blog to see my reflections from Monday….http://bunnygoround.blogspot.com/). Thanks for sharing this great information….I am at work but will read more in depth later. And I am totally with you on the cheese!! :)

    [Reply]

    • Julie replied: — April 24th, 2012 @ 8:44 am

      Meant “watched” not “wanted” above!

    • Natalie replied: — April 24th, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

      Thank you! I really need to see that documentary. I’ve heard a lot about it, but… not necessarily all good things. I guess my biggest “beef” (heh) is that relies heavily on the China Study, which is seriously flawed. (They don’t distinguish between those eating factory farmed meat and organic, grass-fed meat. HUGE difference.) I can’t say much, though, because i’ve never seen it. But just getting rid of processed food and eating more plant-based food is huge as well!

  3. 3

    Erin @ Texanerin Baking — April 24, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

    Wow, what a thorough and fantastic article. Are you saying that you can buy clean meat for $5 and over? I really have no idea how much it costs in the US. I’ve looked in Germany and for chicken, and bio Haehnchenbrustfilet is $33/kg or $15/lb. Sometimes we walk by the organic chicken and think about buying it, but then just walk away and get the normal chicken breast at $6/kg. My husband keeps saying that when he’s no longer a student we’ll buy the good stuff, but… I just wish it were cheaper! But like you said, we should eat less meat so maybe it’s not such a big problem.

    I guess one good thing is that beef is grass fed here (at least that’s what I’ve read) but the beef is so terrible, we get the stuff from Argentina and who knows about that.

    Thanks again for the interesting article and I have to tell you something! You know how you said in one of the previous posts that people who dislike vegetables just haven’t had properly prepared vegetables? And I said no no no, I just hate them? Today I tried some really spicy roasted carrots that didn’t taste like carrots at all! They tasted like potatoes and they were amazing! I actually like carrots! A vegetable. I’m so excited! I have to see if I can put tons of spice on other stuff so that I can no longer taste the vegetable. :)

    [Reply]

    • Natalie replied: — April 24th, 2012 @ 5:14 pm

      Whoa… expensive! I’ve seen some types of wild fish (like Dover sole) sell for $4.99 per pound. Organic, free-range (not pastured) chicken breasts go for about $5.99. Whole, organic, free-range chickens are between 2.50-3.50 per pound, depending on where you go. (That’s still over $10 a bird in most cases.) So ya… it isn’t cheap, but it sounds like Europe is even more expensive! No surprise I guess :)

      I LOVE your carrot conversion story :) Maybe extra spice is your ticket to liking more vegetables! I love it!

    • Erin @ Texanerin Baking replied: — April 25th, 2012 @ 4:48 am

      Oh wow. That’s great news! $5.99 is definitely doable. :)

      I’m about to make more of those roasted carrots and I bought some broccoli to see if the spice will kill that flavor too. I guess I might be ruining the nutritional value somewhat by roasting them so long that they no longer taste like carrots, but I suppose that’s better than not eating them. Or eating a pound (really) of roasted potatoes in their place.

      Thanks for sharing the prices! My husband and I are both very happy to see that we can afford better meat in the US than we can here.

  4. 4

    cassie — April 24, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

    Natalie, you are truly a gem for writing these posts. I know that they are time consuming but you are sharing such valuable information. We eat meatless 3-4 times per week and I usually eat vegetarian meals when eating out, just for the pure fact that I’m not sure what kind of meat the restaurant serves. I buy mostly fish and chicken for our meals at home so since I buy less, I don’t mind spending a bit more. Luckily, we have a few stores in Kansas City that sell really good meat so I don’t have to try too hard to find it, I just have to be willing to shell out the $$ for it!

    We don’t do much dairy either. Yogurt is sporadic and if I buy a half-gallon of milk, I usually end up throwing some out because it goes bad before we eat it all. We are trying to make positive changes and reading these posts has really helped re-energize me for good strides moving forward! Thank you, again!

    [Reply]

    • Natalie replied: — April 24th, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

      Thanks Cassie! I’m glad you’re enjoying them. It sounds like we have really similar eating habits. I often go vegetarian when we eat out, too, for the same reasons. :)

  5. 5

    Valerie at The Year of Living Healthfully — April 24, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

    Thanks for this wonderful post! My husband and I have cut our meat consumption way down over the past four months with the idea that when we eat it we can afford better meat. It’s amazing how much better it tastes. Like you we have also found that we can prepare a better tasting healthier beef dish than buying steak out. So mostly we save our restaurant trips for great pasta! We have also been looking into buying local meat. Thanks for the guidelines on what to look for in terms of labeling. That is very helpful. What a great series! Thanks for all your’e doing.

    [Reply]

    • Natalie replied: — April 24th, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

      You’re so welcome! Quality is definitely better than quantity when it comes to meat. I SO agree. We save restaurant trips for special things, too! Mostly sushi and some types of ethnic food that are hard to replicate at home (Indian, Thai). Glad that you’ve had success as well!

  6. 6

    Jodi — April 24, 2012 @ 6:41 pm

    This is the topic that TRULY overwhelms me! Over the last year I’ve made significant changes to the way we eat, but I feel like I’m falling apart in the kitchen! I’m to a point where I’ve totally stepped away from the way I used to cook, and now I just have no idea what to do (okay, some days go really well, others not so much-today was one of those days!)…the way I used to cook is the only way my mother ever cooked, so I’ve just never learned any other way. ANYWAY, my point is, I’m afraid to completely transition to doing the “right” thing with meat and dairy, because it will feel like taking that last step over the cliff. I’m in over my head, aren’t I? I don’t know how to afford clean meat. We do eat A LOT less dairy than we used to. I use milk sometimes with cooking, and in the morning with my granola. What does your family eat for breakfast? My baby is just about to turn 1 and I’ve really been stressing what I’m going to do about the milk thing. I’m not against giving him some cow’s milk, but I want some other options. Any suggestions?

    [Reply]

    • Natalie replied: — April 25th, 2012 @ 9:55 am

      Hi Jodi,
      It sounds like you’ve made a lot of major changes! If the whole thing stresses you out, then maybe it’s time to take a step back and get into a comfortable place instead of making more changes. Not all days or weeks are easy for us either. I still have days where I feel like buying a bunch of frozen pizzas and calling it good. Honest. Transitioning IS hard, and it’s taken us several years to get to the point we’re at. Please don’t fall apart! :)

      What do we eat for breakfast? We eat a lot of the same things… steel-cut oats, scrambled eggs, homemade granola on fruit with some yogurt (That’s actually more of a fruit salad because there’s a lot more fruit in the bowl than granola), pancake/waffles/muffins (sometimes on the weekends). Those are our basics.

      I’m not a pediatrician, but I can tell you what we did with our kids and why. Most pediatricians will tell you to give him a couple glasses of milk a day because that’s what they are taught in school, and that’s what the gov’t recommends. (By now, you can probably tell we’re not so keen on that. Haha.) We were researching this kind of stuff when my oldest was a little over a year. After I weaned her at a year, she drank some milk, but not a ton. We read into the effect that dairy-heavy diets have on allergies/asthma in children, so we decided to limit milk and eventually stopped altogether. (I have a lot of asthma and allergies in my family.) So after my kids were weaned, they ate regular food (which should be the substitute for breastmilk/formula, not milk) and gave them water to drink. We avoid fruit juice as well, and I’ll talk about that in a later post. If you’re concerned about fat/calories that might be lost in the milk, make sure your baby makes up for it in the food he eats and maybe try almond milk on occasion. (If nut allergies aren’t a worry.) I hope that helps!

    • Jodi replied: — April 25th, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement! I know, I need to take more baby steps. There was a time in the beginning when I felt so overwhelmed and just stopped buying tons of food I usually bought, but hadn’t yet learned how to replace it (and it was winter in New England when nothing grows)…my husband felt like I was starving him to death- haha- I took care of that problem though!

      I guess the reason I feel so reluctant to not give the baby some kind of milk is because it has been pounded into my brain all my life that it’s supposed to be that way, right?! But I realize, as I have with all other areas, why did I ever listen to what the government says I should eat? I also never give him fruit juice. Nice to know that just no milk is an option. What do you think about goat’s milk, have you tried it? I’m wondering if this would be a better option for the small amount of milk he will have.

    • Natalie replied: — April 28th, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

      I forgot until you mentioned it, but we did do goat’s milk for a while. I felt better about that because I don’t think goats are “factory farmed” to the extent that cows are. I personally don’t like the flavor, but my daughter didn’t mind it. The problem was that it was expensive and we couldn’t get through a quart before it spoiled. So I quit buying it. It might work for you, though!

  7. 7

    Joanne — April 24, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

    To be honest, I stopped eating meat because I felt I didn’t really have access to reasonably priced clean meat and now I’ve continued to not eat meat because I love the way it makes me feel. But I think your mentality towards it is spot on!

    [Reply]

    • Natalie replied: — April 25th, 2012 @ 9:57 am

      Thanks Joanne! It’s so interesting how different people can feel towards the same foods. I love the way I feel when I don’t eat a lot of wheat. :)

  8. 8

    Lauren — April 24, 2012 @ 7:31 pm

    We are slowly making the transition getting off all the meat. We don’t really miss it and it’s so much cheaper! That soy article was a really interesting read. Who knew soy wasn’t all it’s cracked out to be?

    [Reply]

    • Natalie replied: — April 25th, 2012 @ 9:57 am

      I know, right? :)

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    Michelle — April 25, 2012 @ 6:35 am

    This is all new to me. You did a great job of explagreatining everything! I already have a bean based meal ix/week, but I would like to start cutting down on or eliminating milk and going organic with ground beef (which we DO eat 1x/wk). I’m curious what you have found for average prices on the beef and what your family eats for breakfast. I am not a big egg eater so I usually opt for some great cereals I have or oatmeal….with skim milk. Help!

    [Reply]

    • Michelle replied: — April 25th, 2012 @ 6:36 am

      LOL….”explagreatining” = a great job explaining!

    • Natalie replied: — April 25th, 2012 @ 10:06 am

      Michelle, I love that word. It’s so much more efficient — 4 words in one! The only organic, grass-fed ground beef I’ve found in stores is at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. I believe it was between $6-8 per pound. Sometimes Whole Foods will have it on sale so I’ll stock my freezer. Other cuts are more expensive, chuck roast and stew meat being the most affordable at around $8 a pound. That’s why I’m really interested in buying a share of beef. Ranches around here (depending on the quantity and type of meat you want) will give you a flat $5-8 per pound price on the whole package (ground beef, roasts, steaks, etc).

      What do we eat for breakfast? We eat a lot of the same things over and over… steel-cut oats (made with water, fruit added, and maybe a spoonful of yogurt), scrambled eggs, homemade granola on fruit with some yogurt (That’s actually more of a fruit salad because there’s a lot more fruit in the bowl than granola), pancake/waffles/muffins (sometimes on the weekends). Those are our basics. I guess we’re using yogurt as our milk replacement for cereals, but only use a small amount. I haven’t branched out far from that… mostly because we have those things on hand and we’re kind of in a routine. It would be good to figure out some convenient breakfast ideas that don’t rely so much on milk (or yogurt, huh?). Good post idea :)

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    Renee — April 25, 2012 @ 11:37 am

    I love how you say that fish is the easy one! I was just talking with my husband about this last night. Fish is actually pretty tricky; if you look at the Monterey Bay Aquarium seafood guide, they don’t recommend wild-caught 100%. There are certain fish that are raised on farms that are better (greener, cleaner) than those that are wild-caught. I have nearly gone crazy trying to find the fish that they recommend on their list, both the green-light ones and even the yellow-light ones; part of the problem is in the labeling because not every label says where the fish is from and how it was raised/caught (MBA even talks about HOW the fish are caught, as in by line or trolling, etc.). My kids and I would LOVE to eat more fish but the problem for us is finding the good stuff and getting enough of it – my kids eat a TON of it when we do have it. I feel bad limiting the amount of fish that they eat because they’re tiny little things and I like to encourage them to eat stuff that’s really good for them. I’ll investigate more when I go to Costco next time to see if there is anything there that I can stock-up on.

    [Reply]

    • Natalie replied: — April 28th, 2012 @ 7:44 pm

      You know, you’re right. I forget that the availability of fish varies wildly depending on where you live. We live about 4 hours from the west coast, so maybe that’s why I have an easier time finding wild-caught fish. Good luck on your search!

      As far as the Monterey Bay recommendations go, they only make recommendations according to what’s environmentally friendly, not according to what’s better for your body. I still wouldn’t buy farmed fish, even if Monterey Bay put it on the green list.

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    Kristin — April 25, 2012 @ 6:06 pm

    Again, thank you so much for doing this! I’m sure this series is very time-consuming for you, but I really appreciate it! We are still in the “student budget” phase right now :) and it makes me cringe about how expensive clean meat is, but then again I always cringe more when I think about what is actually IN the “dirty” cheap meat….we don’t eat a lot of meat either, but thanks for the great ideas for how to get the most bang for your buck!
    I find it interesting that pediatricians and dieticians push dairy so much…I recently weaned my baby and felt kinda weird about giving him cow’s milk. I’m actually trying to transition him to almond or rice milk now…does your family drink either of those?

    [Reply]

    • Natalie replied: — April 28th, 2012 @ 7:52 pm

      Thanks Kristin! I go through the same dilemma when it comes to meat. The feeling of being grossed out almost always outweighs the feeling of spending too much on clean meat. ;)

      Almond milk would be a better choice than rice milk, especially if nut allergies aren’t an issue. (Rice milk has almost no nutritional value… just synthetic vitamins added to make it “enriched” that the body may or may not absorb.) I don’t like the taste of almond milk, which is mostly why we don’t drink that either. :) But that would be my choice between the two.

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    Heather — April 26, 2012 @ 6:21 pm

    Thanks for the reply earlier about giving your child real food and some almond milk instead of cow’s milk- I had the same question. I am totally overwhelmed by this information and don’t think I can make most of these changes just yet, but I am so glad to you have put the information in such a simple, readable format so that when my family IS ready, we have some good information. I’m sure it is very time consuming, but obviously people appreciate it!

    [Reply]

    • Natalie replied: — April 28th, 2012 @ 7:52 pm

      Thanks so much for saying so! A lot of the same questions are coming up. Maybe a FAQ post might be nice at the end of the series? :)

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    Natasha — April 26, 2012 @ 9:36 pm

    I miss you soooooooooooo much. I have been very overwhelmed with caring for my two little ones plus watching a very active 3rd child to gain a little extra money. So needless to say i have not blogged, read blogs or scarcely read e-mails for the last while. This post has been such a great reminder to me. Do you remember once, in the school days, we were talking about how we want to do these things but how we both get defensive because of the way our husbands tend to go about informing us of this valuable information? Well I still struggle with that and last week seemed to be a climatic point. So when i saw your post I was reminded that I do have great friends with like minded goals and ways of thinking. Thank you for finding the time to express yourself so that I can still feel like I get to sit down and chat with my good friend every time I visit. You amaze me! Please tell the girls hi from my little man and a hearty hello from my man to yours. hugs

    [Reply]

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    Annie — April 27, 2012 @ 10:16 am

    I’m loving this series. So glad you’re doing it! I also have a yogurt post on my blog that doesn’t require a slow-cooker, just in case that’s an issue for anyone. We no longer buy yogurt at the store, and make our own mix-ins.

    [Reply]

    • Natalie replied: — April 28th, 2012 @ 7:53 pm

      Thanks Annie! Good to know about the recipe! I’ll search your blog and add that link to the resource section. :)

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    Abby — April 29, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

    Wow! Such a fabulous post and right up my alley. I try to post about these topics as well, it’s so important! One little piece of info I’d add is that Grass Fed beef is usually fed grains (and sometimes antibiotics) right before well…you know…in order to bulk it up a bit more. Grass Finished Beef is the only beef that has not been fed corn, etc. It’s so hard to find though, grass fed is definitely much better than straight corn fed beef. Anyways, thank you so much for such a comprehensive post!

    [Reply]

    • Natalie replied: — May 2nd, 2012 @ 9:23 pm

      Good point. I should have mentioned to look for 100% grass fed instead of just grass fed. Thanks for making that distinction!

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    Kristin — May 1, 2012 @ 6:23 pm

    We usually buy full-fat dairy (yogurt, sour cream if we get it, etc) because I’ve noticed all of the “unpronounceables” in the ingredient list, except when we buy cow’s milk, because I haven’t noticed any weird ingredients on that (just nonfat milk, vitamin A & D)…do you still think full-fat milk is the better option? Also, what do you usually replace milk with in cooking? I’d love to hear any great ideas you have!

    [Reply]

    • Natalie replied: — May 3rd, 2012 @ 10:22 pm

      I would still buy whole milk if you choose to do dairy. Skim milk is actually a weird gray-blue color after they remove the fat, so the add a bunch of powdered milk to help with the texture and color. Also, fat is needed to absorb vitamins A & D, which are fat-soluble. (Same rationale for not using fat-free salad dressing as salad greens another vegetables have a lot of fat-soluble vitamins.)

      I don’t really use milk in cooking or I try not to make things that require milk. In baking (which isn’t too often, too), I’ll use buttermilk or coconut milk. You could also use almond milk and rice milk (I think… I’ve never actually used rice milk.) There are those occasions where I’ll buy milk (like if I’m making ice cream or a special dessert) especially for a recipe, but it doesn’t happen often. I hope that helps!

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    Rachel — August 1, 2012 @ 8:09 am

    Are you saying that it is better to buy whole milk than reduced fat milk? I am a little confused on what type of milk is best to get from a typical grocery store. (One of the downsides to living in the desert-its very hard to find a farmer!)

    [Reply]

    • Rachel replied: — August 1st, 2012 @ 8:10 am

      I actually see the answer to my question! Love these articles they are super helpful!

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