A Grace Filled Approach to a Healthier Lifestyle

By Ashley Roe, Contributing Writer

When I got married about five years ago, my idea of healthy living consisted of eating anything low fat or junk masquerading as so called health food. I knew it was a good idea to exercise but rarely did it and I thought those diet sodas in my fridge were actually good for me, or at least not that bad. Now don’t get me wrong, I knew it was good to eat fruits and vegetables too but the idea of real food or a clean diet were foreign to me.

A Grace Filled Approach to a Healthier Lifestyle - Young Wifes Guide

The Beginning of My Healthy Living Journey

Fast forward a couple of years and things had started to change. I found myself sluggishly trudging through the days. The alarm clock would go off in the morning and I would groan at the thought of having to start another day…already. Sure life had been hard, dealing with unemployment and the stress of not knowing if the bills would get paid which didn’t exactly make life enjoyable but I knew that wasn’t all that was causing my growing list of symptoms.

I began to take a closer look at what I was putting in my body and like my normal self began to immerse myself in research. I found information about real food, clean eating, natural lifestyle, reducing intake of medication and so much more. However, this overload of information was completely overwhelming. I had no idea what to believe and it became a scary thought that everything I was putting into my body had some potential hazard attached.

I wanted to forget all the research and go back to being clueless about it all. That was until I found out something about a medication I had been taking that made me revisit the idea of a healthier more natural lifestyle.

I contemplated if this medication could really be the culprit of some of my symptoms. I dove in a little deeper with researching and became convinced that I needed to stop taking it immediately. That was when I finally made the decision that I needed to be more aware of what I was putting in my body as well as the positive or negative effects that it could have.


I wish I could say that when I stopped the medication, my body went back to normal and all was fine but that isn’t the case. I firmly believe that stopping it was one of the best decisions I could have made for my health. Even though many of the symptoms linger years later, I still believe it was a good decision because it gave me the push I needed to start my journey to healthier lifestyle.

It was ultimately quitting this medication that caused me to jump back on the road to healthy living, but I didn’t dive into a natural approach to healthcare. Instead, I started with food.

My Real Food Journey

Five years ago you would find a lot of boxed dinners, diet soda, cheese crackers, skim milk, margarine, artificially flavored coffee creamer, etc. in our kitchen.

My cooking consisted of throwing something from a box or out of the freezer together into a meal. I had very little knowlege about how to cook from scratch. At the time I was a substitute teacher and so I took my lunches with me to work which were usually made up of cheese crackers, a sandwich and a diet soda with maybe the occasional piece of fruit. I drank mostly juice, soda and coffee and maybe water every once in a while. Exercise was also a rarity.

I was obviously not living the healthiest, not even by conventional standards but I thought that the skim milk and margarine in my fridge were okay at least.

Early in my marriage, I did start to become more interested in cooking and began to hone my skills in this area. When I decided to start changing my eating habits, I had already made some changes like kicking the soda habit and trying to cook more from scratch. However, at the time those changes were more for financial reasons rather than health reasons.

Once I made the choice to be more conscious about what I was putting in my body, I started making a few minor changes. It wasn’t without a lot of guilt and hesitation though.

Much like my initial immersion to natural living, I was so overwhelmed by all the research at first. I felt like putting one little thing that wasn’t considered real food into my body was taking myself to an early grave by consuming it. I know that sounds dramatic, but it often felt that way and it promoted a lot of guilt and shame for me in the early stages of learning about real food. I almost wanted to quit caring because it was all too much.

It was through this process that I stumbled on some natural living blogs that were more gracious in their approach. Once I saw that it was okay to take it one baby step at a time, I felt like I could finally move forward.

Real Food…One Step and a Time

As I mentioned before, I had already kicked my soda habit and was trying to cook more things from scratch so I was able to build on those things and decide what I could do next to make a step toward a healthy lifestyle.

I decided to start with my artificial coffee creamer. I had been more careful to look at labels of things I was buying and upon reading the label on a bottle of creamer, I decided it needed to go. At the time, I drank coffee everyday so this was one of the few things that I consistently put into my body on a daily basis. It wasn’t easy to let go of and I was even tempted by it while grocery shopping for a while. I started a new habit with my coffee which has evolved many times since then but I am happy to say that I no longer miss my old creamer. It also helped that I knew how to make great coffee drinks at home!

After kicking the creamer to the curb, I worked on slowly eliminating overly processed foods like crackers and cereals. I’ve since discovered some better options and will occasionally buy those instead of the kinds I was buying before so I don’t always make everything from scratch.

Healthy Living With Grace

Since this journey started, I have made some changes here and there. I have tried to put more fresh fruits and vegetables into my diet and when possible make things from scratch so I know what I am eating. However, I would be lying if I said that I eat whole, real food 100% of the time.

If you look in my fridge and cupboards today you would find leftovers from a meal I cooked this week, some fresh fruits, a few vegetables, some bricks of cheese, whole milk organic yogurt, local raw honey, quinoa, coconut milk coffee creamer, lots of plain nuts and even a couple loaves of Ezekiel bread.

But you know what? You will also find regular 2% milk, frozen potatoes, eggs that aren’t organic, jars of things like mayo or barbecue sauce, a loaf of regular whole wheat bread, some english muffins not made from scratch and I still have white flour and sugar that I use on occasion.

Part of me wants to justify why I have those things.

I can say that I do still try to look at labels even on packaged products so that I know what is in it. There are also some thing I keep around at the request of my husband since he isn’t as into real food as I am.

However, I do want to say that sometimes I just need something quick and the only thing that will do is frozen fries and chicken strips. Sometimes I am too exhausted to cook and so I have my husband order a pizza. Sometimes it just isn’t in the budget to buy organic. I want you to know that if this is you too, that’s okay!

Many times we think that issues of healthy living are on the same plane as the gospel, but guess what? It’s not! You are not committing a sin by eating a bag of processed potato chips or a handful of chocolate candy. I can’t say that I think it will help your waistline much but I promise you are not condemned for it (I know gluttony is wrong but that is not the issue I am addressing here).

I try to look at as a matter of moderation. I allow myself to enjoy some things that I know may not be considered healthy or real food but I try not to do it all the time. Sometimes I slip up and eat way too many chips than I should but I don’t have to let it totally ruin my progress.

So if you have decided that is time to make a few healthier changes then I want to root you on and say go for it! Please don’t let yourself get too overwhelmed like I did. Pick one or two things that you want to change that will make you feel healthier and start with that. Add on a few small changes at a time and you will be able to stick with it much easier than trying to do everything at once. Remember to give yourself grace along the way.

For More on Natural Living:

What Does Natural Living Have to Do With Being a Christian?


Taking Charge of Your Family’s Health…for God’s Glory!


Get canning!

By Rachel, Contributing Writer

Alright gals…whether you are an avid canner, have never canned before, or just need a little encouragement to get back into this amazing homemaking art, this post is for you!

I am slightly biased…I love canning.  It is a wonderful way to make the most of produce when it is in season and put it up for enjoying later in the year…when local produce may not be available and/or you’d have to pay a lot more for lovely, organic fruits and vegetables which helps you save money.

get into canning words

It also is a great way to use up all of your garden’s produce should you have a bumper crop of, say, green beans.  Not that I’ve ever been inundated with them before…  Canned goods make wonderful gifts (who doesn’t like a jar of homemade jam?!?) and they encourage you to eat whole/real foods throughout the year.

That said…how about some encouragement to get back in the swing of this resurging art or help light the fire to get you started?

5 Steps to Help You Get [Back] Into Canning

Find someone to can with

Canning is way more fun if you do it in community.  Yes, I just canned 20+ pounds of raspberries (jam, syrup, preserves, sauce, etc) on my own and loved every minute of it but it’s definitely more fun when you have someone to share it with.  My husband kept me company – and kept our 11 month old distracted – during part of the time but for the most part, I did this round of canning by myself during baby girl’s naps over a few days.  Check out this post on canning peaches for an example of canning with friends…

Gather up “new” mason jars

Mason jars are all the rage on Pinterest and in crafty gals’ blogs which is all well and good but they’re really in their element when used for their original purpose.  Have a little fun checking out local garage sales and thrift stores for some new jars.  You’ll probably find cute/short/square-ish ones, tall/skinny/quilted ones, or, if you’re really lucky, some old blue ones.  They actually revived the blue jar for the Perfect Mason Jar’s 100th anniversary so right now you can buy a 6 pack of pint size blue mason jars for around $10.00.  My hubby picked up a pack as my Mother’s Day present. :)  Anyways, even a few new jars will be a fun motivator to get going on a few preservation projects.

Put it on the calendar

Yes, canning takes a little time.  But not too much!  Regardless, if you’re reading this blog, you have lots of things to do to take care of your husband, home, family, job, etc.  You’re busy gals!  So put it in your phone/on your calendar/in your planner.  You just need an hour to tackle a small project.  Like homemade raspberry syrup.  You’ll be glad you set the time aside.

Choose some great produce to preserve

This is up to you!  I would choose something fruity, like raspberries.  I just finished making chocolate raspberry sauce, raspberry syrup, raspberry wine jelly, raspberry jam, and raspberry preserves.  My husband, though he does like raspberries, is a huge fan of dilly beans.  And remember that bumper crop of green beans?  They’re comin’ in again…which means I’ll be making dilly beans even though I can’t stand them.  But my hubby loves ’em so that’s my next project!

Anyways, the point is that you need to choose something you’ll love to open in a few months.  Whether it’s something to preserve the goodness of the present (it’s raspberry season here in the Pacific Northwest!) or something that hits your tongue just right (oh dilly beans…), choose something you can get excited about!

Put yourself in the story

Mason jars have been around for a long time.  The side of the box of the 100 year commemorative blue jars speaks to the hard work that goes into the products in a canning jar as well as speaks to the “spirit of building, craftsmanship, and innovation of past generations.”

I reflected on what I consider Mason Jar Values as

an act of thankfulness for the harvest at hand, an act of diligence to make use of the time and talents bestowed upon me to take care of my family, an act of living out heritage by looking to the past as a means of thriving in the future, and an act of trusting that hard work now will lead to a reward later.”

They’re not just a kitchen preservation tool…they are much, much more than that.  Whenever you take the time and put in the effort to can something, you insert yourself into a great and meaningful story.

So get canning, gals!  If you want/need further encouragement, please please PLEASE contact me.  I will so very happily email you back!  My husband will be even happier because then I won’t keep gushing to him about my latest canning exploits…

Tangy Summer Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

By Rachel, Contributing Writer

Hello again!  Stuck in a meal rut or just had one too many big meals with friends and family? Don’t get me wrong, summer barbeques are both tons of fun and quite delicious.  But if you’re anything like me, you go back for one too many servings of whatever your vice is (your aunt’s potato salad, perhaps?).  How does a fresh, crisp, summer salad sound?  Here’s a recipe that would make a great pairing for a simple piece of grilled chicken or wonderful on it’s own on those hot nights when you don’t want anything to do with a stove, barbeque, or oven.

salad 1


salad 2

What would you serve with this salad?

Leave a comment or fill out this form!

The Truth About Sugar: Why We Need to Cut Back

A discussion of whole foods doesn’t get very far without first addressing grains, and then sugar. Yes, sugar is a “natural” food but our white sugar we eat is highly processed and refined just like white flour.

Just like the refining process for wheat, when sugar is refined from sugar cane and sugar beet, 99.9% of it’s nutritional value is destroyed (source). Of course, what you are left with is empty nutrition-less calories. But we already know that right? No one eats sugar thinking that it’s healthy. It’s a splurge item, so what’s the big deal?

To read the rest of this article, head over to Homemaking from Scratch.


The Truth About Grains: White vs. Whole Wheat

During my Real foods Explained series, I have shared my journey to whole foods, what a whole/real foods diet is, and 4 benefits to eating whole foods. Now I would like to transition into some more practical topics of what it means to be a whole foods diet.

Before starting on my whole foods journey I didn’t know very much about grains. I knew the basics: white bread doesn’t contain very many nutrients; eat whole grains. So I bought my family a mid line (not too expensive but not the cheapest) whole wheat bread. Basically whatever whole wheat was on sale that week is what I got. But I didn’t really understand the basics of grains, carbs, and what we were eating as “healthy” bread. Here are the basics of grains.

This whole discussion can also be applied to corn, rice, pasta and more but for this post we will focus on bread.

What is “White” Flour

White flour is highly refined. Meaning, it has gone through an extensive process of making it shelf stable. Real pure whole wheat spoils very quickly. If left in the heat or in a pantry too long, pure whole wheat spoils! So back before refrigerators, or the ability to transport food across the country in refrigerated trains, an alternative to whole wheat was sought. They wanted flour that they could transport for weeks without it spoiling. Thus they started stripping whole wheat of all the things that cause it to spoil quickly.

Unfortunately, what makes flour spoil fast is all the good and healthy nutrients in it. See Understanding Grains to get a better picture of this. So in being able to store flour for a lot longer and being able to transport it across the country, we lost the nutrients in flour and are left with simple carbs instead of healthy and much needed complex carbs.


How Your Body Digests Grains (Carbs)

To understand what the difference between white and whole grains are, we must first understand how the body digests carbs. I didn’t fully understand this until last year, and suddenly whole grains made so much sense!

There are two types of carbs: Simple and Complex. I’m sure you have heard this before but if you are like me, never fully understood what it means.

Simple Carbs: are simple sugars. Simple sugars are things like table sugar, candy, refined flour (white flour), and soda. Simple carbs are absorbed into your blood steam very quickly as sugar. When you eat a piece of white bread, your body doesn’t think it’s getting nutritious wheat, it sees it purely as sugar entering your blood stream. Not only are the good qualities and nutrients of wheat taken out of white flour, it is basically sugar entering your body.

Complex Carbs: are still technically sugars but they are different. Complex carbs are made up of 3 or 4 sugar molecules linked in a chain. Because they are complex, it takes the body much longer to break them down. Because they take longer, not as much sugar enters the blood stream and these complex carbs contain all the nutrients of whole wheat. You may still get a little bit of sugar, but you are also reaping all vitamins, minerals and nutrients of the bread! You still don’t want a diet composed entirely of complex carbs, but they certainly have a place in a balanced diet. Read Simple vs Complex Carbohydrates for a more in depth look at carbs. See also, Nutrients in Refined vs. Whole Grains for a comparison.


Whole Grains Defined

So knowing now that white flour and breads are not healthy, how do you go about finding a healthy whole wheat flour or bread?

The first thing you want to look for is the label and how the bread is described. Stay away from products that are labeled “multi-grain”. This just means there are multiple grains involved, not if they are whole or refined.

You want to look for “100% whole grain”. This claims that the grains involved are 100% whole and not refined. Next, take a look at the label. Check how much sugar is in it. We find that even the healthiest whole wheat breads can contain a lot of unnecessary sugar. Check how much sodium is in it (especially if you are on a low sodium diet).

Then wonder down to the ingredients. Real, fresh bread only needs a handful of ingredients: whole wheat flour, water, yeast, maybe a bit of salt (although I leave salt out of my homemade bread), sometimes some honey or other additional items like nuts. If your bread contains 30-40 ingredients, there is something wrong!

Shop around and check stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joes, health food sections of your normal grocery store or make your own bread! I got a bread machine at a thrift store for $10! 3 years later and it still makes amazing bread, all I have to do is throw the ingredients into the machine and turn it on. One of our favorite recipes is Honey Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread.

Some argue that grains should be cut out of our diets completely. Some people may not be able to digest grains properly so maybe they should cut out grain from their diet. However others argue,

Some nutritional scholars believe that grains should be avoided completely, arguing that our bodies did not evolve to digest grains and they cause a downward spiral in many facets of your internal health. Source

Did you catch that? Some argue that our bodies did not evolve to digest grains. Well I have a problem with that right there. I do not believe in evolution. And in fact, when I study the Bible I see many instances of man eating bread and grains as a staple of their diet since the days of Adam. I think that grains can be a healthy and natural part of your diet as long as you are eating good, complex, whole grains that are as close to how God designed them to be as possible. And not pigging out on carbs alone.

Grains and what type of bread to buy can seem so daunting at first! But you really just have to remember a couple of things: Don’t buy white bread or flour, look for “whole grains” not “multi-grain”, and read the label and ingredients list! You will quickly get the hang of it and buying good nutritious bread will become second nature (or you will fall in love with making homemade bread like I did)!

Read more in the series {here} and come back all month long for more information, great recipes, tips, and a few awesome giveaways!