I never realized how bad I was at reading labels until recently when it came time to clean out the pantry. Historically, during my grocery store runs, I would grab things off the shelves and take a quick look at the amount of sugar, carbs and fat. Although I have never had any true guidelines of what I wanted to stay under, I would debate for a second as to whether or not it met my standards. Then, I’d give a quick glance at the bottom of the ingredient list to see if there was an allergen statement about the product containing any peanuts. And if I had my children with me on said grocery run, you can forget that I looked at any of that as I am usually trying to get down those aisles faster than an episode of supermarket sweep.
One of my New Years Resolutions this year was to focus on my health. I started off by completing a 30 day Transform Challenge with Abundio’s Fit Society, which I plan to do a post over later this month. I knew that once the challenge was over, I didn’t want to fall back into my old habits of eating poorly and feeling even worse.
I recently heard about a company called Engage Your Wellness. Based in Fort Worth and created by Dabney Poorter, Engage Your Wellness is a company dedicated to providing wellness and nutrition education to support healthy lifestyle changes. They offer many services including group classes and individual coaching. What intrigued me the most, however, was the hands-on approach of the wellness home remodel service. This services includes a complete clean-out of the pantry, refrigerator, cleaning and medicine cabinets and is typically done in phases. I decided to give Dabney a call and set up a session to start in the kitchen.
A few days before our session, Dabney, emailed me a questionnaire asking for some of our families favorite snacks as well as items that we thought would be hard to replace. I had just completed the challenge a couple of days before our session. Therefore, because I was already eating clean, I honestly couldn’t think of anything that I was truly worried about getting rid of. It was actually a little difficult for me to answer as I didn’t know what all we would be tossing, but my biggest fear was taking away items that the kids loved. Don’t get me wrong, they have their fair share of fruits and vegetables throughout the day, but like any other toddler out there, they love their snacks. Goldfish, graham crackers…you know, the basics. I had to quickly change my mindset from taking away the things that they love to replacing those items with healthier alternatives.
This doesn’t mean that my children are never going to have ice cream again. As a mother herself, Dabney has established a “sometimes” and “always” rule with her children and has passed that principle on to her clients. For example, “It’s ok to sometimes treat ourselves to dessert,” or “You can always have an apple.” Every family is different. Some families might have dessert once a week, while others might have it once a month. Distinguish the difference between your sometimes and your always and be consistent.
What really surprised me during my session with Dabney, however, was that there were several items that I actually thought were “healthier alternatives.” We are so often mislead by the “100 Calorie” print on the label that we lose interest in reading any further nutritional information. 100 calories? Say no more! This session with Dabney has been a huge learning experience for me and I was very surprised by some of the things we had to toss. While I won’t share all of her secrets, partially because we spent 4 hours together and I could probably write a book on everything that I have learned, but also because everyone has different dietary needs (gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, etc.) I highly recommend that you give her a call so she can set up a time to meet with you and give you recommendations based off of you and your families needs.
The first hour of my session with Dabney included a nutrition consultation. Other than the brief lessons I received in grade school over the food pyramid, I haven’t ever really educated myself on how to properly build a meal. Dabney covered all of that as well as portion sizing and nutrient density. It goes much deeper than just eating healthy foods as she stressed the importance of eating the right amount and combination of those foods in order to meet your bodies nutritional needs. She also shared several recipes and gave me so many meal ideas for my picky toddlers!
After our nutrition consultation was complete, we moved on to the pantry. Other than tossing the Girl Scout cookies in a random cabinet 2 minutes before Dabney’s arrival, I didn’t really ‘prepare’ for the full clean-out. I had joked with her that I should have tossed some of the things that I already knew weren’t going to make the cut…but I made full disclosure…minus the Girl Scout cookies. 😉
I wish I would have taken a photo of all of the things we cleared out, but the more I think about it, perhaps it was a good thing that that moment of my life was left undocumented. I am kind of embarrassed to admit that it was a lot! I should note that things that were unopened and not expired were donated to a local food pantry.
A FEW CHANGES WE HAVE MADE My kids have oatmeal almost every morning for breakfast. We used this oatmeal. It has 100 calories per serving, 4g fiber, 1g sugar and 3g protein. I assumed that it was healthy based off of those facts alone, but when Dabney and I went to read the ingredient label, we saw ‘natural and artificial flavor’. I knew artificial flavoring was not ideal, but when we see the term ‘natural flavor’, we assume it is acceptable? Wrong. Natural flavors may derive from ‘natural’ sources, such as produce, but are typically enhanced in a lab with anywhere from 50-100 ingredients. We don’t really know, so anytime you see the term natural or artificial flavors, steer clear. This is an article that I found that goes a little more in-depth about natural and artificial flavors. We replaced this item with some Rolled Oats by Trader Joes. Note that they are totally unflavored, so if you need something added, try sliced bananas or fresh blueberries on top!
I don’t have many vices in life, but I love a good cup of coffee. I have about one cup a day, unless I attend a 5:30 or 6:00 am workout class at Abundio’s, then a lot of times I usually skip it. But on a typical day, I use the Donut Shop coffee K-Cups and have it with 1/2 packet of Truvia and the Vanilla Flavored Silk Almond Milk Creamer. I still have dairy occasionally, but a couple of years ago I started cutting back on it and the biggest change was my coffee creamer. I thought by having an almond milk creamer, I was making significant progress but it still contains natural flavors. I have spent the last couple of weeks testing out new coffee creamer alternatives. My favorite so far as been the Kelapo Coconut Oil and Ghee packets (which also comes in this jar). It gives the coffee a very “buttery” taste if you will. I was honestly really surprised that I liked it as I have never been able to drink my coffee without creamer. We replaced the Truvia with Liquid Stevia Drops from Trader Joes which are Engage Your Wellness approved! Another alternative that I have really been liking is the Vital Proteins Collagen Creamer. It is in a powder form, contains 10g of protein and comes in 3 flavors. I still add a few Liquid Stevia Drops to this as well.
Dabney also reviewed my multi-vitamin, which passed the test! But she did stress the importance of introducing a probiotic into your daily routine. She brought over samples of a product called Ether Elixir, and let me tell you, this might be my favorite thing she has introduced me to! It is a 100% Juice Kefir that contains billions of live and active probiotics…and it’s delicious! You can have anywhere from 1-2 ounces a day, or the entire 5 ounce bottle if you wish! I prefer to have mine in the evenings after dinner as a little treat! What’s even better? It is made locally in Fort Worth, and you know I love supporting my local Fort Worth businesses. My favorite flavors are Strawmarry Me and Pear Fect! If you are local, you can get them at Sunflower Shop and Local Foods Kitchen (another favorite place of mine!). They are also available via Amazon Fresh.
Another takeaway from my session with Dabney was the importance of purchasing organic produce, especially if you will be eating the skin. Think apples, bell peppers, carrots, etc. Those are especially important as it will help reduce your intake of consuming pesticides. Items such as avocados that have a thicker skin that you obviously won’t be eating are not as big of a concern, however, make sure you wash them thoroughly. Dabney pointed out that when you are slicing your avocado, your knife is cutting through that skin and potentially contaminating the interior of your avocado with whatever pesticides may be living on the outside. And when I say wash, I don’t mean hold it under the water for a few seconds (I’m talking to you Hugh Connor!). Use a spray that is specifically made for fruits and vegetables. This is the one I use.
It has been a couple of weeks since my session with Dabney, and what have I noticed? I feel different…I feel better. Even my husband said the other day that he has noticed a change in how he feels and we totally contribute that to the changes we have made in our diets. For the past couple of years, every morning, even after two cups of coffee, I would still be tired. I honestly just assumed it was because I had two toddlers, two dogs, I was building a house, moving, starting a blog, etc., and it was just going to be part of life. I would just have a sluggish feeling lingering all day long and I was actually starting to accept the fact that I was going to be tired for the rest of my life. But today I truly feel better than ever and I could not have done it without the help of Engage Your Wellness. Aside from nutrition consulting, they offer full home wellness remodels which includes the evaluation of cleaning and beauty products, which we will be doing later this month! To learn more about the services that Engage Your Wellness offers, head to their website here.
Photos by Maria Ciszek