Many people see where our family is NOW on our journey with food and think that we’ve probably always been this way. Let me GUARANTEE you that we haven’t. Years ago, I not only laughed at people like me, but I didn’t believe that food affected anything in our lives. I trusted that if it was in the grocery store, then it must be fit to eat. I thought a calorie was a calorie and had no idea that what was in that calorie made a monumental difference in how we feel, and ultimately, our futures.
I was a busy mom—working full time as a high school English Teacher and pursuing a professional career in country music. I didn’t have time to think about nutrition. Shoot, I didn’t even know what that word meant! I ate Lean Cuisines, candy, fast food, casseroles, Pop-Tarts, low-fat or low-calorie anything, and pretty much everything else that was quick and easy. We were a family on the go—so McCall ate lots of fast food, Kid Cuisines, packaged foods, and more.
Despite my eating habits, I was petite—always have been, but I had no energy, headaches, earaches, digestive issues, dizziness—really, the list could go on and on. I ran every day to stay in shape, ate whatever I wanted, how much I wanted, and loaded up on sugar and diet coke each day to get me through that afternoon slump.
But when our oldest son was diagnosed with Eosinophilic Esophagitis, we began looking at labels and allergen warnings. This was the FIRST time I ever, ever thought about food or cared about food. The more I learned, the more I was intrigued. I started seeing patterns in what I read—that food can heal, that nutrients in a calorie matter, that God designed us to feel energized, that we have the power to change, rebuild, and restore our bodies at a cellular level.
I knew I didn’t feel well and knew that transforming my food routine was the only way to achieve the health I’ve always desired. I realized there was no magic pill or special diet that could do what a lifestyle full of nutrients, vitamins, organic fruits and veggies could do. And a lifestyle where I didn’t have to count or worry about calories? Talk about FREEDOM for this girl!!
For the first time in our lives, we became passionate about food—because we saw our children going through a painful and frustrating disease that we believe is largely tied to the changes made to our food supply over the last few decades. Because of their medical treatments and medical plans, we couldn’t give them much variety of foods, BUT, we could give them the best quality of whatever foods they could eat. No more chicken with hormones and antibiotics. No more apples sprayed with pesticides. No more food made in a lab. We would buy as local and organic as possible, visit the farms we buy from, teach our children what quality food is, and hopefully begin to restore their digestive health. Thus, our philosophy on food was born:
I know the word “organic” is one of those words. It might as well be four letters. I’m here to give you an overview, so next time you are confronted with the choice, you might consider choosing the small farmer over the large industrial company, the pure vegetable over the one chemically altered in a lab, or the meat from a local, free range animal rather than one who living in a CAFO who has been injected with hormones and antibiotics.
According to the USDA Consumer Brochure: Organic Food Standards and Labels: The Facts, this is the definition of organic food:
“What is organic food? Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.”
Organic food is more than just a higher price. It’s more than food without chemicals. It’s about the entire eco-system:
“Organic production is not simply the avoidance of conventional chemical inputs, nor is it the substitution of natural inputs for synthetic ones. Organic farmers apply techniques first used thousands of years ago, such as crop rotations and the use of composted animal manures and green manure crops, in ways that are economically sustainable in today’s world. In organic production, overall system health is emphasized, and the interaction of management practices is the primary concern. Organic producers implement a wide range of strategies to develop and maintain biological diversity and replenish soil fertility.”
From Organic Agriculture Overview, USDA, Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), 2007.
This journey transformed from a medical necessity to a belief system, and ultimately, a spiritual passage to meet with God’s creation. If God designed lacewings and ladybugs to ward off insects that destroy crops, then by all means, I want lacewings and ladybugs around! Organic farmers work WITH nature to cultivate crops, whereas conventional farms work against it—treating the soil synthetically to stimulate fertility, using harmful pesticides to kill off insects that get in the way of production, and so forth. If pesticides can instantly kill an insect, a living, breathing creature, what can they, in the long term, do to our human bodies? Having children with a digestive disorder and issues of my own, I was no longer willing to take a chance on “food.”
My husband and I believe we vote with our dollars. Each time we scan something at the grocery store, that information goes somewhere—think about it like a big bank and each item gets a score. By our choices, we tell companies what is popular and what sells. Because those big companies support political agendas, our money then, supports those same agendas. I’d rather my money NOT go to prohibit the labeling of GMOs in our country or to make already rich people richer. At the end of the day, I’d much rather shake the farmer’s hand and know that I supported a hard workin’ man and his family.
In a perfect world, we would sustain off our own land (we’re working on that!) and would buy everything we eat locally, the way it used to be for thousands of years. It’s not so easy in today’s world, and not very affordable. Hopefully one day the pendulum will swing back the other way, and this way of life will become more accessible to all people.
1) our money goes straight to the farmer
2) we believe in stimulating and supporting our local community
3) we know where our food comes from
4) it’s not mass produced, genetically altered, ripened or treated with harsh chemicals
5) we can physically see the living conditions of the animals we eat and the slaughterhouses where they are killed (since writing this portion of the blog, I have become a vegan, but no one else in my family is, so this principle in still important to us as we purchase meat for our boys)
Why PLANT STRONG?
I don’t know if it’s more of a man thing or a southern thing, but we used to have meat with every single meal. Breakfast wasn’t breakfast without bacon. Lunch wasn’t lunch without chicken on that salad, and dinner, well, let’s just say the baked spaghetti must have beef! But, in our opinion, the problem arises when the meals are centered around the meat, instead of the vegetables. When I looked at what I was eating each day, I could see how much protein I was getting from the chicken, but I didn’t see many other nutrients coming in from any other kinds of foods.
The more we learned about what was happening to those animals we were eating, thanks to Food, Inc, the more we wanted to buy our meat from a local farmer, so we could KNOW what the animals’ living conditions were like. The price of meat from a local farmer is much higher than meat from a big industrial enterprise. Quality in this case, makes a BIG difference. So, at first, it was a financial thing for us. We really couldn’t “stomach” eating conventional meat, but we couldn’t afford local meat at every meal. So instead of meat 3 times a day, we went to about 3 times a week. Meatless Mondays became Meatless Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and so on! That caused me to get creative with beans, lentils, avocados, and other sources of plant based protein. I enjoyed the new recipes so much, that I came to prefer a plant based meal over one with meat, and slowly, I started feeling much better on the inside. This led to my personal journey of becoming a vegan, which I have been for almost three years now. My husband still eats meat and dairy products, but we have found a way to respect each other a coexist nicely.
There’s not much denying that modern food companies use too many ingredients in our food. Just flip over your Sarah Lee bread and see a long list of unnecessary and often harmful ingredients—just to keep cost down, to get the “right” taste, or to keep shelf-life for us busy Americans. Sarah Lee isn’t alone. In fact, most popular companies do the same things—even some foods in the Health Food/Organic Sections.
There are studies that show the effects of extra ingredients like artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, food dyes, etc. , but there is very little evidence that can PROVE that these additives are causing what’s wrong in America—obesity, cancer, disease, ADHD, etc. Our opinion is that all of these ingredients as a whole, combined with genetics and environmental factors, are likely to cause these health issues.
Whether you believe that these things are hurting us or not, we’ve seen significant improvement and even elimination of ailments by removing all of these elements from our diets. Really, the fact that most of these additives have not been tested on humans scares me. In essence, we are walking science experiments, and kids like ours ultimately pay the price.
Wrapping it Up
If you have been on this journey for a while, I hope you feel reenergized to keep moving forward and that somehow these few paragraphs made you feel like there is someone else out there with you! If you are overwhelmed, remember you’ve caught us years into the journey—keep coming back to this site—for our job is to, over time, break down all of this information for you in a way that you can understand, and eventually help you implement small changes along the way!
I’ve never been one for clichés—in fact, I used to preach to my high school students that clichés made their writing unoriginal….But in this case, I believe this cliché works—“If I can do it, ANYBODY CAN DO IT!” If this Laffy Taffy enthusiast, Diet Coke fanatic, refined sugar addict, French fry junky can shake it all and transform into a plant STRONG, local vegetable eatin’, food advocate and blogger—I promise, you can make one simple change at a time and achieve health and beauty you’ve never seen before. So stay with me. Find something you are passionate about, research it—find the “why” behind what you believe or the new information you learned, and you will have a REASON to move forward and to try something new! We’re excited to help you on your journey!