Eleven Healthy Foods to Try in 2011

Raw Cacao Nibs

If you’re looking to change your health this year, chances are you may feel a little overwhelmed and aren’t sure where you should start. When people first start out to change the way they are eating, the choices out there are so many and daunting that most people just give up. Eating healthier is one of those things that needs to be done gradually. We didn’t learn to eat unhealthy foods overnight, so we shouldn’t expect to change our lifestyle overnight either.

Here are some great foods that I recommend you consider changing and/or adding into your diet this year. To start out, try adding in 2-3 items a month. Some of these you may not like, while others you will. Eating healthy is about trial and error and deciding what works for you.

1. Raw Cacao – Whether it’s raw cacao powder or raw cacao nibs, cacao is great for making your own hot chocolate, chocolate milk and smoothies.  The nibs are even great in a granola mix, in ice cream or on top of oatmeal.  Raw organic cacao is packed with nutrients, antioxidants and is also a good source of minerals such as magnesium, iron, copper and calcium.

2.  Sucanat – Otherwise known as unrefined, evaporated sugar cane juice, this is my favorite natural sweetener next to local honey.  I use it in coffee, nearly all my baking and I’ve even been known to make my own icing with confectioners sugar from sucanat.

Hot Cocoa 3

3. Goji Berries – These little berries are packed with nutrients, protein and fiber.  They are also a great source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C.  Not everyone likes eating these straight like I do, but a little mixed into smoothies, cereal, oatmeal or breads is nearly unnoticeable.  A lot of Vegans use Goji Berries as a good source of protein in their diets.  But with all the other benefits of this tiny fruit, I really wish even non-vegans would eat it!

4. Organic Milk – With all the chemicals, hormones, antibiotics and the processing techniques for cattle farms and milk plants, milk makes the top of my personal list for organic “musts” in the home.  If you do nothing else this year, consider changing your milk buying habits to organic.  And if your state allows it, purchase raw straight-from-the-cow milk from a local farmer.

5. Local Free-Range Eggs – Next to milk, eggs are the second organic priority in our home.  Many of you saw my Egg Experiment several months ago, and I think the experiment speaks for itself as to why it is so important to eat local free-range eggs.  If you can’t go local, consider trying organic from the grocery store.

6. Coconut Oil – This amazing oil does wonders in my kitchen as well as in my beauty cabinet.  I use coconut oil in nearly all of my baking that calls for oil or butter, and I spread it like butter on things like toast, pancakes and muffins.  I even add coconut oil into my brownie mix, and it makes the most scrumptious brownies I have ever had.  Coconut Oil makes an incredible body moisturizer, leave-in hair conditioner, and can be used to make natural toothpaste or homemade deodorant.

7.  Organic or Local Fruits and Vegetables. I strongly believe that if you are eating fresh, local and organic fruits and vegetables that your body will be better for it.  Our bodies take a lot of abuse and exposure to toxic chemicals these days, but can fight off disease and infection when they have nutrients from fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.

Farmer's Market Produce 9/3

8. Chia Seeds –  These things don’t just make good pets.  Chia seeds are packed with the Omega Fatty Acids that you hear so much about.  But rather than paying for an expensive supplement, you can save a ton of money buying a bag of Chia seeds.  Add a teaspoon to a glass of water or juice, let sit for a minute and gulp it down.  Or you can do like I do and add these into pancakes, oatmeal, muffins and even breads.  This is a great way to get your Omegas, and they don’t cost you an arm and a leg.  Another benefit is that they aren’t processed into pills, so you are getting more of the nutrients you need.

9. Quinoa This hardy grain is my favorite to use in my meals.  I use it in nearly anything that calls for rice, and I especially like using it in my stir-fry.  Quinoa is packed with iron and protein, which is one of the reasons many vegans use it.  Since vegans don’t get protein from meat, this becomes  a staple in the vegan diet.  We aren’t vegans, but I sure love this grain because I know my kids are getting good iron and protein, and the grain cooks really fast.  I’ve found the best price on Quinoa to be at Costco Wholesale Club.  Here’s an easy quinoa recipe to get you started.

10. Organic Meat – All you need to do is watch Food Inc. to know why it’s important to switch to organic meats.  With companies doing things like packing in animals with feces, washing meat in ammonia, pumping animals with antibiotics, and feeding them chemical-laced corn, it’s easy to see why organic and even local meat makes my list.  I know a lot of people know about these problems, but choose to ignore them.  Unfortunately this doesn’t make the problem go away, nor does it keep people healthy.  Food Inc. is available to watch on Netflix Instant Streaming.

11. Hemp Protein Powder – When my son was having trouble putting on weight and the doctor’s wanted to see better results, I added some of this into his diet.  It’s natural protein to the extreme.  It is a good source of Protein, Fiber, Omega Fatty Acids, Antioxidants, Vitamin A, Iron and Zinc.  Hemp powder is best mixed in yogurt, juice or smoothies.

These are some products that I have tried and we enjoy using in our home.  Please note that I am not a medical professional and cannot give health advice.  All I can say is what works for my family and myself.  You should consult a medical professional before making drastic diet changes.

If you have tried any of these products and have some feedback, I would love to hear your thoughts!  Would you add anything else to this list?

crystal collins signature
  1. I picked up a bottle of raw agave at my Whole Foods market over the weekend. Another shopper convinced me to buy it when she saw me looking at it. It looks a lot like honey, and is apparently a great sugar substitute! This other shopper was diabetic and was told she could use it in the place of sugar. I have to say…it works PERFECT in coffee & oatmeal. No funny aftertaste like Splenda or other fake substitutes. It is also absorbed more slowly in your blood so you don’t get the spikes. I even used it in a rutabaga rice dish which I’ll be blogging about tomorrow.

    I am wondering about goji berries. I saw them and would love to purchase, but they are so so spendy. Where have you found the best deals on goji?

    • The best deal I got on Goji berries is online at Amazon. If you can spring for the 10lb bag, it turns out to be the best cost per ounce after Subscribe and Save. I can never get that big bag though so I go for the smaller bags. Not as good a price per ounce, but still a good deal.

      • Oh my gosh! Natalie, thank you for sharing that! Just goes to show that just because something is sold in a “healthy store” does not make it healthy.

        And thanks Crystal for the goji tips! Looks like I’ll have to watch Amazon.

  2. I would love to try the Sucanat. I looked at Trader Joes before and in Krogers naturally section but couldn’t find it. Where do you buy it? Also, I was wondering when you replace butter with the coconut oil do you use the same amount or how do you adjust it?

    • I use a little less to about the same as butter. You really can’t go too wrong that way. :) I buy mine Sucanat from Bread Beckers or Amazon.

      • Crystal, I just stocked up on Sucanat thinking it was a good thing to buy… which it is better than Rapadura… but in the Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon book I’m reading (which is fantastic and I heard about from the Heavenly Homemaker) that sucanat is something you should stay away from, but Rapadura is good for you. If you have the book check it out under the Natural Sweetners section.

  3. My family has made most of these changes this year. Cannot believe the difference in how we feel! In the coconut oil category, I woukd add coconut milk. It is great tasting and you can use it in anything! I make totally organic pudding with it, love it!!

  4. Do you know where can I find these items in my local grocery stores? (I know you can give me specifics, but a general idea) Particularly raw cocao, gogi berries and quinoa. We get food stamps so where we can shop is a little limited but I am always trying to find healthier ways to feed my family without spending all of our money on a few expensive items.

    • You should definitely look in the natural and organic section if your store has one. If they don’t have that section, they probably don’t have raw cacao, goji berries etc…

  5. Totally agree about the meat…..watching Food Inc. Did it for me! In regards to beef…..it should not only be organic but also grass fed! Just because beef is labeled “organic” does Not mean it is grass fed. Have not bought beef in the grocery store since seeing that movie….I buy my beef from a farmer at the farmer’s market!

  6. I have a question about the Chia Seeds – this is the first I have ever heard of them, but it sounds like something I would love to add to our family diet. 1. when you mix them into baked goods – do you put them in as-is? (just seeds, not the water/gel that is made by soaking them?) 2. how much do you put in – say to a loaf of bread? 3. does the heat affect the nutritional value? I read conflicting info about heat and the seeds

    sorry for all my questions!! thanks :)

    • In all honesty I don’t know what happens when you bake them. I just put them in as is. But I do not do this often. Mostly we eat them raw or soaked. Sorry I’m not more help.

  7. My family eats most of these items. I did purchase some of the raw cacao nibs a couple months ago and am still trying to get used to them. They are really bitter. I am trying to train my taste buds to them. I chew up some in my mouth but keep it over to one side to avoid the bitter taste recepters on my tongue, then I swallow it down quickly with water. I may end up grinding it down into raw cacao powder if I can’t get used to them, and make hot chocolate with them.

    Some of the changes that my family has made with our diet is much less meat (partly because it is healthier, but also because we are only buying natural beef and chicken and we can’t afford much!) We are eating much more beans, lentils, nuts, and soy and more fruits and veggies that are raw, opposed to cooked. Oh yeah and we are incorporating as much organic as possible. I dont’ know how much is just in my head, but I have really been feeling an improvement in my energy, and in general feeling “better”. No one in my family has even had a cold in the past 6 months either!

  8. Where have your found the best cacao? I have read that many people are switching from coffee to cacao tea…..any input on that?

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