May 31, 2012

My Nutrition Philosophy

 This is the short version; I believe this food pyramid, and not the one issued by the USDA, is how we should be eating:

I do my best to feed my family like this, but I do not do it perfectly. I believe it is better to do a lot right, than to be overwhelmed by so many right ways of doing something that you don't even try at all. 

And for the very long version….

My nutrition philosophy is based a lot on the principles taught by the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF). The Nourishing Traditions cookbook by Sally Fallon is where I learned the main principles behind this nutrition philosophy. The book not only has tons of great recipes, but is filled with information from many sources that backs up what they teach. Unfortunately, true healthy eating is not what most American's think is healthy eating.

The Weston A. Price Foundation is a national non-profit nutrition organization and traditional-foods advocacy group. Founded in in 1999, their experts have extensively studied the work of several researchers,  including Dr. Weston Price, who surmised from traditional, preindustrialized people that optimal health is entirely possible with the right form of foods.

Dr. Price, a dentist, researched the way traditional societies around the word ate and came to the conclusion that these people had flawless teeth and were in better health than your average American who has access to just about any kind of food one could dream of. (From what I've found, Dr. Price does not discuss poor health from diseases or illnesses that are a result of inadequate medical care available in underdeveloped nations. So not all areas of health are addressed.)

"For over ten years, he traveled to isolated parts of the globe to study the health of populations untouched by western civilization. His goal was to discover the factors responsible for good dental health… Wherever he went, Dr. Price found that beautiful straight teeth, freedom from decay, good physiques, resistance to disease and fine characters were typical of native groups on their traditional diets, rich in essential nutrients…

When Dr. Price analyzed the foods used by isolated peoples he found that, in comparison to the American diet of his day, they provided at least four times the water-soluble vitamins, calcium and other minerals, and at least TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins, from animal foods such as butter, fish eggs, shellfish, organ meats, eggs and animal fats--the very cholesterol-rich foods now shunned by the American public as unhealthful…

The isolated people Price photographed--with their fine bodies, ease of reproduction, emotional stability and freedom from degenerative ills--stand forth in sharp contrast to civilized moderns subsisting on the "displacing foods of modern commerce," including sugar, white flour, pasteurized milk, lowfat foods, vegetable oils and convenience items filled with extenders and additives."
(To read the complete article, go here. It gives a good summery of WAPF nutritional way of thinking.) 

Here is a short video that also gives a good summery of Dr. Price's findings.

In a nutshell, the food pyramid issued by the USDA is backwards. 

This is the official USDA food pyramid.


This is how we should be eating.

I strive to eat a diet based on this revised food pyramid on a regular basis, but I still enjoy making, baking, and eating treats on occasion that an avid follower of Dr. Price would never partake in.

Now, this is where this becomes MY nutrition philosophy and not just Dr. Price's.

First of all, I am a Bible believing Christian so I compare everything I learn in life to what the Bible has to say about the issue. In Genesis 1:29 God gave Adam and Eve free access to the abundance of fruits, vegetables, seeds, etc., available to them (later he would explain there was one fruit they were not allowed to eat). Then, in Genesis 9:3-4 God gives people permission to eat meat (except blood);

"Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood."

I believe God designed our bodies to need meat and animal products, to need lots of vegetables, nuts and seeds, and a moderate amount of whole grains and fruit. 

In the Old Testament there were certain meats that were prohibited for God's people to eat (like pork and shrimp). But in the New Testament God removed these prohibitions (in Mark 7:1-22, esp. verse 15, and Acts 10:9-16). The one prohibition that was not removed was that they were still not to eat blood. (Like drinking blood as some cultures do - not little bits of blood left in slaughtered meat. Read Acts 15:20.) For a good article on why this changed from the Old to New Testaments please read this by Tim Keller.

I also believe that if things like milk and honey were bad for us, God would not have used them in his Word as descriptions of beautiful places, like in Exodus 3:8; "So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey…" In my post Why Dairy is Good for You, Especially the Fat I explain in more detail why I believe God designed dairy for us to eat.

Dr. Price was not a Christian and he viewed his research through the lens of evolution. I view it through the lens of creation and the Bible, and much of Dr. Prices research fits well with a biblical perspective. It makes sense that food in the freshest, most unrefined form would be best for us, and that good health would result from getting our nourishment from our diet, as versus eating lots of processed foods and nutritionally empty carbohydrates and sweets, but taking lots of synthetic vitamins and medication. Additionally, I personally have found eating a diet high in protein, with lots of vegetables and very few carbs (especially breads and sweets) is much more conducive to weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight, while still feeling full and satisfied (read my story here.)

I think most people can follow the basics of this diet; the majority of our calories should come from meat, and animal products (like eggs and yogurt), as well as good oils/fats (like butter, olive oil and coconut oil), followed by a lot of vegetables, then fruits and properly prepared whole grains, with sweets as occasional treats. Practically, however, there is still a lot that is taught by the Weston A. Price Foundation that is not realistic for many people to follow, at least not to a "T". For example, all food is supposed to be organic, milk should be raw (unpasteurized), meat and animal products should come from free-range, organically grown animals, and nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains should always be soaked or sprouted before they are eaten raw, cooked, or made into bread, to name some of the major things. The main reasons I see prohibiting many people from doing all this would be time, finances, and access to the right foods. I know there are those who strongly adhere to this way of eating who would argue that anyone can afford to eat like this because your improved health will save you tons of money on medical bills, etc. But these people have not been so poor they can barely afford to make ends meet and all they can find is minimum wage employment to support their families. These people have not lived in Africa, as I have, and seen the realities of societies that have changed dramatically since the days of Dr. Price. Yes, one still can do a lot to eat according to Dr. Price's teachings, which is what I strive to do with what I have available to me.

There are still traditional societies who eat a lot of the nutrient dense foods Dr. Price focused on, but a lot has changed since he conducted his research. With globalization many of the modern food trends of the West are starting to effect the diets of people living in developing nations. The majority of these people no longer rely soley on indigenous crops for their food. Their diets are including more and more imported non-organic rice, corn and wheat. They are growing more imported seeds, and with that comes crops that aren't resistant to local pests. Some crops in Africa can still be grown organically. But in many situations if the farmers did not use pesticides, the bugs would destroy all the crops. Also, the high sanitation standards that have been pivotal in reducing disease in the United States have not yet reached many places in the world. In east Africa, disease is prevalent and if animals are not treated with antibiotics, they won't live long enough for people to eat their meat. In East Africa milk is consumed by many of the people. If the cows are not treated with antibiotics they pass Brucellosis on to the people milking them and drinking their raw milk. I feel many followers of the Weston A. Price foundation romanticize the diets of traditional cultures, but in reality they are not quite as perfect as we'd like to believe.  All this being said, there is still much to be learned from the diets of other cultures and I hope to share on this blog some of what I have learned from the years I lived in West Africa and the other research I've done.

I do what I am able to eat right and what is realistic with my finances, my life, and my other responsibilities. I don't drink raw milk, but I do eat a lot of yogurt. I don’t eat butter that comes from grass-fed cows, but I do eat butter and a lot of olive oil and coconut oil, while avoiding margarine and shortening. I don't purpose to eat organic, and I don't know that I will ever be able to stomach the special fermented foods that we are supposed to eat, according to Dr. Price. I try to apply what I feel are the most important principles. God designed our bodies to make the most of what fuel we put into them. I sincerely believe our bodies are hardier than many people give them credit.  If this were not true than almost everyone living today would be dead by now because so few people actually follow the nutrition teachings of Dr. Price. I think we should do the best we can with what we are able, but ultimately our lives are in God's hands and he is the one who sustains our health. The purpose of this recipe blog is to share my recipes and secrets with others who, like me, want to take care of their families, but can't do everything "right".

If you are interested in getting started with eating right but don't know were to begin, you can read my post Healthy Eating on a Budget: Getting Started.

Exercise, though not a food, is also very important to me. God made us to be active and it's no secret that we as Americans generally live a life that is too sedentary. As a stay at home mom with a baby, who has a foot injury (so I can't run), I am able to get 45 minutes of exercise 5-6 days a week by working out on a stationary bike while I watch TV and my baby plays in his exersaucer. It is possible for just about anyone to figure out a way to get regular exercise. Staying physically fit is not only good for my health, but it helps me burn more calories during the day and keeps my energy level up.

Ultimately I feel it is important to be balanced in my views. There will be many people in my life who not only are unaware of this way of thinking, but who are eating what I have learned to be very bad food. It is not my place to confront people about their poor eating habits or to forbid my children from ever eating junk food when they are away from my watchful eye. Maintaining harmony in my relationships is more important than educating everyone in what I have learned. As a Christian I know the Bible has more to say about loving my neighbor and living in harmony with others than it does about eating well to maintain a healthy body. If you are not a Christian and you are reading this, consider our society of tolerance today. If we can live peacefully with people who have different religious or political views, surely we can do the same with those who don't know or believe what we do about nutrition. Naturally, I still hope people ask me about what I know and are eager to learn what real nutrition is.

And on this note I do want to say that my big pet-peeve of some people I have met or read about who are really into eating healthily, is when they act like farmers who grow genetically modified crops are evil, doctors who encourage vaccines are money grubbers, soy is poison, and anyone who eats chicken that is not free range doesn't care at all that chickens aren't enjoying the highest quality of life available to poultry. The one downside to all the information available about the Weston A. Price Foundation is that they always portray the many facets to the Western diet as "evil". I agree that it's concerning how the big names involved in the food industry are shaping the food culture of America, and I do know that politics and money-making  are certainly involved.  But I think it's important to remember that behind most of this is just people - husbands, fathers, mothers, etc., who are trying to support their families. We should all do what we can to encourage local farmers and such, but lets remember that some people (like me) have extended family who make a living by operating huge non-organic farms that grow genentically modified crops.  We often forget how privileged we are as Americans to have the option to choose whether we eat organic or non-organic foods, whether we eat chicken or beef, rice or potatoes, one chocolate chip cookie or two. Most people around the world are not so lucky. Many of these people wonder from day to day where their next meal will come from. Let's keep this in mind as we are tempted to gripe and complain about all the junk food lining the supermarket isles and how much influence Kellogg has on our food culture.

I go into more detail on some of the nutrition topics I've mentioned here in these posts:

What is Phytic Acid? (Has to do with the soaking of the grains, beans, nuts, and seeds that I mentioned.)

On Sugar and Other Sweeteners

Why Dairy is Good for You, Especially the Fat

Photo credit: fruits and vegetables, African farmer, basket of vegetables, American farm family.


  1. Very well stated, Melodie...very balanced and I believe the Lord is pleased when we aim to please Him first...this will look different for each family and it is not ours to judge or convince otherwise.I am looking forward to feeding my hungry clan some of these yummy recipes!!

  2. Thank you for helping bring an awareness to this issue. I am so grateful for this information you have shared and look forward to the journey ahead for my family and I. Thanks for your encouragement today. -Tisha