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Real Food Defined {General Guidelines}

Real Food Defined

The more I have researched and thought about this, it just makes sense to eat real, whole foods the way nature (and God!) intended. So, that is my overall goal here.

It can seem overwhelming at first, but in reality, it’s simple–eat food the way God made it.

The truth is, we call a lot of stuff “food” these days that barely resembles actual food (margarine, for one quick example).

The Problem with our “food” today

Entire books have been written about the problems with our food industry, but we’ll start with a simplified version. If you stroll through most grocery stores, the shelves are full of processed foods. Foods that the food industry has created. Yes, there is some semblance of “food” there, but it’s processed with chemical ingredients, enriched with vitamins and minerals that the processing and refinement  removed, and created in labs to have an optimal combination of salt, sugar, and fat to keep us coming back for more (and more, and more).

Nutrients can be added back into our foods, but the end result is not comparable to the original. Micheal Pollan has a fascinating discussion of this in his book In Defense of Food. The synergy in the whole foods is what gives us the optimal nourishment.

Newsflash: God is better at creating nourishment for us than food industry labs.

Basically the idea is to start with whole foods, or at least those that have been minimally processed.

Real Food Guidelines

Here are some general guidelines, drawn in part from In Defense of Food:

  1. Eat food your great-great grandma would recognize. I like to think about the Ingalls family. Would they have eaten it? Would they have recognized those ingredients? If not, this is a red flag.
  2. Avoid unpronounceable or unfamiliar ingredients. The food industry has taught us that food is complicated. For so many years those super long, processed ingredients lists were the norm. When I was younger, I didn’t really look at ingredients labels and just assumed that all those unpronounceable things were necessary. But they aren’t. Think about what you would use to make bread. Water, yeast, sugar/honey, salt, and flour, and sometimes a little oil depending on the type of bread. 5-6 simple ingredients. Now look at the ingredients list for a Wonder bread:

    Wheat Flour Enriched ( Flour , Barley Malt , Ferrous Sulfate [ Iron ] , Vitamin B [ Niacin Vitamin B3 , Thiamine Mononitrate Vitamin B1 { Thiamin Vitamin B1 } , Riboflavin Vitamin B2 { Riboflavin Vitamin B2 } , Folic Acid Vitamin B9 ] ) , Water , Corn Syrup High Fructose , Contains 22% or less , Wheat Gluten , Salt , Soybeans Oil , Yeast , Calcium Sulphate , Vinegar , Monoglyceride , Dough Conditioners ( Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate , Calcium Dioxide ) , Soy Flour , Diammonium Phosphate , Dicalcium Phosphate , Monocalcium Phosphate , Yeast Nutrients ( Ammonium Sulfate ) , Calcium Propionate , To Retain Freshness

  3. Aim for 5 ingredients or less. I make exceptions for some things, if the ingredients are familiar ones, but in general, it’s best to stick to 4-5 ingredients or less when you’re buying storebought items.
  4. Avoid high-fructose corn syrup. When it comes to ingredients lists, foods with sugar and/or high-fructose corn syrup tend to be more processed.
  5. Avoid refined foods. The big offenders here are white sugar and white flour (white rice and white, enriched pasta too). Yes, they are natural, but they are still highly refined. Remember, we want whole foods. White flour has a smoother, softer texture that most of us coming from a SAD diet (standard American diet) are used to and prefer. However, the way it comes about that smoother, softer texture is by removing the very part of the grain that contains the nutrients, leaving you with lots of empty calories. You’ll also want to avoid artificial sweeteners like splenda, etc.

It doesn’t have to be complicated or intimidating, and over the next couple of days I’ll be delving into what you can have, tips for finding real food, and staples to have on hand.

Real Food Series

This post is a part of my Real Food Journey series. Click here to see all the posts.

31 Days of Real Food Series


31 Days to Real Food

31 Days of Real Food Series

On August 26th, I made a big decision. I decided that I’m done with wishing I could go back and change things that I can’t go back and change. Instead, I’m going to change it now, so that I won’t still be wishing a year from now.

I decided to start with something that would have a big impact for my health and that of my family–our eating habits. I’ve shared a bit about this before, but I have struggled with my weight for years. In addition to that, I struggle with chronic fatigue, migraines, joint pain, back pain, vertigo, and many other health problems. Many of these problems have been shown to be improved with a better diet. My family also has some things going on that could potentially be improved with diet.

My plan was simple: eat real food. 

The implementation, however, was a bit more complicated. 

Making the switch to real food was difficult for me (still is some days!), because of food addiction, and the emotional hold food had over me.

However, it was also difficult on a practical level. Logistically, it’s harder to eat real food.  To be honest, it felt a bit overwhelming at times, which is why I wanted to write this series to help inform and encourage anyone else who has a desire to begin your own real food journey, for yourself or your family. 

When I was getting started, I wanted a sort of how-to guide. I found a lot of great info and some great websites and blogs. I spent a lot of time searching, reading, and sifting through information and tips. However, I didn’t really find a resource that answered all my questions in one place.

Because of this, I have designed this series to answer these questions and more:

  • What is “real food” and why does it matter?
  • What should I expect?
  • How can I make the journey easier?
  • What should I do before I get started?
  • What can I eat?
  • What are the worst offenders that I should stay away from?
  • How will this affect my budget?
  • Are there any storebought foods that I can still buy?
  • What staples should I keep on hand?

I hope you’ll follow along over the next 31 days for these topics and more. Along the way, I will also be sharing tips, giveaways, resources, recipes, meal plans, and more!

In full disclosure, I’m still at the beginning of the journey myself. I’d love for you to join me. It is my prayer and hope that this will be a permanent lifestyle change.

All the posts in this series

I will try and add the posts to this list as they are completed.


Exceedingly, Abundantly Above (Unexpected blessings)

I have 2 little boys that love all things LEGO.

(Here they are with a couple of awesome sets they got for their birthdays earlier this summer).

lego bday 2

lego bday

As I mentioned in my email newsletter, we had a yard sale this past weekend. It was fun, but busy.

Earlier in the week, we’d been at the store buying price stickers and poster board for signs. While there, my boys looked at the toys and picked out a couple of LEGO sets that they especially loved and wanted.

I had told them they could keep all the money from the sale of kid stuff at our yard sale, so they were hoping to get enough to buy it. They needed $53 to buy both items they were wanting.

Let me just tell you a little story about how notoriously unsuccessful our yard sales tend to be. We almost never have them, because they are so bad. One time, we had one at a friend’s lot in town. Our house was out in the country at the time and though it was a hassle to pack everything over there, we thought it might go better if we were nearer to town and exposed to more traffic. We were set up there for 2 days and we made a grand total of $30. We spent more than that on supplies and lunch the 2 days we were there.

So, while my boys were hoping to earn enough to buy their special toys, I wasn’t “holding my breath” so to speak, and was gently trying to prepare them for the possibility that they would earn much less.

I was thinking realistically they’d probably make around $5-8. I hoped they would make $10-$20. In my “dreaming,” I thought it would be so neat if they could get $10-$15 each.

But I didn’t really think that would happen.

The Bible tells us that God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

So remember, what I thought they’d get was around $5-8. What I hoped they’d get was $10-$20. My biggest, unrealistic dreaming was $30-40.

They ended up earning$65!!!

They got just enough to tithe, buy both items they wanted, and have a couple dollars left over! 

What a blessing!

But then, God surprised us even more. When we went to the store, we were given an unexpected $10/50 coupon by the cashier. So, they ended up with $10 free.

Exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think.

It was such a blessing for our whole family. We’ve been teaching our kids about tithing and it was so neat to be able to have them be blessed so quickly in such a way. They had committed $6.50 to the Lord, and they immediately received back $10. Obviously, it doesn’t always work that way, but I do believe the Lord blesses us when we entrust Him with our finances. And I want us to always remember, and teach our children that “every good and perfect gift comes from above.”

It’s not really about the money, this touched me so much because of Who it came from. God is so very good to us! He is good to us all the time, in good times and in bad times He blesses us.


To the Woman Who Regrets Her Abortion


I think about you a lot.

You’re a daughter, sister, friend. Maybe you’re even a mom now, and more than ever recognize the truth that your baby was not just a “clump of cells,” but was instead a baby with a heartbeat, formed in the womb and known by God.

I know you, but then I don’t. In many cases no one knows you because you keep your secret close to your heart, terrified of what would happen if it could see the light of day.

I am vehemently pro-life, and I abhor the evil of abortion and what it does to babies and their would-be mamas like you. I was horrified this past week to learn of the #shoutyourabortion and the popularity of said movement.

But still, it burdens me that you sometimes get caught in the crosshairs in this fight against abortion.

I cringe every time I see some of the hateful, hurtful rhetoric from pro-lifers calling you “nothing but a murderer” and throwing your sins in your face in such mean-spirited, hateful ways.

We want to make a point, but sometimes I worry that the only thing we do is heap condemnation on your head. It doesn’t change the minds of pro-choicers, but it hurts you, and my heart hurts along with yours.

I cringe every time I see the abortion camps boasting that women don’t regret abortions. And my heart goes out to you because the abortion camp doesn’t want to claim someone with regret. And the pro-life camp condemns those who’ve had an abortion.

And maybe it feels like you can’t find peace anywhere.  But there is peace to be had if you look in the right place.

Satan is a liar

The Bible tells us that Satan is the father of lies. He is also our accuser. Rev 12:10 tells us that he accuses us day and night. He absolutely hates you. He is evil defined. He has no mercy, offers no quarter and he doesn’t fight fair.

He has no other ambition toward you, but to destroy you completely.

He wants to see you beat down and living in condemnation. He wants you to forget about the forgiveness offered by our Lord Jesus Christ, and to remember your sins. He wants you to think that they are so big they can never be forgiven. That is a lie. 

Let me tell you something else about Satan…he is destined for failure. He is fighting an impossible battle.

Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.

He has been cast down. Satan knows he’s fighting a losing battle. He’s desperate and he doesn’t fight fair. The Bible says that he has great wrath because he knows his time is short.

But, Jesus

Oh, how I wish I could express the overflowing joy and love in my heart through words. Yes, Satan hates you and wants to destroy you, but I’m so glad that’s not the end of the story.

Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that Satan comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but he came to give you life more abundant! Praise the Lord! If you are saved today, your sins are washed away.  All of them. You are as white as snow, because Jesus paid your debt and mine.

The Bible tells us that “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12). Satan will try to accuse you, but if you are saved, if you have repented and been born again, you have Truth on your side. Jesus paid your debt.

When I am tempted to give in to condemnation brought about by previous sins, one of the most comforting passages to me is Romans 8:31-39. Remember how I talked about Satan accusing us? It’s true, he does. But we also have an intercessor. Jesus Christ himself makes intercession for us at the right hand of God.

Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It isChrist who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

And nothing shall separate us from the love of God. Oh how thankful I am for His mercies, new every morning.

God is our Redeemer

There are 120+ references to God as redeemer.  Nothing is too big for God to redeem. His word tells us that He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Though I would never believe that sin is His perfect will (He does, after all, give us free will also), I believe that He can redeem even that.

I love Psalm 107. “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” It’s too long to list everything here, but I encourage you to read it. It talks about God delivering His people.

Our experiences, even the bad ones, allow us a deeper compassion and empathy for others.

Your story of sin and pain and redemption could be the very thing that glorifies God to someone around you, or that encourages and inspires them to finally know the love of God personally.




Save on Great Books AND Support Ronald McDonald House!

mission statement 2

One of the reasons I was excited to join Usborne Books as a consultant is that they offer so many opportunities to give back. This weekend, I want to share a special way that you can do that.

I know that some of you have been waiting for a special offer to place your Usborne Books & More order. As a deals and specials shopper myself, I totally get that. Which is why I’m so excited about this.

There are two things that I love to combine with shopping:

  1. Giving back
  2. Saving money

This weekend, you can do both with your Usborne Books & More purchase through this link.

Giving Back: Ronald McDonald House

I’ve shared our story  about how my youngest son spent some time in the NICU when he was a newborn. One of the greatest blessings for us during that time was the Ronald McDonald House there. They provided us a place to stay and so much more.


I will never forget our first night there.

I was so scared. My baby was having seizures and they didn’t know why. We were given a lot of very scary possibilities and prognoses. I was recovering from a c-section, and we lived over an hour away from the hospital. I was separated from my older son for the first time ever. I’ve never felt so torn in so many directions at once.

I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

The call saying we had a room available at RMHC was an absolute answer to prayer. The staff was very welcoming. They had a hospital grade pump that I could use while there. They had a great playroom for my older son who could also be with us.

The first night we were there (and most others), local churches volunteered to bring meals for dinner. They had a stocked kitchen for other meals, but that first night was a blessing straight from Heaven. The women who brought that simple dinner of Sloppy Jo sandwiches and potato chips will always have my gratitude for sharing the love of Jesus that night. Six years later, I still get tears in my eyes thinking about how blessed I was.

Many families would need to travel even more, or be separated for even longer periods of time. Ronald McDonald House provides them a place to stay that is nearby their child. The fee is nominal, but there is financial assistance available if it is a burden.

Ronald McDonald House provides a light and blessing in the midst of what is possibly the most trying times that families will ever go through. 

ALL the free books from this event (up to 50% of the total sales if sales reach $500), will be donated to Ronald McDonald House where they can be distributed to families, children, and siblings who can use every little bit of sunshine they can get.

Save Money

usborne facebook cover

I would love to be able to present my local Ronald McDonald House with at least $250 in FREE books for children and families. In order to reach that goal, I want to provide an added bonus for you as well, so I came up with some specials for those who support me in this.

  • Spend $100–If you spend $100, you will receive a 15% discount on your total*.
  • Spend $50–If you spend $50, you will receive FREE shipping*
  • Spend $25–If you spend at least $25, you will receive a wipe-clean card sample.
  • ALL Orders–As a thank you, anyone who places an order of any size by 5 pm EST on Sunday 9/28 will receive a $20 gift card to my online shop, where I have lots of great printables for your kiddos, and a couple of ebooks.

* Refunded via paypal.

After purchasing, send an email to Crystal (at) Serving Joyfully (dot) Com in order to claim your bonus.

In addition to these specials, you can also take advantage of the specials already offered by Usborne:

  • Internet Specials There are some fantastic internet specials, 40-70% off with no minimum purchase–most items are around or under $5! The best part is that these change every 2 weeks, so be sure to keep checking back for your favorites. [Check out the current internet specials]
  • Customer Specials When you purchase $40, you have the opportunity to purchase as many of the customer specials as you’d like. These are also discounted around 40-70%, and change each month.


And, just to make things even more fun, I’m going to give away a $25 gift certificate to Usborne Books & More to one lucky reader! Enter via the rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

PS–Don’t forget, Books make great gifts!

usborne books good gifts

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