Nourishing Food Panel: Tips for Newbies


The most common complaint I get about changing to traditional food, as outlined in Nourishing Traditions, is getting overwhelmed with all of the changes that need to be made.

I have two things to say to that before I let our Panel take over. One, you are not alone. All of us who have changed our eating habits have at certain points felt like it wasn’t possible to do! Two, we succeeded in making changes because we did one thing at a time over a period of time. Even if you just make one change a month, you will have drastically changed your eating habits over a year.

All of these women on the panel also at one time or another faced making huge changes to their diet. They succeeded and you can too.

This week I asked the Panelists: What advice do you have to offer to a newbie wanting to make changes in their diet?

Make sure to check out the Q & A’s from the panelists earlier, if you haven’t already! Read part one: Where did your interest start?Part Two: How did you get started? part three: What were the results?

And, I would love to hear your advice for the newbie as well!

Amy, a real life friend

*Make a plan. Write out some goals, then figure out how often you want to tackle a new one (weekly, monthly, etc.). Put them on your calender!

*I have found it helpful to have one morning a week that is alloted for extra cooking. During that time I prepare things we have run out of, or food items that needed to be made on a weekly basis. I make items such as mayonnaise, nut butter, bread, hummus, kombucha, large batches of fruit/nut bars, etc. on that day.
*Always be thinking in terms of batch cooking, to save time. I purchased a huge stock pot just for making chicken/beef stocks. I put at least three chicken carcasses in, with lots of water and vegis. When the stock is finished simmering, I boil it down. I then freeze the concentrated stock in small portions. Sourdough bread freezes quite well, so I make large batches and freeze some. Cook up large portions of ground beef at a time, then freeze it in small quantities. When making waffles, double the amount you need, and freeze the extra for a quick breakfast, heated up in a toaster/toaster oven.
*In the area that I live, I have found numerous classes and resources that have helped me enormously. I have found I do much better with a new cooking practice/technique if I attend a class on the topic. I can also pick the  brain of the teacher, often gleaning many useful tips. A local lady that has taught classes started an online chat group for those who had attended her classes. It has been very useful for asking questions of others, sharing sources for local food, and many other things. Network as much as you can.
*Meal plan- probably the most useful thing I’ve ever done! I like to do two weeks at a time, but find what works for you. You can even write down steps that need to be done ahead of time, such as on Tuesday you make a note to soak the flour for muffins on Wednesday.

Sono, my mother in law

My best advice to a newbie is to enjoy and embrace the positive lifestyle changes a nourishing foods diet can bring. Recognize that these healthy dietary changes can help deliver you from the unhealthiness of the frenetic pace and accelerated speed of American life.

In a youth meeting at a Portland church, the leaders discovered that only one of the twenty teenagers in their group sat down and ate a meal together with their families in a week’s time. What a sad state of affairs! Frozen burritoes, ready to zap in the microwave, boxed cereals to pour in a bowl of ultra-pasterized milk, and fast foods to pick-up on the way to somewhere had destroyed the tradition of sitting down to a meal with one’s family.

Newbie, the time, attention, and energy that you direct toward feeding your family heathy foods can help you create a rich and rewarding home atmosphere that is becoming a rarity in this country. Remember, in the past 40 plus years we have lived through a period in history during which basic, wholesome food preparation has been effectively taken out of the home. At age ten, I remember the opening of the 29 cent hamburger joint which would be the precursor of McDonalds. In contrast, my grandparents’ grew and raised about 90% of their own food and certainly cooked and prepared it all from scratch themselves.

The insane pace of life that most Americans feel constrained to live could never have escalated to this speed if all of us had a garden to tend, eggs to collect, a cow to milk every morning and evening, a kefir grain and sourdough starter to keep active, grains to soak, seeds to sprout, and nuts to dry. Most of us will not do all these things (though I have a friend or two who have made all these changes and maintained them) but even if we only do some of them, the nourishing food is just part of the benefit. The other part of the benefit is a mixture of : the real pleasure of making wonderful food for those you love, working together preparing food with those you love, and creating a home-centered lifestyle for those you love.

If you have been accustomed to many shortcuts in food preparation (shorting you on time invested but also quality), do not discouraged when you spend more time in the kitchen. You are ending up with a far superior product to consume! And remember there is a learning curve and soon you will find ways to to be more efficient with some of these new cooking projects. Once you develop a rhythm, it will become a familiar and secure part of your life. (I refer to some of these production rhythms in my response to question 2 in this series.)

Do not get discouraged as you work through these changes and improvements. Since healthy, nourishing foods and healthy lifestyle choices are a marathon event not a sprint,
success is any forward progress and positive change. One step at a time is still a step in the right direction.

Kimberly from Hartke is Online
Clean out your pantry, toss processed foods and cereals or give them away. Get rid of bottled salad dressings they are high in sugar and usually bad oils. Only let back in the house healthy foods. I found it best to make a clean break from our past.

Invest in some good “fresher longer” storage containers for fresh produce (ours have a locking lid). Buy a salad dressing carafe for making your own dressings. You can find an affordable one at the grocery store, Wishbone Dressings has a glass carafe with a plastic lid. I also love the Pampered Chef Measure and Pour, which has recipes printed right on it. By the way, there is a link on my blog to a Pampered Chef distributor that will donate a portion of her sales to support the Farm-to-Consumer Foundation! Go to Sources on

Become a label reader. If you need to buy something in a box or a can, read the labels. And, learn what the ingredients are. Don’t just look at the numbers on the label, but the actual ingredients list is very important. I avoid flour, sugar, soy and chemicals. The South Beach diet book has excellent instructions on how to identify sugars on the label, anything ending in -ose is a sugar product.

Stephanie from Keeper of the Home

I think the biggest thing would be what I tell everyone who wants to move towards healthier eating and living and that is to just take it slowly, one step at a time (can I shamelessly plug the fact that I have an ebook on this very topic coming out in a couple weeks?) . Don’t feel guilty for not being able to do it all at once, or make a complete changeover immediately! I don’t think that any of us were able to do it that way, and I know that I certainly wasn’t able to. Depending on where you are coming from in your current diet, some of these changes may be quite significant. They might take time for you and your family to adapt to. There are new skills to learn, new foods to source out, even new tastes to acquire. It is definitely a process and even a bit of a journey, but a wonderful, exciting and extremely rewarding one!

What I would suggest as you begin to make changes is to try making a list of all the changes that you are interested in making (beware- it might be long if you’ve been doing a lot of reading). Then take that list, and circle only 2 or 3 of them (seriously, no more than that). These might be the ones you feel are the most important for particular health reasons, or the easiest transitions to make, or even the ones that interest you the most (this is a helpful factor). Post these 2 or 3 goals somewhere obvious, like on your fridge or above your sink, where you’ll constantly be reminded of them.

Personally, I find it really helpful to take my goals in this area, and break them down into little steps. For example, some of my current goals are to become a more proficient sourdough bread baker, and to find and master 3 new fermented recipes that my family really enjoys. So I’m taking small steps, like researching and buying a new sourdough starter online (instead of making my own this time), reading up on different methods of making sourdough, etc. Soon I’m going to start adding 1 new fermented recipe to my kitchen prep days every two weeks, until I start to find the recipes we love. These little steps help to take a large goal and make it manageable for me.

By doing this, you’ll soon find that you’ve accomplished the initial goals you set out to achieve, and you’ll be able to choose a couple more and begin to work towards those. One of the biggest things is to know that each change you make is valuable and is bringing health benefits to you and your family! Even changes that might feel small and inconsequential all add up over time, and suddenly you will look back and be amazed at what a difference you have made in your diet already!

Now, what about you all? What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them? What tips do you have?

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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  1. Jessica says

    Great post! So funny, but when I posted your blog for my readers, I was trying to encourage them not to get overwhelmed and make one change at a time…I am now going to refer them straight to this post!


  2. says

    Can I just add the perspective of someone in the transition process? 🙂

    Focus on the changes that your husband is on board with. My husband loves sprouts, so sprouting my own seeds was a goal for this year. He also enjoys sauerkraut, so becoming proficient at sauerkraut and variations thereof is another goal for the year. (I have cabbage for my second batch on the counter right now!) He likes sourdough bread, so that’s a third goal for the year.

    But — he’s not into organic produce when it is more expensive and only hesitantly interested in organic meats & dairy. That’s okay. He’s the one that works at a boring desk job all day to earn my grocery money. I shop and cook to serve him, not to pressure him into my nutritional ideas. 🙂 Peace and harmony are probably more “nutritious” than the difference between carefully-washed apples and organic apples!

    If I just “mention” things I’ve been reading about, without any pressure, his reaction gives me a clue whether I should pursue that change or move on to another. If he thinks it sounds gross, I cross it off the list and move on! Focusing on the changes that my husband (and also our frequent guests, for food is an important tool in outreach and ministry) can also be enthused about really clarifies matters.

    It has been fun to read about others’ nutrition journeys, though!

    • Debby says

      What an uplifting post – it’s wonderful to hear someone else talk about pleasing and serving their husband in a Christian way. This world just cannot wrap its mind around that fact that we should honor and serve our husbands. In exchange, my husband cherishes me. God is good!

  3. says

    I’ve been making small steps since this time last year. I began by baking my own whole grain bread. The only time I haven’t done this in the past year was during the first trimester of my pregnancy when I couldn’t stand the smell of yeast! I started experimenting with grains other than whole wheat also (spelt and kamut have become favorites). I buy organic/local meat, eggs and produce when I can. We have a great farmer’s market that sells meats and eggs year round and seasonal produce April-October. The most recent changes I have made are incorporating the soaking step into my baking, using natural sweeteners and finding a source for raw milk. Some of my goals for this year include learning to sprout seeds (hubby loves sprouts on sandwiches), making my own yogurt, and incorporating kefir into our diet.

    I can already see positive results from these changes. One of my main reasons for doing this is to give my son the best possible start in life. I also want to improve my and my husband’s health and ward off the “inevitable” type 2 diabetes that runs in his family.

    I want to thank you for this website. Your site (as well as Keeper of the Home) have been so valuable to me over the past year. Keep up the great work!

  4. says

    What a great idea! It’s so nice to hear tips from other people.

    One useful thing I have found for myself, and when I work with nutrition clients, is setting attainable goals for each week/month — so instead of saying ‘no sugar at all!’ and quite cold turkey, decide you will eliminate first the brown sugar you put in your oatmeal, then the weekly cupcake you have, etc.

  5. says

    I think my first step was to just notice what I was eating. That’s all. Just notice. Read the labels, and maybe look up some of those big words. Notice how much I was spending on takeout. Notice how I felt after those meals. The change came on its own once I was conscious of my food choices.

  6. says

    Michelle — That’s been very true for us as well. We made changes slowly, over the course of 4 years. But each change came after we were made aware of something new and just how much it was affecting us.

    Also I have to second Amy’s advice. Batch-cooking and saving a morning to do weekly things all at once really seems to save on time.

  7. says

    I have to admit I’m one of those “it’s all or nothing” people – I jumped headlong into this business of staying/eating/cooking healthy, and I haven’t stopped since. Yes, we all have those days of Ben & Jerry moments, but for the rest, I’ve stuck good and hard to the commitment I made… and it really does get easier the longer you stick with it! 🙂

    One of my first steps was writing menus, and I am still amazed at what a difference that makes… when you plan what you’re eating, you’re a LOT more likely to plan something good – rather than junk.

  8. says

    I have always eaten healthy at home, but now I am at school. What should I do to make healthy decisions in the cafeteria. Obviously, it is difficult to make good decisions when there is nothing but high fat, high calorie options. How bad is white bread for me? Should I completely avoid white flour? What about desserts? I get a sweet tooth and sometimes give into a cookie.

  9. Rose says

    Gail–having recently faced those problems at a school caf, all I can offer is sympathy! They are very hard to navigate, especially after a long day of studying. I did best by avoiding the hot foods (mac and cheese, processed cheese and brocolli, fake mashed potatoes) and ate from the salad bar (which luckily was great) and fruit area. There is no such thing as a bean in most school cafs. It’s a shame really.

    In response to the newbie tips question: It does seem overwhelming, I’m still overwhelmed. But to me it’s fun, I love reading about new recipes, new methods, and about food production. Get excited about something and stick with it, whether it be baking your own bread, making sauerkraut, or really perfecting your soup-making skills. Think of the healthy food you’re eating and how great it makes you feel (physically, mentally) and have that keep you going.

  10. says

    I love what Sono says about our pace of life, compared to how it was previously. It is so true (though I wish it wasn’t!). I think her encouragement to enjoy and embrace the positive changes involved in a nourishing diet is excellent advice.

    I have actually found that I have truly enjoyed the process of transitioning and making these changes. Sometimes they’ve felt overwhelming and sometimes I’ve felt discouraged, but overall, I have really loved slowing down a little, spending more time at home and in my kitchen, and learning these wonderful food preparation skills. I feel so much more connected to the beauty of the changing seasons (and appreciative of the variety they bring), and am loving the rhythms that have been developing in my kitchen and my cooking. It just feels really good and right, and that is such a blessing.

  11. KimiHarris says


    That is a hard situation nourishing food wise! You could do small things, perhaps, like bring high quality butter to spread on your bread (such as Kerrygold butter), and take a quality cod liver oil too. Look for vegetable dishes, egg dishes, and meat dishes that are cooked simply (i.e. not loaded with can of mushroom soup!). Good luck!


    I agree! A slower life is enjoyable. Something that most of us could easily miss out on. 🙂

  12. says

    When I transitioned to gluten free, I was completely overwhelmed at first. So I started looking at all the foods and recipes I already ate that were gluten free. I was amazed at how many there were. Before I did that, I had been ready to throw away all my old cookbooks and my recipes boxes. Thank goodness, I didn’t. It took me several months to find my way back to those cookbooks and recipes, but I did and then I just focused on favorite recipes that were safe or could easily be adapted. Plus, I focused on eating snacks that didn’t even require cooking … like wonderful nuts, fruits, and simple combinations of the same. What I think is surprising is how quickly you can actually completely change your diet … soon the new way of eating becomes “old hat.” This is especially true if you focus on serving very tasty foods that meet your criteria. And, when you approach your new eating plan with enthusiasm and gratitude, it also makes a huge difference. Oh, and I donated all our gluten-containing foods to the food bank before I started n my GF diet.

    My advice to Gail is the same as I would give to someone going gluten free, focus on basic, real foods. Grilled meats, salads, vegetables, steamed and grilled seafood, and the like. Most cafeterias have these. At least, my son’s college cafeteria does.


  13. says

    I just wanted to say that I really appreciate this post. I’m a bit of a newbie, although I’ve been researching and studying traditional foods for awhile now. The perfectionist in me just wants to do it all, but since I never can, I get frustrated. I love what Sono said…..One step at a time is still a step in the right direction.

    So far I’ve been enjoying making my own kefir for a couple of years now, and just last week made my first successful batch of yogurt. It was delicious! I also love making chicken stock…..simple chicken soup with veggies is my daughter’s favorite food. But there are so many other things I want to learn, thank you all for your encouragement!

  14. says

    I also want to say how much I appreciate this post. I’ve been attending the Nourishing Traditions conferences with my mom since they began, but have recently dropped off because of how overwhelmed I feel by the “purism” there. I always come away feeling that if I ever feed my kids a few Cheerios just for the convenience of it, I have gone over to the dark side. It’s not that I *want* to feed them Cheerios, which I know are pretty devoid of anything nourishing, it’s just that I am overwhelmed by life with a 4 yo and 2 yo twins! I have had difficulty maintaining the habits of feeding a sourdough starter, for instance, when trying to also feed these new mouths in my family. We still very much follow a lot of NT principles – lots of raw milk, butter, eggs, grass-fed meats, chicken stock…. But I have not been able to successfully incorporate lacto-fermenting, sprouting, or grain-soaking into my weekly routine. It’s nice to be reminded that it’s okay to take baby steps on this!

    Also, Kimi, I’ve been meaning to ask if you know the book “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”… the premise is SO easy, and I am wondering if it’s possible to make it NT-compatible? Perhaps by just not using the dough until the next day?


  15. Loree says

    Thank you so much for this post!! I loved the advice: Amy’s suggestions are so helpful and specfic and your mother in law’s so incouraging. I appreciated Stephanies tips as well to start slow one step at a time. It was encouraging to read from one comment that it took nearly four years to make the transistion. It is often discouraging when at playgroups or lunches many mothers seem to love to brag about how “Oh I don’t cook.” And it is frustrating when people insist they can’t stay home and in the kitchen all day impling that there are much better things one should be doing with their time. It feels like I am in the kitchen so long, b/c I am still learning things and trying to get my own rythmn and so it all goes rather slow…. In then end the only motivation I get is from sites such as yours, Kimi, and a few others and knowing what a valuable gift I’ll be passing along to my daughter so she enters adulthood with a secure knowledge in these skills instead scrambling and and trying learn them all in her 30s.

  16. says

    Hi Kimi,

    I am taking baby steps as well – chicken stock has become a routine, so has soaking and sprouting. There’s my first kombucha scoby brewing right now. I made my first soaked yeasted bread day before yesterday and it came out awesome.

    I just want to get good at all these and make them a routine. and have three more goals – kefir, some kind of simple fermented veggies and sourdough starter before the end of this year. I’m not shooting for making sourdough bread yet.. just the starter – to use in pancakes, for soaking, for making rotis, scones etc..

  17. KimiHarris says


    I think it’s important for us all to know that we don’t live in an ideal world, and we sometimes aren’t able to live up to our own ideals! I know that we don’t always eat as well as I wish we were. Though, I suppose to most, I must seem very extreme, I still sometimes eat things that I don’t think are that healthy. For example today, I had a playing class with some students all morning and then had to run out the door. We ended up with store bought hummus (made with soy bean oil!) and white bread. I haven’t had white bread in quite some time and it was pretty good. 🙂 But I wish that I had had my own homemade hummus made with soaked chickpeas and olive oil, and some hearty sourdough bread. I would have liked it even better, and it would have been cheaper. But, you know, it’s okay. Life isn’t perfect, and neither am I!

    A few other people have mentioned that book to me. I’ve just started working with one of their recipes to be a totally soaked recipe. It didn’t come out quite right the first time, but had a wonderful flavor! I will keep you all updated and hope to share a recipe soon using their methods, with a soaking period. 🙂

    Thanks for the comment! I appreciate it. 🙂

  18. says

    Thanks, Kimi! I look forward to reading what you come up with regarding the bread. And I just really appreciate that you are de-mystifying all these recipes. Thanks so much.

  19. Muffin Dad says

    I’m a newbie to TF and got my first set of beef soup bones – I’m making beef broth this weekend. Here’s a question – once I make it, what do I do with it? I’m planning to make a beef stew, and maybe a reduction/sauce/gravy with another cut of beef later in the week but after that I’m fresh out of ideas.


  20. Heather says

    Muffin Dad–
    Make the broth. Once it is cooked, & you’ve smelled & tasted it, the ideas will come to you, never fear. If a recipe calls for water (making gravy, rice, soup, whatever), think about whether it would betastier made with broth–or broth & wine. (If you have Trader Joe’s available to you, check out their Charles Shaw wines (aka Two Buck Chuck)–$1.99/bottle, great for cooking, not bad for drinking, and cheaper than the nastiness sold as “cooking wine”.

  21. valPleriferia says

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