Yes, we eat frozen pizza, too.

Some people might be surprised to know that our family eats frozen pizza from time to time.  In fact, we just had it last night.  My husband is on a work trip and it was time for mama to wave the white flag.  So, instead of preparing a nutritious and well-planned dinner like usual, I served up frozen pizza with a side of salad, fruit, and a stress-free mom. Would homemade, whole-wheat pizza have been a better option last night?  Yes, but I just didn’t have the energy to execute it last night.  I knew that the kids had a well-balanced lunch yesterday, too.

Why am I telling you this?  Because there is a misperception that real-food families never stray from real food.  Maybe that’s true for some families, but not for ours.  For our family, it’s all about BALANCE.  (Will I ever stop asking myself questions in this blog post and then answering them?  The jury is still out on that one.)

The idea of balance will help you incorporate real food changes slowly and will help you feel less overwhelmed by the process.  Making one small change at a time is so effective and easier to manage.

Here are the most common hesitations I hear from people when they first start a real food lifestyle.  Each hesitation comes back to one solution: BALANCE.

1. “I’m overwhelmed by all of the changes.”

It doesn’t have to be a 100% leap right off the bat.  In fact, going all-in right away will most likely backfire.  Our family is at about 95% and probably never will be at 100%.  Small changes and small victories will lead to the overall lifestyle change in the long run.  Start by switching from white flour foods to whole wheat foods.  Or perhaps kick off your real food lifestyle change by commiting to stop eating foods marketed as “light”, “low-fat”, and “low-calorie”.  Baby steps are your friend.

2. “My kid/spouse/dog/mailman isn’t ready for the change.”

Incorporating a real food lifestyle does work best with a commitment from everyone in your household.  Buying fake foods for everyone else in the family while you’re trying to hold strong with a real food lifestyle just isn’t realistic.  Get everyone involved in the label-reading habit.  Once everyone is educated on what to look for, it will be easier to make the changes.  Also, ask each family member which baby step they’d like to take and incorporate those first.  They’ll be more likely to get on board if they can contribute to the decision making.

3. “I don’t have time.”

It’s true: a real food lifestyle takes a little more time.  If you dedicate a few hours a week to planning (meal planning, food prep, baking and freezing family faves, etc.) it will make a big difference.  Again, balance is key.  Try to just focus on breakfast food changes first then ease into lunch, then dinner.  Or if you’re serving a whole wheat pasta dish, don’t stress too much about the salad dressing just yet.  Everything worth doing in life takes a little extra time and effort.  A real food lifestyle is well worth it.

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Recipe: Peanut Butter Magic Shell

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out how to have more peanut butter in my life.  Because, well, peanut butter is my life.  After the obvious other things, of course: family, friends, and health.

Then I had a light bulb moment…peanut butter magic shell!  I’ve made the homemade chocolate version before, but this peanut butter version made angels sing when I tasted it.  It catapulted me back to my childhood.  My go-to flavor of choice at Baskin Robbins as a child was ALWAYS chocolate peanut butter.  No need to give me that mini pink spoon to sample anything else.  Just give me my scoop of chocolate peanut butter ice cream, please.

Ice cream is an indulgent treat in our house because it does contain refined sugar.  Our go-to brand/flavor is Breyers Natural Vanilla because it is made with a very short list of ingredients we can pronounce.

Enjoy the peanut butter magic shell drizzled over anything cold (that’s how the magic happens!) like ice cream or fruit.

Peanut Butter Magic Shell

Peanut Butter Magic Shell Recipe

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Recipe: Taco Meat

At first, I thought it seemed silly to post a recipe for something as simple as taco meat.  But taco seasoning is one of the things our family used quite a bit before our real food lifestyle, and it’s something that has been hard to replicate.

Most mainstream taco seasoning packets contain ingredients like maltodextrin and silicone dioxide.  Sounds yummy, right?  No.

This method gives the taco meat a deep, rich flavor thanks to the tomato paste concentrate and bold seasonings that you most likely already have in your spice cabinet.


Taco Meat Recipe

Taco Meat Recipe

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Recipe: Sautéed Brussels Sprouts

I know, I know…Brussels sprouts.  It’s a classic story line for a family sitcom dinner table scene.  “Eat your Brussels sprouts, Jimmy!”  Brussels sprouts are polarizing.  In other words, you either love them or hate them.  For me though, I love them when they’re sliced thin and sautéed like this recipe, but don’t care for them whole and roasted.

If you’re in the same boat, you’ve gotta try them this way.  Even my Brussels sprouts-hater husband gave these a thumbs up.

Side note: the key to flavorful Brussels sprouts is seasoning.  Don’t be afraid of salt!  When they’re done sautéing, season a little, taste, season a little, taste, lather, rinse, repeat.


Sauteed Brussels Sprouts



Sauteed Brussels Sprouts Recipe

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Recipe: Veggie Chili

There’s just something about a simmering pot of chili on a brisk Fall day that makes everything seem right with the world.  Some people insist on using the same (sometimes secret) recipe when making chili.  For me, it’s fun to “wing it” each time.  Sometimes it’s spicier, sometimes it includes meat…you get the idea. For this batch, I took the time to write down the recipe to share it with you.  This variety is mild/medium with a hint of sweetness thanks to the carrots.

Make a batch tonight and enjoy it for the rest of the week!


Veggie Chili

Veggie Chili Recipe


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Recipe: Jam Cookies

Gotta love a cookie that can be eaten at any time of day – even breakfast.  This Jam Cookie recipe has oats, so that counts as breakfast, right?

These buttery, slightly salty, but with a burst of sweetness cookies are extremely satisfying and slightly addicting.  You’ve been warned.


Jam Cookies


Jam Cookies Recipe


Jam Cookies

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School Days

It’s officially school season in our household (and probably yours, too).  This is the first full week of all-day everyday pre-school for my kids.  We eased into it last week with just two days in the books which was kind of a nice preview for our days to come.

Along with school season comes a few more food challenges as kids embark out of our summertime bubble and into the real world.  Here are a few I’m anticipating:


I’ve gotta admit, I’m a little geeked about packing school lunches.  We invested in a Yumbox for each of the kids and it has become a fun little adventure coming up with ideas to fill each of the sections.  Ask me in 4 months if it’s still a “fun little adventure” and I may have a different response.  For now, I’m enjoying it.  Here are some tips for school lunches:

  • Keep it simple.  Many kids are on a time crunch and don’t have time for big meals.  Not to mention they have new distractions and friends that are occupying their time.
  • Keep it familiar.  School lunch is not the best time to introduce a brand new food.  Try new things at home first before including it in your child’s lunch box.  That gives you a chance to explain it and/or see how they like it.
  • Keep it real.  It’s tempting to gravitate toward unhealthy convenience foods as an option for school lunch.  However, kids need real food now more than ever.  They need the proper fuel and nutrition to keep them alert and attentive during the school day.


We don’t do morning snack in our household.  School does, though.  Luckily, our school asks that each student bring his/her own snack each day.  I was relieved to hear this because their previous school provided snack and I was unhappy with many of the choices and portions.  (Yes, I’m a self-diagnosed control freak.)  Here are some tips for school snacks:

  • Keep it small.  Snack time most likely isn’t too far away from lunch time.  The odds of your child eating a good lunch are greater if snack doesn’t completely fill him/her up.
  • Keep it light.  Heavy foods = lethargy.  Kids need to be the opposite of lethargic on a school day.  Choose light and energy-boosting snacks like popcorn, nuts, raisins, or fruit.
  • Keep it clean.  Kids are messy.  Plain and simple.  Keep it easy on the teacher and send foods that require little or no clean up.

In-Class Parties

I know I’ll never escape the evil that is in-school birthday and holiday celebrations.  I’m all about a party, but what I’m not all about is the food that goes along with it.  My kids are in a class of 21 kids.  That means there will be 18 days of cupcakes, cookies, donuts, and other foods that are not part of our diet.  Don’t forget about Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and other random food rewards.  My son told me that he said “no thank you” to an M&M reward that was offered to him the other day.  Proud (control freak) mom moment right there.  Here are some tips for dealing with in-class junk:

  • Keep it balanced.  On days when you know your child will be eating unusual, sugary, junk treats – bump up the nutrient content more than normal in his/her other meals that day.
  • Keep calm.  Reacting very negatively in front of your kids about junk foods offered at school can backfire.  Instead, tell your child it’s ok that he/she ate it and calmly discuss what ingredients might be in that food and why it’s not the best choice.

Here’s to a wonderful school year!

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Elimination Experiment Recap

Whew.  We did it.  We made it through our 3-week elimination experiment as a family. It takes longer than a week to really reap the benefits of food elimination.  However, we did learn a lot during the process.  We also decided to dedicate one day a week to each of the elimination categories as we move forward.

Here’s a quick look at some of the things we learned each week:

Week 1: Dairy

Dairy-free week was a little easier than we all thought it would be.  Breakfast was tough, though, because our go-to on most mornings is homemade oatmeal (made with milk).  I was able to curb my kids’ oatmeal craving with other options like eggs, oat bars, banana muffins, smoothies and our favorite pancakes made with homemade almond milk.

Which brings me to our biggest success of the week – we made homemade almond milk!  The time commitment was extensive for the soaking process, but the actual effort level was low.  After a bit of research, it was evident that homemade was the only option for almond milk with REAL ingredients.  It turned out to be the perfect dairy substitute for baked goods.

We have a greater appreciation for people who have a true dairy intolerance and aren’t left with many real options for dairy substitutes.

Check out the Three Plates dairy-free Pinterest page for more inspiration!

Week 2: Meat

This one was harder than expected.  Especially for my husband who was in St. Louis for a work trip and had to pass on some of the country’s best BBQ.  He was successful, though.  We both discovered that we were substituting carbs and dairy for meat.  And, yes, the bread and cheese we eat are real, but should still be eaten in moderation.

Our favorite dinner during meatless week was taco night!  We stuffed homemade whole-wheat tortillas with beans, rice, guacamole, cheese, salsa, and lettuce.  Didn’t miss the meat at all.  In addition to taco night, we relied on wild-caught seafood, eggs, beans, pasta, and veggies to get us through the week.

We also noticed that our grocery bill during meatless week was about 20% less than usual. I’ll call that a win any day.

We’re happily adding organic meat back to our menu, but will work on smaller portions at each meal.

Check out the Three Plates meatless Pinterest page for more inspiration!

Week 3: Gluten

Thank goodness for almond flour during gluten-free week.  It was our saving grace.  However, it retails for about $12 for a 16-ounce package.  What?!?  That’s downright crazy.  We used it for homemade brownies (amazing!), cookies, and pancakes.  We also loved the brown rice pasta from Trader Joe’s.  My kids didn’t even bat an eyelash at the change which tells me it really is a good substitute to our normal whole-wheat pasta.  4-year-olds are the world’s most honest food critics, aren’t they?

We realized that this was the one food category that required a bit of research in order to understand gluten and which foods contained it.  The first two weeks were easier because it’s quite obvious if something contains dairy or meat.

Gluten-free week was the easiest and seemed to be the most beneficial.

Check out the Three Plates gluten-free Pinterest page for more inspiration!

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Recipe: Sautéed Kale with Apple and Shallot

Kale can seem intimidating and uninspired, but with a few simple ingredients it can be the star of your next meal.  This easy sautéed side dish is quick and uses ingredients that are most likely already in your fridge and pantry.

You could also use spinach in this dish, but I love how well the kale keeps its shape and texture after being sautéed.


Sauteed Kale with Apple and Shallot


Kale with Apple and Shallot


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Recipe: Dark Chocolate Lollipops

My sweet tooth yells at me sometimes.  At times, I’m able to ignore it.  At other times, I need to answer it.  Today I needed chocolate.  However, it’s our dairy-free week and most mainstream chocolate contains dairy.  So, it was time to get creative.  And can we all agree that food on a stick is fun?

Therefore, I present dark chocolate lollipops. Mix it up a bit and add pecans or chopped nuts.


Dark Chocolate Lollipops 2


Dark Chocolate Lollipop


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