When food bloggers sit down to write, they usually have an incredible new recipe to post with mouth-watering photographs to enchant you. Their posts provide inventive creations for every meal of the day. But though I am again writing about food, this post is not a how-to. Because if you ate the way I used to eat, you also might injure your health. But–if you are tired of making lunches for someone, then read on about the one I made. I guarantee you’ll get fired from that sandwich-making job. And note: there won’t be a photo to illustrate, but the sandwich in question was creative and very inventive.
Scene: first year of marriage, both working. To help our budget, I prepare lunches. Things go well, until one day there’s just not much in the fridge.
Scene: husband sits down in lunchroom with colleagues. He opens bag and takes out sandwich only to discover that this is liver sausage on cinnamon-raisin bread. And he has always claimed that this version had a frosted crust though I don’t remember that!
Climax: Everyone in lunchroom laughs, and though spouse eats sandwich, I am later informed that my duty as lunch-provider has ended. Oh well, he can still look forward to my chicken dinners (see Feeding My Family etc Part One.)
My adventures in the kitchen did gradually improve. But here is another confession: after moving to our first house we both had longer commutes to get to work, so often we snapped up Hostess Ho Ho’s or donuts for breakfast. That was the beginning of some problems for me. And again it goes back to understanding nutrition and that all foods are not equal. All foods fill the belly, but they do not guarantee good health and stamina. But we were adults who had decided we would just eat what we wanted to eat–even if one Ho Ho contained 42 grams of sugar! We certainly did not apply the same free-form of choice to the diet of our children as they came along.
So I still had much to learn about carbohydrates, protein and fats. And what happened to me because of my diet was subtle. I had my first child and did well, felt good. But as life continued and my daughter became a toddler more was demanded of me. Then after the birth of my second child, I was exhausted. And anyone with true knowledge of nutrition would have known right away what I was doing to myself to keep going. My diet: black coffee in the morning. Sweet cereals or coffee cake for breakfast. Colas with lunch. Sweet and sour sauces with some dinners. Always dessert. Even candy while I read before bed.
I was always tired, cranky and often ill-tempered. I had headaches and sometimes chest pain. I was even rushed to the local hospital in an ambulance because I thought I was having a heart attack. It was 1979 and at the hospital no one took a sample of my blood sugar. But that’s what was going on. I had hypoglycemia. I probably had a propensity for it most of my life, because though I was always active, I tired easily when attempting sports and was always thinking about my next meal. Being a stay-at-home mom afforded easy access to food which had been keeping me going–until I had a preschooler and a colicky baby and my diet contained too much caffeine and sugar.
But I was fortunate and after one appointment with a physician who specialized in diabetes and decided I would feel great on an all-protein diet (and I discovered that you can’t function without some carbs) I found a doctor in Chicago who knew what low blood sugar was and how to treat it. Change your diet, of course. It took me about two years to feel totally good again and that required that I eliminate all sweets. I could have fresh fruits and vegetables and complex carbs like whole grains. I had to eat protein every three hours and weigh my dinner meal. Dried dates from California were allowed in between meals to provide energy to a mother with two children. Dates are energy boosters as they contain natural sugars like glucose, sucrose and fructose. My daughters thought that every mother had a bag of dates in her purse. But I got better and that’s all that mattered.
Actually developing low blood sugar was great for my entire family. I bought cookbooks like Nikki and David Goldbecks American Wholefoods Cuisine, Adelle Davis Let’s Get Well, The Low Blood Sugar Cookbook and The Silver Palate Cookbook. For a long time I made desserts from oatmeal flour or carob or I used fruit to sweeten things. Bringing such a contribution to the table, my children would often ask: “Can you eat it?” and if the answer was yes, they declined. But as my daughters have grown into adulthood, they too struggle with low blood sugar now and again. None of us can eat a donut and coffee for breakfast without getting a headache and feeling tired.
Today the talk of diet and nutrition is hotter than ever. But in the early 80s when I was struggling to find ingredients (I even made my own mayo to avoid adding sugar) health food stores were the first choice. Gradually you were able to find peanut butter without sugar or high fructose corn syrup, unsweetened cereals, and canned fruit without heavy sugared syrup in the local grocery. Aspartame allowed me to drink cola, though now I don’t even bother with that. Water please.
But it all took time. Now gluten-free is all the rage–though it was created for folks with celiac disease–a condition that can be very serious. And when you or a family member has dietary concerns like a peanut allergy, eating at other people’s homes or in restaurants can provide a real challenge. But today, awareness has broadened one’s choices. Even some fast-food places provide menus with a list of ingredients and calories. So very helpful.
Healthy and having lots of energy, I stock my kitchen today with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, cheese, and whole grain breads. When I crave sweets, I eat dark chocolate that is 70% cocoa. And now and then I do have a dessert, but I only eat it after a meal, when my belly is full and my body can tolerate the sugar. The Ho Ho’s were gone long, long ago.
So thanks for taking this journey with me. I have learned a great deal from my experience and am always eager to share that knowledge. For a while I taught Diabetes Education at the health department and that afforded me the opportunity to know others’ first hand struggle with nutrition. Please check out some of the links in this article on low blood sugar. And if you enjoy cooking, there are plenty of cookbooks out there to keep you healthy. I’m really fortunate–now my husband has taken up cooking, but you’ll never see liver sausage on his grocery list.
Thanks to Goggle Images and My Husband and Family
PS. If you enjoy Boomer Highway and find it helpful, please nominate the blog for the Heathline.com contest here. http://www.healthline.com/health/best-health-blogs-contest