The Not-So-Sweet Facts about Sugar

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Sugar has virtually no nutritional value, yet it is added to thousands of products. According to the University of California San Francisco, added sugar is present in 74% of the packaged foods in your grocery store.  This isn’t just added sugar in obvious places like puddings or ice cream. Added sugar is present in breads, ketchup, yogurt, and even the organic salsa at my favorite grocery store. Many people are consuming far more sugar than they think they are because a large portion of the sugar is hidden.

“Healthy” Foods Still Have Sugar

Even products which are marketed as being healthier aren’t immune from this phenomenon. I recently picked up a box of Almond and Coconut Fruit Nut bars at my local Aldi, only to find that cane sugar was the second ingredient. You could argue that cane sugar might be better than its GMO counterparts, but cane sugar still spikes the blood sugar. When a person’s blood sugar spikes and crashes repeatedly, insulin resistance can develop.

Insulin Resistance Causes Health Problems

Insulin resistance is a condition that tends to lead to type 2 diabetes. Scientists have not established the precise cause of insulin resistance, but we know that lifestyle factors may help. What we do know is that being insulin resistant makes it more difficult for your body to maintain normal levels of glucose and insulin on its own. For a better and more scientific explanation, see this article from the National Institute of Diabetes and and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.  Please keep in mind that I’m not a medical professional. 🙂

Check Your Labels!

Label reading isn’t just for people with allergies. The ingredients are listed in order of amount from greatest to least. Therefore, if sugar is the second ingredient, it’s likely that there is a substantial amount of sugar in the food. Nutrition labels also list the number of grams of sugar per serving. Personally, I don’t stress out if it’s only 1 gram per serving.

Sugar goes by many names – and none of them are really great for you. There are at least 61 different names for sugar that appear on food labels. Some of the most common are sucrose, high fructose corn syrup (check out your labels – this is in everything!), dextrose, and maltodextrin.

In the 1980s, eating a low-fat diet became popular. Many packaged low-fat products became available, such as yogurt. However, removing the fat tends to leave the food with a worse taste than its full-fat counterpart. In response, food manufacturers began putting more added sugar in the low-fat versions of food. It’s understandable, but now we have products like Yoplait original strawberry yogurt, which has almost no fat…but 26 grams of sugar in a 6 ounce container.  That’s more grams than a Twinkie.

We are not called to live with a spirit of fear, but we are called to be discerning. I don’t believe that there is any one diet that is perfect for all people. Someone who is active and has a high metabolism like my husband needs more carbs than someone who is diabetic can handle. Even so, most people benefit from lowering the amount of sugar in their diet. I hope this information has been helpful!

Motherhood in Light of Eternity {Motherhood Matters Series: Part Five}

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motherhood in light of eternity

This is the final installment of the Motherhood Matters series.

Part One: Motherhood and the Gospel

Part Two: Focusing on Truth

Part Three: When Things Don’t Go Our Way

Part Four: Finding Your Value as a Person

I awoke to my cheerful alarm, grabbed my computer and my coffee, and sat down to write. As soon as I opened my browser, I heard my baby.

“MAMAAAAAAA!” he shrieked in his distinctive 10 month old voice.

Maybe he’ll go back to sleep, I thought. He usually sleeps more than an hour later than this.

Nope. After a few attempts at soothing, I saw the futility of my efforts and recognized that he was indeed up for the day. I had hoped to write an entire blog post. I hadn’t written a single word.

Such incidents happen regularly around my home. On the day that this particular episode happened, he also refused to nap when it was nap time.  I confess that sometimes I don’t think joyful thoughts when things don’t go as planned. A lot of women struggle with feeling as if their work doesn’t matter. Personally, I have a hard time with the fact that I do the exact same things over and over, and they never stay done. There is always another diaper or another dish.

The feeling of monotony leads to a feeling of futility or worthlessness. By its very nature, staying home with a baby is isolating. I’m blessed to have a mom friend who I text often. She lives in another state, but she understands what I tell her.

I recently heard a friend say that she feels like mothering just isn’t enough. I think we all relate to that at some point, whether we admit it to others or not. Moms get tired!

How shall then shall we stay motivated? How do we focus on what matters when it seems impossible?

As I was doing housework one day, a phrase popped into my mind: Motherhood in light of eternity.

What does that mean? It means focusing on the end of the story. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said “Begin with the end in mind.” His quote is generally used in a business context, but it applies to mothering as well.

The fact of the matter is this: the only thing that I will take into eternity is my family, if they are saved. Each moment with my son is an opportunity for discipleship. When I read his story Bible to him, I’m planting the seeds of knowledge about God. When I pick up a Cheerio off of the floor for the millionth time, I’m showing him love. When I pray over him after I put him in his crib for the night, I’m asking God to show me how to parent him (believe me, I need the help).

I did some cool things before I entered the season of marriage and motherhood. I was ranked second in speaker points at a national debate tournament. I interned in Washington, DC. I graduated summa cum laude from college. I worked at a job that I loved. I’m proud of these things and the effort that went into them, and that isn’t inherently bad. As cool as they are though, they do not matter as much as the soul I’m shaping now.

I want my son to follow God, even when it’s scary. I want my son to be in a Scripture saturated home. I want my son to remember a mom who was filled with joy, even in the midst of the mundane.

And that is what ultimately matters.

but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. – Joshua 24:15b KJV

I’m linking up to Salt & Light. 

Why You Need Community (And How to Find It)

you need community

Every woman needs community.

Allow me to preface this post with a confession: I’m not good at this. I’m awkward. I’m the wrong age. I can be a little unconventional. I move all the time.

With all that said, I think finding community is worth the effort. I hear over and over again from readers that they feel lonely, and that’s a pretty natural feeling when you’re alone with little children most of the time. Little children are lovely, but they can’t carry on adult conversations.

If you crave friendships with other adult women, you are not being selfish. Let me shout this from the rooftops!

I used to feel guilty about wanting to socialize, but it’s really not frivolous. I tend to feel badly about leaving my toddler with my husband for a couple of hours so I can go to a ladies’ event at church. Which is really kind of ridiculous if you think about it. He’s with his dad. He’s going to survive.

Another common stumbling block is exhaustion. We are run ragged to the point that going to one. more. thing. just feels like too much to bear. There are times to say yes and there are times to say no, but most moms need at least one chance to get out of the house per week to stay sane.

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24-25 NASB

It’s healthy. It’s normal. It’s good.

Sunday school Our church has a class for young married couples that we’ve really enjoyed. The class occasionally gets together outside of church time. We try to attend these events when we can.

Small groups – On Sunday nights, we do a large group teaching time, and then a small group discussion time. As an introvert, I’m so bad at small groups. My comfort zone is to sit in a large lecture-style meeting and then leave without chatting with anyone. (Terrible, but true.)

However, when I force myself to overcome the awkwardness and contribute to the discussion, I find that I get to know others on a deeper level. Deep relationships are good for the soul.

Service opportunities – This was hard for me when my son was tiny and not staying in nursery consistently yet. Even now, I feel somewhat limited in what I can do. I hope to get plugged in with Awana next year, but in the mean time I take meals to people. While it seems like a little thing, a warm meal can encourage those who are dealing with loss, a health issue, or some other challenge.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ – Galatians 6:2 ESV

MOPS – MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. I haven’t tried it yet, but I hope to in the future. I’ve heard great things about it!

“But I don’t have a _____.” Maybe none of these ideas work for you. Take a few minutes to brainstorm an alternative.

Perhaps the most important reason to cultivate a community is this: it helps us to remember that we aren’t alone in our struggles. In the age of social media, sometimes we get trapped into thinking that everyone else is living a charmed life and we’re really the only ones with problems. However, Instagram doesn’t tell the entire story of one’s life. Nothing better combats that idea than getting to know and speaking with people on a regular basis.

How have you cultivated community in your life? Is it something that comes easily to you?

Finding Your Value as a Person Through Motherhood

A note from Laura: This post was originally written for Chaotic Life of Lauren, which is a blog whose mission is to help busy Christian mothers manage life. Lauren ran a series entitled “Seasons of Motherhood” this month, and I was honored to be included, along with several other bloggers. Motherhood remains the most refining and sanctifying experience of my life, and I thank God for it! I hope this encourages any other type A moms out there, as well as moms who struggle with physical challenges. These things are difficult, but you are not alone.   

My best friend used to lovingly tease me about my perfect planners. I had a plan for everything: when I would eat, when I would study, when I would socialize, when I would do ministry. I carefully crossed off each task and appointment as I completed it. My life was completely under control. I counted down the days until my wedding and smiled to myself as I thought about all the fun things my husband and I would do together.

I liked to say I was a planner, but I was really just a control freak.

And then, six weeks after my wedding, I found out a baby was on the way. Surprise!

Being pregnant threw me for a loop. I was used to being able to accomplish a lot of tasks in a day, but that didn’t happen any more when my “first trimester” nausea and exhaustion lasted through all three trimesters. Occasionally I would have a good day. I would get really excited and try to do as many things as possible, but then the exhaustion would catch up with me and I would be worse than ever.

While I would have never admitted it before, I had been placing a lot of my identity and sense of value in my productivity.

Please visit Chaotic Life of Lauren to read the rest of this post!

How I Made Over My Morning Routine

morning routine

I’ve never really been a morning person, though I can force myself to be when necessary. I have read that many mothers of young children like to get up early so they can have a time of peace and quiet to do their morning routine. It sounded like a good idea to me, so I tried it for a while.

It does not work for my household.

My toddler is quite talented at going to sleep at the same time every night, but he does not get up at the same time every morning. Unfortunately, that meant that sometimes I would wake up and be five minutes into my project when I heard him stirring and needing me. Once that started happening 75% of the time, I failed to see the point of getting up before him.

Additionally, for the first 30 minutes of my day, I seem to move at the pace of a snail. Actually, perhaps the snail would beat me. I’m more of a hare than a tortoise later in the day. How is that for mixing my metaphors? 😉 For me, 30 minutes spent writing during his nap yields far greater results than 30 minutes spent first thing in the morning.

I’ve battled being anemic for about three years, and I just recently found the right level of iron supplements to keep me functional without side effects. When my anemia is not under control, I’m always exhausted and need to sleep more than a normal person.

I’m glad I tried it, because experimenting is one of the best ways to grow as a person. But what works for some won’t work for all, and that is fine.

What really revolutionized my mornings?

Cooking Breakfast Ahead

I’ve been doing this for the last few weeks, and it makes my life SO MUCH EASIER. I try to keep a stash of meat and other staples in my freezer for dinners, but applying the concept of working ahead for breakfast was a new thing.

I know some people aren’t really interested in eating first thing in the morning, but I wake up hungry. Ideally, I want to eat something reasonably healthy for breakfast too (i.e. not poptarts).

We do not follow Trim Healthy Mama strictly, but we try to focus on whole foods and still use a lot of THM approved recipes. Some of our favorites are listed below.

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal – Briana Thomas – You’re supposed to mix up the ingredients and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight before you bake it, but I’ve never done that and we thought it still tasted fine.

Crustless Quiche – Mrs. Criddle’s Kitchen – I just recently started liking quiche, but I should’ve given it a chance sooner. Quiches can be customized with whatever add-ins you like.

Trim Healthy Mama Pancakes – I have had great success with freezing these!

Volcano Mudslide Muffin – Trim Healthy Mama – I put the dry ingredients in a snack size ziploc bag. In the morning, dump your bag into a mug, add the wet ingredients, and microwave. I made a lot of these right before my son was born, and my husband really enjoyed having them on hand.

All of these have been great additions to our breakfast repertoire.

What do you do to make your mornings easier?

When Things Don’t Go Our Way {Motherhood Matters Series: Part Three}

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when things don't go our way

This is the third part of our Motherhood Matters series, written by Paris of Nourishing a Life in Christ. I felt convicted reading this myself, and I hope it blesses you too! – Laura

Part One: Motherhood and the Gospel

Part Two: Focusing on Truth

Mothers are in a powerful role. To quote Sally Michael, this is a “God given opportunity to influence the next generation to put their trust in God.” We do this through our thoughts, actions and attitudes, which people around us see.

It is understandable that it feels like drudgery to serve your family through the world’s perspective when society tells a woman that  motherhood isn’t her place to be. I have fallen into this trap, which led me to discontentment, bitterness, and condemnation. But this thinking is unbiblical.

God wants our thinking to be of thankfulness. We may be stuck with this “thorn” in our side and struggle with this for the rest of our lives. We trust in God’s sovereignty, and know and preach the Gospel to ourselves and know that He uses these trials for our sanctification because we are His and He loves us. We can learn to love discipline and trials because it only hurts for a moment, Hebrews 12:11 compared to eternity.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:11 ESV

We often struggle to focus on the heavenly kingdom and rather focus on our “suffering” in the here and now. We get side tracked and lose focus. This is called idolatry. Idolatry sounds like an odd topic to bring up, but it does happen because seek to please and love for things or other people rather then our Lord.

I love how one author put it:

“Our primary struggle in raising our children, is not subduing their wills, knowing how to teach them the Bible, or even knowing how to pray for them. Our greatest struggle will be in striving to love and worship God above all else, so that we can overflow in imparting that love to our children. Because our hearts are prone to wander from the Lord, from the Creator to the things He has created– pride, money, possessions, image, children, control, popularity, the praise of men, and so on, we must fight a continual battle to keep our hearts from other idols.” – Sally Michael, Mothers: Disciplers of the Next Generations

From my story in last week’s post, working outside the home and being praised for accomplishment was my idol. It was so very hard to identify this, because my mind said “yes, I want to have children, yes, I like staying home with them, yes, I want to raise them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord.” Yet my heart and desires were truly far from this. On my spare time during naps, I would research how to start a business. Then I would get upset with my children if they woke up early or disrupted my daydreams, and I slowly put researching as a priority above my children. This is how I saw that my desires and motivations were sinful and not God glorifying.

Sanctification Through Fellowship and Discipleship

There is great importance of joining a biblical church body, so that you can be sanctified through learning. To overcome these struggles I benefited from seeking a Titus 2 woman in my church body who I could talk to when I was having sinful desires, who could encourage me when I was faint hearted, who could edify me when I was having a rough day, and who could rebuke me when I was being rebellious in my sin. Praying with other believers is very helpful as well. When I learned to submit myself to be vulnerable to another woman, for the sake of being sanctified and glorifying His name; God used this to change my heart!

So Why Does Motherhood Matter?

Motherhood matters because God has put us in this position to sanctify us and bring us closer to Him. Our purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, and we learn how to do this by reading His word and being committed to following Christ. We do this by doing it right were God has us. I have always had annoyed thoughts that “I can even read His word without being disrupted” or “I can’t be committed to following Christ, because when I try, everyone else throws a wrench in to it… I wish I was a monk!”

God knows this is how are we sanctified. He also uses us as means to spread the Gospel to the very sinners in our home and to raise up a new generation that lives to glorify Him.

Keep the faith fellow Mama, you are God’s ambassador and you are not the only one who has struggles!

Recommended Reading:

The Profile of a Godly Mother by Grace to You

Mothers: Disciplers of the Next Generations by Sally Michael

Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman

The Hidden Ministry of Motherhood by Liz Wann

About the Author: Hello, my name is Paris Byrum. I am a Christ follower, a wife to a great husband for 8 years and a mama to four littles. I am a lover of all things creative & seek to encourage others to run the race and live a life to glorify God. Come visit me at Nourishing a Life in Christ if you like what you read here. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Easiest Way to Save on Groceries

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grocery budget

As homemakers, we’re always looking for ways to save on groceries. When it comes to grocery shopping, I’ve concluded that you’re generally making a choice. Either you can spend more money and less stress, or you can spend more stress and less money. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Aldi is a store that people either love or hate, but shopping at Aldi is the best way to reduce your grocery budget if you don’t have time to learn how to coupon or to cook everything from scratch.

Aldi does have its quirks, but they’re manageable.

  • You need to bring your own bags, but you can purchase some at the store if you forget.
  • You need to bring a quarter to get a cart. The quarter releases the cart from the other carts. When you re-attach the cart at the end of your shopping trip, the quarter pops back out. The idea is that the quarter motivates people to return their carts. In turn, Aldi doesn’t have to pay people to retrieve carts from the parking lot. That equals lower prices.
  • Generally, there is only one checkout line going at a time. However, Aldi cashiers move at the speed of light. The product packaging is designed for quick and easy scanning.

PROS:

Aldi has great prices. I keep a price comparison worksheet on my computer. Aldi beats Walmart on the vast majority of items. There are some exceptions, like coconut oil, which I buy at Walmart, but Aldi is overwhelmingly the winner on most items.

The newer stores are clean and inviting. I had a brand new Aldi five minutes away from my apartment when we first got married. It was glorious. As an Aldi customer since age 7, I have to admit that the previous incarnation of their store design wasn’t visually appealing.

Aldi offers more reasonably priced organic and gluten free options. Of course, conventional items are always going to be less expensive than organic, but as far as organic goes, Aldi gives you the most bang for your buck.

It’s easy to get in and out quickly. Aldi doesn’t offer 5 brands of anything. You have regular mac and cheese and organic mac and cheese. Most items are only available in Aldi’s store brand. Because of this, the stores are smaller than other grocery stores. The experience is a stark contrast to the chaos of Walmart.

CONS:

Aldi doesn’t have everything. We typically end up having to stop by Walmart to fill in whatever Aldi doesn’t stock. Usually that’s about 3-5 more specialty items. Our Walmart is close by though, so it’s not too inconvenient.

Older stores that have not been remodeled are less visually appealing. Aldi is able to offer lower prices because they cut the frills elsewhere. Think of Walmart vs. Target. Most people would say that Target offers a more pleasant shopping atmosphere, but their prices reflect that nicer experience. If you’re going to Walmart, you have to put up with the less nice atmosphere.

Aldi has been stepping up their game with this, and the new stores look much more modern. Our local store is getting remodeled, so hopefully it’ll be improving too!

Produce and meat can be hit or miss. We have lived in two cities since we got married nearly two years ago. The Aldi in the first city was brand new. The quality of produce at that one was better than at our Aldi here. I can still find some decent produce here, but it takes more rummaging. The prices make the hassle worth it to me.

For my family, the pros outweigh the cons. After shopping at Aldi for 15 years, the quirks are second nature. I love how they’ve been implementing more healthy products over the last couple of years. It’s great to see that it’s possible to eat more healthy foods without shopping at expensive specialty stores!

If you are interested in saving money on your grocery budget, meal planning can really help! Click the button below to get a 28 day meal plan, complete with shopping lists and a price breakdown.