Our Healthy Diets – and Aspartame

Over the past few months, I’ve been doing my best to change the way we eat at home in order to improve our diets and make sure they are the most nutritious they can be. Since I found that I needed to change my own diet in order to lose weight, of course I wanted everyone to eat better. So I began to see how I could change my shopping list in order for this to happen.

It was a slow process, changing one or two items at a time, eliminating the less healthy options and replacing them with healthier ones. For example, I switched jam for honey. At first I thought the kids would prefer the jam, but they don’t. They love honey and pick it all the time, so now I no longer buy jam. Though I was buying the healthiest jam I could find, it was still high in white sugar, so I’m happy they love honey. I recently found a place that sells brown sugar so I was able to stop buying white sugar, too.

I also searched until I found real cheese and totally stopped buying the processed stuff. Real cheese is quite expensive here, so it took some time to find one that was in my price range, but it was worth the search.

I do most of my cooking with olive oil, and I keep on hand some sunflower oil for making baked goods, or else I use real butter. I also have a small jar of extra virgin olive oil for salads and hummus and stuff like that.

I used to buy a lot of cookies and other snacks (that I mostly ate), but now I’ve replaced them with more fruit. Good thing my kids are fruit lovers. They will eat it any time. Their preferred snacks are peanuts, raisins, dates, plain crackers (whole grain ones), chikki (a treat made from peanuts or sesame seeds and jaggery), granola, and of course, fruit.

While I used to buy certain items because they made meal prep easier with small kids, now that my kids are older I do make some other things since it is healthier, and often cheaper, than buying them already made. For example, I began making peanut butter this week to cut the cost of what we were spending on it. Logan loves peanut butter and will eat it every day if I let him. But the one I was getting kept going up in price and for one small jar of 460 gr. I was paying the same as for a kilo of chicken. It was way too much. I found that I could buy 1/2 a kilo of plain peanuts for less than half of what I was spending on peanut butter, and it only took me about 10 minutes to whip it up in my blender.

I have one of those blender sets that comes with different cups and blades, and one is specially for grinding. I just put half the peanuts in with a little salt, then slowly worked the blender until it came to a spreadable consistency. It is lighter than the store bought stuff and not sweet, but the kids eat it with honey anyway so why keep buying something that has extra sugar and is breaking the bank when I can make it for less than half the price, and it is healthier to boot!

I still make my own yogurt because it is cheaper, and I make granola for that reason as well. The plus is that I can make the granola how we like it and it is very healthy.

Learning to like veggies is a little harder since they are not sweet like fruit, but my kids are slowly progressing. Logan was stuck on only having carrot sticks for a long time. They had to be raw (he never ate them cooked) and the only other veggie he sometimes had was cucumber. He is slowly coming around and is trying new things here and there. He now claims to like lettuce, and wants to eat green veggies in order to turn into the Hulk. (Who says superheroes can’t do anything for kids?)

Lila and Scarlett will try more veggies. Lila loves most raw veggies that I serve, including spinach, but tends to pick out cooked ones. Oh, the other day I made a carrot and cabbage coleslaw, with the cabbage being finely grated instead of chopped. Logan only saw the carrots and raisins, and claimed he loved it. Big win!

It is great to see them eating better, and I am feeling better knowing we are on our way to healthier lives through eating better.

Now onto what I really wanted to write about today.

Despite making all the above-mentioned changes, along with getting more exercise, I was still not feeling as good as I should have been. I really can’t explain exactly how I was feeling, but it was a general “could there be something wrong with me” feeling. At the end of each day I felt blah. I would feel better in the morning but by evening I felt weird again. To top it off, I began having fears I’d never had before, fears of instant death, fears of leaving the house, leaving my kids, being alone in the house when Glad was gone, constant thoughts of “you’re going to die right now”, etc. It was really weird.

Then one night I had something happen that had never happened before – I had a panic attack. I tried to go to bed, but every time I laid down I was sure that was it for me, that I was going to stop breathing. I kept getting up and lying back down, and each time I laid down it would hit me again. I prayed hard and the feeling finally went away.

It continued to happen several times after that. I never knew when it would hit, and I couldn’t figure out what could be the cause. I was beginning to wonder if I was seriously sick or something. I spent a lot of time praying just to get rid of the fear and it helped some but not completely. I also found myself getting upset with the kids more easily, losing my temper and yelling, screaming really, at them for minor things, which was really odd. I’ve never been one to get upset so easily over such small things.

Since I didn’t understand what was happening, I didn’t tell Glad what I was feeling until about 10 days ago when I began to feel this odd pressure in my nose and forehead. We talked about how maybe I should have a medical check up  but the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced there really wasn’t anything physically wrong.

The day after we talked, I was on Facebook and happened on a picture of diet sodas that had a list of the side effects of Aspartame, and one of them was – get this – panic (anxiety) attacks. Now, I don’t drink any soda at all, and have never touched a diet soda in my life, and with all the mostly fresh, natural food I was eating, how could I possibly be getting Aspartame in my diet?

Then I remembered the gum I was using. I like to have some when running to keep my mouth moist, plus I would have one when out with the kids, or at the park, etc. I was chewing two to three pieces of this sugar-free gum daily. So I checked it and, sure enough, the sweetener was Aspartame. I had used this gum for months but was only recently hit with these odd things, so my guess is that it took time to build to danger levels in my body since I wasn’t getting it any other way.

I stopped using it immediately, and now, roughly 10 days since my last piece, I feel better. I can’t prove 100% that the Aspartame was the culprit, but I can say that I am beginning to feel like myself again. The fears are slowly going, since they kind of got stuck in my mind, but now I find it easier to fight them off. I am also no longer having panic attacks. And yes, I’m not yelling at the kids like I was.

I am now becoming a label-reader in the store. I check the ingredients listed in any new item I pick up to be sure there is no artificial sweetener of any kind. I buy very few pre-packaged items these days, so it isn’t too hard to avoid. It’s so sad, though, that the general public is subjected to these types of dangerous food ingredients, all for the sake of skimping on calories.

What is your home diet like? Do you avoid junk and eat healthy? Have you had any problems from using artificial sweeteners?

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