Substitutions Encouraged

**Orginally published in The Christian Online Magazine, February 2013**

 

Many of you are already aware of the healthier options that exist in the culinary world, but just in case you need a refresher (because I know I forgot easily), I’ve decided to share a list of common food choices that have healthier alternatives. Browse through the list and see if there is anything new for you to try and let me know how those New Year’s Resolution recipes worked out for you (just click on “Temple Maintenance” to view past articles as well as leave your comments)!

Celebrate this Valentine’s Day with wise food choices–keeping your heart healthy and serving God by maintaining the temple He entrusted to you.

“’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial…Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received of God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:12&19

Meals/Main Course Items:

First Choice: Ground Beef (Hamburgers, Sloppy Joes, Tacos…etc.)

Better Choice:Organic Grass-fed Beef (no fillers, hormones, or chemicals used)

Best Choice:Lentils and Black Beans (Veggie Burgers, Bean tacos, Sloppy Joes…etc.)

 

First Choice:Loaded Baked Potato

Better Choice:Mashed Potatoes

Best Choice:Mashed Steamed Cauliflower

 

First Choice:Traditional Pasta Noodles

Better Choice:Rice Noodles

Best Choice:Whole Wheat or Quinoa Noodles

 

First Choice:White Breads, Bagels, English Muffins, or Cereals

Better Choice:Whole Wheat Breads, Bagels, English Muffins, and Whole Grain Cereals

Best Choice:Sprouted Grain Breads, Bagels, English Muffins, and Cereals (i.e. Ezekiel™ brand)

 

First Choice:Flour Tortillas

Better Choice:Artisan Tortillas (Black Bean and Corn, Whole Wheat, Blue Corn and Flax…etc.)

Best Choice:Sprouted Grain Tortillas

 

First Choice:Jar Spaghetti Sauce

Better Choice:No Sugar Added Jar Spaghetti Sauce

Best Choice:Home Made Spaghetti Sauce (Organic Canned Tomato Sauce, Crushed Tomatoes, Tomato Paste and Spices/Herbs)

 

Snacks Items:

First Choice:Cake (Chocolate, Devil’s Food, Yellow, Vanilla…etc.)

Better Choice:Fruit/Veggie Breads (Zucchini Bread, Carrot Cake, Banana Bread…etc.)

Best Choice:Fruit/Veggie Bread with Substitutions (see below)

 

First Choice:Apple Slices, Grapes, Iceberg Lettuce Salad

Better Choice:Oranges, Bananas, Carrots, Mixed Salad (Iceberg and Romaine Lettuce)

Best Choice:Tomatoes, Fresh Organic Berries, Organic Leafy Lettuces (Spinach, Kale, Arugula, Radicchio…etc.)

 

First Choice:Chips

Better Choice:Popcorn

Best Choice:Raw seeds or nuts

 

First Choice:Candy Bars

Better Choice:Fruit Snacks (i.e. gummy bears)

Best Choice:Dried Fruit (i.e. dried pomegranates)

 

First Choice:Soda

Better Choice:Sparkling 100% Fruit Juice

Best Choice:Sparkling Water

 

Ingredient Substitutions:

First Choice:Eggs

Better Choice:Egg substitute (i.e. Egg Beaters™)

Best Choice:Ground Flax Seeds and Water (1 Tbsp. ground flax to 3 Tbsp. water)

 

First Choice:Vegetable Oil

Better Choice:Coconut Oil

Best Choice:Applesauce

 

First Choice:Refined Sugar

Better Choice:Agave Nectar or Organic Raw Sugar

Best Choice:Stevia

 

First Choice:Chocolate Chips

Better Choice:Baking Nuts

Best Choice:Dried Fruit, Raw Nuts and Seeds

 

Dips/Dressings:

First Choice:Store-bought Creamy Dressings (Ranch…etc.)

Better Choice:Store bought Italian or Vinaigrette Dressings

Best Choice:Home-Made Italian or Vinaigrette Dressings (Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Vinegar and Spices…etc.)

 

First Choice:Ketchup, Mayonnaise

Better Choice:Reduced Fat Cream Cheese or Sour Cream

Best Choice:Mustard

 

First Choice:French-Onion Dip

Better Choice:Salsa

Best Choice:Home-made Guacamole Dip (Fresh Avocados, Salt, Pepper, Garlic and Lime)

© Rebecca Aarup

_________________________________________________

profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is an author and freelance writer. She is a health columnist for The Christian Online Magazine, creater of S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Sisters online women’s ministry, and has written devotionals/studies/articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. She just released a new Bible Study The Word: Six Lessons from Psalm 119 which is available as a free download on her website or in print form from Amazon. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and 5 year old, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by subscribing to her blog (it’s free) and following her on twitter and facebook.

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Spiritual Reboot: Four Ways Fasting Benefits your Body and Spirit

**Published with The Christian Online Magazine, November 2012**

Spiritual Reboot: Four Ways Fasting Benefits Your Body and Spirit

A lot of controversy surrounds fasting; a quick Google search reveals doctors who wholeheartedly support it and others who are adamantly against it. As Christians, we need to look to Jesus and what His word says when it comes to these issues. In the book of Matthew (4:1-2) Jesus was led by the Spirit to fast, and later He outlines some simple fasting guidelines (6:16-18). So, fasting was not only practiced by Jesus but also taught by Him.

Fasting Benefits Your Physical Body

  • Reboot your “system” with a cleansing fast.

During the first 12-24 hours of a water-only fast, your body begins to break down glucose stored in your liver and muscles, converting it to glycogen to use as energy. After this energy has been depleted, the body begins to use fatty acids for energy. As the fast progresses past two days, the brain uses glycerol (a product of fat tissue) and amino acids from broken down muscle tissue as energy sources.

“Since the bulk of the toxins in your body are stored in your fat reserves, the longer you fast on water only, the more fat you’ll burn and the more toxins you’ll eliminate from your system.” Dr. Ben Kim

Simply stated, fasting for a few days helps the body get a fresh start as harmful chemicals from processed foods and other materials are removed from the body. Some medical studies have even indicated that a fast may help boost the immune system.

  • Put an end to bad eating habits.

Recently I began a ten-day fast and initially I felt freed from the burden of food. I knew, at least for several days, that cooking and wondering about meals would be eliminated from my daily routine. (Don’t worry– I still cooked for my family!)The first day was great—then the second day hit. I would be lying if I said it was easy, because it wasn’t. But what I did come to realize was just how often I was putting food/drinks in my mouth. As the days progressed I eventually felt very little hunger. After the ten days was over, I realized I needed very little—far less than what I had been consuming—to be satisfied and supplied with energy. Now that I’ve come through the fast and am still very much alive and well, I not only feel better physically, but several bad eating habits were effectively broken. (Anybody else have a problem with late-night snacking?) Of course, the spiritual benefits far out-weighed the physical.

Fasting Benefits Your Spiritual Life

  • Obeying the Word of God provides inner peace and contentment.

Those who follow God’s words are blessed, full of joy and peace, and satisfied (Psalm 1; 119; Proverbs 3:1-8). Obeying God through fasting is no exception—it is yet another way we can place our dependence on Christ and get our eyes focused on Him instead of what we think we need. Spiritual eyes are opened during a time of fasting and prayer and when we choose to eat and drink of the Word we are truly blessed in our spirit.

  • Fasting and prayer encourages spiritual awakening and the breaking of sinful habits.

Joel 1:14, 2:12; Nehemiah 1:4, 9:1-3; Ezra 8:23; Acts 14:23; Esther 4:3; Deuteronomy 9:9; 2 Chronicles 1:3; Daniel 9:3–all of these Scriptures reference fasting by God’s people for repentance, direction, instruction, or intervention. Both the Old and New Testaments are full of examples of fasting believers. I hope you’ll take the time to browse the passages listed and see how many ways God chooses to work through fasting.

With only a few days remaining until a critical presidential election, perhaps now is the time to consider fasting for personal and national revival as well as godly leadership in our nation. Or maybe you are struggling with a sinful habit. In any case, seek God first and follow His voice—He is the only one really qualified to lead you in this area.

As always, consult your doctor to make sure it is physically safe for you to fast (but do be prepared to meet mixed opinions from medical professionals on this topic).

What Does it Mean to be a “Healthy” Christian?

**Published in The Christian Online Magazine, October 2012**

What Does it Mean to be a “Healthy” Christian?

You can’t go very far without hearing the word “healthy”. It’s on every newsstand, magazine cover, and diet book. Ironically, these publications will claim to know the secret to becoming healthy, yet none of their articles will point to the same solution. How is a person supposed to know what direction to take?

As Christians we are admonished not to follow the patterns of the world (Rom. 12:1-2), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t concern ourselves with our physical health. Yet even more important than our physical health is our spiritual health. The more “in tune” we are to God’s Word, the more motivated we are to make wise decisions concerning our physical bodies. Physical and Spiritual cannot be separated. We are to honor God with our whole bodies, not just the pieces we want to give Him.

So, that leads us to the question—as a Christian, what does it mean to be “healthy”? I recently posted this question on Twitter and received some responses.

@Gregparker16 tweeted: “Being on your knees in front of the Lord every night.”

@Hasten_Home tweeted: “Functioning in full contact & strength in the capacity God intended.”

Both of these answers are excellent. But let’s take it a step further and find out what the most important Book has to say. After all, is there any better advice then what is found in the Word of God?

3 John 1:2 “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul propsereth.” (KJV)

The best way to understand any verse is to go to the source of writing, that is, the original language. So much gets lost in translation. The Greek and Hebrew languages are very complex and many times a single word is given numerous meanings. So at all times one must consider the context of the passage when interpreting Scripture responsibly.

What we read in 3 John 1:2 is a typical greeting among brethren in the Church. Obviously they wished each other well, just as you or I would ask someone, “How are you?” Greetings such as these were acts of courtesy as well as genuine concern. What I found particularly interesting in this passage was the meaning of “health”. The Greek word “hugiēs” (pronounced hoog-ee-ace) translates: “uncorrupt” or “true in doctrine”. It also means “safe and sound” or “whole”.

And here lies the answer to our question. As a Christian, to be “healthy” is to be whole in spirit (including doctrine). Wholeness begins in our hearts.

We see this same concept displayed throughout Isaiah and Jeremiah. Several times the word “health” is used, and each time it refers to a spiritual wholeness for the sinful nation of Israel (see Jer. 30:17; 33:5-6, Isa. 58:8).

The most important health concern we have involves our spiritual health. A spiritually healthy, balanced Christian will make wise choices in the world, including that of food, activity, and finances.

God is in the business of restoration (wholeness). He often allows brokenness to bring healing—all to the glory of His Name. Psalm 51:8 “Make me to hear joy and gladness that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” The Hebrew word for “bones” in this passage is not referring to the literal bone matter holding David together, but rather the spiritual matter. Translated from Hebrew the word “bones” means “substance of life”—in other words, his spirit. God allowed David to experience spiritual brokenness so He could bring David through the valley of repentance towards the mountaintop of restoration.

Do you want to be a healthy Christian? It begins with God’s word–obedience to it and cleansing by it. We don’t drive a car without first using our minds to get in the car, turn on the engine, and press the gas pedal. Likewise, we can’t expect to make wise life-choices in any area if our minds are not aligned with the absolute truth of God’s Word.

“I have chosen the way of truth…I will run to the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:30, 32 (NIV)

© Rebecca Aarup

Nourishing Pathways (part 2)

**Published in The Christian Online Magazine September 2012 Issue**

This month concludes my interview with Rebecca Gertner. In case you missed the first half, you can read it HERE.

Nourishing Pathways to Health (part 2)

“Sometimes we think we can’t give up our fast food or soda pop or whatever it is we really, really like But God says with His help we can, if that’s what He wants us to do. I believe that God has a plan for each of us. What He wants me to do may not be what others should do. We need to pray about it, and no, it’s not silly to ask God which foods you should eat. He made you after all, so He knows more than anyone else knows what is good for your body and what’s not,” Rebecca explains.

The Gertner’s also decided to use organic produce to limit the chemical additives consumed in their diet. “Pesticides and other chemicals in our food do a lot to make us sick. It’s sad to say but there are food products out there that have more chemicals in them then actual food. If the chemical was designed to kill bugs, it will help kill us too. Buying organic produce is a good choice to make,” Rebecca said.

Recognizing the cost of eating healthy may appear daunting to many families, Rebecca still believes the physical benefits far outweigh the initial cost. Luke’s oncologist is also pleased, noting he has shown remarkable improvement. Rebecca learned how to save money by looking for great bargains, growing her own vegetables, and making products like laundry detergent and cosmetics at home.

For any family wanting to improve their health, Rebecca suggests incorporating small changes to avoid becoming overwhelmed. “Unless you have a medical crisis, there is no reason to make drastic changes that will stress you out. Start with something doable,” she says, “Like stop drinking soda. Next you could purpose to eat a vegetable at every meal. A great way to do this for breakfast would be making a green drink out of pineapple, mango and spinach sweetened with stevia. Keep adding one change on top of another and eventually you will be eating drastically different than you once were, but won’t go through the stress and drama. You will grow and adapt as you go.”

Rebecca and Luke’s three kids, Karsten, Faith Anne and Grace, have adapted well to the family’s diet changes. “They understand it will help their daddy get better and be better for all of us,” Rebecca says. “So far it has been great and I know God has given an extra measure of grace in that department.” She also noticed that as her kids’ diets improved, their overall health improved. Bruises and scrapes healed quicker.

“We view this as a lifestyle change,” Rebecca says, “Mostly so we can be realistic about it, but also because there is no known cure for the cancer Luke has. It would be a shame to work hard to get well, only to have a relapse simply because we started eating the way we used to again.”

Despite the uncertain future, Rebecca’s attitude is hopeful as she follows God’s plan for her family’s health. “In the book of James it talks about how when we know what’s right but choose not to do it, we are sinning. I have applied that verse to this area of my life. If I know I should be eating healthy but consistently make poor food choices, then I am sinning. I am not saying that I don’t eat sweets or French Fries every now and then, but on the whole, I should be eating what is good for my body, not just what tastes good. Anytime we purpose to do something healthy, we benefit. Whether it’s more energy or less illness, it’s a benefit. Everyone benefits from eating a healthy, nutritionally solid diet.”

© Rebecca Aarup

Nourishing Pathways

**Published in The Christian Online Magazine August 2012 Issue**

Nourishing Pathways to Health (part 1)

13 years ago I met Rebecca. Besides sharing the same first two names (Rebecca Anne) we found we had a mutual love for Jesus. Rebecca has been a blessing in my life, though we walked different paths for many years, we have come together once again bonded not only by our love for Jesus, but our desire to glorify God with our bodies.

Rebecca is now married and has three beautiful kids. Her husband, Luke, is the music and youth pastor at Hillsdale Blvd Baptist church while Rebecca teaches Sunday school for the youth. Together they serve God passionately, seeking to honor Him with their bodies while teaching those habits to their children. I know you’ll be encouraged by her story.

Nourishing Pathways to Health

Chemical additives are common and convenience is praised in the modern diet, but Sacramento California resident Rebecca Gertner has chosen a different path for her family’s health, especially her husband who, at the age of 32, was diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer.

“When God’s word says that our bodies are His temple, that means we should honor them. Just like we wouldn’t go spread trash all over our church sanctuary or purposely destroy the building, we should be mindful of how we are treating this flesh and blood sanctuary.”

Rebecca hasn’t always practiced a healthy lifestyle. As a member of the Finley Family, who travelled and performed as a way of life, she learned the art of eating on the go. Rebecca recalled her life on the bus:

“Growing up I ate a lot of fast food and drank a lot of soda pop. For years we didn’t have a refrigerator and just an ice chest. That left us consuming a lot of things that were either non-perishable or quick to purchase or eat.”

When the Finley Family wasn’t touring they worked together at home booking concerts, practicing music, and making bus repairs. Eventually a system was developed to trade off cooking responsibilities for the family so everyone would have a turn preparing food. Making meals for a large family with varying tastes often meant preparing fried foods, drinking sodas, and baking hefty desserts.

“I was unhealthy when I got married,” Rebecca admitted, “I had food allergies that caused me to have migraines regularly, but since my family wasn’t thinking much about the quality of our diet, it never occurred to me that the headaches were a result of what I was eating. Eventually I was able to maintain a headache free life just by the choices I made concerning food.”

Rebecca’s husband, Luke, had learned about nutrition when his brother became sick as a young boy. Unable to find healing through traditional means, his mother turned to nutrition. His family then adopted and maintained a healthy lifestyle.

“Getting married to Luke changed the way I saw food. Not only did I have the freedom to cook what I wanted, but I also had someone encouraging me to cook healthy foods,” Rebecca explained.

“The biggest factor in deciding to change the way we ate was when my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 non-smokers lung cancer. As you can imagine we were shocked, scared and motivated to do whatever it took to beat this cancer. Food seems to take a back-burner when you’re looking at the statistics of this kind of cancer. Life is more than food. Food is simply what makes life possible.”

Rebecca spent countless hours in research via the internet as well as seeking advice from medical professionals. After learning how excessive amounts of sugar and carbs can suppress the immune system, Rebecca and Luke decided to limit Luke’s carb intake and focus on whole foods instead of processed refined foods, limiting the amount of added sugar to his diet and giving him the best opportunity to heal through proper nutrition as well as traditional cancer treatments. She admits it’s often difficult to discern what advice to take and what to discard, considering there were hundreds of contradictory medical opinions. Ultimately it came down to seeking God’s will and wisdom in every health choice.

You can read the rest of Rebecca’s interview in September’s issue of The Christian Online Magazine! Stay tuned!

Letting Ourselves Go

**Published in The Christian Online Magazine July 2012 Issue**

 

There are many struggling with the discipline of exercise, and if you’re like me, you want to know what the Bible says about it. Is it really a big deal to work-out? Does God actually care if I take a walk or not? Let’s examine evidences supporting the idea that God does, indeed, care about our activity levels.

#1: God places value in physical activity.

“Physical training is of some value” (1 Tim. 4:8a). The apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, thought it was important enough to mention. While God cares a great deal about our spiritual health (1 Tim. 4:8b), He also cares about our physical health. After all, we are His temples (1 Cor. 6:19), and part of being faithful stewards (Luke 16:10) is keeping our temple well maintained.

#2: Physical activity was often mentioned by the apostle Paul.

In various letters to the churches, Paul repeatedly uses “running” imagery (1 Cor. 9:24-27, Phil. 2:16, Heb. 12:11, Gal. 2:2, 5:7, 2 Tim. 4:7), suggesting athleticism was a relatable subject to his audience. Though his words were penned long before the convenience of automobile travel, drive-thru restaurants, and television entertainment, we can still gain valuable insight by understanding what was important to the people of his generation. Good principles don’t change just because times have changed.

#3: Physical activities have positive effects on both the mind and body.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest.” (Heb. 12:11) Paul is talking about the discipline in the parent-child relationship, but the concept applies well in the area of exercise. It is not always pleasant and often painful, but it produces a great reward; fewer risks for serious disease, longevity, increased energy, improved mental focus, less depression and development of self-control to name a few.

#4: Scripture admonishes laziness.

In the book of Proverbs, King Solomon challenges us, “How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?” (Prov. 6:9) see also Prov. 13:4, 21:25 and 19:15 There is strong evidence in the Bible to support the need to stay active and avoid laziness.

So what’s stopping us from obeying?

#1: We have no motivation.

There are physical reasons why some cannot exercise, but the majority of us have the capability to, at bare minimum, walk every now and then. For some it’s difficult to get motivated. Several years ago I worked in a gym as a certified personal trainer, and even then I needed to hire my own trainer to motivate my diligence. I managed to work much harder when held accountable then I did on my own. (I wasn’t about to make myself suffer, but my trainer had no problem with it.) It may be useful to enroll the help of an accountability partner who will not entertain shallow excuses.

#2: We don’t know what to do.

We all have unique circumstances, but that shouldn’t hold us back from being active. I’m a mother to a toddler and training at the gym is not practical for me at this point in my life. But I can still garden, play soccer, catch or do any number of other physical activities with my daughter. Am I going to look like a body builder? No, I won’t. But God hasn’t called me, or the majority of us, to be body builders. He simply assures us we can do all things with his strength (Phil. 4:13). We need to get creative in our thinking, instead of boxing exercise into gym memberships, work-out videos, and expensive equipment. Get out of the box and ask God to show you ways you can increase your movement throughout the day.

There is always hope (Lam. 3:24)! Continue to run the race set before you and know God accepts you right where you’re at (Rom. 15:7). He will never ask of you more than you can bear (1 Cor. 10:13, Heb. 4:5-6), so trust His word (Prov. 3:5) and acknowledge his perfect plan for your spiritual and physical health, embracing the abundant life he created you for (John 10:10).

© Rebecca Aarup