Healthy eating a challenge even for the Amish


“Mom, I’m hungry!”

Do those words sound familiar to you? All growing children are the same in that regard. I remember coming home from school as a girl and always having that hungry feeling growling within me. I had to have something to eat, or so I thought.

What really are some practical things to give to children to satisfy their hungry cravings? Seemingly there is an increasing awareness among many about the dangers of consuming large amounts of sugar, eating prepackaged foods or items containing artificial flavors, colorings, GMOs, etc.

As much as I’d love having a healthy, balanced diet loaded with fresh fruits and veggies without any chemicals or artificial additives, it is just not simple. Living in America — with all its convenient snacks, fattening desserts and quick meals — does make it a bit more challenging, even for an Amish homemaker.

So what can we do? Where do we start? Even though we idealize a balanced, nutritious diet, it seemingly just doesn’t work to make drastic changes overnight. Undoubtedly someone in your family won’t be as excited about it as you will. I’ve found that gradually introducing new items does seem to help. For example, if your child dislikes peas, try adding an ample amount of cheese, bacon bits and some browned butter, along with plenty of seasonings. If your child happens to be like Julia, the greatest problem is texture rather than flavor. That can also be a challenge.

I keep reminding Julia of what my parents did when I was a little girl and didn’t like and care for certain things. When things were set on the table, such as coffee soup, which I detested, I always had to eat a little bit before and eventually I actually learned to like it.

Our garden is a major part of our diet. I love canning and freezing for winter months. Austin loves snacking on raw onion and pepper slices and diced tomatoes. Recently I asked Daniel what he idealizes in eating veggies and other nutritious foods. His answer definitely gave me something to work off of. He encouraged me to try to include at least one healthy dish with each meal.

Now how about baked goods? Who doesn’t like fresh cinnamon rolls or chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven dipped in fresh cow’s milk? We’re no exception. We love baked goods. In fact, when my husband, Daniel, was a young boy, he sometimes had the nickname “Cookie Monster.”

It does take some efforts, especially at first, but it is certainly worth it. When I started using whole wheat flour, I had a terrible time with everything turning out disgustingly dry; and on top of that, I had a hubby who wasn’t too sure about all this healthy stuff. Finally, I discovered that only ¾ of the amount of flour is needed when using whole wheat instead of white. We have found “Wheat Montana’s” whole wheat to be lighter and less grainy than most whole wheat flours.

Also, if you are baking, try cutting back on the amount of sugar rather than going straight to the sugar-free route. I often use half the required amount of sugar in a recipe and replace the rest with stevia, honey or maple syrup. When using honey or maple syrup, only 75 percent of the amount will be needed that you’d otherwise use for sugar. Also you may want to decrease other liquids and also add an additional ¼ teaspoon soda.

Using an ample amount of raisins or dates in your baked goods also adds extra flavor when using less sugar.

I have been amazed at some of the sugar-free recipes that I have come across through my search of healthy foods.

Also, thanks to my husband’s family in Danville, Ohio, who have given me tips and proved to me that it is absolutely possible to have tasty desserts and baked goods with less sugar as well as gluten-free products.

Diets vary quite drastically from one Amish community to the next. The church in Danville is outstanding in having an awareness of the need for nutritious food and the detriments of a trashy diet. (Editor’s note: Read more in next week’s column about the healthier diets of the Danville Amish.)

How about trying a version of our whole-wheat chocolate cake with only a minimal amount of sugar, along with our sugar-free frosting I mentioned in last week’s column? The frosting recipe is fun to play with so don’t limit yourself just to the recipe. Use your imagination to suit your taste buds. If you’d like to try it with the spice cake, omit coffee and cocoa and replace it with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and Allspice.



1 cup whole wheat flour

6 tablespoons cocoa powder

½ cup sugar

1¼ teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup vegetable oil (I prefer olive oil)

½ cup brewed coffee

¼ cup milk

¼ cup honey

1 egg

½ teaspoon vanilla

Mix dry ingredients together, add remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour into a greased 9- by 9-inch pan. Bake at 325 for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.



8 ounces of cream cheese, softened

¼ cup butter softened

1½ cups heavy whipping cream

2 teaspoons vanilla

2½ tablespoons cocoa powder

1 tablespoon instant coffee

1 teaspoon stevia

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons honey

Beat cream cheese and butter together. Add remaining ingredients. Whip until desired consistency is reached. Spread on cooled cake. For the best cake, keep any uneaten cake stored in a cool place or refrigerated.

By Gloria Yoder

The Amish Cook

Readers with culinary or cultural questions or stories can write to Gloria Yoder, 10568 E. 350th Ave., Flat Rock, IL 62427-2019. To see more on the Amish, go to

No posts to display