Quite clearly the landscape of our ‘food’ has changed drastically. With those changes have come allergies and diseases that were rarely heard of 50 or 60 let alone 100 years ago.
It is time to step off the merry-go-round and get back to basics, which for me, is what eating ‘unprocessed’ is really all about. It means using REAL ingredients to create real food. Food prepared without the chemical additives, dyes and preservatives. Food like my Mum or Aunties made.
I am weary of the never ending onslaught of “How to Feel Better” books. More often than not they are pitching a supplement, a vitamin or some other cure all. As a society we are getting sicker and sicker, while the ‘health and wellness’ industry is booming.
To quote my sister in law, Rae, “The extremes of current nutritional advice are suspect, lining someone’s pockets and getting more annoying every day.”
We are all in different places in this food journey. There is ‘no one size fits all‘ approach. Bottom line – this journey is about awareness. Reading labels and discovering what is really in our food. Then identifying what to keep and what is important to eliminate.
It doesn’t mean you have to make everything from scratch, although it does mean that you could make it in your kitchen, if you had the time and talent to do so.
At times it feels overwhelming. So much so, that many people just throw in the towel and say, “Forget it! Nothing is good for us any more!” I understand that, which is why I suggest identifying what you need to eliminate and go for it. It is a process. Rather than do nothing, why not do one or two things? You will then feel empowered to tackle the next thing.
I will admit that I don’t eat a perfectly clean diet. I have made strides in the right direction, but there is plenty of room for improvement. It is a journey.
Progress, not perfection.
My journey began years ago, before the introduction of GMOs and High Fructose Corn Syrup and continues to be a work in progress, of course now dodging GMOs, HFCS and a whole host of ‘new and improved’ additives.
Keep in mind that my journey isn’t about weight loss. It is about health and feeling well.
My suggestions below are meant to serve as a starting point based on my own experiences and limited knowledge.
- Soda: More than 20 years ago I gave up sodas. (I can’t believe it was that long ago!) I was refereeing soccer at the time and realized that soda made me feel terrible. (Yes, I still ate fast food) I felt so much better and I lost 10 pounds without changing anything else. The stomach aches were gone, the lethargy, gone. I learned to drink ice tea with lemon (no sugar) when eating out and water at home and at the soccer field. You know what?
Water is pretty darned good!
- Diet Sodas: Diet sodas are about as toxic as it gets in the world of processed food. Talk about a chemical shit storm that our bodies are not prepared to process! I have never been a fan of the taste of diet soda, thank God. If you would like to read more about this, check out Prevention – the Health Risks of Diet Soda and from the American Diabetes Association: Diet Soda Intake
- Fast Food: Shortly after I gave up sodas, I gave up french fries and within a month or so gave up fast food in general. Again, without changing anything else, I lost another 10 lbs. Fries should be potatoes, oil, and salt. Fast food french fries are a distant cousin of real potatoes. It has been reported that McDonald’s French Fries contain 17 ingredients, including TBHQ. McD’s isn’t alone. Think you are making a healthier choice by choosing Chick-fil-A? Think again. Check out the ingredient list for the Chick-fil-A Classic Chicken Sandwich. OK – to be fair, avoid fast food. Other than Chipotle I can’t recommend any fast food.
- The Freezer Case: Unless it is frozen vegetables, re-heating frozen food from the freezer case does not count as ‘cooking’. Although, left on his own, No Baking Papa would disagree. The freezer case is an expensive trap. Expensive, monetarily and to our health. Let’s look at Lean Cuisine Sesame Chicken for a mere 330 calories, this list of ingredients is daunting. (After the pasta and chicken, is a form of sugar really the next 2 ingredients?) Frozen food, like Lean Cuisine are all about portion control. If portion control and weight loss is your goal, create your own, using real ingredients and skip the preservatives, additives and sugar. How about Ore-Ida Shredded Hash Brown Potatoes (Ingredients: POTATOES, DEXTROSE, DISODIUM DIHYDROGEN PYROPHOSPHATE (TO RETAIN NATURAL COLOR). If you really want Crispy Hash Browns make your own without the sugar (dextrose) and chemical additives.
- Choose Wisely: Just this week, as I was helping a friend prepare for October Unprocessed we had an eye opening experience. Sun Vista Pinto Beans ($1.19 a can and a staple in their home) contains not just Pinto beans, water and salt, as you would expect but also sugar, calcium chloride, EDTA, and Calcium Disodium. While at the store we picked up dry pinto beans to make a batch of Simple Pinto Beans and we also discovered that Simple Truth Organic Pinto beans were $1.00 a can and contained Water, Pinto Beans and Salt.
- Eat Thoughtfully: All calories are not created equal. Mindless eating is a trap. Do you remember the catch phrase, “Nobody can eat just one!“? That my friends, is truth in advertising. Chips and other ‘junk’ food are intentionally formulated to make us want more. Start munching and before you know it you’ve consumed 1,000 empty calories and plenty of additives. You may be full but you are still hungry. Personally, I can think of a lot of wonderful, nutritious food to ‘spend’ those 1,000 calories on. Many people have asked me if I am a vegetarian or a vegan and the answer is, No. I do eat beef, chicken, pork. Organic chicken is more expensive but I would rather purchase one organic chicken for $2.99 lb rather than 3 cheap chickens at .99 lb. For me, this works. Others may choose differently and that is Okay. I will talk more about sources of protein in the week ahead. Stay tuned.
As we move into the month of October, I will be sharing more tips and tricks for a cleaner more thoughtful diet, pitfalls and discoveries. I would love to hear about your journey.
Together, we can move toward more energy and better health.
For those that ask, I have not received any compensation either monetarily or through products in exchange for my endorsement or recommendation. All opinions expressed are mine alone.