I’ve been writing a good deal about this stuff since my 30-day challenge, and I’ve gotten some questions about what my definition of a processed food is. It’s a complicated question, but here is the process I go through and my philosophy on it all:
1. Eat food as close to its natural form as possible
The less steps from natural form to your house, the better. Like if you buy whole wheat flour, it has gone through two steps when the wheat germ was removed and the wheat kernels were ground into flour. Would I like to buy my own wheat kernels (or better yet grow it in the backyard) and harvest and grind it? Yes, but it isn’t possible at the moment. I have to take second best. More thoughts on the matter:
- Example: Corn Chex – What is the natural form? Corn. It’s had to go through many many stages to get made into that waffled square, even though it is considered a “healthy” cereal. Many things were added, many things taken away, many things altered.
- Example: Produce – This is a seemingly easy one. Obviously an apple’s original form is an apple. But then think about this…Was it an apple picked from an orchard just a few miles from the store, or was it an apple genetically-engineered to grow larger/faster, sprayed with toxic chemicals, picked green, and ripened on a truck? Kinda frustrating isn’t it? This is why I love farmers markets and backyard gardens.
- Dairy products: This kind of falls in the same boat as produce. What is the natural form of cheese? milk. Pretty good in my book. But now I am starting to think about what KIND of cow it came from and what that cow ate, and how it was raised.
- I don’t have a farm so i am forced to buy some packaged things. Even buying something very close to its natural form, like peanut butter has to be processed and packaged at a plant. Which brings me to my next point. When you have to buy a processed food (meaning bought in a package of some sort) make sure that…
2. The ingredients on the label are real foods. No additives or preservatives or things you cannot pronounce.
- Example: Bread – Do you know the ingredients of homemade bread? Flour, Yeast, Salt, Oil, and Honey or Sugar. Compare that with Sara Lee’s 100% whole wheat bread. Water, Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour, Wheat Gluten, Cottonseed Fiber, Yeast, Brown Sugar, Salt, Vegetable Oil (Soybean Oil, and/or Cottonseed Oil), Yeast Nutrients (Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Ammonium Sulfate), Dough Conditioners (May Contain One or More of the Following Mono and Diglycerides, Ethoxylated Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Calcium Peroxide), Honey, Wheat Bran, Wheat Protein Isolate, Sulfiting Agents, Vinegar, Natural Flavor, Soy Lecithin, Guar Gum, Sucralose, Cornstarch, L-Cysteine, Sorbic Acid, and Calcium Propionate (Preservatives). Wow. This would be considered a “healthy” food by most people. But what exactly are we consuming? To be honest, I am not really sure…
- I think you get the idea here. Packaged, boxed items that are considered “food” but that contain mostly manufactured ingredients.
During this challenge, I’ve been trying to make from scratch a lot of things I would normally buy like bread or crackers. We have all felt wonderful during these last several days.
I’ve made an executive decision, however. The challenge will now be shortened due to the holidays. I love the challenge, and I am going to do it again, several times (join in!), but there are just too many traditions that I want the kiddos to be able to participate in, i.e. gingerbread houses, hot chocolate, and candy canes. It’s the holidays!! No, we won’t go crazy, and we will continue to limit the processed foods, but a little indulgence this time of year is okay in my book. You understand. SO having said that, our last day will be this Friday. It will have been a 2 week challenge (a very AWESOME two weeks). Looking forward to the next one.