Well, we did it! One entire month without processed food. With our menu (complete with lunches) pre-planned, it really wasn't all that difficult to stick to a whole foods diet. Of course, the fact that I don't work outside the home and I have the ability/desire to cook everyday makes everything easier. We did eat at other people's houses a handful of times and even went out to eat twice though! And for the record, we both lost about 5 pounds this month. I feel happier, more energized, and alert throughout the day. I know that cutting out refined sugars has helped me avoid that afternoon slump, and I am grateful for that!
I have a desire to write a series of posts detailing why we make the food choices we do, but I am finding it difficult to put into words exactly. We have done so much research into where our food comes from and how it is made, that I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the information! Hopefully I can find a way to concisely articulate all that we have learned.
For now, here is the what of our food philosophy, rather than the why.
I love the way Michael Pollan put it in his book, In Defense of Food: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." That pretty much sums up what we've been doing. I must admit, though, it really is not as simple as I thought. Before we started to dive into what "real food" is, I thought we were doing a great job of eating right. That's what doctors tell you, isn't it? Eat right. Exercise. Get enough sleep. But they never seem to have much information about whether you actually are eating right. For example, I mentioned before that I thought we were making a great choice when I bought sandwich bread. Wrong. And I thought that as long as my yogurt snacks were 100 calories or less, it was a great choice. Nope, not always.
There is such a huge amount of nutritional and health-related information out there, it is hard to even know where to start. Especially since we all come from our own food cultures - shaped by our backgrounds and personal preferences. So we need a framework on which to build a healthy food philosophy. Otherwise, we are just adrift in a sea of conflicting and seemingly ever-changing advice. So we've been using Pollan's mantra as a framework, filling in the details as we go forward. Even if you are not looking to change your relationship with food, I highly suggest reading Pollan's book. It is extremely well-researched and straightforward. It has been a great jumping-off point for further exploration into what is in processed food, how it got there, and whether we should be consuming it.
So in our household, the big changes were: switching to 100% whole grains, cutting out refined sugars, eliminating food additives like artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives, opting for pasteurized dairy products, and planning our meals around produce instead of meat. In order to do that we planned out our meals, and read labels at the grocery store. We didn't buy products that contained things like high fructose corn syrup, food coloring, and unpronounceable chemicals. That cut out a lot of the packaged food going into our cart. When we did buy packaged food, we read the labels, and made sure it had only a few ingredients, and that we knew what they all were.
Are you looking to minimize the amount of processed food in your diet? I suggest you start with one change at a time. Perhaps you make the switch to whole grains. Or stop buying things with a list of ingredients as long as your arm. Trust me when I say there are better alternatives out there. And you won't end up eating nothing but kale and oatmeal. I promise.