Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Non-Processed Project

Hey all!

One thing I'm actually pretty obsessed with is food. Mmm, food. If you ever see a picture of me, you will see that it's pretty obvious (i.e., I'm fat). However, the relationship between fat and food is a complicated one, based in a tug-of-war with love and hate. I love food for the pleasure it gives me on my tongue, but I hate how I use it when I'm out of control emotionally, or when I'm craving it like a drug.

The thing that bugs me most on the "hate" side of the tug-of-war is my addiction to "bad" foods. Mainly fast food, with an occasional processed-food indulgence. I love fast food, even though the craving and imagined lushness of what I'm eating is rarely equaled by the actual product. I realize how bad it actually tastes (esp. in comparison to real food), but at the same time I still crave it. So one thing I want to work on in general is breaking away from fast food and processed foods, PERIOD. It's a diet of sorts, I guess, but I'm more interested in clearing out the chemicals and eating REAL food.

Of course, the tricky thing about this is that we have become a culture of convenience, and there are some damn tasty chemicals out there. The idea of stepping away from all the pre-made stuff and making everything ONLY from scratch is... overwhelming, to put it MILDLY. I have a full-time job that requires a LOT of time, and as it is our apartment is barely livable (in no small part thanks to The Hubs, NOT me!). Now I want to go au naturel with the food-making, too? I mean, to be completely natural, I'd have to grow and butcher my own plants and animals. I'm not that good, and don't have those kind of resources at hand.

So we're trying to do it baby-steps style. This is no official plan, I'm making it up as I go, but here's what I'm thinking to start:
  • Shop the outside of the store, no processed foods like condensed soup, Cheetos, hot pockets, etc. Frozen vegetables/fruits and pre-made pasta are exceptions. Even better if I can buy what I need at local farmer's market.
  • If I'm buying something from the aisles for convenience, I have to recognize all of the ingredients AND no high fructose corn syrup/ corn syrup/ other obviously chemical stuff/ etc. in it. Surprisingly, I already found a granola (store-brand, even!) that the only ingredient I didn't recognize is actually ok (soy lecithin). Phew!
  • Aim for as close to non-hormone-infused meats and dairy as possible. If organic is possible and affordable, go for it. 
  • Make my own versions of favorite "fast-food" meals using real ingredients.
  • Try to quit soda again. (I've managed to cut down to non-caffeinated soda, and at work I drink only water, but it's a long-standing addiction I'm struggling to cut out). 
I almost hate to admit it, but I'm using Trader Joe's a LOT to help with this. What can I say, they offer a lot of products that meet these needs already, which is really nice. I'm also not throwing out anything which is perfectly serviceable still in our fridge or pantry (we can't afford to be wasteful) if it's chemically-based, but when it runs out it will be replaced with a "cleaner" version (if necessary).

I'm also not completely giving up on convenience foods; luckily, my "google-fu" has already found some options for replacing things like "cream of ____" soups in recipes, and I even have a homemade hamburger helper recipe that I really liked when I made it. We (The Hubs and I) are also planning on devoting a weekend soon to pre-making our own frozen dinners so we can really know what's in our food. For further "convenience", I'm also planning on making two slow-cooker dinners each weekend so we can use it for dinner during the week if we don't feel like cooking. Since we're most susceptible to grabbing the "bad" food when we're hungry and tired, having a lot of pre-made options at home will help (I hope!). Obviously, any awesome discoveries will be shared here!

Like I said, the hope is that focusing more on real food and avoiding chemical monsters will be more satisfying as a way of eating that it'll lead to more healthy choices, and that all the pre-planning will also dissuade me from being tempted to eat the chemical monsters on the way to or from work (which is an hour-long commute each way). On the menu this week: Yogurt parfaits inspired by Cooking with My Kid's version (I didn't make my own granola... YET) with a banana for breakfast, roast beef and cheddar sandwiches for lunch with carrot sticks and cheese for lunch. The carrots have been pre-portioned for the week, as has the granola and frozen strawberries for the parfaits. The hope is to just throw them all in my mini-cooler I take to and from school, and having so much to nibble throughout the day will keep me from stopping on the way to school or on the way home! I will admit that the roast beef is Hillshire Farms (so probably chemical-heavy), and I have ranch dressing that's not pre-made by me for the carrots. Baby steps, though, people. Baby steps.

I'll try to update regularly how the process is going; I'm also open to any tips or tricks from others!


  1. You should totally read "Amimal, Vegetable, Miracle"! It will totally change the way you look at food. (well, at least it did for me!) - I have definitly found QUICK EASY things to make from stuff I get at farmers markets - If you google "YOUR CITY NAME HERE - Local Farmers Markets" you will get lots of them. The plus side of farmers markets? NO processed food and I save SO SO SO much money per month on my food bill (at least 200 bucks).

    good luck! Slow and steady wins the race. :)

  2. I've wanted to check that book out, actually! It's in the pile of "books i need to read". There's a part of me that thinks I'd dig farming if it's all I knew, haha... unfortunately, I'm a lazy suburbanite.

    We have a lovely local farmer's market! It's early Saturday mornings, and I either oversleep or forget or just don't wanna. Haha. UGH I need a hypnotist to cancel the lazy. =/



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