Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Real Food Imposters

Being a fairly health savvy person who has been losing (and sometimes just trying to lose) weight off and on for several years, I thought I knew what real food was. I have also been on a money diet, so have been almost exclusively cooking at home rather than going out, but also regularly bought things that were on sale and might make dinner time a little less hectic.

Therefore I have a cupboard full of things that are not really on the Real Food plan. Packaged soups, broths, cooking sauces, pasta sauces, even pasta. Some of the items, I will refuse to eat, such as my husband's Best Foods mayo, packed full of GMO soybean oil. Yuck! But other items, like canned tomatoes - bought to add oomph to soups, eggs, and pasta - are probably not a good idea, with the BPA no doubt leaching into the acidic mixture.

So now I am going through my cupboards, deciding what I can eat and what I need to do something with. I have a ton of cake and cookie mixes that are totally out, but I hate to throw things away so when the weather cools, I will bake them to bring to the office (sorry coworkers! It's not like you've given up fast food or anything!). My unbleached all purpose flour will probably stay too so the random baking I will do through the winter, because my organic whole wheat flour won't work in all recipes. Glass jars of Trader Joe's pasta sauce will stay (anything TJ's is non-GMO!), canned Campbell's soup will need to go bye-bye.

I am lucky though, that I do so much of my pantry items at Trader Joe's and Fresh and Easy when I am in the big city! Most of what is left in the cupboards is Organic and non-GMO. That doesn't necessarily make it real food, but good enough that I don't feel I can throw it away.

I encourage you to look through your cupboards and read some labels. And when I say labels, I mean ingredient lists. Nutrition labels are only part of the story, and anything written on the front of the package isn't well regulated. Here are the things you should keep an eye out for:

Corn/Cornstarch/Corn Oil/High Fructose Corn Syrup - unless it's Organic, it's likely GMO in this country
Soy/Soybeans/Soybean Oil - unless it's Organic, it's likely GMO in this country
Natural Flavor - usually MSG, Torula Yeast, or something equally as crappy for your body. Remember, "natural" has no regulation in food production
Hydrogenated anything - Trans fat!! A nutrition label can claim zero trans fats if they are less than 0.5 g per serving. That doesn't mean there aren't trans fats in it, and even a teeny bit is WAY too much
Anything "refined" - that just means they stripped it of everything good
Artificial anything - no explanation needed
Anything obviously wrong - food dyes, weird chemicals you can't pronounce, etc.

And as my nutritionist says, anything with more than 3-4 ingredients is processed, but with this one you can use your discretion. If this a fresh, short shelf life convenience item that is made with real food, I'm not completely anti even if it does have 10 ingredients. I mean, when you cook, you usually add more than 4 ingredients to a dish.

Here is a blog post that I recommend you read!

When you've looked through your cupboards, let me know what you find! Were you as mislead as I was? Or are you good to go? Let me know in the comments!


  1. It's sad how most products contain those ingredients.
    I have been good about systematically ridding myself of anything with that stuff in it, so I really have none left and I try to be mindful of what I buy now.

  2. Inspiring blog post! I'm trying, but need to do better. I just wish it wasn't so damn expensive to eat organic/local/fresh.

    1. I totally understand Gale! If you want to see some ridiculous prices, check out This is one of the only sources of organic farm fresh food in my area and it costs $50 just to join. Other than that, we have Von's and a small health food store - not a lot of selection. I know it's an investment in your health and all, but come on! I'm doing the best I can, but I think I will be loading my car up with multiple ice chests the next time I drive to the city!!

  3. I love to cook but um, I do make mac n cheese with artisan cheese and Ezekiel bread so does that mean I'm doing processed?

  4. I love Tasty bites Indian food pouches. It has more than 4 ingredients but most of them are spices. No preservatives, GMO or anything artificial at all. YUM.


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