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!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Freedom to Eat

Ok, in a lot of ways I know this new way of eating will be somewhat restrictive. Not because there isn't a ton of food that I am allowed to eat, but the percentage of GMO/Processed/Hormoned and otherwise adulterated food is a much larger percentage of our food supply than wholesome, natural food. Really sad when you think about it. Not just for me, for everyone!

But I'm choosing to look at this like FREEDOM. I love food and I am slightly addicted to magazines that feature food: Sunset, Martha Stewart, Bon Appetit, Food Network, etc. Most of the time, I would look at a recipe and decide that I either couldn't make it, or I had to save it for a "special" occasion where I would let myself "be a pig" and eat.
Now, as long as the recipe is made with Real Food, I no longer have these restrictions. A Ceasar dressing that uses a 3/4 CUP of olive oil? No problem! A lemon rosemary chicken recipe that creates the most crispy delectable skin ever?  I'm all over it. Yogurt Panna Cotta with walnuts and honey? Check! Kabocha and chicken red curry? Drool.

There are plenty of recipes that might use processed food as an ingredient. If it's something simple that I can substitue, such as organic whole grain flour in place of all-purpose, or refined sugar that I can use maple or honey instead, I'm good! If it's a "semi-homemade" recipe that is a big mixture of several processed food items, no thanks!

I'm also excited at the prospect of making more at home - going back to make more bread so that it doens't have the preservatives in it, making my own spice mixes so that I can forego the msg and weird yeast protein additives, making my own salad dressing and mayo to avoid all the random crap they put in those items, maybe even canning and pickling so that I can take advantage of the summer and fall harvests.

So I am looking forward to this new chapter of not trying to lose weight and just eating natural, delicious food. I can't wait until tomorrow morning when I change my weight loss goal to "0" and see my calorie goal just shoot up!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Another Spoonful of Saturated Fat, Please!

I have to say, I am really excited about this new way of eating. One could say it's similar to Atkins, South Beach, Zone or any other low carb diet, but I feel inherently it IS different. I love the focus on whole foods. While it touches on some of the Paleo principles, it's not Paleo either. I can't even say it's new, because we used to eat like this. Maybe not EXACTLY like this, but before the food industry started touting low fat. This way of eating seems to defy all rules of "healthy" and "weight loss." And look at where we've gone since then - more preservatives, more sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, trans fats, hormones, pesticides, and contamination.

Now don't get me wrong. I can't afford to eat grassfed anything. Bone in chicken breasts for $11.50 a pound? $14.50 for a pound of butter! $14 for a pound of bacon. It's really sad how poverty (or even middle class) dictates the quality of our food. However, what I can afford to do is try to eat as whole as possible. While I might not be able to afford grass fed raw milk or butter, what I can do to spend a little extra to get dairy products with no hormones. I can spend a little more on organic produce when it's on sale. I can choose to buy the most natural food possible.

This, coming from a coupon-a-holic and sale whore, is going to be a challenge. How many times will I buy something I know I shouldn't have because Vons wanted to give it to me free? Countless times. I have a cupboard full of unhealthy food, and I have a husband who is still in the quantity over quality mindset, which wouldn't normally be an issue, except I can barely afford to feed his ass anyway!

This is the time I wish I lived in a more hospitable area. Locally we can get some fruits and veggies at usually not too high of a price. I did find a local, organic, raw honey that isn't too expensive. If we had a freezer, we could buy a cow or a pig from the 4-H auction, maybe not grassfed, organic necessarily, but local and healthier and better treated than a grocery store animal. I might even be able to track down some eggs. Raw milk products don't appear to be possible without paying the obscenely high prices, but I'll keep looking. This is the problem with a small town far from agriculture, which is why we pay too much for even crappy food.

I wish it wasn't this hard. I wish factory farming would be outlawed. I wish I didn't have to read every single label out there, even on the grocery store perimeter. I wish I could trust the FDA to actually have our health as a priority. I wish there wasn't such a discrepancy in the costs of healthy, whole food versus packaged, subsidized crap.

If this really works, what a revelation this will be for me! As someone who lost all her weight on Weight Watchers (the only thing that worked for me, actually), this is a completely different mind set. If I lose the belly fat I have always had (as long as I can remember), and my blood chemistry numbers get better, and maybe, just maybe (but not holding my breath), my egg quality gets better, how fucking rad would that be? I'm very hopeful.