Monday, April 26, 2010

Healthy Habit #9 for 2010: Replace Processed Foods with Whole Foods

I did not anticipate dragging out this series on Healthy Habits quite so long!!  Life happens . . . and then when I have time, I want to blog about those life events. . .  and this series keeps getting pushed to the back burner.  But, I am determined to bring this up to a front burner and get this series off my stove!!!   :)

My ninth Healthy Habit for 2010 is to replace processed foods with whole foods, as much as possible.

What does this mean??  I have heard it expressed in different ways.  One that I like is to eat those things that theoretically I could have grown, picked, gathered, hunted, fished, milked, or made myself with such ingredients.   Another way of looking at it is not to buy or consume anything that has a long list of ingredients I don't recognize or can't pronounce.  Whole foods are also referred to as God-made foods vs. man-made foods, and are the foods typically found around the perimeter of the grocery store, or at farmer's markets.

You may wonder what is wrong with eating processed foods anyway??  After all, this is the 21st century, and we expect convenience and quick, low cost foods, right?   This article sheds some light on that issue.  Also, I found this explanation from The Schwarzbein Principle to be very enlightening: 

"In simplified terms, the food chain depends on the transfer of energy in the environment from one system to another.  Humans, like all living things, are made up of essential elements -- oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon (to name a few).  These elements get recycled from the earth to us through the foods we eat and the air we breathe. In turn, when we die, we return these elements to the soil.
We humans, as living beings, are made up of dynamic tissues, such as nails and hair, that are constantly being replaced. . . This regeneration process is made possible by the fact that we eat the very same biochemicals of which we are inherently composed.  In other words, we are made up of the same elements as those in the plants and animals we eat.  We are not made up of the elements that go into nonfoods and other substances that are not found in nature.
If we could see with the naked eye the intricate biochemical processes going on within our bodies, we would be appalled at the damage we do to ourselves when we ingest chemicals. . . . The biological food chain has been altered in a devastating way by the Industrial Revolution.  We now rely on invented technologies to manufacture the food products we eat, and many people automatically assume that these substances are healthy to consume.  But the introduction of chemicals as food -- instead of eating real food -- has harmed human beings at the cellular level, resulting in accelerated metabolic aging and earlier chronic degenerative diseases."  (p. 30-31)

I have been working hard to make progress in this area, doing lots of research and learning new ways of doing things in the kitchen, while trying to clean some items out of the pantry and fridge, and restocking with healthier items.   Yet, the junk food always finds a way to creep back in!  I think it is an ongoing battle to get and keep the junk out and requires me to re-educate my family on what is Healthy and Why and patiently Wait for them to get on board.

Unlike many people, I have a rich heritage of healthy, good home cooking, as my mother was a wonderful cook, who made just about everything from scratch!  She utilized many of the traditional methods that I am learning about from the Weston A Price website, without even realizing the immense value in these cooking methods!  She just did what her mother taught her, and employed many strategies to help stretch her food dollar while providing her family with superior food, such as baking homemade bread and pizza, making broth from chicken and turkey bones, and using traditional fats.

I started off trying to cook like my mom; but, over time, I deviated from her excellent example.  I was lured away by convenience, couponing, and marketing.  By this I mean that I began to use more convenience foods as the size of my family grew and my life grew busier and more hectic.  They were readily available and So Quick and Easy.  Then, I fell into the trap of purchasing more processed foods, so that I could take advantage of the great "deals" that manufacturer's coupons provided.  Understandably, there aren't many coupons for whole foods!  Furthermore, I began to follow the dietary guidelines suggested by modern medical, nutritional, and weight loss "experts."   This led me to jump on the low-fat and fat-free bandwagon, to replace meat with soy products, and also after many years of shunning them, to start using artificial sweeteners to aid with weight loss.  All of these things took me off the straight and narrow path of nutritious, traditional foods, and onto the heavily-traveled highway of processed foods.

I have learned so much from reading the  WAP website and the fascinating blogs of Real Food enthusiasts, but I still have much to learn!   I know I can't change everything at once, so these are the baby steps I have been taking:  

I have been attempting to:

1.  Read all labels and learn what is actually in the food I purchase.

2.  Avoid all foods with high fructose corn syrup and MSG.

3.  Eliminate all vegetable oils, margarine, and trans fats from my diet, and use more butter, olive oil, and especially coconut oil.

4.  Learn how to make and use chicken stock.

5.  Experiment with soaking my grains to increase digestibility and nutrient absorption.

6.  Reduce the amount of refined sugar in my family's diet and try using alternative sweeteners, but not artificial sweeteners.

7.  Reduce the use of refined flours in our diet, and replace with whole grains as much as possible.

8.  Find a source for raw milk and replace hormone-laden, store-bought, pastuerized milk with raw milk, whenever possible.

9.  Find a source for pastured eggs and replace regular store eggs with healthy pastured eggs, whenever possible.

10.  Find a source for grass-fed beef, and replace some of our meat with healthier meats, as we are able to afford to do so.

Each one of these is a huge change with far-reaching effects.

I've also found Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Rookie Tips to be very helpful, as well as this post on 12 baby steps to a nutritious diet.  I'd love to hear what dietary changes you are working on right now, so we can encourage one another in this area!


mommyx12 said...

For sure avoiding MSG is a must. I've heard and read so many horrible things about this. I think the hardest way for us to avoid it is in canned soup. You can do so much with canned soup and so quickly that it's hard to give it up!! Sure wish I could find some really good Cream of Mushroom soup without that stuff. Thanks for doing this series. There is so much to learn for sure.

tlmalcolm said...

Great post! Someone told me once that you should shop the outside of the grocery store. Meaning stay away from the aisles where most of the processed food is. As for the canned soups...Whole Foods and Trader Joes have some good canned soups without MSG.

busymomof10 said...

Unfortunately, I don't have a Trader Joe's or a Whole Foods where I live. :(

And I agree about those cream of . . . soups. So hard to give up!!

And I think MSG is one of the hardest things to get eradicate, because it is so sneaky! Since it is not clearly labeled, you never know for sure whether a product has it . . .

Trying to move forward, even if it means baby steps!

busymomof10 said...

Check out this great post if you want help in unearthing and eliminating MSG.

Rebecca's Refining said...

Although I don't enjoy reading about nutrition, I am trying to implement healthier eating habits. I purchased some coconut oil, and no longer use vegetable oils or margarines.
Unfortunately I guess I need my hands spanked as I do have some MSG in my cabinet...but I only use it for sweet and sour pork (which I don't make very often). I will have to watch for some of those hidden sources. I have heard it is harmful to the body.
I also signed up for a weekly delivery of fresh vegies from a local farmer...can't wait until that starts! Of course, we plant a garden those fresh vegetables!!
Now, if only these little changes would actually help with the weight loss!!! :)

busymomof10 said...

Wow Becca! I'm so proud of the changes you are making with your diet!!! I'll keep reading and sharing what I read, and you keep encouraging me to implement what I discover! Between the two of us, we can create healthier lives for our families!

Rebecca's Refining said...

Yes, Elizabeth, you do the research and just give me the "highlighted" version!! :)

Then, we can encourage each other to make small changes where we can! I am finding some things I just have to be "unhealthy" as it is either too expensive to change, or just not practical to do so!

Michelle (She Looketh Well) said...

Great job on this series of posts!! Your list is very good and helpful, I am sure!

You are making amazing strides!!

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