This month’s healthy living challenge is to cut out the processed food and eat more clean.
But first, how did we do with shaking the sugar last month? To be honest, not so well. I decreased my sugar intake, but not by as much as I should have. I would say I ate about half as much sugar as normal. It’s a start. I will continue working on quitting sugar while we move on to this month’s challenge.
There is a saying that goes something like this: “You are what you eat, so don’t be Fast, Cheap, Easy or Fake.” (unknown author) This quote really makes you think; what am I putting into my body?
My generation (and those after) do not know life without highly processed food product as their main source of “food”. I put quotes around food because to me, processed food product isn’t food.
So how do I define processed food?
I am defining processed food as anything with 5 or more ingredients, most of which have ingredients that cannot be pronounced or easily understood. Food that can’t be found in nature and typically comes in a box or can.
Why are processed foods bad for you?
1. Ingredients like salt, sugar and fat are added to processed foods to make their flavor more appealing and add longer shelf life.
2. Additives in processed foods such as MSG and High Fructose Corn Syrup can lead to people eating more than the recommended servings because taste is exagerrated.
3. Processed food usually has more calories that it’s homemade counterpart.
What are the top offenders and things to avoid in processed foods?
1. Hydrogenated Oils-Hydrogenation, complete or partial, is a chemical process in which hydrogen is added to liquid oils to turn them into a solid form. Partially hydrogenated fat molecules have trans fats, and they may be the worst type of fat you can consume. (Smart Balance)
2. High Fructose Corn Syrup-highly-refined artificial sweetener which has become the number one source of calories in America. HFCS packs on the pounds faster than any other ingredient, increases your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, and contributes to the development of diabetes and tissue damage, among other harmful effects. (Food Matters)
3. MSG-an amino acid used as a flavor enhancer in soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, and many restaurant foods. MSG is known as an excitotoxin, a substance which overexcites cells to the point of damage or death. Studies show that regular consumption of MSG may result in adverse side effects which include depression, disorientation, eye damage, fatigue, headaches, and obesity. MSG affects the neurological pathways of the brain and disengages the “I’m full” function which explains the effects of weight gain. (Food Matters)
4. Aspartame (and other artificial sweeteners)-Aspartame is one of the most common artificial sweeteners in use today. It is sold under the brand names NutraSweet® and Equal®. Aspartame is made by joining together the amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine. (American Cancer Society). We discuss Aspartame and it’s side effects in this post.
5. Artificial Preservatives-chemicals used to preserve food or inhance it’s appearance. Some popular, dangerous preservatives include Sodium Sulfite, Sodium Nitrate/Nitrite, BHA/BHT, Sulfur Dioxide and Potassium Bromate. (Food Matters)
6. Artificial Colors-Studies show that artificial colorings which are found in soda, fruit juices, and salad dressings, may contribute to behavioral problems in children and lead to a significant reduction in IQ. Animal studies have linked some food colorings to cancer. (Food Matters)
Watch out for these:
Blue #1 and Blue #2 (E133)
Red dye # 3 (also Red #40 – a more current dye) (E124)
Yellow #6 (E110) and Yellow Tartrazine (E102)
7. GMO ingredients-a genetically modified organism, is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified using recombinant DNA methods (also called gene splicing), gene modification or transgenic technology. This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods. (Non-GMO Project)
High Risk GMO Products-Alfalfa, Canola, Corn, Cotton, Papaya, Soy, Sugar Beet, Yellow Squash/Zucchini, Animal Products (Non-GMO Project)
Infographic by myfitnesspal.com
So where do you start to cut processed food?
1. Eat whole foods-the more foods you can eat without a label, the better (refer to infographic above)
2. Read ingredients-if you do eat something with a label make sure to read it first. If there are more than 5 ingredients or words you don’t understand, don’t eat it.
3. Don’t eat out as much-if you must eat out, try simple meals like steak and vegetables or a large salad.
4. Stock your pantry with whole foods-instead of having a mix on hand, stock the ingredients to make that mix at home.
5. Make simple meals-food doesn’t have to be complicated.
6. Cut things out that have the 7 top offenders first and then move to other problem foods.
7. Eat organic produce when available. Check out the 2017 Dirty Dozen List for the high risk vegetables.
Resources for Getting Started Eating Real Food:
Kristin Marr @ www.livesimply.me has a wonderful FREE E-book called Real Food Crash Course.
Tiffany Terczak @ www.dontwastethecrumbs.com has a great meal planning service that will help you plan and shop for a real food lifestyle called Frugal Real Food Meal Plans.
Whole30 is a great program to help you get started eating whole foods.
I am committed to taking steps to decrease my consumption of processed foods and eating more clean. This is a process that will take more than a month, but I am ready to get on the whole foods train! Are you with me?
Check out our entire Healthy Living Series:
Do you have any tips for moving to a cleaner, whole foods diet? Please leave us a comment below. Thanks!
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