One month ago I decided to make a pretty drastic change to my diet. I gave up processed foods. What does that mean exactly? Well, for starters, anything with more than one ingredient is off the table unless I’ve prepared it myself. Since many canned items contain loads of salt, sugar and preservatives, my staples include mostly fresh and frozen foods. I buy my grains, legumes and pulses in bulk and am working on making the switch from canned to dried beans.
“Oh I could never do that! (insert your reason here.)” And my answer is that yes, you can! It just takes a shift in the way you think about food. You see, processed foods have only been around since about 1910. That means that humans have been eating real food for thousands of years and only in the last hundred or so have made the switch over to mostly processed.
Check out the list below. It will give you a general time frame for the introduction of popular processed and snack foods during the first half of the twentieth century.
1910 – Oreo Cookies, Marshmallow Fluff
1920 – Wonder Bread, Kool-Aid
1930 – Ritz Crackers. Snickers Bar
1940 – Cheetos, M&Ms
1950 – Swanson TV Dinners, Cheez Wiz
If you’re like me, you’ve tried most or all of these items at one point or another. What do they all have in common? Sugar, salt, and fat. And while your body needs all of those things, these foodstuffs have nothing more to offer. They are empty calories that don’t satisfy but actually keep you craving more salt, fat and sugar. But the American pantry is filled with items. There are candy and soda machines in our schools, people eat in their cars, and sitting down to a home made dinner with family and friends is becoming non-existent.
We say we eat like this because our lives are so busy that it’s easier, faster, simpler to eat this way. But is it? We forget that we’re fueling our bodies with junk. As humans, we aren’t designed to run on protein bars and soda. Here’s the thing, it’s easier than ever to get real food. No hunting, no gathering necessary. The difference is that you have to be more mindful about what you’re eating. Planning and preparation are involved when you’re cooking your own meals.
Now for the payoff, and it’s a big one… you’ll be healthier. Yup. When you start feeding your body real food instead of something cooked up in a lab, you’ll be healthier. You may lose weight, have more energy, find your skin is clearer. You might start sleeping better, have less mood swings, less allergies. There are so many diseases and conditions linked to poor eating, isn’t it worth exploring something different.
Lastly, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing situation. Even if you just replace a few of your quick processed meals for freshly prepared ones, you’re making a positive change. You may even find yourself having fun. I don’t know if there’s anything more satisfying than feeding my friends and family beautiful, healthy food that I prepared myself.