Even though my mother cooked dinner for my family literally every night, no exceptions, she even made pizza from scratch, and as a family we raised about 85% of our food, I had pretty much zero cooking & food preparation skills. I could make pasta and that was about it.
So the first step in my transition from eating mostly processed foods to eating real foods was to always know exactly what I was consuming. And the only way to know this is to ALWAYS read the LIST OF INGREDIENTS. The list of ingredients is the most IMPORTANT information on a food label. Ignore the useless nutrition information, ignore the marketing buzzwords and find the list of ingredients straight away.
I learned about some of the most problematic ingredients in manufactured foods and was quite alarmed when I understood how they were negatively affecting our bodies and why they were being used (to increase profits, no other reason!). So I cut them out one by one. I started with high fructose corn syrup. Thankfully in the past decade many food manufacturers have cut this ingredient out after much consumer concern.
Then I cut out hydrogenated & partially hydrogenated oils and moved on to msg (mono sodium glutamate), artificial dyes, artificial flavors, natural flavors (there is nothing natural about natural flavors except an FDA loophole that allows food manufacturers to slap the word natural in there instead of artificial), dextrose, sucralose, artificial sweeteners and corn syrup (actually any sweetener that was not sugar cane, honey or maple syrup). After all of that crap was out of our lives I then cut out any ingredient that I couldn’t pronounce, I wasn’t familiar with or was something I studied in high school chemistry class.
And believe it or not I found that there were still plenty of pre-packaged foods that I could buy that didn’t contain any of the above mentioned offensive ingredients. It took some extra time in the supermarket, but I could usually find an alternative brand if I found that my favorite brand was loaded with crap. AND there are some times when I just say screw it and I knowingly eat the crap, enjoy it and keep it to a minimum.
Take the stress out of food and know what you’re eating by always reading the list of ingredients. The healthiest foods will not have a list of ingredients or will have a list that is just a few ingredients long (produce, meats, dairy, seafood…basically the foods that are always found on the outside of the supermarket).
Just cut out one ingredient at a time.
And week by week your food choices will become healthier and tastier.
Beware of the marketing buzz word trap on the rest of the package. Before I started reading the list of ingredients, I made a costly mistake by jumping on the organic band wagon. If the package said organic, it was healthy, right?! When I started reading the list of ingredients I found ORGANIC HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP in the fig newton that I thought was so healthy. Jeez, thanks for going through all of the trouble to make sure the high fructose corn syrup is organic….Newman’s…
If you are already aware that you or a family member is particularly sensitive to an ingredient, start with cutting out that ingredient first. Or if you find a particular ingredient is beyond horrible for you, start with that one. I have been pleasantly surprised that many food manufacturers have already begun to clean up their list of ingredients in the past 11 years since I have been diligently reading that portion of the food label first. Not long ago, Cheerios – marketed as an oat product, contained more corn ingredients than oats… But that has changed and the list of ingredients on Cherrios has been cut like in half.
If you have any questions about an ingredient or a particular food brand/product, please feel free to contact me. You can just respond to this email or hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org.