This month I am going to challenge myself by giving up processed foods completely and reducing my consumption of single-use plastics significantly. Okay, you must be thinking: Nimisha, you are always eating farm fresh food and carrying your own reusable bags and water bottle. What more can you do? The truth is, I can do a whole lot more. If you raid my pantry, you wont find much junk food, but I too eat processed food. And I too use a lot of plastic. And the biggest part of it all is that I do it unconsciously! Unprocessed foods and plastics are so integrated in our lives that we can’t even recognize them.
Challenge 1: October: Unprocessed
Just a few days ago, a friend introduced me to Eating Rules and his October Unprocessed challenge. After reading about the challenge, I wanted to kick myself and thought “Why didn’t I think of this myself?!” So, I decided to join about 200 people across the nation and take the challenge. The basis of Club Dine In! is to eat clean, unprocessed, and tasty food. Unfortunately, the first thing I eat on most days is processed cereal! Who would have thought… Breakfast cereals, which are target mostly at children, are probably one of the most processed foods we are addicted to eating. After all, cereal is comfort food. Most people go through their entire lives eating Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and General Mill’s Kix, without ever questioning how these products are made, why the color of the milk changes, and what the weird ingredients mean. I switched over to “healthy” cereals in college- making sure the nutrition label had all of the right proportions of fat, sugar, protein, and fiber. I did not question how they lowered the fat and sugar, pumped up the protein and fiber, or how they got all of the values up for vitamins. For the past few years, I started reading the ingredient’s list and started asking more questions. Why would I want to put something into my body that was created in a lab and would have never ended up in food 30 years ago? For the past few years, the cereals I mostly eat are by the brands Nature’s Path, Kashi, and Cascadian Farms. Even though, these brands are more sustainable and have less additives, they still have additives. The two common additives I see in the cereals I eat are: tocopherols (natural vitamin E) and evaporated cane juice. Both of these ingredients are not normal to have in one’s pantries and are processed. I will finally force myself to find better breakfast cereal alternatives.
What exactly is Unprocessed food? Unprocessed food is a term for whole foods. Basically, we should only eat food that is made from scratch with ingredients you would keep in your kitchen (not a science lab), expires rather quickly, and is sustainable. This means the ingredients list on foods would not contain preservatives, soy derivatives, high-fructose corn syrup, or white sugar. Here is a good list and definition of processed food.
By doing this challenge, I will (hopefully) ensure that I don’t consume anything unprocessed. I will cross off foods that are made with cane and beet sugars (unless they are made with a raw honey, stevia, raw agave nectar, pure maple syrup, etc.). This will be the toughest part of the challenge for me! I will also have to be extra careful when eating meals not prepared by myself. Thankfully, I know the restaurant scene pretty well in the Bay Area, and don’t eat out at fast food type of places. I will follow the #unprocessed thread on twitter and read guest blog posts on Eating Rules’s blog for inspiration and ideas. I encourage all Club Dine In! members to join me and foodies across the nation as we commit to a month of unprocessed foods!
RT @Foodista: In the US, an estimated 75% of all processed foods now contain genetically modified ingredients.
Challenge 2: No Single-Use plastics.
Recently, I went to a series of short films and a panel discussion on our addiction to plastics. Beth Terry, founder of Fake Plastic Fish, explained how much plastic waste we can cut out of our lives without causing much discomfort to our overall well-being. Like most people, I did not realize the impact of the term “single-use plastics.” Single-use plastics are items such as food packaging, lotions/soap containers, straws, beverage containers, and plastic bags. So many items in our lives are of one time use and then throw away, and it doesn’t have to be like that! Beth challenges her readers to take the challenge to reduce their consumption of these items by collecting and tallying plastic usage each week. Read about the challenge here and a list of items that you can do to reduce consumption. Surprisingly (or not so-surprisingly), by reducing my use of single-use plastics, I will eat less processed food. Mostly only processed food comes in plastic packages. Infamous examples include: chips, inhumane meats, frozen food, t.v. dinners, fast food, sodas, juices, candy, products from Costco, pre-washed salads/greens, power/energy bars, bread, ice-cream, pudding, applesauce, ketchup, gum, and canned foods (most are lined with BPA). Sadly, Trader Joe’s packages all of their produce in tons of plastic, which is completely unnecessary. Thankfully, I don’t consume any of these things, but will make more definitive changes. Before I bring new plastic products into my life, I will question the real benefit of it in my life and consider all reasonable alternatives.
Stay tuned as I find new, healthier eating alternatives to processed foods and how I get rid of the plastic in my life in the month of October! You can join both of these challenges too! Don’t worry if you missed the start date. You can start your 30 days today, or simply join in for the rest of the month.
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