Unprocessed Food: What You Can and Can't Eat

As I stated previously, my family and I will be embarking on 30 days of absolutely no processed food starting on Monday, May 7th.  I really wanted to start on May 1st, but I had to focus on my final exams, and therefore we decided to wait a week. We have chosen this time for several reasons. First of all,  it's the only time that my husband is in town for a full 30 days; (he typically travels for work). Secondly, I will not be in school and therefore I will have more time to devote to creating recipes and blogging all of it for your reading enjoyment:)  Thirdly, there are no major holidays or birthdays in the month of May, other than Mother's Day, and so we felt that this would be a realistic month for such a challenge! With that being said, eating no processed food is not going to be easy for us. Typically I would say we probably eat 85%-90% unprocessed foods, but to try and go 100% will be tough. We are choosing to do this because I want to prove that it is possible! Eating unprocessed food does not mean that we will be eating tasteless food, it simply means we will have to be very meticulous about knowing the ingredients in everything we put in our mouth. Just the other day I was shopping at a local farmer's market grocery store and I was appalled to read a few food labels and to learn that their hummus contains high fructose corn syrup, their cheese contains artificial yellow dye, and their refried beans are preserved with BHT and BHA!  I cannot stress enough, the importance of reading EVERY food label. It may seem tedious, but it is the only way to be sure that your food choices are healthy. When we began talking to friends and family about limiting processed foods, I came to the realization that most people don't know how to differentiate between processed and unprocessed. Honestly, if I didn't do my own extensive research, I wouldn't know either!  I decided it was very important for me to explain the differences between the two. These are the guidelines that we use in our household and we will be adhering to these guidelines 100% during our 30 day challenge, with the exception of one indulgent meal for our anniversary mid challenge. *

What You Can Eat: Unprocessed, Real Food
1.  Whole snack foods that are from nature -popcorn, raisins, dried fruit, fruit leather, Lara bars,
      raw nuts- not roasted in refined oils
2. Whole fruits and veggies-  preferably from the farmer's market and organic
3. 100% whole grains- whole wheat, oats,  brown rice, quinoa, etc
4. Seafood- wild caught is highly preferable
5. Meat- preferably organic and local
6. Dairy- unsweetened yogurt (add honey), milk, cheese- preferably organic
7. Beverages- water, coffee, unsweetened tea, milk, 100% juice,  beer and wine, coffee creamers
     must be just cream or half and half with no added ingredients.
8. Sweeteners- honey, maple syrup, sucanat,
9. Good Quality Oils- olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, organic butter/grass fed butter
10. Condiments- must contain no added sugars or additives.

What You Can't  Eat: Processed Food
1. Added ingredients that you can't pronounce (BHT, BHA, sodium benzoate,
    high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin, sunflower lecithin, xantham gum, cellulose gum, guar gum,
    sodium nitrate/nitrite, and many many more.
2. Artificial Dyes- Red, yellow, blue dyes
3. Sweeteners- White sugar, brown sugar, Aspartame, Splenda, corn syrup,
4. Enriched grains- Wheat flour is not the same as whole wheat.  Jasmine rice, white rice, bleached
5. Highly processed meat- Bacon, sausage, deli meat, hot dogs- these are all fine if they are organic
6. Boxed or packaged items with more than 5 ingredients- read your labels! All ingredients must
     be natural.
7. Refined Oils- vegetable oil, canola oil, corn oil, margarine, fake butter sprays or spreads
8. Condiments/Dips- Check your labels! Most items (even hummus,  soy sauce, and salsa) have
     added ingredients such as sugar and sodium benzoate.

*We will be indulging in one "not real food" meal to celebrate our anniversary. I have chosen to do this because I want to show how to indulge without overindulging. This will be the ONLY meal we will  eat during the 30 days that is processed. We are planning on going to a restaurant that offers local and organic options, so the meal will be very minimally processed.

Rachel Melissa  – (May 6, 2012 at 8:41 AM)  

I saw that you posted about no sunflower lechithin. What is wrong with it? It sounds like it is much better than soy lechitin and it makes my almondmilk creamy and froth better.I know you study this stuff so I thought I would ask :)

Delia  – (May 6, 2012 at 11:02 AM)  

Your question is actually a really good question! If you are going to eat any sort of lecithin, sunflower is much better for your body than soy because the majority of soybeans in America are genetically modified. With that being said, the process of making lecithin involves a lot of mechanical processing and chemical altering. After the oil is extracted from the sunflower or the soybean, the crude "leftovers" are used to produce the lecithin. This crude oil is processed through a large vat where they add bleach and other additives to make the product more palatable to be added to our foods. I try to avoid all lecithin, but I feel much safer using sunflower lecithin once in a while than I do using soy. I hope this answer is helpful for you :)

Lisa Clouse  – (May 9, 2012 at 8:55 PM)  

Delia, awesome post. Very helpful. I think so many of us, like you pointed out, are just in the very beginnings of realizing what we thought was healthy is far from it, and it's hard to know how to completely revamp our lifestyle.

Tell me more about what you meant when you said "Wheat flour is not the same as whole wheat".

And while I'm asking questions...can you give some reliable research or links for more information about WHY genetically modified foods are so dangerous for us? Is it merely the chemicals in them that make them bad? Feel free to dumb it down. I grew up in a time when GM foods were considered a godsend.


Delia  – (May 10, 2012 at 10:11 AM)  

Lisa, yes, our food industry is so good at making foods appear healthy. I try to not shop at mainstream grocery stores for this reason. It is almost impossible to find healthy options at a mainstream grocery store. I try to do all shopping at Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Scottsdale Farmer's Market. Cutting out the processed foods is definitely something that takes time and gradual changes.

Your question about the wheat flour is something that I just recently learned myself. If you look at a typical loaf of whole wheat bread, you might notice that the ingredients look something like this: 100% whole wheat flour, water, yeast, wheat flour etc...
The "wheat four" is not the same as "whole wheat flour". Though it is wheat, it has been stripped down and bleached into something that is devoid of fiber and nutrients. The typical white flour that we all grew up with in our households is "wheat flour", but it most certainly is not whole grain. The process of making this flour involves stripping the wheat from its germ and bran, which removes ALL nutritional value. Yes, I confess, I consume this flour sometimes. The important thing to remember when trying to consume healthy breads and grains is to not be fooled by the words "wheat flour" or "enriched wheat". In order for the wheat to be whole grain, it must state "whole wheat flour" or 100% stoneground whole wheat".

The topic of GMO foods is something I care about A LOT! I am shocked when I talk to friends who don't know that GMO foods exist. I will do a post on this in the near future. In the meantime, Here is a link that provides some basic information. I am glad you are so excited about these topics! I will most definitely have a detailed post about GM foods as well as raw milk in the near future! http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/

paigedowler  – (May 23, 2012 at 11:15 PM)  

I really like how clearly displayed the differences between processed and unprocessed foods are displayed on your blog. One of the most frustrating things about nutrition for me is that there is nothing out there that tells you exactly how to do it. Unlike your website, many other health websites/ cooking websites only tell you to "eat healthy" or "organic" but don't bother to take the extra necessary steps to help you get there. That is why most of America eats unhealthily in my opinion. It's not because fast food is a better option or because it's more convenient, its that most Americans are lazy. Now this is by no means an excuse, but by clearly displaying information like you have done above, lazy people who would normally resort to fast food feel confident enough to try eating healthy. It's super frustrating trying to research nutrition because it is one doctors/nutritionists opinion against another and its hard to know what's true and what's false. What I like about your page- I'm not saying that there aren't any other good blogs/websites out there- is that you attempt to educate, and that is the first step. I would say eating healthy or organic is a trend these days and everyone wants to do it, its just that a lot of us don't know how. Thanks for the help! I look forward to all that your blog will do for us!

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