Friday, March 15, 2013

Unprocessed Schunprocessed -- Guest Post by Kellie Rowden-Racette

30 Day Mediterranean Lifestyle Challenge

I recently heard that processed foods make up 70% of the US diet. It's a frightening statistic. Even scarier, "there's an estimated 5,000 different additives that are allowed to go into our food." Is that what you want to eat and to feed your family? No? Kellie, a Print and Online Editor for the ASHA Leader, participated in October Unprocessed last year. Lucky for us, she's agreed to share what she learned.

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Last September I saw this story about this guy in California, Andrew Wilder, who decided in 2009 to try to eliminate processed foods from his diet for one full month. He recruited a few friends to try it with him and, lo and behold, he felt great. He claimed to have “recalibrated” his taste buds and diminished his craving for junk. But it was only for one month, mostly because of the work it took to actively seek out food that hasn’t had anything done to it. So he tried it the next year and recruited more people; and in 2011 he recruited 3,000 people and kept a communal blog. I joined in 2012 and tried it for a month. I tried to keep my goal kind of under the radar (mostly because I didn’t want to answer questions about it) but people found out anyway. I was at the bus stop during the first week when one of the neighborhood moms asked me if I was churning my own butter.

Um, no.

The reason I thought this was remotely doable was Wilder’s definition of “unprocessed.” He goes by what he calls the “Kitchen Test,” which defines unprocessed food as “any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with whole-food ingredients.” In other words, I could buy the butter, whole wheat flour, and other ingredients as needed. On his website he writes:

“I call it “The Kitchen Test.” If you pick up something with a label (if it doesn’t have a label, it’s probably unprocessed), and find an ingredient you’d never use in your kitchen and couldn’t possibly make yourself from the whole form, it’s processed.”

It doesn’t mean you actually have to make it yourself, it just means that for it to be considered “unprocessed” that you could, in theory, do so. So I gave it a shot. The two days before I spent in my kitchen baking muffins and other unprocessed breakfast edibles, making a few soups, and stocking up. The first week was the hardest because Starbucks had just introduced its Salted Caramel Latte (Why? Why???) but after that I settled in. I tried new foods – made roasted chickpeas to satisfy my craving for chips and even tried roasted kale chips with sea salt and vinegar. Not at all bad! By the time my birthday rolled around on the 20th and I ate my uber-sugary birthday cake (it was a planned exception—don’t judge) I didn’t really even want it. What’s more my body actually felt sluggish and just yucky the next day. Maybe it was the appletinis, but I called it my sugar hangover. Not pretty.

Going forward I didn’t keep up my unprocessed-foods-only approach. But because I felt better after having done it, I kept some of the habits going forward. I don’t buy chips anymore, have trained my husband to look for products that five ingredients or fewer on the labels, have kept many of the soup recipes in rotation over the winter, and can’t remember the last time I  bought white sugar or flour.

There’s no doubt I’ll do this again in October 2013—I might even buy a butter churn this time. But probably not.   

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