Knowledge may be power, but it can also be upsetting.
The more I learn about what things are in our food, the more upset I become.
I have been teaching (and sometimes preaching) about reading labels for years, but it seems the situation only worsens year after year.
Companies continue to get better at marketing products to us and our children. So many of the items are touted as healthy, but are anything but.
Don’t know what I’m talking about? Go look in the pantry or refrigerator. Pick up just about any item and read the ingredients.
So many chemicals and preservatives are in everything. If an ingredient is too difficult to pronounce, do we really want to eat it?
Many of these are banned in other countries, but are completely fine to use in the United States. Why is that?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that companies exist only if they can make a profit. And preservatives are a big part of that. They give products a longer shelf life.
Dyes and other chemicals are added to make foods look more appealing and improve texture, taste, etc.
Recently I was shocked to discover that many pickles contain food dye. What?
When we grow cucumbers in our garden and then I can them, I would never think of adding food dye. Why do food companies have to do that?
Do we really want to eat food dyes? Perhaps, more importantly, do we want to feed them to our growing children?
The concern I’m raising may not apply to some readers. But for those who think they are healthy eaters, or would just like to be healthier (and perhaps shed a few pounds), I would like to issue a challenge.
How about try going an entire week eating whole foods and nothing that’s processed?
To up the ante, try eating only organic fruits and vegetables and grass-fed beef, pastured pork, wild-caught fish and free-range chicken.
In case that sounds impossible, here is a meal plan for a typical day.
For breakfast, make a smoothie with organic fruits and vegetables. Many stores carry organic frozen fruits that are reasonably priced. Throw in some baby spinach, a cup or two of coconut water, and some protein powder.
For lunch, have a big organic salad with as many vegetables as possible. Don’t buy salad dressing. It’s loaded with things we don’t need. And making dressing is so simple.
To make my favorite dressing, simply whisk together extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.
When hunger strikes during the day, snack on nuts.
For dinner, grill a free-range chicken breast or a piece of wild salmon. Add a salad and some steamed broccoli. For dessert, have some fresh fruit.
I promise it will feel so much better to eat this way. You will have more energy and sleep better. Plus, the more you do it, the more benefits you’ll discover.
Of course, it’s best if your spouse is on board with the challenge. Children are much more difficult since junk food tastes good, but thinking about their overall health should be motivation to at least try to limit their intake of processed food.
Some recent studies have shown that sugar is as addictive as many illegal drugs. And trust me when I say sugar (often disguised by names such as glucose, anything that ends in “ose”) is in nearly everything processed.
One more point. If you think it’s too expensive to eat healthy foods, think about the alternative of being sick and taking medication or paying for doctor visits and treatments.
Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” If you take this challenge and it goes well, consider continuing eating whole, real foods. Let processed food be an occasional event.
But I will bet after reading what’s in food, you’ll reach for that organic apple instead.
Good luck on the quest and please email me about “whole” eating experience.
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at email@example.com.