How to eat real food

Corn, The Conclusion.

I have been thinking about how to bring my posts about my search for corn in our food to an appropriate conclusion. I mean, I expected to be shocked and appalled all the corn-derived fake food on my shelves, despite our attempt to eat healthy. Sure I found a few icky things, mostly preservatives and corn-derived sugars. I got the push I needed to strengthen my resolve to make my own breads, pitas, crackers, cookies, ect. I won’t buy any more cream cheese. But, other then that, both posts were sadly anticlimactic.

Then I started thinking about how it is that, despite rows and rows of food at the supermarket that are full of fake food, our family manages to do weekly grocery shopping at a big name supermarket and come out mostly unscathed? So here it is, my top tips for avoiding fake food and eating real food.

*Side note: In the interest in full disclosure for anyone who doesn’t know me, let me confess this: I am far far from perfect when it come to eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight. I love carbs, a lot. I can’t resist a treat when I get my latte. I bake a lot of muffins.  I have baby weight and then some and I need to get more exercise. If I am going to give out advice, I figure you should know that just because we tend to eat mostly ‘real’ food, doesn’t mean we are the example of health. Okay now that I have said that…. back to my top tips:

1) Read labels

Really. I know you don’t want to. It takes too much time, you think. Trust me, once you start you won’t even notice you do it. And once you have zeroed in on which brand of a particular item is the best you just keep on buying it and don’t need to read the label anymore. I recommend reading both the ingredient list and the nutritional information. Go for the products with the shortest list of ingredients, no added sugar, high fibre if possible (more then 4 grams per serving), no trans fat and low saturated fat.

2) Be wary of food with health claims

The trend is for over-processed food to use ‘healthy’ additives just so they can make a health food claim. Omega oils, fiber, probiotics, prebiotics, antioxidants are all added to foods in order to be able to put a flashy phrase on the package. While the product may be good, don’t assume something is healthy because they highlight a health feature. A cookie may have fiber, but it is still a cookie. (Not that that really stops me… I am just sayin’) Some of these options may be good alternatives. For example, I am a huge fan of mayo made with olive oil. Less saturated fat, same great taste. Just read the labels to make sure the health claim is not empty and don’t use these food as substitutes for fresh fruits and veggies that are a much better source of vitamins and nutrients.

3) Toss the junk food

Remember all the corn that Pollan says we eat? Well, a lot of it is in your favourite pop, juice and snack food. I’m just sayin’.

4) Focus on your meat and dairy

Sure, your fresh meat and dairy doesn’t have a long list of ingredients full of unpronounceable additives (if it does… well… gross). The problem is that it should. What goes into your cow, pig or chicken should be on the label, in my opinion, because it does get into your food. I know they claim it doesn’t, or it is in such small amounts that it won’t hurt you, but I just don’t buy it. I am not a scientist, I can not prove this, but my gut just tells me it is not a good idea to buy a steak or milk from a cow who has been feed/injected with a cocktail of supplements, additives, drugs and corn. (Cows did not evolve eating corn and it really messes with their systems… again watch “Food Inc”.)

Here is the upside: Organic milk and meat tastes WAY WAY better. I will be honest, while we buy Organic milk all the time (despite it’s crazy high price) we don’t always buy Organic meat. Right now I am buying the ‘free from’ line at Superstore, which claims to be hormone and antibiotic free, grain fed and raised ‘ethically’. I don’t know if that grain is corn…. it probably is. But if we had the money we would go back to the organic meat from Sunworks farms (www.sunworksfarms.com) in a flash. Anyway, my point is that since you don’t know what goes into your milk and meat, organic is worth considering.

5) Shop the natural aisle

More and more the big name stores are coming out with their own brand of organics. They are well priced and pretty good. There is a huge debate about these products and if they are really living up to the true meaning of organic. Do they produce food on such a large scale that they aren’t really the same as the small scale, local organic farms? Yes, true,  these organics are not the same as those you buy directly from the small producer at the farmers market. However, I believe by buying them you are sending a message to your supermarket that you prefer your food organic and natural. I love the food from my farmers market producers, but I don’t think it is realistic (affordable) to buy only from them. We need some ‘industrial’ scale food. I would just prefer that industrial scale food to be as organic and environmentally friendly as possible. But again, I go back to #1; read the label. Just because it says organic doesn’t make it healthy.

6) Make your own ‘convenience’ food.

I have starting really trying to make a BIG batch of something on one of the weekend nights. Something like a soup, stew or baked dish that I can portion into 2-3 meals. One for that night, and then two I can freeze for later. That way, when we need a quick meal, I just heat it up and toss a salad.

Those are my ideas, what are yours?

(Edited for grammar, as my husband has pointed out that my pre-publish read through failed to pick up on a number of mistakes. Thank goodness I have a husband who has better attention to detail then I do).

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9 responses to “How to eat real food

  1. Pam January 24, 2010 at 10:26 am

    I was wondering what conclusion you’d come to on this. Eating clean really isn’t that difficult, and it drives me nuts when people claim that it’s just too hard to bother. I think another great tip is to shop the perimeter as much as possible. If you’re not walking down the aisles filled with processed food, you’re not going to have to check labels to find out if they’ve got excess junk in them!

    The other thing is that people need to stop buying into the “need” for obvious convenience in everything. Of course it’s helpful to have easy snacks on hand, and dinners that are fast to cook. But almonds are as fast as a sugar-laden granola bar, and putting a chicken and veggies in a crockpot takes as long as arguing about which pizza to order and then making the phone call.

    • amoment2think January 24, 2010 at 10:40 am

      I agree, it really isn’t that difficult. We have certainly had many a time wasting discussion about what pizza to order. Which is ridiculous because making your own is so easy. I have gotten a couple suggestions for some great pizza dough recipes lately, but we actually make our pizza on pita often.

      I think the perimeter of the store is a good tip too. But most of us have to dive into the middle of the store at least occasionally. There are some great things in those scary middle aisles like chicken stock, canned chickpeas, rice and olive oil. It’s just that they are hidden between sugar crisp and potato chips. Too bad they couldn’t divide those middle aisle into ‘healthy’ and ‘non-healthy’ aisles.

  2. smdcanada January 24, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Your last few posts were really interesting. Gives us lots to think about. I really think that so much of this is about educating oneself and then setting new habits. It may take a while, but soon it will become second nature. We’re working on it in our household too. Learning to read labels has been hugely eye-opening, and often appalling.

    BTW, what’s the Mayo made with olive oil that you mention? I haven’t heard of that.

    Have you read Pollan’s “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto”? Another good read.

    Great commentary!

    • amoment2think January 24, 2010 at 4:04 pm

      I loved Pollan’s “In Defense of Food.” Awesome read. He has a new book coming out that I am looking forward to as well. (Can’t remember right now, but I mentioned it in a earlier post).

      The mayo is by one of the main mayo brands… I can’t remember right now. It has a green label and a green lid. I have seen it a both Safeway and Superstore. It’s still mayo… but a bit better.

  3. Michael January 24, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    (Cows did not evolve eating corn and it really messes with their systems… again watch “Food Inc”.)
    I found this comment interesting since people did not evolve to drink soda, wine or beer, nor to eat the processed foods found on our grocery shelves.
    Interestingly it is not the cow eating the corn that messes up things, but the bacteria in the cows rumen (one of its four “stomachs”) digesting the corn that is the real problem. Despite what “Food Inc”. says we do not and cannot feed all of that corn to a cow. The bacteria will not allow it.
    I find your efforts to eat better commendable. If we all ate more simply we would all be healthier. I’m not a fan of fast food.
    Please be cautious however. Many are using the Organic label to fool you. Also some organics can be trouble. Organic peanut butter can contain dangerous molds. Organic fruits need careful washing to wash a variety of ills.
    If you want to eat better you will have to pay for it. Organic takes much more labor than conventional. Eat local, get to know your farmer/gardener. Treat them well and you will gain much more than you expected.

    • amoment2think January 24, 2010 at 6:32 pm

      I was actually thinking the same thing right before I published this post- about all the things we eat that we ‘did not evolve’ to eat. Good point. Although I do think there is a difference between humans putting some grape juice in a barrel, leaving it a while, and then decided to try drinking it and us passing Betsy a bucket of corn to see if she will eat it. I don’t think Betsy strolled over to the corn fields and took a chomp all by herself.

      I do agree with you the best option is to eat local and get to know the farmers and growers. My husband and I would like to tour through a bunch of the local farms that we buy from this summer. Its true, it does cost more for ‘true’ organics and I believe it is worth it. But as I said, I also believe that if you can’t afford the local farmers market all the time, and you are going to shop at the big supermarket anyway, it is best to show them you want more natural options by buying their ‘organics.’ I don’t expect the same from my local farmer as I do from my big brand store when it comes to organics. It is important to be aware of the difference. It is also important to know the labeling laws in your local area, to know what companies can and can’t put on their label, what the claim means and how it is monitored.

      I had not heard that about Organic peanut butter, so I will have to look into it. I honestly don’t know enough to get into a debate with you about these ‘trouble’ organics. Again, I go on my gut feelings. My gut tells me that I would rather the risk in organic food then the risk in industrial food. I like my chances with bacteria better then over exposure to chemicals and GMOs. But that is just me. To each their own.

      • Michael January 24, 2010 at 10:29 pm

        As for going for corn, cows love it. They thought it was candy. When we used to have cows and they managed to get out of the fence, they headed right for the corn. If they did it at the wrong time of year it could kill them. The problem was in the stalks, not the ears of corn. The bacteria could not handle the natural elements in a corn stalk and it made them sick.
        The chemicals you are worried about are more of a problem with imported foods. They don’t have the rules on what can and cannot be put on the crop. Interestingly the most used herbicide in my area was first made as a soap. It has the same effect on a body as soap would.
        I live far enough north that we do not need much except weed killers (herbicides) on our crops. Chemicals to kill weeds and insects are expensive. We only use them when absolutely needed and then in the smallest dose possible.
        Unfortunately the spinach scare of a few years ago came from an organic farm. It was a tragic mistake that could have been avoided. Wash your uncooked veggies well.

      • amoment2think January 25, 2010 at 8:43 am

        Thanks Michael- I stand corrected about the cows. Apparently they are wandering over to the corn fields and helping themselves. What a resourceful bunch!

        And I will make sure to wash my veggies. Always a good idea.

      • Michael January 25, 2010 at 1:53 pm

        Understanding your food and where it comes from is becoming a real problem these days. So few have any connection to the farm or garden. There is so much that happens on a farm as animals interact that we take for granted. We know that fences and pens are for the protection of the animal, sometimes from their own kind.
        Here’s a strange for you. Did you know that that grass and grain eating cow will turn around and eat the placenta after her calf is born? I think it’s a throwback to when they were wild and eating the placenta hid it from scavengers who may want to kill her calf.
        We keep mother pigs in pens to keep them from laying on their babies. Think about it, a 400 pound mama and a 3 to 5 pound baby. Not much of a chance there. I’ve seen mother pigs get so worked up when they hear their baby cry that they will kill the first thing they can get at. That’s usually their own baby.
        It’s a rough world out there for little animals.

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