When people use the terms whole foods, clean eating, or real food, what are they talking about? To me, those things mean eating pure foods the way our great grandparents ate. Before Betty Crocker rolled onto the scene, before additives and chemicals were put in most grocery store products, foods were much closer to how God made them to nourish us.
Processing foods to death removes most of the nutrients. Take cereal for example. Whole grains, containing the perfect combination of nutrients are processed to remove the bran and the germ which contain vital vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin E and Magnesium our bodies need. The newly whitened flour is then bleached to make it look even whiter, further removing valuable nutrients and adding more chemicals. Now the flour is no longer healthy. They need to add nutrients back, so they take synthetic vitamins which are not usable by our bodies and put them into the flour, calling it enriched. Next they take the enriched flour and add shelf stabilizers, preservatives, and other chemicals to make it last for a year in the box. Many of these additives cause a myriad of health problems and diseases. Then they add copious amounts of salt and sugar to make the little chemical bomb taste appealing. Too much salt and sugar cause health problems as well. They add so much salt and sugar in fact, that after eating cereal, natural foods no longer taste good because our palates are trained to find salty and sugary foods. The poor nutritional value of the cereal leaves us with the feeling of hunger, when really, our body is just craving real nutrients and we aren’t really hungry at all. So we overeat the cereal looking for the satiety that comes from being properly nourished.
Our food supply is full of convenience foods like cereal, TV dinners, processed hamburger patties, cake mixes, breads, cookies, canned fruit, fruit juice, canned vegetables, frozen fries and chicken nuggets, corn dogs, processed cheese foods, margarine, sodas, and the list goes on and on. But these foods are far from how food was created to be eaten. God gave us the perfect diet, fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, and dairy. These foods give us everything we need to thrive if we work at keeping the nutrients they originally contained.
Merriam-Webster defines a whole food as a food that is considered healthy because it is grown naturally, has not been processed, and contains no artificial ingredients. Since I started changing our diet for myself, my family, and my daycare kids, I have noticed exponentially we have more energy, better behavior, clearer thinking, less colds and allergies, and just a general feeling of wellness I didn’t feel in myself before.
We do not eat perfectly, but I strive every year to clean up more things in our diet to improve our overall health. We can always do better, but the difference in our diets 15 years ago, and our diets today is astounding. The more I learn the better I can do.
The main key is do something. Start with one small change and work your way to a different lifestyle. Maybe you could start by adding some shredded veggies to your spaghetti sauce or adding a vegetable to your breakfast each day. The important thing is you start somewhere and keep moving forward. Getting families to come along on your journey can be challenging so don’t try to go cold turkey.
What are some ways you can clean up your diet?
- Add more fruits and vegetables. When filling your plate, you should have half fruits and vegetables before adding your grains, meat, and dairy. Once you are used to eating more produce, look for fresh over canned and frozen, more variety of colors and different preparations, and more organics, or even better learn to grow your own!
- Limit processed foods. Anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce is probably not good for you. Shoot for a goal of at least 80% whole foods and 20% processed foods.
- Choose foods with fewer ingredients. If you are choosing tortilla chips for instance, read the label, there are chips that just have corn, lime, and salt. That’s a better choice than one with 20 ingredients including some that are not recognizable.
- Start with plain protein. When choosing your protein source, choose dry beans you cook fresh over canned, hamburger meat over pre-seasoned patties, chicken over breaded precooked chicken nuggets, fish instead of fish sticks, etc. The fresher the better and free range meats from a farmer are much better than store bought inhumanely raised, hormone and chemical filled meats.
- Make your own breads. Cookies, rolls, crackers, cereals, cakes, bread, muffins, and every other bread product available are full of preservatives and chemicals your body does not need. You can also make bread quite a bit cheaper than buying it, so learn how to make a few bread products yourself and work your way to more and more homemade foods. I make my breads in multiple batches and freeze the rest for future days. This saves me a lot of time as I am feeding 10 people here. Choose whole grains over processed grains. See the cereal example above.
- Eat more plants. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and beans are packed with nutrients your body needs.
- Cut out fast food. Just don’t eat it. There are so many reasons….
- Choose natural sugars. Instead of using white sugar, try substituting raw sugar, real maple syrup, or raw honey in your cooking. And try to limit sweets because sugar is the number one destroyer of our health.
- Choose healthy fats. Not all fats are created equal. Butter is better than margarine. Olive and coconut oils are better than vegetable oils. Try to take all of the unhealthy trans fats out of your diet.
- DRINK MORE WATER! Avoid soda and have a clean glass of water instead. It takes some practice, but I went from a 2 liter of Dr. Pepper a day to no soda. It was hard at first, but I’ve been soda free for over 15 years and I save so much money and so many empty calories it’s unreal. Let’s figure it up. If I drank my 2 liter of soda or 8 cups per day for 15 years, I would have consumed 800 empty calories daily for a total of 4,380,000 calories over 15 years. Just sugar and chemicals, zero nutrition! And my local homeland has some 2 liter bottles of soda on sale this week for a dollar. If I got them all on sale, which I know I wouldn’t, but it’s easy to calculate with a dollar, I would have spent an additional $5,475 on soda over the past 15 years. Just think if you pay $1.85 for a restaurant soda and you get two sodas with your meal per week, you would spend $2,886 on your meals. That’s a lot of money I could think of a lot better things to do with. There’s more than one reason to go soda free.
Cooking your own foods from scratch will drastically change your health. I challenge you to change your eating habits this New Year and I promise you it will change your life!