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Awake at the Whisk: October Unprocessed

Thursday, September 30, 2010


October Unprocessed

Unprocessed October. Image found here.

Put down that donut! Hands off that frozen entrée! For the month of October, we’re unplugging from the wide world of processed foods here at Awake at the Whisk and beyond.

Why unprocessed?
The evidence is piling up: fresh food is good for you. Who knew?! We Americans are doing everything we can to avoid tainted peanut butter and Mad Cow disease. We’ve become vegetarian. We’ve turned locavore. We’re planting gardens. We’re cooking in our own homes. But you and I both know that when the craving for a big scoop of luscious ice creams calls us, we cave.

Try and try as we might, we’re imperfect in our quest to unplug from the food system as we know it. Whether we’re overworked and rely on the occasional frozen dinner to feed our families, or we just can’t kick the sweet tooth, we’re hooked! Nobody’s perfect.

And frankly, no one should have to be. This isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. We all eat the occasional bowl of proverbial Fruity Pebbles.

Yet, sometimes it requires a grand leap to become aware. When we hyper-focus on an issue, we learn a lot. For instance, there has been a lot of talk lately about the influx of vegetarians starting to eat sustainable meats. Folks think this is odd, but it actually makes perfect sense. No one thinks about meat more than someone who makes the conscious choice every day to eliminate it. Meat is everywhere. You must be very educated about meat in order to avoid eating it.

Well, I wonder what will happen when we hyper-focus on processed foods. How often do we blindly select the best-marketed box of granola bars from the grocery store shelf? The package says “natural,” or “organic,” or “sugar free,” or “whole grain.” We assume we’re participating fully in our diets. But it’s not until you force yourself to turn that package over and scan the small print religiously for forbidden ingredients that you begin to wake up to all the strange stuff that’s been going into your body.

So, for one month, I’m asking you to turn the box over and read the fine print. If you’re craving ice cream, I double dog dare you to try to find the brand at your local supermarket that doesn’t contain corn syrup. It ain’t easy.

We’re in this together, and we’ll learn a lot as we go. I hope you’re as excited about the experiment as I am. I always love a good challenge!

Defining “Unprocessed”
The word “unprocessed” is a loaded term. Since I don’t have a PhD in nutrition, and don’t want to bore my wonderful readers, I encourage every reader to decide for themselves what “unprocessed” looks like. I’m applying my own code of unprocessed, and you’re welcome to follow along.

Code of Unprocessed October:
1)      No corn syrup. Whether you’ve bought in to the industry’s attempts to rename this dietary villain “corn sugar” or not, Dr. Oz tells me it’s bad for me. So darn it, I’m going to listen.

2)      Reduce white flour. I’m a baker, and nearly every beloved recipe from my youth contains this bleached powdery stuff. But it is bleached with chlorine (yuck!); many folks have sensitivities to it; and the man-made vitamins they pump into it in an attempt to replace the ones they previously stripped out of it by over-processing it are ruining our planet. I love whole grains and try to bake with them often. Now, I’m embracing whole grains more than ever before. In fact, I might even try a gluten-free recipe this month.

3)      Ingredients lists I can pronounce and recognize. Enough said.

4)      Fresh food. I’m not even going so far as to say it must be local or must be organic (although, on this blog, you know it will be). But if it’s a fresh head of broccoli rather than a canned soup with broccoli-ness, you can be assured that there’s no added preservative or processing. Stick to clean, fresh food and you leave out the guesswork.

Armed with this short list, I’m off to experience how truly fresh-tasting life can be. I hope you’ll join me! Even if you select just one day this month to commit to eating processed-free, I think you’ll find your eyes widening as you become more fully awake at the whisk.

Credit for this healthful idea goes to Andrew over at Eating Rules. As someone who prides himself on being awake at the whisk, he tries to inspire others to eat nutritiously, too. Needless to say, we bonded. When he came up with the notion of asking the blogosphere to join him in a processed-free month, I gleefully pledged—along with more than 200 others. You can sign a pledge to commit to our experiment on his blog, Eating Rules.

I hope you’ll join us! See you in the produce aisle!—or at the farmers’ market (which is more likely). 

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This is a great idea. A month is a manageable chunk of time, but long enough to change some habits. Looking forward to reading more!
Wow, what a challenge. I read your blog early this morning and decide to take the challenge. Went to the grocery store and headed straight for the veggies. How does Ratatouille sound for dinner???? Yum. See you tomorrow.

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