Discovering the ingredients of our food – By April

One of the most valuable things I learned while working at the women’s gym years ago was about nutrition and the way our bodies process our food.  I never really thought much about what went into the food I was eating.  Cheese could come in powder form within a dulled silver bag and I would eagerly dump that package of happiness into my already melted combination of milk and butter.  I would slowly stir my sauce and watch the electric orange color of the cheese slowly fade into a golden and buttery sunset over the ebony darkness of the pan.  Oh Kraft, you’ll always hold a special place in my heart.  Literally, because I bet a few of my overweight pounds are thanks to my adoration of Macaroni and Cheese.

My nutritionist taught me the art of reading labels and how our bodies respond best to products with the LEAST ingredients.  As in applesauce that is made of apples or peanut butter that is made from peanuts.

For example,  here are the ingredients of a popular peanut butter brand: ROASTED PEANUTS, SUGAR, HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OILS (COTTONSEED, SOYBEAN AND RAPESEED) TO PREVENT SEPARATION, SALT.

The same company that makes that particular peanut butter also makes a “natural” version that lacks the funky hydrogenated oils but still has added sugar and palm oils.  If you spend some extra time checking out the other brands, you’ll probably find a peanut butter than only consists of peanuts.  It might cost more but it could end up helping your health which to me, is very worth the extra $1.

Once I learned to cut out the products in my life that had ingredients like hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup, my health dramatically increased.  I suffer from heartburn and on the days I manage to go without anything that has either of these food additives, I don’t get heartburn.    Plus, once I lost weight the heartburn was one of the quickest things to go as well.

I also discovered that products made with aspartame and other sugar substitutes seemed to have a direct correlation to these weird headaches I would get.  They were very particular and unlike any other headache I had before.  I noticed this problem when I was drinking a light lemonade every day for four days in a row.  While I do get headaches often, this just seemed wrong. I finally figured out it was because of the lemonade I was drinking and the artificial sweetener that was replacing the sugar.  There has been times when I had eaten baked goods or even broccoli salad unknowingly that this particular sugar substitute was included and would end up with a raging headache soon afterwards.

Learning about the ingredients in my food opened up a whole new world of obsession for me.  I would say knowing what I am eating is one of my top priorities in life not only because it greatly affects my health but because the direction the American food system is heading just plain FREAKS ME OUT…

::For the sake of not writing 1,000 words right now I am biting my tongue on everything I could say on genetically modified food::

With the help of amazing books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and the education I have gotten from my nutritionist and sustainable agriculture classes, I have a very deep passion for learning about our food.  My passion is so strong that I plan on volunteering next summer to do some WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) around Europe so I can further learn about our food. For those of you who don’t know, I am working towards a degree in environmental studies and sustainable agriculture so I look forward to being able to take my passion even further.

I tend to go off on this topic as you can plainly see so I would like to start writing some separate blogs about a few of the things I mentioned like high fructose corn syrup and the genetically modified foods.  My environmental studies courses expose me to a lot of worthy information that people just aren’t being told and I would love the opportunity to share that with all of you.

Have you ever had any health experiences when it comes to the foods you put into your body?  Does anyone else get heartburn from high fructose corn syrup products?  How about headaches from artificial sweeteners?

I’d love to know!

Peace and Monkeys,

 

 

 

Trying something new: Eating Clean

My mom and I hiking in Malibu

This week, I’m trying something new. After a somewhat bad-eating weekend (a cupcake here and movie popcorn there), I decided I wanted to do a re-set. I wanted to eat clean.
So since Tuesday morning, I haven’t eaten a single processed thing. NOT ONE PROCESSED THING. Nary a processed “convenience” item has passed my lips. I realized I eat a lot of packaged crap on Weight Watchers – the frozen SmartOnes baked Ziti, little Weight Watchers chocolate cream cakes, peeps, crystal light, fiber one bars… My Yo-Yoing has made me realize it doesn’t matter if it keeps me on plan or within my points. It’s still crap, and it’s stuff I wouldn’t want my future children eating daily, so why am I? It’s easy to pop a SmartOne into the microwave on days when I’m heading to class or stuck in a lunch meeting, but I’m kind of over them. Sure, they’re tasty and low points, but they’re also filled with salt and preservatives. I’m not raggin’ on them, because it works, but I think I’m relying on them too much. Crap is crap is crap no matter how it’s packaged, marketed or prepared.

I’ve stayed in my points allotment but I’m doing it a little differently. Here’s how: tons of vegetables, fresh fruits, dried fruits, seeds, lean protein and water and tea. LOTS OF IT. Here’s what I ate yesterday (and stayed within my points allotment on):

1 Apricot Mango Greek Yogurt, Organic (8 points – I mistakenly bought the full fat version and wondered why it was so damn delicious and tasted like icecream. Then I calculated the points. Haha!)
1 Mug of Green Mint Tea (0 points)
1 Banana (0 points)

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds in shell (4 points)
2 cups vegetable beef soup, homemade (packed with spinach, zucchini, carrots, celery, onions, cabbage, peas and tomatoes) 5 points
4 prunes (2 points)
Water

1/2 Cup Cantaloupe (0 points)
1/2 Cup Pineapple (0 points)

Grilled chicken breast (boneless, skinless) 4 points
1 cup asparagus, sauteed (1 point)
1 small baked potato with butter (5 points)
Water

4 slices dried mango (3 points)
3 squares 85% dark chocolate (2 points)
Water

I’m actually somewhat under points on this, but I don’t feel hungry. I’m not even craving diet pepsi, which is weird because I usually have one at every lunch. This is probably TMI for you so close your eyes and skip to the next line if you’re squeamish, but I’m also like….regular. Haha! I have no idea what this little plan of mine will result in tomorrow on the scale, but I’m hoping it’s good. If it’s not, I’ll decide what to do then. I also have been walking at least a mile on breaks at work every day, and yesterday I did an hour of dance class. On Sunday, I hiked for two hours with Matt and my mom. I’m trying, and like Thomas the train, I’m chugging along saying to myself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….”.

Have you ever tried to do a “detox” of sorts by eating clean? How did it go?