I am no doubt one of many who vowed to start the New Year with better eating habits. It’s not that I think I eat poorly, it's just that there is always room for improvement and I also want to shed the few extra pounds that I've gained this past year. I've had thoughts for quite some time about making a lifestyle change and when the documentary film Food, Inc. appeared in my mailbox from Netflix, it pretty much reinforced alot of things I already knew about the food/farming industry and gave me the kick-start I needed.
I'm not talking about going on a diet. While working as a personal chef, I saw diet fads come and go – low fat/no fat, Atkins, South Beach, HCG, you name it. And while it was my job to cook for clients who adhered to them, it was and still is my belief that any of those plans are very hard to maintain long-term because you cannot continuously deprive your body of things (carbs, fats) that are needed to function properly. The key to being healthy, losing and/or maintaining weight is moderation and being conscious of what goes into your body. It equals a lifestyle change, not a diet.
My vow is to start thinking about what I am putting into my mouth and my body and move toward more "real food" and away from highly processed foods. I know there is a better food lifestyle than what we are being exposed to in our grocery stores, restaurants and through mass marketing. We see items on grocery shelves, we buy them and we eat them but do we really pay attention to what we are actually consuming? Just because they say it is good for us, should we believe them?
Take this for instance: I purchased a package of spinach and herbs tortilla wraps with the intentions of making grilled vegetable wraps for lunch. I loaded my tortilla with roasted zucchini, squash, onions, bell peppers, fresh cherry tomatoes and spinach. Sounds healthy, huh? And there alot of "buzz" words on the package:
"Healthy Heart Lifestyle"
"A Better Choice for your Health"
It really gives you the impression that you are eating something totally healthy and good for you, doesn't it? I thought so too. (Read more about "real washing" here.) But let's turn the package over and look at the ingredients.
Of course we recognize things like whole wheat flour, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, extra virgin olive oil, and vegetable purees as "food" and things that are potentially good and healthy for us. But let's look a little further down the list....
Carboxymethyl cellulose: "...a constituent of many non-food products, such as K-Y Jelly, toothpaste, laxatives, diet pills, water-based paints, detergents, textile sizing and various paper products. In laundry detergents it is used as a soil suspension polymer designed to deposit onto cotton and other cellulosic fabrics creating a negatively charged barrier to soils in the wash solution."
Sodium metabisulfite: "... can be used to remove tree stumps. It is used as a disinfectant, antioxidant and preservative agent as well as used in photography."
Microcrystalline cellulose: "...is a term for refined wood pulp."
Dicalcium phosphate: "... mainly used as a dietary supplement in prepared breakfast cereals, dog treats, enriched flour, and noodle products. It is also used as a tableting agent in some pharmaceutical preparations, including some products meant to eliminate body odor. It is used in poultry feed. It is also used in some toothpastes as a tartar control agent."
There were plenty of other artificial ingredients listed, but these were enough to make me lose my appetite and come to the realization that what I was eating was NOT food - it was a combination of chemicals made to resemble something edible. And the kicker? These were spinach wraps but the question is do they contain any actual real spinach?? It says "spinach seasoning (natural and artificial flavors)" but what exactly is that?? I plan to try this recipe for homemade "real" tortillas very soon instead of wasting my money on store-bought ones.
In my quest to educate myself on the subject of "real food," I've read alot of articles by Lisa Leake (a fellow Charlottean) from 100 Days of Real Food and Katie Kimball at Kitchen Stewardship. Both of these websites are a wealth of information, links and resources so please check them out and take the vow along with me to actually eat food instead of something manufactured in a facility with ingredients you can't even pronounce. Our bodies were created as temples and we need to stop treating them like tents!