One of our new resolutions for the new year is to cut down the amount of processed food that comes into our house and into our mouths. I can hear you all saying, you’re a dietitian, surely that’s a no-brainer, and yes you are probably correct. However, being a working family sometimes it is really hard to find the time not only to prepare non-processed foods but I also find it hard to find the mental capacity to think about the extra behind the scenes preparation that needs to happen to do this. So just like I tell my clients to do, I am breaking down my rather large goal, to smaller more gradual goals. More on this in a sec.
So what do I mean by less processed food? And I want to be clear on this. This is not clean eating, this is not paleo, this is not “raw”, because for me this is not about a gimmick. I don’t believe in fads. This is getting back to foods in their most basic form and trying to eliminate some of the sneaky preservatives and additives in the foods we eat. It is also about cutting out the unnecessary crap that comes with processed foods, palm oil, salt by the bucket load and sugar. For me there is also an environmental component to the drive for this goal and that is less mass production, less packaging, less food miles. Lastly but probably most importantly is that I’m curious about the effect of preservatives and additives on Miss 3’s behaviour.
Now I’m not saying I am going to be able to do this, I’m just saying it is my goal for the whole year, to start chipping away at this and making less processed options the norm for us. There are some things that are going to be super hard to get rid of, and I’m sure there are processed foods that will stay with us for good (this is the 2000s after all) but we will be trying to find ways around the barriers when we get to them. And just so you know, I’ve already done massively bad at this so far, hence why I’m writing this down.
So why would you want to do this nutritionally, you ask? Well as I said before, the unnecessary crap can have huge ramifications on your health (palm oil/saturated fat, salt and excess sugar), and coming from someone who is seeing chronic diseases starting earlier and earlier I can tell you, now is the time people. Did you know that when you look at where the salt in our everyday diets comes from, about 3 quarters of it comes purely from processed foods! It’s a big deal when salt has a direct link to high blood pressure (and as a result heart disease), not to mention is a key factor in bloating which seems to get most females interested. Saturated fats cause our liver to pump out cholesterol into our blood stream, this cholesterol is sticky stuff and if there is too much can get stuck in our veins and arteries causing blockages. If this is in your heart that means heart attack, if this is in your brain, it means stroke. Pretty good motivation I think?! And lastly excess sugar causes us to put on weight. Excess weight puts strain on your body and a LOT of the time causes you to develop Type 2 Diabetes. Get a diagnosis of this and you get a ticket to come see someone like me who has to feel bad about telling you all the things you should start cutting down on. Don’t make me do it guys, it’s not fun!
On the additives and preservatives side, I’m hoping that cutting out a few key additives and preservatives in our diets will help Miss 3 with some anger, tantrum and frustration issues she has. Now I’m not a loony here, I know that all toddlers have tantrums, but she is quite the agro little being and it’s not going to do her any harm by having less crap in her diet so why the heck not hey? I’m leaning on the guru Sue Dengate here who has developed countless amazingly useful resources on this topic. I think I like her so much because she suggests trying small changes first to see if it makes a difference, a far cry from the crazies out there who suggest ultra restrictive eating plans and rules from the get go.
So a bit from Sue’s suggestions and a bit from my own goals but here is our list:
– Switch to preservative free bread (proving to be difficult, mainly because I keep forgetting and end up with the normal stuff and then have to wait till it’s all gone before we can get it again. Coles has a version as does Bakers Delight and Brumbies).
– Switch to preservative free vegemite (we have this almost EVERYDAY, so this will be a biggie).
– Switch to Nuttelex instead of margarine.
– Have either homemade or whole food snacks to avoid preservatives and additives. This is another big one as we have a lot of savoury biscuits in our house.
– Start experimenting with making my own versions of processed foods I buy for dinners, such as
- Pasta (I make this already but need to try to make the effort more often)
- Spice mixes ie taco seasoning etc
- Pasta sauce (although see last point)
- Fish fingers
– We may possibly cut down on salicylates (purely for behavioural purposes which will mean broccoli, citrus, tomatoes, grapes and their products)
So there you go, nothing amazing and doesn’t sound like much but this will take us quite some time to get our heads around and to test out recipes and preparations.
Wish us luck and please share any recipes or ideas you have!