Now that the glow of yet another holiday is beginning to mellow, I find that it is time again to confront the kind and quantity of the food I’m putting in my mouth. Truth to tell the stomach virus that plauged us over the break kept most of my holiday indiscretions in check, but man that sugar craving is an opportunist. A couple of chocolate eggs (the little ones, not the big honkers) and it’s over. I’m all in, wanting it all the time. When I’ve been relatively well-behaved, I’m a salt kind of gal, but straight up candy or cake can get that sweet tooth rolling… I find myself returning to my own baby steps, reviewing the things I’ve learned over time that work for me: indulging the sweet tooth with fruit for a few days while watching the other carbs, upping the veggie intake to promote well-being and satiation. It occurs to me that many of you may find yourselves in the position of returning to food sanity after each of these holidays as well, and that what’s more a few more folks might be interested in climbing aboard after a weekend of peeps and coconut cake.
In the interest of clarity and ease, Bigg Sis and I thought we’d make a departure from our usual path and make some specific suggestions of how to baby step down on some highly processed foods that are 1) full of junk you don’t want to eat and 2) empty of real nourishment for that beautiful bod. These are meant as examples, although if you wanted to get started on these specific changes right here today, I could hardly fault you for your enthusiasm. :-) If you’re not a newbie, jump in somewhere in the middle of these steps, or by all means, tell us what OUR next step should be.
Stepping Up To Real Food
I. Our first candidate for baby stepping is quintessential Americana, and I’ll bet many of you ate some form of it over the weekend: macaroni and cheese. Now, please understand me, I have long been a fan of the macaroni noodle and I see no reason why it and something creamy and salty shouldn’t be consumed often and with great gusto, but the box convenience food of this modern day miracle is a pale reflection of the food that could be on your plate. So let’s begin with this convenient and inexpensive little box beloved by kids and parents alike for the ease of pleasing. Truth is those boxes contain Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 which the Center for Science in the Public Interest says we should AVOID EATING (“unsafe in amounts consumed or very poorly tested and not worth any risk”). They contain all manner of other things like MSG that are also considered wise to restrict and or avoid. The convenience comes at a price, apparently.
If you start with Kraft (or one of its many generic clones) Macaroni and Cheese your steps could look like this…
- a boxed mac n cheese that boasts fewer artificial colors and preservatives (which you will use less often because they are, admittedly, more expensive)
- easy homemade mac n cheese made with white noodles and orange cheddar cheese
- a natural boxed mac n cheese that uses whole grain noodles and white cheddar cheese (again more costly)
- easy homemade mac n cheese made with whole grain noodles (why whole grain?)
- homemade mac n cheese with whole grain noodles and added veggies (and crumb topping)
- The bonus round? Ditch the pasta (and yes it pains me to say that) in favor of a whole grain with whatever passes for cheese or creaminess for you and, of course, keep those veggies
Ta Da!! You’ve ended with a meal that is lower in sugar, preservatives, artificial colorings, boasts the nutritional value of including veggies and whole grains and undehydrated anything. The really delightful thing is that the homemade versions will also provide you with excellent bang for your buck, particularly as the nutritional content increases. People who are getting what they need from food don’t tend to need to eat as much of it – at least that’s been my experience. You may also find, after all of that baby stepping, that making your own elbow noodles and saucing them just really doesn’t take that long. On to the next hill!
II. Our second candidate is a staple (and has been a staple) for so many people for so very long – the staff of life they call it. Truthfully though the bread that you can buy in the store today bears little resemblance to bread that people have relied upon around the world for centuries. A lot of commercially prepared bread contains high fructose corn syrup (which our friends over at CSPI agree we should all cut back on). There is a substantial list of long chemical names at the end of many of these ingredient lists that I simply don’t understand and dismiss as being unnecessary having made bread many times. The other neat thing about the label on white bread is that the flour that it contains is “enriched.” They’ve added some vitamins and minerals back in. They put them in there because the process that they put the grain through to make it into fluffy white flour takes it all out – everything, all that is nutritious for more than five seconds. Personally, I’m not convinced that throwing some riboflavin in there is gonna make up for the difference, but I might be a little cynical that way. You can have the convenience of bread but get more out of it nutritionally – why not step up to bread that packs a punch for your body?
If you start with Wonder (or one its many white bread clones out there, your steps could look something like this…
- a loaf of wheat bread (and I’d suggest going for the brown stuff right off the bat, but get the super soft stuff that is shaped as much like your regular loaf as possible) This is the big step on this one, IMO. There are folks who can’t get past the color, so this step is the biggie. After that, it’s pretty smooth sailing
- a loaf of wheat bread that specifically lists whole wheat in the ingredients list
- a loaf of wheat bread that is described as “whole wheat bread”
- a loaf of whole wheat bread that has at least 3 grams of fiber per slice
- a loaf of 100% whole wheat bread
- a loaf of 100% whole wheat bread that doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup
- BONUS ROUND: sprouted wheat bread OR homemade 100% whole wheat or whole grain bread
Ta Dah! Now a sandwich is more than cellulose fiber and whatever you put in the middle. Let’s keep trucking…
III. Non-Dairy Coffee Creamer. If you are anywhere near my age, long ago you saw a movie called Say Anything (walk down memory lane available here). My favorite line in this movie is delivered by older to sister to the ever popular Lloyd Doebler in response to what she understands that he has eaten for the day: “There’s no food in your food.” If there ever was a food product for which this line is a perfect description, it is non-dairy coffee creamer. I should admit that I am suspicious of any product that is sold to me largely by what it is not rather than what it is: “non-dairy” “non-fat” “low-fat.” That’s all well and good, but WHAT IS IT?! Well, I’ll tell you. It’s corn syrup solids, partially hdrogenated soybean oil, sodium caseinate, artificial colors and artificial flavors… and that’s for the unflavored variety. There is no food in that food.
Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate a good doctored up coffee; I worked at a coffee bar BEFORE barristas people. I understand we do not all enjoy the dark power of that hot bitter cup of morning life (yes, I have a problem), but let’s not just go putting any old thing in there, shall we?
If you start with a flavored non-dairy creamer type thing….
- try cream or half and half and some hot cocoa mix or chocolate syrup (these often also have chemicals but if you are mixing you at least have control over the amount)
- how about milk (or nut milk) and some straight up sugar? Again, you can control that amount and baby step it down over time
- how about milk (or nut milk) and some maple syrup (it is good, I swear)
- just plain milk?
- BONUS ROUND: switch out a cup of whatever kind of coffee you’re drinking for green tea and have a glass of water in the morning when you wake up BEFORE you pour that cuppa joe.
Ta Dah! There is now more food in your food. You can now pursue your lifelong dream of being a professional kick boxer, sport of the future you know.
So there it is folks, a baby steps boost to get you eating food, real food. Not sure what to do next? Stick with us, we always have some advice (just ask anyone). Stumbled onto us and think baby steps sound like the thing to do? Click the Baby Steps category on the sidebar. C’Mon, you know you want to…