This October, we are in! As a family, we are going to try to eat ONLY unprocessed foods for a month. We pledged for this challenge at Eating Rules along with lots of other folks! Are you up for the challenge?
Why do it? Honestly, why not? I think it is important to take the time to learn and become aware of what we are eating.
How do you know what is processed? Andrew Wilder for Eating Rules came up with the Kitchen Test:: “Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with whole-food ingredients. If you pick up something with a label (if it doesn’t have a label, it’s probably unprocessed), and find an ingredient you’d never use in your kitchen and couldn’t possibly make yourself from the whole form, it’s processed. It doesn’t mean you actually have to make it yourself, it just means that for it to be considered “unprocessed” that you could, in theory, do so.”
As for our family–I do not expect perfection, but at least a good attempt.
What I expect:: lots of fresh fall fruits & veggies, tea, microbrews, 100% whole grain breads & bagels, popcorn, homemade guacamole & hummus, and to feel generally ‘better’.
What I’ll miss most:: Diet Coke, flavored coffee creamer, Truvia sweetener, TCBY frozen yogurt sandwiches, easy-kid packaged snacks!
What I’ll let slide:: Our favorite natural peanut butter (made with palm oil & sugar), treats on special occasions (birthdays, parties, etc.), breakfast cereals, organic kid yogurt tubes.
Here are some common questions discussed on Eating Rules ::
“Okay, so let me toss out a few other specific foods that I’ve been asked about:
Chocolate. Yup, it’s okay, because it’s possible to make chocolate at home. However, if the store-bought chocolate contains extra emulsifiers, flavorings, or other additives that you wouldn’t use if you were make it at home, it’s off the list.
Coffee. Yup. Try this fun project: Buy some green coffee beans (they’ve already been cleaned for you), and toast them in your popcorn air popper. (Skip the little yellow, blue, or pink packets and the powdered creamer.) Or you could grow your own coffee plant, and then wet-process the beans yourself. Totally doable at home (how much time do you have?)
Beer. Yup, I’ve got quite a few friends who make beer at home.
Wine. Yes, I’ve got quite a few friends who make wine at home. There is the question of sulfites, though. My winemaker friends usually add sulfites (sourced from winemaking suppliers, not from your regular grocery story, I believe) — so you’ll need to decide for yourself if you’ll seek out sulfite-free wines.
Vodka, Gin, and other Spirits. Although I don’t recommend distilling your own (and it may be illegal), it’s certainly possible to do this at home. Just skip the gimmicky flavored ones and I’m sure you’ll be fine. Of course, it depends on how picky you want to be. You may wish to consider what sugars/starches are being used to feed the fermentation process.
Bacon and Sausage. As long as there are no additives (nitrates, flavorings, etc.), and it’s a high-quality product, you’re probably okay here. Maybe this is a good opportunity to get to know a local butcher.
“Veggie Burgers “and “Fake Meats.” Most of these should be avoided, as they usually contain a lot of textured vegetable protein (which I’m almost certain you couldn’t make at home). But if you are in a pinch, you can probably find something that’ll work. You’ll really need to read the ingredient list: An All-American Flame-Grilled Boca Burger is definitely out. Dr. Praeger’sGluten Free California Veggie Burger is certainly better, though it’s got a couple of ingredients that are questionable. (Personally, I’m going to do my best to avoid these).
Cooking Oils. It is possible to press your own oils at home, though it would be a rather inefficient process. I would expect that nut oils would be easier (just grind them up and let them separate, like your jar of peanut butter, right?).
Salt. Depending on how refined it is, this may or may not be okay. Stick with the natural, unprocessed salts such as the fabulous Fleur De Sel.
Sugar. Usually, the term “sugar” refers to bleached table sugar, those fine-white granulated crystals that come from sugar cane or sugar beets. The bleaching is done with sulfur dioxide, an ingredient that hopefully isn’t in your pantry. Next!
Turbinado Sugar (“Raw” Sugar) is the same stuff — but it hasn’t been bleached. I think it would be possible to make turbinado sugar crystals at home, if you had some sugar cane stalks ready to go. Although there are a couple of steps in the commercial process that you couldn’t do, I’m guessing you could still get the crystals if you’re patient enough (perhaps a countertop food dehydrator would help evaporation).
Honey. Good to go; in fact, this is probably the most “unprocessed” sweetener available.
Agave Nectar. You’re probably okay with this one. Some agave is simply heated (at relatively low temperatures). It may also be enzymatically processed.
Corn Syrup and High Fructose Corn Syrup. Both of these are too complicated to make at home. Off the list.
Flour. As long as it’s 100% whole grain flour, it’s okay. You could certainly grind whole grains in your kitchen. As Bob’s Red Mill says, one pound in, one pound out. Refined flours, however, have had the germ and bran removed (leaving just the fluffy endosperm) — and are likely bleached or brominated, and may be enriched with nutrients that had been previously removed. Some Refined flour, as long as it’s unbleached and unenriched, actually would pass the Kitchen Test.
Corn Meal and Masa. Again, if these are made with the whole grain (such as the whole grain cornmeal in my Bob’s Red Mill giveaway), then it’s all good.
Butter. Yup, you could certainly make real butter at home, if you’re so inclined.
Cheese. Yup. Some already make cheese at home. Skip the “pasteurized processed” cheeses, or “cheese foods,” of course.
Nut Butters. Look at the ingredient list. If it’s just “Nuts & Salt” (or better yet, just Nuts), then it’s great. But if it’s got stabilizers, sweeteners, and oils, it’s a no-no (Skippy, I’m looking at you!)
Spices. Yup, these are okay. You could certainly grow them at home, dry them, and then grind them as needed.
Breads. Again, it’s all about the ingredient list. The best option, of course, is to make it at home. But if it’s store-bought, read the ingredient list. The flour should be whole grain (avoid these pitfalls), and there shouldn’t be fillers, preservatives, artificial sweeteners (yes, they sometimes add those to 100% whole wheat breads. Oroweat, I’m looking at you and your acesulfame potassium!)”