About a year ago, I started watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, a show where the famous British “Naked Chef” Jamie Oliver travels to America to inform parents and the community about the dangers of letting kids eat overly processed food by targeting the poor nutritional value of public school lunches.
While the show’s tactics may be overly dramatic and I do feel I’ve seen le Naked Chef cry one too many times, the revelations of that show have really forced me to be honest with myself about what I’m eating…and how important it is to spend the time and money to correct it before it causes obesity, malnutrition, diabetes or cancer in myself or future children.
Jamie focuses not on the trendy organic craze, not on supplements, not on low-calorie…he focuses mainly on paying attention to the number and quality of ingredients in your food, and to where your food comes from. And no, I never really eaten a lot of fast food, chicken nuggets or flavored milk, but when I started paying attention, I was eating a lot of high-ingredient, low-quality foods without ever knowing it. And someday, I surely would have allowed my kids to eat however much chicken nuggets and chocolate milk they wanted like I did without thinking twice.
So, yuppies of the world, take heed while you’re young and healthy, have disposable income and don’t yet have rugrats to feed. Look at the ingredients and banish your ignorance of what you’re fueling your temple with. That diet yogurt has chemical sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, dyes and preservatives. That gelatinous cheese product (you know the one) is full of unpronounceable words — not a good sign. That fast-food burger was once dipped in ammonia, and they don’t have to tell you that. And no, it’s not going to kill you if you eat some. But if you’re eating it regularly, who knows what it could do to you over time? No one may know for certain, but don’t you want to know that your food definitely isn’t going to hurt you?
Here’s how you can make the switch from processed to plain without defiling your taste buds:
Do your research. The recent diet soda scare has some people spooked about everything from aspartame to caramel coloring. The study was inconclusive because of a lack of control factors, so you can always tell yourself that you’re probably fine and it’s all just another conspiracy like the famed aspartame conspiracy of the 90’s, but do you really want to take that chance? Reading through the various theories and studies may help you see that there’s just no getting around it: eating and drinking things we process highly and add chemicals into is just never going to be as good for you as eating what nature provided for us.
Think about it. What amazed me about Jamie Oliver’s approach to healthier living was that what he was saying was a very simple, kindergarten-level concept: eat simple food, and you’ll be healthy.
So think about it…why is it cheaper to send food through a factory then to pick it and eat it? Because the ingredients in that processed food are all the cheaper, all the faker..they’re not really “food.” And why do we tell our kids not to eat candy, soda and too much fried foods, but then we allow ourselves to eat it? Why do we continue eating things we know are bad for us, when the sole purpose of food is to nourish us? Why is eating simple such a foreign concept?
A hundred years ago it really wasn’t. My great grandmother ate food out of her own garden because that was the most affordable, easiest option. My mother-in-law’s mother made them homemade food at rest stops during road trips because there was no “fast, cheap food” at every single exit. But today’s yuppies grew up in a fast-food-on-every-corner, frozen TV dinner world. So, we have to go backwards. We have to retrain ourselves. And the best way to start is to…
Take a lesson from our canine companions. No doubt if you’ve ever tried to switch from Yoplait to plain yogurt or Wonderbread to whole-grain, you probably took one big bite of the foreign healthy alternative and cringed in pain. But it’s not that these foods actually taste bad, it’s just that you took a system-shocking approach to switching.
When you switch a dog’s food, you don’t just take away his normal food and shove a whole new world in his face. If you’ve ever done this you know that it results in explosive digestion problems that you never want to experience. No, instead you mix a bit of the new food into the old, then more and more until the old food is gone and the new food has sneakily replaced it. And the dog loves it, painlessly.
Do this for yourself! Mix your high-ingredient, artificially sweetened yogurt or some honey with just a bit of plain , then more and more until your palate favors the tang of that just-milk-and-cultures yogurt. If you’re still somehow eating Wonderbread, try oatmeal bread, then honey wheat, then wheat, then whole grain. Put some peanut butter on the hard-to-handle breads to make it less dry tasting until you get used to it.
What’s your biggest eating-simple challenge?