Thursday, March 28, 2013

Unprocessed: Rules and reflections

I have been doing a lot of research on the whole unprocessed thing lately, and wow, it is more than I bargained for! The official October Unprocessed website has a ton of great resources, including this official guide, which I downloaded and read cover-to-cover.

What I discovered is that everything is processed. Well, okay, not really...but if you're going whole-hog, so to speak, a lot more things are forbidden than I'd thought about: white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup (okay, I knew all of those), anything with "natural flavors" on the label, or soy lecithin, or carageenan. No corn starch (eek! but my favorite ice cream recipe uses corn starch!). No dutch processed cocoa, no chocolate bars (kinda figured that one). The only "allowed" oils are evoo, unrefined coconut, butter, and peanut. No table salt. You have to check the labels on cheese, butter, yogurt...even milk, because sometimes they add things in. Meat: check the label; most of it has stuff added to it.

One thing I really liked about the guide is that they give really clear reasons and explanations for why things pass or don't pass the "kitchen test" -- they define "unprocessed" as anything a normal person with some cooking skill could make in a home kitchen with whole ingredients.

The other thing I really like is that they make it clear that you need to make the unprocessed goal work for you. So they suggest setting an intention: being clear about what your goals are and striving to meet those, and/or making deliberate exceptions before you even start, so that if you have something that's processed, you're not "cheating" and you don't have to rely on your willpower in a tough moment.

Armed with all of this knowledge, hubby and I had a big discussion about our goals for this challenge. I am so glad he is on board; I do not have faith that I could do this all on my own. More on our specific goals later........ (Oh, and in case you haven't noticed, I've decided to document our work on this challenge here. I have been in a blogging funk lately, and I'm hoping this will not only help us on our unprocessed journey, but also get me back in the habit of daily writing.)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Unprocessed kids

Guess the kids are on board with the whole unprocessed idea. Without any mention of yesterday's discussion, the little guy walked in the door from school, pulled all of the kids' cookbooks off the shelf, and said, "Let's get started finding some good non-store-bought foods to make at home!"

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Unprocessed parenting

This has been a challenging winter for us...multiple illnesses, a broken kneecap, eye surgery, and a winter that won't end (Hello, spring? Where are you?!). While I still spend a lot of time in the kitchen, make most of our dinners, and continue to make our breads and treats, we've also been cheating more: going out to eat, ordering in pizza, scrounging (crackers & cheese, frozen pizza, oatmeal), and (I'm embarrassed to admit) that blue box of wrongly-colored mac-n-cheese actually graced our table for the first time ever. Okay, that last one wasn't actually a cheat; hubby was just desperately craving the blue box and frozen chicken nuggets.

It's time to refocus. I've always been interested in the Unprocessed October idea...but October is always a crazy month for us so I've never tried it. I brought up the idea to my hubby, knowing that it would be hard to do it without him being on board. Luckily he, too, feels the need to refocus our eating and exercise habits. We decided to start with a two week unprocessed trial once spring arrives. (I'll be honest, I'm too bummed by this never-ending winter to start now...the weather just makes me want to cuddle up with comfort food and cookies. Plus this gives me time to do some research and planning.)

Tonight as we sat down to dinner, hubby and I started talking about what we'd be able to eat from our dinner if we were doing the unprocessed thing. Our ever-curious kids asked what we were talking about.

I started with the idea that companies take whole foods and add stuff to them (chemicals and things) to make them taste better or to make them last longer. And the more things they put in and the farther the food gets from its original state, the less healthy it is for our bodies. I explained that Mommy and Daddy were planning to try eating unprocessed foods for a while, avoiding foods with all the added stuff. We looked at our table: could we still eat the ciabatta? Yes, Mommy made it. The little guy asked about the flour I used; "but you bought that at the store." That's true; so I took out the bag and we looked at the ingredient list: just wheat. So although we buy it at the store, the wheat isn't really processed, just ground. How about the chicken soup? Could we still eat that? Yep, Mommy made that, too. The fruit? Yep, it's a whole food. The kids asked, "How about our yogurts?" I explained that no, their yogurts weren't unprocessed, but we also weren't going to make them eat unprocessed with us, unless they wanted to. The little guy (he's 6 now) asked why their yogurt wasn't okay. I asked him to read me the list of ingredients: he started with milk, sugar, vanilla...sounds okay so far. Then he got to a bunch of strange, unpronounceable words; yes, those are the ones to be wary of.

We are not planning to force the kids to give up their yogurt or cereal during our unprocessed trial, but I'm glad to start these conversations with them and help them start to think about the foods they put into their bodies.

I'm curious and hopeful about trying the unprocessed thing. I'll keep you updated!