Monday, June 29, 2009

It's a process

Earlier in the year, I put the smack down on all things white flour. I read the ingredients on every label for bread, cereal, crackers, and snacks to ensure that the it was indeed made with 100% WHOLE wheat. The first ingredient needed to read Whole wheat.
It wasn't as easy it seems, and we had to make a few switches for the good cause. I purchased a great whole grain cookbook and have made muffins, cookies, and other goodies and you really wouldn't know that I had replaced the refined white stuff with whole wheat goodness. I am currently working on mastering the art of a great whole wheat sandwich bread.

This one simple change led to other healthy choices, most recently the ban of hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup.

Someday I will tell you about partially hydrogenated/hydrogenated oils, but suffice to say they aren't good for you and we won't be partaking in them any longer. There is a reason the FDA started forcing trans fat to be listed on nutrition labels a few years ago.

For many the jury is still out on high fructose corn syrup, but I don't really trust the Sweet Surprise commercials. I mean sure it's made from corn, but french fries are made from potatoes and last I checked no one was encouraging us to eat those.

Cutting out foods with these items seemed like the obvious thing to do. Actually doing it was a process. I spent so much time reading labels, that I think the staff at Publix were worried I would never leave.

The ingredients seemed to pop up everywhere. Even the things that seemed ok before are now banned. My normal coffee creamer has partially hydrogenated oil, the cereal bars that seemed like a decent snack have both high fructose corn syrup and partially/hydrogenated oils, even ketchup has high fructose corn syrup. I think I spent 10 minutes reading every wrap label until I found a sandwich wrap without shortening or hydrogenated oils. It was frustrating.

The search for all the answers and ok foods just led to one conclusion: eliminating, or at least cutting way way back on processed foods.

I guess I should be clear here. Lots of things are processed. Milk is considered processed since it is pasteurized to kill bacteria, frozen vegetables can considered processed. I think we all know what I am getting at though. Here is what we are avoiding
  • canned foods with lots of sodium
  • white breads and pastas made with refined white flour, which are not as healthy as those made with whole grains
  • most packaged snack foods, like chips and cheese snacks
  • high-fat convenience foods, like cans of ravioli
  • frozen fish sticks and frozen dinners
  • packaged cakes and cookies
  • boxed meal mixes
  • sugary breakfast cereals
  • processed meats

I won't say it was simple, but with a bit of planning we have done well. I was never a fan of boxed meals and I cook dinner 5-6 nights a week, so most meals weren't an issue. The occasional grab and go breakfast would be tricky, as well as snacks.

Processed foods are a convenience. It's easy to grab a granola bar or snack pack on the way out the door. The best advice I can give is to plan. Each Sunday, I spend a bit of time preparing easy yummy non processed foods for the week for snacks and/or breakfasts. It's time well spent in my opinion.

My unsolicited advice:
  • Try plain yogurt and add your own fruit or a bit of honey to it. Greek yogurt is amazing and when combined with some berries makes a great breakfast. The brand we recently found makes a vanilla flavor that I love with no HFCS
  • Figure out your favorite convenience (processed) food and see if you can make it yourself. I am not claiming that everything I prepare is extremely healthy, but I like that I know what is going into the food.
  • Portion out the healthy alternatives you create into single servings. The recipe below does that. I also make a fruit salad and place it into individual servings in reusable containers. Jim can grab one to eat at the office if he is running late, and its nice to have it all ready when you want a snack.

Remember that granola/cereal bar that is now banned from our diet? Well, it has been replaced with this yummy favorite. (you didn't think I would leave you without a recipe did you)

Granola Bites

1/3 cup almond butter * (see notes)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup *
2 egg whites
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
2 1/2 Cups low fat granola*
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 250
Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray

In bowl, whisk together almond butter and maple syrup

Add egg whites and spice and whisk again until smooth

Stir in granola and raisins

Divide mixture evenly into muffin cups.

Bake for 45 minutes on center oven rack. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on wire rack before removing from muffin tins.
Store in airtight container

* You can use natural peanut butter if you prefer. Almond butter is sold at most grocery, but I get the best deal at Whole Foods since they have several brands to choose from. Regular peanut butter has hydrogenated oils, so we avoid it. If texture is an issue, check a natural food store, deli or market. They now make a lot of different varieties of a more natural peanut butter, including no stir varieties that are much creamier and do not have to be refrigerated. Earth Balance is a good one
* You want pure maple syrup. Imitation syrup is basically maple flavored corn syrup
*Watch the sugar content in your granola. Granola with added fruits and raisins may make these two sweet. I buy the granola in bulk. Our favorite is pumpkin flax sold in the bulk section at Whole Foods


Mrs. Jelly Belly said...

Girl, you are speaking my language! Definitely not an easy thing to do - but once you get used to it, the thought of eating some of that processed stuff is kind of disgusting.

I totally agree with the planning. Spending just a little time once a week makes it all easier. I like chopping up a bunch of mixed raw vegetables and putting them in a ziplock - then they're always readily available for throwing on a salad or into a stir fry.

Great post!

Lori Howard said...

I love this idea. I've been trying to make small changes to my family's diet, but the idea of cutting out high-fructose cornsyrup is daunting! It is everywhere, and in every one of my kids' favorite snacks! I am definitely going to try your recipe for granola bites. Having quick and portable breakfasts are a must for my family.