Monday, July 5, 2010

Clean living

Everywhere I go, people are talking about eating "clean." What this basically means is no processed foods. It sounds so healthy ... eating lean protein, vegetables and fruits with some unprocessed grains thrown in. It's definitely more the way I want to eat on a day-to-day basis.

So what's the catch?

The catch is that it's almost impossible to do. Even many so-called "healthy" foods are full of added sugar or other chemicals. To avoid adding sugar, some add artificial sweeteners. Alternatively, they add sugar but use "organic" sugar and tout their products as "all natural". But they are still full of sugar.

The other catch I've found is that foods that you think of as being unprocessed -- cheeses, cottage cheese -- often have a lot of extra "crap" thrown into them. This is usually done to give them a longer shelf life or to make them appear closer to our own ideas of perfection.


I've come to the conclusion that the only way to truly eat "clean" is to make everything you eat from scratch. This is okay in some cases, but not practical in others.

For example, one of my indulgences is to buy the cottage cheese "doubles" which come with a side-serving of some sugary substance that somewhat resembles fruit. I usually get the pineapple version. I knew the pineapple was full of sugar -- it is more of a jam than a fruit -- but what I didn't realize is that the cottage cheese has modified food starch and guar gum. Really? It's cottage cheese. Shouldn't it be made from milk and maybe a little salt for flavor?

Okay, so maybe I should buy my own pineapple and just added it to the cottage cheese myself. I know I'm lazy about preparing food, but I think I could be motivated to do that. So I looked at the label for the cottage cheese I normally get -- the kind that swears it's from California and not trucked in from some other state. This is what I see:

CULTURED PASTEURIZED GRADE A SKIM MILK AND MILK, DRIED CORN SYRUP, FOOD STARCH-MODIFIED, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF STARCH, ARTIFICIAL COLOR*, CREAM**, MALTODEXTRIN, XANTHAN GUM, NATURAL FLAVOR, VITAMIN A PALMITATE. *INGREDIENT NOT IN REGULAR SOUR CREAM. **TRIVIAL SOURCE OF FAT. CONTAINS: MILK.

There is corn syrup in my cottage cheese? Food starch? And Xanthan Gum? Are they freaking kidding me?! 

Apparently I will be changing my cottage cheese brand in the near future.

In the meantime, part of me finds the new me who won't eat chocolate that has vanillin in it instead of vanilla or sugar-free Fudgesicles (contains guar gum, microcrystalline cellulose, lactitol and a host of other artificial ingredients) to be rather amusing. 

I remember when my motto was "if you knew what was in your food and how it was made, you'd never be able to eat anything, so it's better not to know."

Sometimes I wish I could go back to that blissful state of ignorance. But now I feel like there is too much processed food around and I want to put the best possible food in my body. So I am discovering first hand how I right I was when I was in "see no evil, hear no evil" mode. 

It's like a Pandora's box. Once I started reading the ingredients on the label, I couldn't go back and more and more of my pantry is devoted to foods that make my family laugh at me for being a "health food freak."

By the way, it turns out that there is actually an eating disorder called
'orthorexia nervosa' which is characterized by an excessive focus on eating healthy foods. But don' worry, I had chocolate covered raisins (and almonds) at the Sports Basement shopping 'party' I went to today. so I don't think I'm in any danger of getting it. Plus I'm never giving up my froyo, no matter what artificial junk is in it (or, more likely, in the toppings I put on it)!
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