Sunday, October 24, 2010

Making Things Whole

Several months ago, I wrote about the kinds of food we eat. Here we are in the waning days of October and I am proud to say six months later that Sarah and I made some changes... and observed some things along the way.

Essentially, we decided that when cooking at home, we'd try to use whole foods as much as possible. The lower case whole foods, meaning foods that haven't been refined/processed as much as possible. We said we'd start one meal at a time. So breakfast is where things start.

This turned out to be easy. It mainly involved ditching the store-bought cereals with all manner of additives, preservatives and other stuff that I cannot pronounce and, once a week, making our own oat-based granola cereal using unrefined ingredients. I was already baking my own bread, so shifting to whole wheat bread was a snap. For two people who enjoy baking and cooking, none of this seemed like a chore. And mt breakfast didn't really change. I always have cereal and toast. On weekends, we were also easily able to make the transition. Oatmeal? Already a whole food. Pancakes? Easy to whip up with unprocessed ingredients.

We've since extended this into dinner, which, truth be told, we were already pretty close to going unprocessed anyway. The full switch required tweaking a few ingredients. Lunch became easy, too. Leftovers from dinner passed the bill and when I come home, sandwiches made with our homemade bread, fresh cheese, farmers market-purchased produce... this was a snap!

I should note that I'm not being a total Nazi about this... unbleached white flour still gets used here and there. Many of my baking recipes won't work with an equal substitution of whole wheat flour, for instance. Yet, I've found a way to incorporate some of the "good" flour without hurting the quality of the crumb and the taste of my wares. But, I am using butter and not margarine. I'm making sure my ingredients are the real stuff.

As for eating out... seriously, how sad would life be if I completely wrote off every processed item? Too many good meals to have. If I'm eating well at home, I'm several steps ahead of the game. It's like switching your outside lights to CFLs... it's a nice percentage of use you're affecting with your choice.

So, a funny thing happened in doing this: I'm full. I used to struggle to get to lunch every day in the office. I would feel hungry and restless. I kept snacks in a drawer. Now, I'm easily making it to lunch. After dinner, we're having something we've baked or homemade ice cream. We might have popcorn some nights, but eating is way down. Yet I am satisfied.

Also, it's finally forced me to eat more fruits and veggies. I can barely cope without my grapes at lunch now. And getting my fructose there instead of from... pretty much every supermarket processed food seems to work.

Sure, this makes our cupboards more boring. The Trader Joe's dunkers I couldn't stop eating? Gone in favor of homemade cookies that I can identify what went into them. Crackers? You'd be surprised the crap that's in "organic" mass marketed boxes of crackers. I found a brand that takes the chance that I might actually eat the crackers quickly so they don't add tons of weird preservatives. They have five ingredients: flour, salt, oil, water, spices. And I'm starting to experiment with making my own.

When we first talked about doing this, we thought it might be tough. I've been amazed at just how easy it has been. And, before you ask... I'm spending no more at the store than I used to.

The theory behind all this is that maybe it will lead to a healthier me down the line. And who knows... maybe I could be chowing down on Cheetos right now, gulping corn-syrup-loaded sodas and live to be 90. It could all go boom tomorrow and my diet won't matter.

But, I can take some solace in that I'm not turning a blind eye to what's in my food. I know what I eat. I generally know what my food has been through before coming to my plate. I can be accountable for it all.

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