My mom had a dream that I wrote a book, entitled "The Process of Eliminating the Processed." It's funny how creative we can often be in our sleep.
Perhaps my mom's dream was a premonition, and something I'll pursue in the future, but today, I'll settle for a Blog Post!
Processed food can be defined as the following:
Any whole food that has been chemically altered in order to lengthen its shelf life, lower production costs, and make it look more appetizing to the consumer. This not only results in a reduction in nutritional value, but also results in harmful toxins.
My office, located on 33rd and 6th...literally the corner of hell (I miss working in SoHo) is probably one of the more toxic parts of Manhattan. Aside from the smell and the filth, there are no healthy places to eat for blocks.
Once out the revolving doors, your options consist of pizza, subway, KFC, gyros, Bodega Delis, street meat, or Tim Horton's. Now certainly those of us dedicated to our health may take the extra 15 minutes to walk to a healthier place, but the people who have not started down this path will inevitably chose the former, and to no fault of their own.
Now think if the opposite were true. If we could walk out of our office buildings and have the choice between juice bars, organic cafes, and health food stores, we would grow to love these places. Very few of us would take the time to find the nearest Subway or Starbucks, and we'd all be happier and healthier. Unfortunately, we have a long ways to go.
When taking a road trip you're pretty much screwed, unless you've prepared your own snacks. I've yet to see a rest stop that had a healthy option. Rest stops, malls, and airports alike are filled with all kinds of processed fast food junk. The Typical line up is McDonald's and/or Burger King, Sabarro Pizza, Roy Rogers, taco bell, and Starbucks. No wonder America is the fattest country in the world!
Now some of you might be thinking that fast food is often the best part of a Road Trip, and believe me, I once shared a similar view! I'm ashamed to admit that there were days when I would buy microwavable white castle burgers from the Supermarket and would be in heaven with every bite. In college, I once consumed a gyro for lunch nearly every day for two weeks straight, until one of my friends suggested it might not be the smartest thing to do. But once I started to eliminate these foods, and learned that healthy food can be delicious and fun, these cravings started to subside!
Instead of craving pretzels, I started to crave fruit and kale chips. Instead of sugary iced tea and Gatorade, I chose water, herbal teas, and green smoothies. But this certainly didn't happen over night. It is a gradual process. So in attempt to shift this rant like post to a more positive tone, I'd like to share with you today the first four steps of the "process of eliminating the processed".
Step # 1-Drink LOTS of Water
Often times we mistake thirst for hunger. Instead of reaching for a glass of water, we reach for a snack. Water is so vital to our health but yet so many of us neglect to get an ample amount. The rule of thumb with water is to drink half of your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, then you should be drinking 75 ounces of water per day. You'll begin to fill up on water and will be less inclined to reach for that bag of pretzels or cookies.
Step # 2: Choose one thing in your diet that you consume on a regular basis that you KNOW is not good for you, and slowly start to reduce your consumption.
Are you a coffee drinker? If so, do you drink more than one cup a day? Don't just quit cold turkey. Start off small. If you drink three cups a day, cut down to two cups a day...Replace your third with green tea. Once you are comfortable on two cups, reduce to one and replace second cup with green tea. Then eventually replace the green tea with decaffeinated green tea.
Are you a candy bar addict? Replace your candy bars with organic dark or raw chocolate, or with a health food bar. Company's like Greens+ energy bars, Raw Revolution organic live food bars, or Go Raw bars are delicious and healthy!
Step # 3: Familiarize yourself with your local health food store.
Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are the most prevalent, but many cities have smaller, privately owned health food stores. The Westerly on the Upper West Side and Lifethyme in the West Village are amongst my favorites. It's kind of nerdy, but I actually look forward to my weekly shopping sprees. Learning about different health foods, experimenting with different super foods, and being in control of what I am putting into my shopping cart, and therefore my body, is something I find to be both exciting and therapeutic.
Health food stores can often be overwhelming or intimidating. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Also, many health food stores may offer personal tours. You'd be amazed at all the foods you've probably never even heard of! Pick something new up and incorporate it into your diet.
Step # 4-Evaluate the foods you do not intend to cut out. Pick one or two products per week and choose a healthier option.
Week # 1
-Switch from white pasta to organic whole-grain pasta.
-Switch from white bread and whole wheat bread to Ezekial bread (These are made from sprouted whole grains and can be found in the frozen section of your health food store)
Week # 2
-Switch from white rice to brown.
-Switch from Skippy to organic peanut or almond butter.
Week # 3
-Instead of Jelly, try honey.
-Instead of regular refined table sugar, try Agave nectar or stevia. Agave enters the blood stream at a slower pace and therefore does not create the sugar highs and crashes associated with table sugar. Stevia does not effect your blood sugar level at all and is even sweeter than table sugar!
Week # 4
-Switch from sugary processed cereals to plain oatmeal (you can sweeten with fruit, or honey and cinnamon)
-Switch from Refined Table Salt to Sea Salt
Week # 6
-Switch from cooking with Canola Oil and vegetable oil to Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Coconut oil
-Switch from Pasteurized cow's milk to Almond or coconut milk
Small and gradual changes like these can go a long way!
Stay tuned for the next steps of the process of eliminating the processed!