When you first begin to quit eating boxed, bagged or canned foods, the hardest thing to get your mind around is that you are not denying yourself anything that you really want. Your brain is hooked up to patterns that help you get through your day in auto-pilot most of the time, and just grabbing a box of Kraft Mac and Cheese is something you might do as a matter of habit, instead of an actual rational decision that you have made. The task of breaking that habit is vastly easier as soon as that box is no longer in your pantry.
The real habit that you have to break is in the grocery store. In my Price Chopper the first gauntlet I have to run is just as I make the turn into the store. Lots of the loss-leader sale items are piled floor to ‘just out of reach’ for the first twenty yards. There are lots of old bad habits in that stretch of the store. Twelve packs are on sale, snack cakes, bags of tortilla chips are here this week if they weren’t here last week. It’s like a murderer’s row of good memories of wanton gluttony. It is something I actually have to remind myself that I don’t throw in my cart, ‘Just in Case’.
After I make it past that I am into my home in the store, the fruits and vegetables. They are right up my alley, since they have no label , no ingredients list. I will put anything at all in my cart from this section, even if I have never heard of it. For instance, I now eat parsnips. I have always loved the name of that root vegetable, but not knowing a thing about it did not deter me for a second from buying a bag of three parsnips. Now that we have youtube and google, I am an expert on every way of cooking anything, even if I have never heard of it before. The internet has given me the confidence to buy new things, natural things, trusting to nature and a powerful search engine to make my diet better, my life better, and more interesting is thrown in as a free bonus.
Here is how I would cook my parsnips that I just threw into the cart. I used Bing to search this one out, you can use whatever search engine you already know, no sense learning something new, since we are just making “One Small Change at a Time”.
As I cruise through the fresh foods aisle of the store, I keep putting things in the cart without a care in the world what I will be making with them. There is literally no plan or menu in my head, I simply trust to fate and luck that I will enjoy whatever ends up being created with them. It’s sort of like Michelangleo discovering the statue contained within the block of marble, minus all the art genius parts. I end up with green leaf lettuce, carrots, parsnips, turnips, Brussels sprouts, green onions, ginger, garlic, onion, perhaps one or two loose potatoes (I dont buy 5 pound bags any more), at least one head of cabbage, avocado and tomato. With this collection, plus some basic kitchen spices, you will never miss pasta, potato, rice or any of the boxed or bagged sides you are used to mindlessly turning to at meal time.
Cooking this way is not more time consuming than cooking out of a box, either. You are only saving yourself from having to think at all when feeding yourself and your family. You are not saving time, or money. It is forcing you to consume countless scientifically engineered ingredients whose sole function in your food is to make it last forever on a store shelf. Some of the ingredients make what has been done to the food not make it taste like the cardboard that it is contained in, which it might if unadulterated. Nobody knows if you or your children’s bodies can tolerate these ingredients, and only the ingredient manufacturer is testing them to see if they are safe. Your FDA trusts them at their word when the manufacturer tells them that they are safe. If this seems nuts, well…vegetables have no label.
Continue around the outside edge of the store and you will find frozen meats, and fresh meats. You won’t find any health claims on any of these. There will not be any added vitamins or minerals to make them ‘healthier’. Feel free to load up on these items, using the same carefree plan that you used in the previous section. You will discover what dinners you can create with them when you need to, using your computer and imagination. Someday soon you will know what to do with them without help, but only if you begin to cook for yourself.
The final place in the store where you can shop without regard for what you are getting is in the dairy section, where you can buy whole milk, whole cream, large eggs by the dozen, 100% real yogurt, full fat cheeses, and real butter. It doesn’t make any sense to eat ‘low fat’ versions of anything, because when they take out the fat, they put in sugar. Since we don’t want anything that has been messed with by food science any more than we have to, we are taking our chances that nature doesn’t add too much fat into anything it produces. Your own excess fat is there courtesy of food science, not nature.
If you wander into an interior aisle of your grocery, you are taking your own advice, not mine. In there, just remember to not buy food if it is in a box, bag or can and you won’t be going wrong. If you do buy one of those items, try to figure out if you can make the same thing using separate ingredients, because that gets rid of the mystery factor.
Well, good luck in your grocery store, good luck breaking the bad habits and making new ones in there, because that is where the change really happens. The cycle is broken once your pantry is full of fresh items that will actually spoil if you don’t use them. The fact that bacteria want to eat your food is a good sign.
This is very much how we do the Atkin’s diet in our house. Vegetables, meat and dairy and how I am living and shopping now! I only recently decided that if the vegetable looks good and healthy, even if I don’t know what it is, I will get it and figure it out. My latest adventure was loose leaf lettuce. I made an “old farm” favorite of wilted lettuce that my husband had never heard of and absolutely loved. He ended up cleaning out the bowl at the end of the meal (and he isn’t a huge vegetable fan). I ALMOST bough fresh beets and Parsnips, but beets are high in natural sugar (and we are not at a place where we can do that yet) and I already had several “adventure items” in my cart. The secret is going to the store often and buying fresh. If you buy a lot of fresh stuff to eat in one week, it will often go bad in your fridge resulting in waste. So I try to limit what I pick up and visit often instead. Great post!
Thanks, Jenny! Feel free to post on my blog if you have other great things to contribute, like this one.
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