If I had my magic wand back -- I was carrying it in the Halloween parade and it vanished -- I would wave it and shazaam! all processed foods would disappear.
It's harsh, I know. I love my Sour Cream and Onion Ruffles as much as the next person. But the truth is processed foods -- the ones that come in colorful packages or cans with a long list of perfectly legal ingredients stacked under the label -- aren't good for you.
In fact, they're bad for you. You can discover just how bad in books, videos and all over the Internet. Go there and be educated. It's no secret that processed foods contain chemicals, additives, preservatives, artificial dyes, flavors, colors and other suspect ingredients that are linked to a variety of health problems. And not in a good way.
It's not restful to dwell on the known negatives: the weight gain, the strokes, the fatigue, the diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and annoying digestive upsets that then must be addressed with little purple pills.
Instead, I'm going to share a positively intriguing resource for weaning yourself off processed foods, a 14-week plan that should be a required course in schools everywhere.
This step-by-step approach, created by the crusading Lisa Leake for eatLocalGrown.com, consists of mini-pledges that you take week by week, alone or with friends or, best of all, with your entire family.
Each week is another way to experience more real food and less junk. By the time 14 weeks are over, you'll be closer than ever to eating clean. I'm not saying it's easy -- "the perfect is the enemy of the good" -- but the cumulative rewards are remarkable.
When you eat clean, you feel lighter and more energetic. Chances are you'll lose weight. Aches, pains and other symptoms that sent you to the doctor will lessen and might disappear because, food is medicine . When you eat the real stuff, your body can thrive and heal itself. For more along these lines, go to Leake's website 100DaysofRealFood.com and feast on her informative blogs.
And if you're still not convinced that weaning yourself off processed foods is important, never mind. You're not ready to change. You have a big fat disconnect between what you eat and how you feel. That's OK. Your doctor probably struggles with the same problem, since she or he learned next-to-nothing about nutrition in medical school. (How crazy is that?!)
Ready for action? Here's the challenge:
Week 1: ("I pledge to...") Eat at least two different fruits and or vegetables -- preferably organic -- with every meal.
Week 2: Your beverages are limited to coffee, tea, water and milk. Don't choke. Give it a go. One cup of juice is allowed per week, and wine, preferably red, is allowed in moderation. (Thank you, Lisa.)
Week 3: All meat consumed this week is locally raised. Limit yourself to three-to-four modest servings a week, treating meat as a side dish not the main course.
Week 4: No fast food or deep fried food. (Gulp!)
Week 5: Try two new whole foods you've never tried before.
Week 6: Eat no food products labeled as low fat, "lite," reduced or non-fat.
Week 7: All grains must be 100 percent whole grains.
Week 8: Stop eating when you are full. (This means listening to internal cues.)
Week 9: No refined or artificial sweeteners. No white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, Splenda, stevia, agave, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup and cane juice. Your food and drink can only be sweetened with modest amounts of honey or maple syrup.
Week 10: No refined or hydrogenated oils. That means no vegetable oil, soybean, corn, canola, organic canola, margarine, grape seed oil.
Week 11: Eat at least one locally grown or raised food item at each meal. That means local honey, eggs, nuts, meats, fruits, vegetables.
Week 12: No sweeteners! Not even honey and maple syrup. (You've come this far ... you can do it!)
Week 13: Nothing artificial. Avoid all artificial ingredients.
Week 14: No more than five ingredients. Avoid packaged food products that list more than five ingredients, no matter the ingredients.
Week 15: Email me at [email protected] and let me know how well this worked, or, if you insist, how miserable you were.
ENERGY EXPRESS-O! FOR ONLINE MORAL SUPPORT
"Hi there. ... Welcome to my blog about cutting out processed food." -- Lisa Leake
Marilynn Preston's weekly column, "Energy Express," can be found at creators.com.