Are you trying to eat better? Please don’t listen to my college P.E. teacher and drink low-fat chocolate milk! Knowledgeable in many other ways, my professor bought in to the “dairy fat is evil” myth that has caused thousands of people to dutifully gulp the watery substance that would make any respectable cow blush.
Earlier this week I posted on substituting common pantry staples with real food alternatives. Now we turn a critical eye on the refrigerator to sniff out those (non) edibles, packaged to please the eye rather than the stomach.
1. Juice and Soda
The problem: A twelve-ounce can of soda contains the equivalent of about ten teaspoons of sugar. An eight-ounce glass of juice packs five to eight teaspoons, and that’s in 100% juice–juice cocktails contain even more. A real food diet shouldn’t be high in sugar, but juice is one way that it sneaks in. Artificially-sweetened beverages aren’t the answer either; in fact, they’re worse than sugar!
The solution: Water. When you need a change, make your own beverages such as gingerade or watermelon limeade. Experiment with the probiotic powerhouse kefir, or obtain a kombucha starter culture and start brewing!
2. Lunch meat
The problem: Most processed meats such as bacon, sausage, and lunch meat contain sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate, preservatives that double as suspicious cancer culprits.
The solution: Come up with alternative sandwich fillings like hummus, cheeses, cucumbers, pesto, homemade egg/tuna salad, and leftover crockpot chicken. When you buy lunch meat and bacon, look for nitrate/nitrite free varieties such as Hormel’s Natural Choice selections.
The problem: Margarine contains trans-fats, which also play a role in heart disease and cancer. See this article for a close look at America’s trans-fat consumption.
The solution: Forget what you heard about butter being bad for you–it’s the way to go!
4. Low-Fat Dairy
The problem: Contrary to very popular belief, low-fat dairy is not healthy. Skim milk often contains dry milk powder, a source of oxidized cholesterol which could lead to heart disease. Low-fat and fat-free dairy products such as sour cream and yogurt often contain fillers to compensate–taking these products further away from their natural state. Lack of fat-soluble vitamin A in low-fat dairy also stresses your body during digestion, which can leave you vulnerable to further health complications. For a good blog post on this with sources, read here.
The solution: Our bodies need the saturated fats found in dairy. Raw, unpasteurized dairy products are the option of choice. However, sometimes price can be prohibitive. Eric and I compromise: we drink and cook with raw cow’s milk, use pasteurized whole milk for making yogurt and kefir, and purchase full-fat butter, cheese, and sour cream from the grocery store.
The problem: Many salad dressings, ice cream toppings, sandwich fixings, and other seasonings contain long lists of ingredients you don’t want in your body. Repeat offenders are high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, hydrogenated oils, MSG, and artificial colors.
The solution: Be a label cop. If you can’t find clean condiments, make your own. We like to dress our salads simply, usually with a little olive oil and flavoured vinegar. Build an arsenal of recipes for salad dressing, hamburger fixings, and dessert toppings.
I’m not a food scientist, but I don’t think it takes one to realize that food in its natural state is usually going to be better than food processed in a lab and doctored with chemicals, preservatives, and sugars. I can certainly vouch for the effect that unprocessed foods have had on my body. I have more energy and I get sick less often–and when I do get sick, my body fights it off pretty quickly. Besides that, real food just tastes better!
This post is part of a two-part series. For part one, read here.