I keep trying to write this post, and get lost in it. This is partly because there is so much to say, and partly because my own understanding and strategies continue to evolve. So, what I am trying to offer here is a general but still useful overview, to follow up my previous “Processed food challenge" post.
Are you trying to cut processed foods out of your grocery list? It is not going to be easy at first. It’s like going to a new grocery store and learning the layout, only worse. Give yourself extra time for your first few trips, if you can!
My husband picked up the phrase, “close to the sun," to describe food that is good for us to eat. The closer, the better! Foods can heal and nourish our bodies, but these powers are diminished with each round of processing, and over time as the food loses its freshness. It is even possible to process foods (or allow them to languish) to the point that they are actually toxic. These, as my husband says, are “far from the sun."
In the grocery store, look for foods that are fresh, or preserved in a way that protects their nourishing powers (frozen, fermented, dried, etc - and protected from air and sunlight). Look for foods that do not have a lot of stuff added to give it a special shape, color or shelf-life. A very short ingredient list consisting of actual food is generally a good sign. You are probably going to wander around for a long time, considering the items you usually buy, and wondering what on earth you are going to get instead.
It matters how your food is grown or produced. You are what you eat, and the same goes for those chickens and cows, and their eggs and milk. What the animals ate, and the stress or comfort of their lives, determines the quality of the nourishment you can get from them. The same goes for produce—the quality of the soil has a huge impact on the nutritional value of the foods grown in it.
It is truly, deeply sad what we, collectively, have done to the quality of the soil in this country. Buying local and/or organic produce is your best bet, if you can access it. Small scale (i.e., local) farmers are also much more likely to be taking good care of their animals and their soil, and organic growing practices include special attention to soil quality.
What you have access to is going to depend on where you live, and how much you can budget for food. But if you look, you can probably discover sources of pasture-raised eggs, meats, and even dairy products. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is flourishing all over, and you can sign up for a “share" of the bounty. Farmers markets are a great option, too, and often economical. Even up north, there are some farmers markets that operate in the winter time. Don’t have one in your area? Maybe you can do something about it. Check out http://www.localharvest.org/ to learn about and search for farmers markets, CSAs, coops, farm stands and even locally-minded restaurants in your area.
One step at a time
You may need to get some special containers for lunches (for your own fruit yogurt, or for cut up cheese and crackers, etc) instead of pre-made snacks. You may want to experiment with some new techniques and approaches for prep and cooking to find ways that work for your life, and the time you have available. My number one advice is to pick a few areas to work on, and start slowly. Keep experimenting, and you will find what works for you.
To our good health!