Going Unprocessed

It’s January, so most of us are still talking about (and hopefully sticking to) our new year’s resolutions. While we have some ideas about what you should strive for this year, we know that many people are hoping to eat healthier over the course of 2012.

Eating healthier is a worthwhile resolution, but it’s essential to drill this general resolution down into a manageable, actionable goal. We’re much more likely to keep a resolution if we have clear benchmarks or defined actions in place. Some examples of “eating healthier” include eating more whole grains, eating a vegetable at every meal, kicking the soda habit, and avoiding fast food. My favorite, though, is cutting back on processed foods. Making a conscious effort to rid your diet of processed foods will lower your sodium intake, reduce the number of food additives you ingest, and improve your cooking skills.

Unfortunately, eschewing all processed foods is actually a major challenge for most of us, as we’ve come to rely on lots of supermarket products that make life more convenient. However, I’ve noticed that convenience is in the eye of the beholder – and that once you have a little culinary know-how, you’d be amazed at what is convenient. Obviously going from a diet of frozen dinners to making your own roast chicken in February is an unlikely scenario. But, by practicing recipes for homemade versions of at least the most highly processed foods, you can easily make some headway with this resolution. Plus, there’s always more to do – even if you’re pretty handy in the kitchen, you can use this next year to remove one more food from your grocery cart.

To help guide you through this resolution, I created this list of five foods (plus resources) that I learned how to make as I “de-processed” my grocery cart. Start with soup, and see how far you can get!

5. Soup. These recipes and strategies for making soup, courtesy of Mark Bittman, will make you say goodbye to canned soup forever. Too difficult? Consider recommendations from GoodGuide.

4. Pasta Sauce. The jarred versions may seem really convenient, but there’s just something about the smell of bubbling tomato sauce that can’t be beat. Here are recipes for a Five-Minute Sauce and Tomato Vodka SauceToo difficult? Consider recommendations from GoodGuide.

3. Granola. The options are endless when it comes to making your own granola. Hate raisins? Don’t put them in. Love sunflower seeds? Throw in an extra handful. Get some ideas from this AllRecipes listToo difficult? Consider recommendations from GoodGuide.

2. Yogurt. You’d be amazed at how simple it is to make your own yogurt. The best part? Making your own cheese is only one more step. Too difficult? Consider recommendations from GoodGuide.

1. Pasta. It might sound labor-intensive, but there’s no comparison between fresh, homemade pasta and the boxed stuff. Learn how to roll your own with this video from our friends at CHOW. Too difficult? Consider recommendations from GoodGuide.

About Sheila Viswanathan

Sheila Viswanathan focuses on educating individuals on how to make healthier dietary choices. She received her doctoral degree in Nutrition and Public Health from Teachers College, Columbia University and is certified as a registered dietitian.
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4 Responses to Going Unprocessed

  1. Colline says:

    Improving on one’s cooking skills will help with avoiding the added salt and chemicals found in processed foods. I have under my wing a few well-worn recipes – and every now and then I add to my reportoire by trying a new one. If my family and I enjoythe dish, I add the recipe to my collection.
    And if you wish for a cookie – baking your own ensures that you use less sugar than the store bought ones. 🙂

  2. Jennifer says:

    We reduced our packaged food by about 90% two years ago, and after only a few months, we could taste the “industrial undertones” in prefab foods to the extent that we really can’t go back. Chain restaurants are out now for that reason. Cooking is easier than many think, and not always real time consuming once you get the hang of it. A chicken roasts itself with minimal prep, then the next day you can boil down the carcass for broth while you’re doing something else. So worth it!

  3. Kim Northrop says:

    Great! I also suggest readers check out George Mateljan’s site http://www.whfoods.com. Lots of quick healthy ways to cook food. I learned that I love swiss chard when it’s prepared properly.

  4. Pingback: Becoming Unprocessed. « pickahling

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