Clearing out the cupboards on New Years Eve 2009
One year ago today I was prepping for a year-long experiment – to see if I could remove processed foods from my diet and rely on a more natural diet based on whole foods. The initial goal was to completely remove processed foods during the month of January, and then see what happened from there. As I recall, I made it through January with flying colors, though D jumped ship early on, mainly due to a multiple-week work trip in New Mexico. Another goal was to document all of my meals; in reality this was just way too much work and um, I'm pretty sure no one wants to see that I eat the same thing a lot of the time, particularly when it comes to lunches during the work week.
After January I loosened up my restrictions a bit and returned a few processed foods back into my diet; admittedly this was partially due to a laziness factor – it’s kind of hard work to make everything from scratch all the time! I did try to continue to stay away from some items, such as those containing high-fructose corn syrup (regardless of whether or not it is bad for you; I just chose to opt out) and particularly highly-processed foods (I'm looking at you, super-convenient box of Mac and Cheese!).
Along the way, I tried new things, such as steel-cut oats, agave nectar, Greek yogurt, and Brussels sprouts. I also added new tools to my kitchen, including an immersion blender and my beloved rice cooker. I purchased new cookbooks and made several dishes from scratch for the first time, including tiramisu, pad thai, and palak paneer.
Through this experiment, I developed a new interest in the local food movement, particularly in terms of restaurants that feature menus with locally-grown and/or sustainably-raised ingredients. Along the way I became a bit of a Whole Foods junkie, even if that meant bi-weekly trips to our "local" store in Fort Collins. As a result of this obsession, I bought organically-raised chicken, pork, and beef for the first time. Admittedly, I am still a bit conflicted about the addition of farm animals back into my diet, even if organically and sustainably raised. This is an issue I hope to return to sometime in the upcoming year.
Overall, I think the experiment was a success, though I definitely fell far from my goal of maintaining a clean diet across the entire year. But, I suppose that's the reason I consciously chose to call this website "A Less Processed Life" rather than "An Unprocessed Life"! I think one of the biggest lessons that I learned is that it takes a bit of work and preparation to eat fewer processed foods, and that it can a particular pain when you are hungry RIGHT NOW. Meal planning and grocery lists became a routine part of my week. But let's face it, sometimes you just gotta get the frozen pizza (albeit with as few ingredients as possible) and call it a night.
The new year promises big changes. As I type this, we are in the car on our way across the country to a new home in Philadelphia, PA. Though I will definitely miss Laramie, in terms of food options, I am very much looking forward to living in the big city again. I have heard many good things about Philly's farmers markets (hooray for the Amish!) and I am also quite excited to try out the city's restaurant scene.
The blog (and my goal to eat fewer processed foods) will live on into 2011. In the upcoming year, the plan is to also document my adventures in the city and trips elsewhere (including our recent trip to Nepal). I hope that you will continue to share in my journey!
Best wishes for a Happy (and perhaps less processed?) New Year!