Processed foods. And me.

For years and years I avoided processed foods. I made cakes and brownies from scratch. I rarely bought pre-made spaghetti sauce. I cooked only fresh (or sometimes frozen) vegetables. The only processed food I’d make was Kraft Macaroni and Cheese because it was such a comfort food.

If I made anything (except Kraft Mac & Cheese) from a mix, jar or bag I felt guilty. I’m not sure what I felt guilty for, but I felt guilty nonetheless.

Lately, however, I’ve been making more and more meals out of processed foods. I almost always have a jar of Barilla (or Rao or Bertolli or Classico — what’s ever on sale at Giant) in the pantry and often use it in place of the tomato sauce in a spaghetti sauce recipe. I rarely make deserts from scratch anymore — in fact I don’t remember the last time I made a cake or brownies not from a mix.

I’d noticed other people cutting corners by using processed foods and figured it would be ok if I did it too.

Really lately (like in the past couple of weeks) I’ve made a lot of processed food. The most notable is Bertolli’s frozen entrees. I’d seen them at the grocery store and thought they might taste ok and longed for a quick and easy meal to make when I didn’t feel like cooking or for something the kids could make for themselves. I finally bought one when it was on sale and served it for dinner (just Andrew and me, but Dean tasted it) and liked what I tasted. It was pretty good. And I didn’t have to cook the pasta, make the sauce, brown and cook the meat. All I had to do was throw it in a pan and heat it for 10 minutes.

So last night I made one of these meals for dinner. Dean had eaten, Clare was at Prom, Andrew had a sandwich earlier but I was hungry. I thought the food tasted good, but then remembered why I’d avoided procesed foods for so long. It wasn’t the price. It wasn’t to keep me busy. It wasn’t even the taste. It was because these things are unhealthy. I could feel my body absorbing the salt in the entree and I’m sure there are chemicals in the meals that would not have been in anything I’d made fresh. According to this web site, the portion I had last night (1/2 a bag) would be walked off in 158 minutes. That’s a lot of walking for an easy meal.Plus the sodium in that serving was nearly half my daily allowance. (assuming I’m a 37 year old 144lb female which I am not)

So, I once knew why I tried to make fresh food and limited my processed food intake, but the lure of convenience blinded me — made me forget the real reason I liked to cook from scratch. It wasn’t because I loved cooking. It wasn’t because we couldn’t afford to buy processed foods. It wasn’t because processed foods tasted bad. It was because they are full of things that should not be regularly ingested.

Damn. I gotta start cooking for real again.

8 thoughts on “Processed foods. And me.

  1. Yup.

    Some processed things I do buy–but on the scale of “processed” they are pretty low: pasta, for instance, and I have to have my green beans canned (but they can be canned by a person…I just don’t like fresh or frozen beans). I have a few weaknesses–frozen burritos sometimes creep into my lunch, and ice cream is in that freezer 9 days out of 10. And mac n cheese, wow, my kids cannot abide by Mike’s homemade (I don’t eat the stuff so I don’t care).

    Processed foods went out the door in a big way when I cut out high fructose corn syrup two or three years ago. It’s a preservative on top of everything else…and in tons of stuff.

    bridgett’s last blog post..Two more photos from the weekend

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  2. J and I have been trying to avoid processed foods for over 15 years now, with the one thing we cheat on being frozen appetizers (basically, something we can heat and serve while we are cooking).

    My goal in the last couple of years has been simply to avoid as much high fructose corn syrup as I can. This has been made infinitely more easy by simply moving out of the United States. I probably need to replace that goal with the avoidance of palm oil given my new location.

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  3. Okay, now you’ve got me thinking what I served when you were here.
    Chili–homemade
    waffles–homemade (but refined sugar and flour)
    ravioli–put together by my loving hands with most processed ingredients
    Chicken dinner (you made)–homemade and excellent

    Time together enjoying a meal, processed or not–priceless.

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  4. It’s so hard to avoid this sort of thing. I do in fact buy some frozen lunches, but I’ve been trying to buy Amy’s stuff, which claim to be better for you, and some of these Indian ones (I don’t care…I love them). I’m happy we’re geetting into fresh produce season here! Way easier.

    I’ve also been depressed by how processed some of my favorite yogurts are, because I have to search high and low for sales on the organics…

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  5. I love cooking from scratch, but often end up not eating until 8 pm if I do. I guess this isn’t so bad, except that to assuage my hunger I end up grazing from 5-8 pm, and am no longer hungry by the time the meal is ready.

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  6. Bridgett — I don’t think of pasta as processed food. I’ve never tried making it (except for ravioli once) from scratch, but imagine it would be pretty hard.

    Canned green beans is why I didn’t like green beans for years. When I finally* had fresh ones not cooked to mush I discovered they were tasty. Interesting how our tastes differ.

    *to be fair, my mom did grow them on the fence at least one year and I’d grab a handful on which to snack before heading off to school.

    Glen — I used to buy frozen appetizers but liked them too much. They are easy and tasty though.

    Diane — Don’t worry — you always serve us wonderful food.

    IB — I’ve bought some of Amy’s organics too — mostly for Clare, but she doesn’t like them. I do though. I’d not considered yogurt as being processed, but I guess I should check the label. I like Stoneyfield. Is that one of the offenders?

    Helen — I know what you mean. My complaint about cooking from scratch is that it takes so long. Even though I am home during the day, I don’t want to start cooking at 3:00 every day. Dean doesn’t like crock pot food (I don’t mind it) and much of what he does like takes a while to cook.

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  7. Dona: Stonyfield is the expensive one I’m always trying to find on sale. I really like Yoplait, but it’s full of Stuff.

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  8. I think growing up on a farm meant that I never had exposure to processed foods and didn’t realise you could have otherwise. I specialise in quick (made from scratch) dinner dishes otherwise we revert to takeaways or ring Hell’s Pizza and that’s very bad for the wallet and the wasteline. Though that said there are lamb shanks in the oven right now which require 3 hours cooking so I’m contradicting myself really and you should ignore everything I’ve said.

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