October Unprocessed – Some Final Thoughts

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Rainbow of Vegetables

October Unprocessed came to a close yesterday on what is probably the day when the most processed food gets passed around – Halloween. While I managed not to succumb to the temptation of all that candy, it wasn’t easy. But what about the rest of the month?

I made it through the month without intentionally eating processed foods (more on that in a minute). It took some searching for some things, but what really helped is that I participated in October Unprocessed last year, so some of the groundwork had already been laid.

Since October Unprocessed last year, I had gone back to eating many of my favorite processed foods. However, I had also switched out many brands that I had previously eaten for other brands without processed ingredients, or quit eating them all together.

The main appeal of processed foods for me is that they can sit in my pantry of fridge for a while without spoiling. I can plan a week’s worth of meals and go shopping once a week and the food will still be good when I’m ready to use it. Once I started really looking at the ingredients in processed foods, it turns out that most of those chemicals and processes are not increasing the shelf life. They smooth the final product, or color it, or keep it emulsified.

  • Milk homogenization is all about looks. Milk that has not been homogenized tastes the same.
  • Natural flavors are there to add flavor back into the product, but there are brands that don’t use natural flavors that taste just as good.
  • Some things, like nitrites, are added to increase shelf life. Still, there are even some brands of processed meats that don’t contain them and the meat didn’t go bad in my fridge.

Reading the labels and knowing what the ingredients are takes a little time at first, but by the end of the month, I could go shopping and quickly find what I needed.  Most importantly, my grocery bill did not increase and I did not have to change my eating habits.

Just a Few Processed Ingredients

I said up above that I didn’t intentionally eat any processed ingredients. I was concentrating on meals and snacks and I feel I did a good job there.

I give partial credit for my willpower to my husband. He’s a bit of a joker, you see. When he found out I was doing October Unprocessed again, he ran to the store and bought two giant bags of candy. Not just big, but giant – like two gallons apiece. The bags had a mix of candy, most of them my favorites. They sat on my kitchen counter all month.

This just increased my resolve. He teased me about it frequently. No way was I going to let that candy beat me.

Only two foods tripped me up. One was yeast. I made all my family’s bread this month. Biscuits, cornbread, and tortillas don’t need yeast, but white bread is so tasty fresh from the oven, so I baked quite a bit of it. I didn’t even read the ingredients on the yeast jar. I just assumed it was a single ingredient.

It wasn’t until last week that I noticed yeast has sorbitan monostearate as an ingredient. Sorbitan monostearate is a synthetic wax – definitely not something that can pass the Kitchen Test. It’s probably in there to keep the yeast from growing in the jar. Once this jar of yeast is used up, I’ll need to search for another brand with only yeast as an ingredient.

My other slip-up were breath mints. I mindlessly eat Altoids when I’m on my way out somewhere. They contain artificial flavor, natural flavor, and red 40. I’m not sure I’m ready to give up Altoids. I love their coolness in my mouth and I love that little tin they come in. The tin is useful for storing small things, like stray washers or buttons.  I’ll keep my eyes open for something unprocessed to replace them.

Overall, I think I did okay with October Unprocessed.  I learned a lot, just like last year.  I think I still have a lot to learn.

How do you feel you did in October Unprocessed? Were there any big stumbling blocks for you?

Rainbow of cut vegetables photo via Shutterstock

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4 thoughts on “October Unprocessed – Some Final Thoughts”

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience! I was going strong on OU this month until our trip to Asheville, where I gave myself permission to cheat. Asheville is one my favorite places to eat out, and I wanted to eat all of my favorite things without worrying about whether they were processed. I know, not in the spirit of the thing at all. The real trouble was that once I started cheating, I started getting lazy about reading ingredients lists in general. So, I kind of fell off the wagon in that last week, but otherwise it was pretty solid!

    My biggest accidental processed food slipup was Sriracha sauce. The sort with the rooster and the green cap is full of preservatives! Aaah! I put Sriracha on everything! My sister was the one that pointed that out to me, and I switched to home made, raw hot sauce when she did.

    It was definitely an eye-opening month!

    1. I didn’t travel this month, but if I had, I would have done the same. I think travel is its own category – more about trying new restaurants and eating at old favorites than about staying on task.

      A lot of condiments have tons of processed ingredients! And it’s so easy just to grab a bottle of whatever that’s sitting on the table and use a dash on your food. I totally understand that one.

  2. I too had an easier time this year because I participated last year. However, I, like Becky, allowed myself one cheat last Friday and that slipped a lot of my resolve in the following days.

    Last year my biggest observation was that even the things that should be simple – like organic milk – still had crap in them. This year my biggest take-away is that while I didn’t necessarily feel physically worse after eating processed foods, I noticed a BIG difference in how I was mentally and emotionally affected. More moody, irritable and forgetful. Have a big, fresh, whole plate of processed food and my mood and memory came back. Definitely something to help keep me on the unprocessed track moving forward.

    1. I agree with you about the effect of processed foods on how I feel. I ran out of homemade granola earlier this week, so this morning I grabbed one of my old commercially made granola bars. It just wasn’t as good. i wish I had taken a minute to make my own granola.

      And yes! The ingredients that should be simple have a lot of stuff in them sometimes. Milk should just be milk. Yeast should just be yeast. It’s crazy.

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