Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Food For Thought

A few weeks ago, I went with a coworker to a nutrition seminar put on by our company. It really opened my eyes to lots of things that I hadn't really thought about before. Soon after, I had a girls night with some friends and my friend Kate S was talking about the Paleo diet. Also, I ate a frozen dinner recently that left a nasty, filmy, chemically after taste in my mouth. All these things added up together have got me thinking a lot about the food we all eat.

I'm not at all interested in the Paleo diet or lifestyle, but it definitely got me thinking. I have started reading the ingredients of everything I eat. Do you always read the ingredients labels of things before you eat them? I would skim the labels on certain products (looking for meat items to see if something was vegetarian) but wouldn't normally for "every day" products. It really did change my perspective.

So the biggest thing I've gotten out of this is that I've decided to stop eating frozen dinners. I have eaten them regularly for lunch over the past few years just because they are easy to grab and go. (Of course, I would have other things in addition to them because a girl can't live on a 300 calorie meal for lunch.) After actually reading the ingredient label (and having a filmy, nasty taste in my mouth for several hours after eating one), I've decided to make my own pasta with marinara or fetuccini alfredo to freeze. Thinking about this more and more, I've decided to do an even bigger overhaul. Why stop there?

Looking through my iPhone photos, I found some gems.
I made some of these recipes because they are delicious.
I made others because they are easy.
I try to share with you those that are both.

The evils of too much soy have really been haunting me lately. Since Toph is vegetarian, we eat A LOT of soy and soy is in EVERYTHING. I'm trying to cut down on the soy that I buy, therefore cutting down on the soy that we eat. I found a bunch of recipes on Pinterest for seitan, black bean burgers, lentil burgers, sweet potato burgers (all soy free) along with vegetable stock and breakfast sandwiches. (If you have any recipe suggestions, please let me know!) I just plan on storing these in various storage containers to keep in the freezer for easy transport. I already switched to making my own oatmeal varieties versus the packets, and I switched to almond milk too (less sugar and more protein than regular milk). There is also the "dirty dozen" produce list that I have been trying to watch for too. I think getting into these types of habits now is really important, especially for when we plan on starting a family some day. Do you pre-make meals ahead of time? Have you thought about doing something like this before? Do you always buy organic or just try to follow the "dirty dozen" rule? Let's see how ambitious I continue to be with all of this because it definitely takes more effort and time.

If there is interest in doing it, I may set up a submission post where different people send in their favorite make-ahead pasta or burger recipe and I will do a summary post. We can have different themes to the recipe and I can create a tab up at the top to help keep track. We can do it once a month or once a week, depending on the interest level. Let's take a stand against frozen, processed, chemically enhanced tv dinners!

P.S. Don't forget to enter the Running on the Wall giveaway. You have until tomorrow (Wednesday, January 9th) to enter.

27 comments:

  1. The solution to the frozen meal for lunch solution is to meet me at NF, silly ;)

    I don't eat too many processed things because most have dairy products in them, and I am vegan. We cook most of our meals from mostly scratch, except when we used fake meats. And we use soy. I think if you have soy in moderation and not at every meal, you are fine. But it is scary how it is in everything... along with corn!

    We don't cook ahead! We have lots of leftovers all the time though ;)

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  2. What are the evils of soy that you are referencing? I had heard myself that too much soy affects your estrogen levels. Whether it's a coincidence or not, I went nearly vegetarian for about 6 months a few years ago, and my period cycle grew longer during that time. It was unsettling!

    I do try to eat foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. And I am all about preparing my own food because then I can tailor it to exactly my own taste. =D

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  3. I updated the post to include an article I recently read. There is estrogen in soy so it is not good for us to eat too much of it (males and females alike).

    I'm trying to be better about eating more "normal" foods instead of tons of pre-packaged stuff..

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  4. Haha, I know. NF sounds so good right now!!

    I would love to make my meals from scratch and I've been trying to be better about it! I was having soy with almost every meal so I definitely need to start having it in moderation... it is in everything! Even English muffins!

    I remember your post about all of your leftovers! I am going to start freezing ours when I have too much. That way, we can save it for later! Do you save your leftovers or eat it all while it is "fresh"?

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  5. We typically eat our leftovers fresh. We usually cook enough for 8 at each meal, because we love leftovers so much.

    However, with all the Fake Meats test kitchen recipes, we have been making A TON of food, and will sometimes freeze soups. Steven made vegan tortilla soup on Friday and I froze it this weekend... just to dethaw on Monday. LOL.

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  6. Since I live with my parents right now, my mom does most of our grocery shopping (hey, she offered). And she doesn't really look out for the same things I do on labels, so I'm probably eating things right now that I wouldn't purchase for myself. Like HFCS. Also, since I don't drink cow's milk, she's started going a little overboard on stocking up on soy milk for me, which is very sweet of her, and I don't have the heart to tell her that I want to switch to almond milk.

    The only frozen prepared meals I'll eat are the ones from Trader Joes or Amy's Organics. I think those ones are decent, meaning they aren't filled with a lot of fake processed stuff like Lean Cuisine. However, as I told you on Twitter, I don't go out of my way to eat "healthy" or "clean" or follow a particular diet. So I'm sure the TJ's meals are full of salt and fat (real fat at least) and other "unhealthy" things.

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  7. A huge part of our business is designing the packaging for those frozen meals. I have seen how it's made. You're doing the right thing....

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  8. Nutrition is so confusing! I think there are so many different types of ways to eat that there is probably some truth in vegeterian/vegan, some in paleo, etc...I think you have to figure out what works with your own physiology and cultural preferences and go from there.
    I started really paying attention when I got into CrossFit and they were all about the paleo/primal diets. I was never a huge processed food eater, but for the most part, I cut out what I did eat. The biggest surprise once you start reading labels is how many things have sugar in them that you wouldn't think - meat marinade packages and such. I've found the easiest thing for me to do luchwise is to prepare a big salad on Sunday night. I divide it into five containers to take to work and have smaller containers for dressing, which is usually just olive oil and balsamic vinegar mixed. A package of frozen shirmp serves as the protein part, or I may cook some extra chicken or even pick up a rotisserie chicken from the market and cut it up for the week. It can be a pain, but it's easier than scrambling in the morning or skipping lunch and getting a headache.

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  9. I mean, how do they get them to smell so good but taste so bad? I don't think I want to know. Lol

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  10. Katie @ LivehalffullJanuary 8, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    I've gotten really into reading labels the past few years because I try to eat as clean as possible. Do you ever prep food for the week? I've gotten in the habit of prepping food on Sunday. Soup is great to have on hand for lunch as well as salads pre-made in mason jars.

    I would love to join the link up!

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  11. Those mom's... Always so considerate! ;) I think too that ingredients in various products and brands have changed drastically over the years. What was in something 20-30 years ago is much different than is in it now

    I don't shop at Trader Joe's often because it is in Orland. I've thought about going there more often, and as I read more ingredient labels, I just might do that. I would rather eat real food that is unhealthy than something that is synthetic and no one knows the long term effects of such things.

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  12. I agree that it is all about finding the right balance that works for you. I do agree that it is shocking to see how much sugar is in everything. I know cutting out sugar is a big part of the whole paleo lifestyle.

    I used to prepare salads on Sunday but then those Thursday and Friday salads would start to get a little questionable. Lol. I think I just need to be better about organizing on Sundays and that would help with the weekly planning. We don't eat shrimp just because of the nature of the shrimping business and how they are caught. The hubs is a vegetarian so I try to be more conscious of the proteins that I eat. I never skip lunch or I would be the grumpiest person on the planet! Haha! I am used to having Lean Cuisines for the "on the go" days and I think having frozen stuff ready to go would be helpful in general. At least until I can be better about planning stuff more regularly. :) Thanks so much for your helpful ideas!

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  13. No, I don't really prep food for the week, but I think that would be helpful. My husband is so weird about leftovers and pre-made stuff, I get nervous to make things too far in advance. I think having a solid weekly meal plan would be much more helpful than the "Hmm, what should I make for dinner" conversations we always have around 6:30 every night. Haha

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  14. I'd say I make roughly 80 percent of the food I eat. I don't eat a ton of convenience or fast food just because I love to cook. But I will never ever end my love affair with Taco Bell.

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  15. Yah, I think that is my problem. I've gotten better at cooking and I love the satisfaction of actually making a real meal. Taco Bell is totally worth it. Haha

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  16. I have cleaned up my diet BIG time in the past five years. Living in a foreign country really helped because I was unfamiliar with so many foods, that I gravitated towards whole foods and really cooked many of our meals from scratch. Food is getting scary and being aware is the first step.

    Another big issue I have recently been alerted to is personal products....so many chemicals we are putting on our body. That's my next overhaul!

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  17. I just rationalize it by eating vegetarian at Taco Bell. balance, right?

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  18. My husband always talks longingly of when he lived in France when he was younger at how fresh all of the food was regularly. I was so surprised when I started reading labels on my last grocery trip. Very, very shocking!

    I know you've talked about personal products on your blog before. I'm interested to find out what you have to say about your overhaul! :)

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  19. I say, go big or go home. All they need next is a mexican pizza made with a Dorito shell. mmmmm haha

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  20. The evils of soy are such a bummer, because I had gotten hooked on Silk and soy-fake-meats, particularly soy chorizo. I'm not a vegetarian, I just like the soy stuff more than regular.

    Over the last year or so, I've cut out a majority of the processed foods I used to eat. I did the frozen lunch thing for years and never connected it to the late afternoon stomach aches I'd get, but once I stopped eating those I felt better. So I kept going because processed, chemical-filled foods are so awful. So now for lunches, I just cook extra food each night for dinner and take leftovers. It's cheaper and definitely better!

    And I really love this recipe for black bean & quinoa cakes (they're basically burgers, just without a bun)- http://www.chow.com/recipes/14297-black-bean-cakes-with-fried-eggs-and-avocado-crema - they're great with fried eggs and avocado, as it's written, but good on their own too, so they'd work for lunch.

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  21. I made & froze some egg "crustless quiches" for breakfast meals (I'm trying to go to the gym before work more, so wanted a grab-n-go breakfast to take with me). I ate the fridgerated ones so far; I'll let you know how the frozen ones go!

    A good website I've used for some freeze-for-later meals is onceamonthmom.com -- it's exactly the idea of prepping once for a month's worth of meals! I'm not quite that plan ahead-ish, but I've gotten some good ideas from there. The couple of recipes I have made & froze all turned out well!

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  22. Thanks for the tips Anne! Also, thanks for the recipe! It has been pinned, for sure!! :) It seems easy with mostly ingredients that I have lying around.

    This is a big step but it hasn't been going so well this week. I'm hoping to have a more productive weekend to get off on the right foot. :)

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  23. I do have some crustless quiche ideas that I was thinking about. That is another great idea! Please let me know how the frozen ones pan out!

    That is a great idea! One day a month might even work out better than one day a week. I shall investigate the ways of this idea! Thanks so much for sharing!

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  24. The lady who cuts Michael's hair was hospitalized for aspertane (sp?) poisoning. Apparently between the diet soda and frozen meals that she was consuming daily, it took a toll over the years. She was in the hospital for a long time. Initially they thought it was the soda, then she ate a frozen meal after release and ended right back in the hosp. Gotta be careful. Shop the outer aisles of the supermarket as often as possible.

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  25. I have cut down on my pop intake significantly since 2011. I have a few frozen meals in my freezer and I think I should just throw them away so I'm not tempted (if I'm running late and totally forget or something). The more I read ingredient labels, the scarier it is to think what I've been consuming without realizing it. This is a new wave in the Wilson house! Putting the right foot forward before kids are involved! :)

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  26. I eat the gross frozen dinners off and on and every time I do I wished I hadn't. The funny thing is I don't ever let my kids eat that kind of thing, so why should I?? I keep planning to do the make ahead and freeze thing, but just haven't yet!

    And I had no idea about soy!?!? I eat a lot too! Damn just when I thought I was doing good, lol!

    Love the idea of posting recipes! I am always looking for something new, here is a sweet potato burger recipe I tried that is really good http://kblog.lunchboxbunch.com/2012/02/easy-sweet-potato-veggie-burgers-with.html

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  27. I always skim the ingredient list for any pre-prepped foods. The majority of the time I tend to ignore the nutritional label and only look at the ingredients - I make sure that I can pronounce every item listed. Sometimes, I simply look to see how long the ingredient list is...the shorter the better! It's a good rule of thumb for me at the grocery store.

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