After September’s sustainable challenge with Clover Sonoma, I got the idea that I should try to share other monthly challenges. Luckily October was an easy one for me – October Unprocessed.
October Unprocessed is something I participated in about 5 years ago having met one of the founders! Five or so years later and I still try to follow it year round, limited the number of processed foods in our life. With C around, we’ve been even more mindful of what we’re willing to share with him and what we’re not.
What is October Unprocessed?
Have you ever thought about how much processed food you eat? Even if you have, you might be surprised to know just exactly what’s in your food.
The October Unprocessed challenge encourages you to attempt to skip all processed foods for a month. If you aren’t ready for a full commitment, however, I encourage you to start looking at ingredient lists. It’s a scary read.
How Do You Know if Something is Unprocessed?
Andrew of Eating Rules offers what he calls the “Kitchen Test” when figuring out if something is processed or not. If every single ingredient is something you do (or could) have in your kitchen, you’re good! If not, then consider it processed.
Ingredients are also listed in order of quantity. So the first thing listed is primarily what your item contains, second is less, third even less, and so on…
The first time I did this, I was surprised to see how many delicious foods that I loved (and thought were “healthy”) were actually full of preservatives and stabilizers. They’re all there to maintain color, freshness, and to last on the shelf for an extended period of time. Makes sense, but do you really want to be eating all those things? Maybe. Maybe not.
The other thing I found was ingredients that I didn’t think should be in what I was looking at. The biggest shocker? I saw pork gelatin listed in the ingredients of a jarred marinara sauce. Yes. pork gelatin. In tomato sauce. WTF?!
I’ll be the first to tell you that we aren’t perfect. We have those things that we have in our cupboards and our fridge with some ingredients that certainly don’t pass the Kitchen Test, but it’s less than it used to be.
If you aren’t sure about an ingredient, you can search for it online. Sodium Bicarbonate sounds odd, but it’s actually just baking soda. Other things, however, aren’t so kosher. And I still have no idea where to find the “natural flavors” ingredient you see all over the place on these labels.
Sometimes I compare labels of a few brands of an item – especially the organic option. Something listed in every option is probably ok. Ingredients in just one aren’t always so safe.
This practice will also probably have you looking for some homemade versions of your favorites. Here are some of our go tos: