Cleaning up my act

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I have never been the type to worry too much about what I eat in terms of where it comes from or what it contains. Aside from calories and fat grams, I pay very little attention to the labels on my food. I rarely look at ingredient lists or give too much thought to things like where my food originated or how it's made.

Recently, I bought some Splenda to use in baking and coffee and the like. I avoided artificial sweeteners the whole time I was pregnant with Eli since there are no definitive studies to prove they don't affect babies. Plus, I was the world's most paranoid pregnant woman. As a result, I haven't had any sweeteners other than sugar in 10 months or so even though I was pretty hardcore about them before getting knocked up.

I had never noticed how eating artificial sweeteners makes me feel, but after almost a year off the stuff, it made me feel weird. Like, headachy, thirsty, and all chemically. My mouth felt funny - cottony and gritty, and a bit like I'd been eating soap. Definitely not a good feeling, and definitely not something that happens when I eat plain old sugar.

Right around the same time, I was making a mug of hot chocolate with the mix that's in our cupboard. I checked the ingredient list to see if it contained aspartame. It didn't, but here's what it does contain: corn maltrodextrin, dipotassium phosphate, sodium aluminum silicate, sodium carboxymenthyl, acetylated tartaric acide ester of mono- and diglycerides...among other things.

WTF?! I don't know what those things are. I can't pronounce them. Granted, I know hot chocolate is hardly a health food, but do I want to be ingesting something called sodium aluminum silicate?

Over the past few days I've given this a lot of thought and have decided I want to eat a lot more cleanly. Yes, I'm still going to have my chocolate binges, eat canned soup and be lazy with frozen foods, but if I can choose a natural, unprocessed, or better yet, prepared at home alternative, I'm going to pick it. At least I know the effects of a few extra calories - I can't say the same for something I don't even know how to say.

I don't plan on going 100% earth muffin organic hippie and rubbing my armpits with a magical crystal instead of deodorant and all that noise. Instead, I want to start making little changes like picking more local produce, avoiding artificial ingredients and scary preservatives as much as possible, and making more of our own foods from scratch when it's an option. Surely it can't be too time consuming to make my own hot cocoa mix with cocoa powder, sugar, and vanilla (or whatever the ingredients are, I don't actually know) rather than eating the premade stuff with an ingredients list that reads like something you'd see on the back of a shampoo bottle. And even it does take a little extra time and effort, it's got to be worth it.

I hope to eat less sugar - but stick to real sugar - rather than artificial sweeteners. Same with margarine and butter. I'd rather eat a little bit of fatty butter than gobs of low-calorie margarine. I saw a billboard once (for butter, go figure) that said "Margarine has 17 ingredients and none of them are dairy" and it's always stuck with me. It's finally sinking in that low-fat and low-cal does not equal healthy.

Do you worry about what goes into your food and how it's made?

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  1. I have always been a believe that butter is better for you than margarine. Its more natural and i think of margarine as like, fake butter. A co-worker of mine went to see a some naturopath woman. She does a blood test with a couple drops of your blood and she can tell you all these things like what kind of conditions you are prone to and what runs in your family etc etc. She can tell from your blood what kinds of foods you are eating. My coworker said when she looked at her blood she said "you eat margarine don't you?" lol crazy eh?? She told her that margarine is only one molecule different from plastic. Could be a little far fetched maybe but still gross.

  2. Ewwwwww! I had heard that about cheez whiz but not margarine...but I wouldn't be surprised. The fact that you can tell someone eats margarine from their blood skeeves me out.

  3. Sweeteners make me feel terrible, too. The thirst thing freaks me out - why should drinking a diet liquid make me MORE thirsty? Eww. It also bloats me and gives me stomach pains. I'm a firm believer that real food is more satisfying and less harmful in the long run.

  4. A couple years ago, I started having crazy headaches. Migraines several times a week. So went to my doctor who sent me for test after test, with no luck. I finally ended up seeing a neurologist, which of course caused me to assume the absolute worst, and in the end, the culprit was artificial sweetener. Once I eliminated aspartame and all others from me diet, my headaches were gone immediately, and I haven't looked back. It would shock you to know how many products contain alternative sweeteners -- everything from Special K to fat-free yogurt and beyond. I had to be smart about how I ate at first, because more of my go-to snacks were higher calorie/fat than the artificially sweetened varieties, but it was so so worth it. It's terrible stuff.

    Becoming a mother definitely makes you think more about what you eat (during pregnancy and nursing) and what you feed your child. I've become much more aware of the labels on our food over the past year + and I've tried to make the changes you've mentioned here.

    I've been going to Avery's on Beaver Bank Road once a week to stock up on produce lately and I love it. Everything is local (mostly), so fresh and often cheaper than buying at the grocery store.

    Good luck!

  5. I worry all. the. time. Not only about food (although that's a big part of it), but also about what I put on my body in the form of shampoo, conditioner, soap, body lotion. There are some crazy chemicals in a lot of things we use everyday, and I'm not sure that just because I'm not *technically* ingesting it, it's not harmful.

    Also, Barbara Kingsolver's _Animal, Vegetable, Miracle_ is required reading for anyone worried about food, where it comes from, and what's in it.

  6. We've been trying to clean up our eating habits. It's crazy all the crap that is in processed foods!

  7. Try truvia which is made from the stevia plant. All natural and no calories. I hate splenda and other artificial sweeteners. I can always taste the difference. I love truvia!

  8. Amen. Sugar sucks. And it's addicting! We can break the habit together ;)

  9. I'm the same way about food. I really try to avoid processed foods. I don't make a big deal about it when I do eat it, but as a general rule of thumb, basic is key!

    I still love Diet Coke though!