Poison for breakfast, lunch and dinner anyone?

And every snack in between if you’re peckish

Heart attack on a bun courtesy Two Chums

Though as a rule I prefer to take the path of least resistance when it comes to cooking, I am in no way an advocate of processed foods, TV dinners, boxed meals and the like. With the possible exception of pie crust from a box, I avoid prepared foods like the plague. And anyway, since I’ve handed over my eating plan to the fat police, there’s very little chance of dessert reappearing on my table. Ever.

Of course, it was not always so. Otherwise how would I have ended up in the offices of Dr. Feelbad, MD, nutritionist to the stars and scourge of the chubby? I’ll tell you how. A lifetime of very poor eating fueled by a serious sugar addiction and a bad case of denial. As a child of the Sixties, I started life on formula, which the pediatrician told my mother was better for babies than breast milk. More scientific, you know. I was not the only one. From there is was a short trip to a diet built on the miracle foods of the era — canned vegetables, processed meats, fruits in heavy syrup, “fortified” breakfast cereal and bread that never went stale to name but a few.

Stays crunchy! Tough to eat when you have to gum it though.

Now, my mother is a pretty fair cook and was even then, but convenience foods were supposed to be healthier. No bacteria, no spoilage, no risk. Of course, the news that smoking was actually harmful to your health had only just broken — after years of government statements that there was no evidence it was in any way bad for you. Inhaling lung bucketfuls of smoke all day instead of air? How could that be a problem?

So anyhow, I was well into my thirties and still eating Pillsbury crescent rolls, rice and salt mixes from a box and Hostess Zingers (a bedazzled Twinkie for those of you with more evolved palates). I was also taken in by the no fat diet craze of the 90s, wherein you could eat as many carbs as you wanted as long as there was no fat. Remember Snackwell cookies (are they still available)?  Oh no, those are no problem, I told myself as I stuffed the entire box into my gob and chased them with a big glass of skim milk. It’s like a health food!

I operated under these delusions for some time, like until a couple of years ago when Mr. Slattern discovered that it was sodium rather than heredity behind his high blood pressure and cholesterol. Since then we have eliminated salt and processed foods almost entirely from the family diet, and as as a result, Mr. S has safely eliminated all prescription medications from his diet. This was not so hard, but let me tell you getting the sugar monkey off my back has been.

Here’s what did it for me.

From the NY Times, 9-25-12. click the image to read the full article.

OK, not this exact article, but others on the same subject and in the same vein. In any case, may I strongly recommend you read it over? And if you’re looking for suggestions on how to cook without processed foods, here are a few posts from the archives. It’s not that hard, you know. I mean, I do it, for pity’s sake.

Salad: A bottom up approach
Easy fish stew
Beets: The uber tuber
Roast chicken
Easy poached salmon
Yogurt and almond breakfast parfait
One bowl meals

About WSW

Writer, wife, mother. Toiler in the bottomless, black, soul-sucking coal mine of domestic life. Thank God for the portable bar.

Posted on September 27, 2012, in Good to know, The easy way and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. Got the book and started reading. It makes sense and I’m going to work my way into it because every time I crash headlong into something I crash out just as fast. It should take a week or so.

  2. That was not a good article to read while sipping a Pumpkin Spice Starbucks Latte and listening to my children scarf down the donuts that my husband got for us this morning. In fact, I think he might be trying to kill us all.

  3. That article was excellent.

  4. Snoring Dog Studio

    Excellent advice! Processed foods are killers. Everyone should look down into their grocery carts before checking out and if most of the stuff in there is boxed or packaged, then you’re just bringing home high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Not eating out frequently is a good piece of advice, too!

    • Even in a restaurant, you can ask them not to salt your food while preparing it. If I have to give up dinner out I might as well move to a nunnery.

  5. Getting sugar out of my diet is a daily struggle. I need to be ever vigilant or a piece of chocolate jumps into my mouth without warning! Before I know it, another one is right behind it. And, so it goes. Keep up the good fight, my friend!

  6. Damn it now I’m thinking about hotdogs! I make a mean sweet onion and tomato relish for mine, add some sharp cheddar and dijon mustard and I’m in heaven. Of course it has been over a year since I’ve had one. *sigh*

    • Look around on the web for a “The Making of…” video on hot dogs. One glimpse of the nasty pink ooze they pipe into the intestines might take the fire out of the craving. I used to eat turkey dogs, but now even those turn my stomach.

  7. I don’t like to cook and I don’t care for processed foods. For me this makes life easier. I eat fruits, vegies,bread and cereal, and meat every now and then. Following the instruction on a package of processed food is too complicated and gives me a headache :)

  8. Here here my lady. Cut out the processed and live well. At least that is what we do in the Glutton Household. However, we do love our salt…the expensive kind. :-)

  9. Intellectually, I agree with you on almost all these points, but my monkey brain tells me to keep eating sugar and salt. I tell you, having plenty of food is a problem in itself! I eat way way too much chocolate to make sense. Even salty foods. I keep telling myself that once I hit my thirties, I will slow down and grow up, but my will-power will be even lower then, won’t it?

    • Your monkey brain can be re-wired, but changing habits becomes harder with every day they’re indulged. Think of your brain as a road with wheel ruts. Every wagon that passes over the ruts makes them just a little bit deeper. I wish I’d known this in my younger days. If nothing else, switch to dark chocolate (it’s fabulous with a handful of roasted almonds and dried cherries), get rid of the crappy table salt (sea salt is more potent so you use far less), and start reading labels. Breakfast cereal is a big problem, as is anything with a lot of sodium, because salt burns your tastebuds so you need more and more to taste anything. Trust me on this one.

  10. I try to cut back sugar and salt but it’s so hard. I’ve got Type 2 and the doc says if I work at it I can cut down on the meds. I don’t need Alzheimer’s.

    • Tom, run don’t walk to the bookstore and pick up “The Blood Sugar Solution” by Mark Hyman MD. Dr Hyman has been able to reverse (that is CURE) Type 2 diabetes by radically changing people’s diets — no processed foods, you only shop on the outside edge of the market. It has been proven to work. If you don’t want to invest in the book, just do this: Eat foods in their natural form, nothing processed, nothing from a box or can (unless it’s totally salt and sugar free, or very very low).

      A couple of things about salt. First, it’s in everything, so you have to read labels. Stay away from canned food. Eat plain oatmeal or eggs for breakfast. Cook with Pomi tomatoes; there’s a whole list of no salt foods on my NO SALT page. Second, salt actually burns your tastebuds, so that you constantly need more to even taste anything. Once you begin cutting back, you’ll be amazed how much salt you can taste in foods (restaurant meals are particularly bad). And if you must use salt, switch to sea salt, it has way more flavor than crappy table salt (like Morton’s) and so you use far less.

      As for sugar, for some of us it’s as addictive as heroin, and that’s no exaggeration. The important thing to know is that our bodies turn lots of things to sugar, but primarily anything made from white flour. Diabetics are told to use Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, but these trick the brain into thinking it’s getting sugar, and so feed the addiction. Plus drinks like Diet Coke are loaded with salt, and a big salt fix seems to trigger a sugar craving, which in turn makes you want more salt. It’s a vicious cycle. The withdrawal is tough and temptation is constant, but you stand a much better chance of success if you remove the triggers — salt, sugar and sugar substitutes are a good start — and processed foods are full of them.

      Sorry to be on the soap box, my friend, but I need my Words and Numbers.

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