We all know the expression that time is money, so naturally, it follows that convenience equates to bucks, since convenience saves us time. But what if we only think we’re buying time with so-called “food” conveniences? What if it turns out we’re wrong, particularly if we’re impacting our health?
Hell. Who doesn’t indulge in take-out because it’s fast, a frozen meal because it’s “not so bad,” or opening up a few cans, popping the contents into the microwave, then topping it all off with a handful of cookies as you put in another hour of work before bed?
So what if the drive-thru meal is calling your name! So what if later, when you’re hungry again, you get on with your tweeting and texting as you reach for that beautiful, bottomless, beckoning bag of chips…
And why not?
The Science of Junk Food
Now, now. Will a little junk food really kill us? Are we overreacting to the growing press on processed foods and hidden chemicals?
In 2013, an article in The New York Times Magazine had me wild-eyed and mouth agape. Exploring the “science” of junk food — specifically the quest for the ideal bliss point and mouth feel to keep us brunching, lunching and munching — I found myself prompted to pay far greater heed to my own consumption.
Trust Big Food? Really?
And yes, despite a tendency to turn to sugar and carbs for comfort (like many of us), and often overeating when I do (still striving for “bliss”), in my not-quite-dotage (yet) and knowing myself capable of changing bad habits, I have tried to shift toward a healthier, more plant-based diet. In addition, I rely significantly on making meals from scratch.
Too time-consuming, you proclaim? Too costly, you protest?
Not necessarily, though I admit to a terrific set of market options allowing me organic produce at a reasonable price, and I have found that a little planning and one weekend afternoon of “volume” cooking saves time for the days that follow. Thus the variety of hardy homemade soups always in my fridge, and an assortment of sumptuous salads, all stored in a growing number of glass containers with BPA-free lids.
On that note, don’t miss this excellent article at Mom’s Clean Air Force on BPA alternatives, with plenty of suggestions that are easy to implement.
Why Change? Win-Win!
Why bother to make these types of changes that do incur some time and inconvenience, at least initially, as you adjust your buying behavior and expand the pleasures of your palate?
Why wouldn’t you want to treat your body better? Why wouldn’t you want the same for your family? Why wouldn’t you want to be kinder to the planet in the process by choosing less environmentally damaging options? Isn’t this a win-win? Or better still, a trifecta of wins?
Personally, since shifting as far from processed foods as possible (and still sticking to a budget) — I estimate my non-processed food consumption at 80% to 90% — I have felt better physically, I experience fewer crazy cravings, and I’ve had an easier time maintaining a healthy, comfortable weight.
Certainly, I can’t point purely to food as the reason for these overall improvements, but it would be foolish to think that it isn’t a significant factor. And, I haven’t increased my food bills in this effort.
As for the joy of cooking and eating, I’m a believer! All that has really changed is that I’m cooking with more creativity and a few different “products” added to the usual mix.
Is it requiring some adjustment?
Sure. But less than I imagined, as I taste and tinker.
Cooking for Love, Convenience, Health
I find enormous satisfaction in cooking with (or for) someone I love, though I admit the years of single parent meal prep were a drag! If only I knew then what I know now…
While my household is past that stage, I do enjoy when either of my sons takes to the chef’s knife and then mans the stove, and treats yours truly to the scrumptious (adventurous) and healthy fruits of their labors. In recent months, as I continue to eat in increasingly healthy ways and trying new recipes, I’m taking pride in the results — whether an “every veggie in the fridge” pasta sauce or a thick, boldly flavored lentil soup.
Now about that bliss point and mouth feel I mentioned… The Times addressed processed food product “formulations” and
… the hidden power of some processed foods to make people feel hungrier…
In other words, formulating our foods to keep our palates pleased and wanting more — from creating the textures to delight our mouths and the salt / sweetness levels to keep us going back, while foods like chips seem so “light” that… You know how the saying goes, you can’t eat just one.
Hey! Are You Vegan Now?
I had to laugh a few weeks back when one of my sons called me and opened the conversation with this: “Hey Mom! Are you Vegan now?”
I explained to my son that I was headed in that direction, and was feeling pleased about my decision to do so and my progress.
Now… On my little culinary journey these days as I readily replace chicken, fish, dairy and meat while still feeling good and staying on a budget, I’m learning as much as I can to ensure that I don’t neglect my nutritional needs. I’m also sticking to my habit of making meals from scratch to a great extent. And on that score, what The Times explained in long journalism three years ago, Ecowatch states with brevity in 5 Ways Eating Processed Foods Messes With Your Body:
Processed foods have been chemically engineered to make us crave them… it’s well-known that processed foods can cause us to overeat and experience uncontrollable cravings.
The article covers impacts on skin, gut health, hormones, brain function, and blood sugar. Most of us will not only recognize these impacts — we feel them in our bodies — but we may hear the voices of a spouse or physician reiterating the need to cut down on certain foods. Moreover, unless you’re living under a rock, you can’t avoid the media attention to cancer-causing chemicals in our foods.
You Are What You Eat
Listen, I’m only human. There are days when I desperately want something crunchy and salty. So I’ve taken to organic corn chips that I salt myself, delivering deliciousness pronto and with less sodium.
And I don’t overeat when I indulge! (Could that be the result of no “formulated” or “engineered” tweaking in their production to leave me craving and consuming more than I should?)
And yes, I do crave sugar from time to time, especially if I haven’t slept enough or I’m stressed. So while the devil on one shoulder may be screaming Krispy Kreme and Reeses, I do my best to go with the angel on the other shoulder flashing a modest square of dark chocolate.
An interesting consequence that I’ve noted from my elimination of red meat?
Several areas of inflammation that I’ve been battling for years and accepted as “just life” have… drum roll please… disappeared.
Coincidence? Maybe. But I doubt it. The only thing that has changed is the shift in my diet. And that shift, while not quite as simple as I thought, has involved far more education than inconvenience, no more money than I was already expending, and entertaining experimentation (say hello to “Mad Scientist Lentil Veggie Soup”).
In the long-run, doesn’t better health buy us more time to enjoy life? Now that’s a “bliss point” that tastes pretty damn good, don’t you think?
You May Also Enjoy