The name story, continued

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Today I worked from home, and while that sometimes means I get industrious and cook quite a bit, on some days it just means I’m pretty lazy. Today was one of those days. Outside of working, I didn’t want to do much else, so my meals were simple (but still “unprocessed!”). For breakfast, I had a Lara Bar and a banana, for lunch I had a peanut butter and banana sandwich, and for dinner I had leftover cous cous and roasted vegetables. To top the evening off, I popped some popcorn with butter and salt. All in all, a delicious and easy day of eating.

In much more interesting news for the day, the Eating Rules guy retweeted me today in response to my post from yesterday about how I didn’t like the name of this challenge. If you’re here because of that tweet, thanks for stopping by! If you’re someone I know in real life, I am going to insist that you call me “Mr. Grumpy” from now on.

The Eating Rules guy is actually named Andrew Wilder, and we had a good back and forth about the post on Twitter today, which was very cool of him. He saw my point, but he found the name sparked discussion, which was really the point. That makes sense to me, and he’s certainly generated quite a bit of discussion about it. That can only be a good thing, so I just want to reiterate that I’m totally on board with Unprocessed October, regardless of the name. Anything that gets folks (including me) eating better food deserves all the support we can throw its way.

If you didn’t click on that link about Andrew above, you should. He’s got a great story, and he’s got three food rules of his own (the basis for his entire site) that are excellent guidelines as well. I hope he won’t mind me reprinting them here:

  1. When you eat grains, eat only 100% whole grains.
  2. Don’t eat high fructose corn syrup.
  3. Don’t eat hydrogenated oils, trans fats, or anything that’s been deep-fried.

That’s a pretty good place to start from, no doubt. This diet has certainly pushed me in further in the direction of eating this way this month, so even only 11 days in, I’m calling this a success.

But I still don’t like the name.


This food is not unprocessed


Well, it’s been ten days, and we’ve done pretty well at avoiding processed foods. I have succumbed to sandwich bread and some white rice, and we’ve eaten some meals out, so I can’t be sure every single thing in them was unprocessed, but we’ve chosen as smartly as we can both in terms of where we eat and what we eat when we get there. It’s been an eye opening experience in a lot of ways so far, but I have to admit, I do have one major problem with this entire concept.

I don’t like the name.

Unprocessed is a vague word, and even worse, I don’t even think it describes the point of this exercise. Unless you’re eating fruit you picked off of a tree or raw vegetables, EVERYTHING is processed. If you chop something up, it’s technically processed. Cooking is a process, as is canning or freezing. Fermenting is definitely a process. Refining is a process. None of these processes means that the food is bad for you, and indeed, there are plenty of foods that fall into each of those categories that are accepted under the rules of this challenge. It’s a misnomer, and it’s really starting to bug me.

If we’re really getting to the point, this should be called “Only Food in Your Food October,” or “No Preservatives October,” or “Whole Foods October.” All of those titles are more accurate, but admittedly less catchy. I appreciate the need for a catchy name, but I also appreciate an accurate name, and Unprocessed October does not qualify. I think the real crux of this month is focused (for me, at least) around Michael Pollan’s overall food philosophy: Eat food, mostly plants, not too much. If you really follow that philosophy, diet really won’t be an issue for you.

Despite my grumpiness with the naming convention, this month has produced some nice results for me so far. I had a physical not long before I started this, and my blood work showed slightly elevated sugar levels and slightly high cholesterol. I can’t believe I’m having to think about this stuff already, but here it is. Anyway, my doctor wants me to lose 10 pounds and come back in six weeks. That was about 3 weeks ago, and I’ve already lost five of those pounds.I obviously won’t know about those numbers until I go back to the doctor, but I feel pretty good about it. Also, Celine says my snoring has stopped (NOT THAT I EVER SNORED TO BEGIN WITH).

Not going to list all of my meals, but breakfasts have been Lara Bars and/or fruit and/or steel cut oats. Other meal highlights have included roasted veggies with cous cous, peanut butter toast and popcorn with butter (because our oil in a spray can is processed – how is butter better?). I’ll continue to follow this diet because I like it, but I’ll continue to hate the name.

“Ribollita,” or “I had never heard of this stew”

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I worked from home today, which is nice because you don’t ever have to take off your pajamas. But it’s also not nice, for pretty much the same reason. To make matters worse, I usually work more when I work from home. I start as soon as I have coffee in my hand, and I end up continuing to work into the night. Not having the physical break of leaving one space for another makes it tough to mentally disengage. So today, I created that break with cooking.

This morning, I started by cooking a huge pot of steel cut oats, enough to last me the rest of the week. After that I ate my oats with honey, cinnamon and dried cranberries, along with some black coffee. At lunch, I ate a can of vegetarian chili out of a Trader Joe’s can, and it was actually really good after I added a ton of jalapeños in it. But my best meal was definitely dinner.

I used yet another 101 Cookbooks recipe, this time for Ribollita. Celine found this recipe, as it’s one I wouldn’t have read since I had never heard of ribollita before. It’s apparently a Tuscan stew, thickened with day old bread. Celine had some time this afternoon, so she prepped most of the ingredients. She then went off to a rehearsal, and I tackled cooking dinner.

Now, I am sure that cutting up all of the veggies was a pain, but otherwise, this was a fairly easy meal to make. It took a bit of cooking time (about an hour and a half all told), but it wasn’t terribly labor intensive once the chopping was done. And I’m not kidding when I say this soup is delicious. I tried to take a picture of it for you, but I am terrible at taking photos of food (any tips?). It’s thick and hearty, it has a tangy flavor from the greens and tomatoes, and the mashed beans give it a nice thickness. This is comfort food, plain and simple, and it was perfect for a rainy night in Oregon. It also made a big pot of stew, so this would be a good one to make on the weekend for lunches during the week.

As for unprocessed lessons today, I found out that dried cranberries have sugar added to them, and not all cans of white beans are created equal. I used two cans in this recipe, one was all natural and the other one was not. But we are learning, and it’s very revealing when you start reading labels. Good finds: the Trader Joe’s Woven Wheat Wafers (a Triscuit, basically) are completely unprocessed. TJ also sells par-baked bread that’s all natural. You just bring it home and stick it in the oven for five minutes and you’re done.

My last good find: Breaking Bad. Why did I wait so long? Oh yeah, because it wasn’t on Netflix until just recently. Just started the 2nd season and I’m definitely hooked.

Unprocessed in Seattle

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October Unprocessed has officially begun, and so far I’d say we’ve been fairly successful even with an unplanned trip to Seattle this weekend. Unplanned trips are not good for unprocessed eating, I can tell you that. But we made smart choices whenever we could.

I won’t bore you with all of my food choices this weekend, but they included a fabulous meal at Revel in Seattle, some pasta with a housemade sauce and beer at Elysian Fields, and of course, delicious coffee. I am sure that we ate some preservatives in there somewhere, but this challenge did cause us to make smarter choices even when eating out, so I’ll take it as a win.

Today, we did much better. I started with a Lara Bar for breakfast, and for lunch and dinner we had this Lemony Chickpea Stirfry. We made this on Friday (in September), and way back then, tofu was fine to eat. Turns out, it’s not fine when you’re eating unprocessed, so I picked out the tofu tonight. Is this cheating a little? I say no. Also, this meal would be totally delicious without the tofu anyway, so I’m not sure why it’s even in there.

Much like my friend Taylor, I’ve been surprised at the things that contain processed ingredients. The most surprising so far: water. We bought two different types of bottled water on this trip. Both contained ingredients other than water. On the way up, we purchased Smart Water, and that one is probably our fault because apparently, that is Smart Water’s “thing.” It has electrolytes and whatnot to make you run faster or something. So on the way home, I grabbed a bottle of Dasani, which is a Coke product, and it also has added crap.  Teaches me to trust Coke, eh?

We’ve got some recipes planned for the week, but I’ll wait to share those as they come. I’m enjoying this experiment though, because it’s making us evaluate the foods we buy and try to find alternatives when necessary. It turns out there are lots of unprocessed, ready to eat foods, you just have to be looking for them. Doing this for a month gives me hope that we’ll switch to these new natural brands for the long term, which make us less processed overall. For that alone, I feel like this month is worthwhile.

How’s everyone else doing?

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