How To Eliminate Franken-Food

Hi friends, hope you are having a good start to your week. I have been engrossed in my course and just finished a lesson and reading a few studies about real food. Doing the Whole 30 has obviously taught me a lot – as I have either annoyingly explained or possibly helpfully explained. But I think my biggest take-away is the importance of eating real food. I thought now would be as good a time as any to chat about processed foods – in the least preach-y way possible.

I have really come to learn that our food is very processed and nutrient void. Yes, even the food we think of as “healthy”: chicken from animals that are in cages and injected with hormones and antibiotics; oats grown in GMO soil, quinoa grown in nutrient-depleted soil, pasteurized greek yogurt. Yes I realize these things aren’t a Twinkie, but processed is processed. And I’m definitely not saying I’m never eating oatmeal again (blasphemy) but I think it’s important to educate yourself. Anyways, as with anything, it is a journey and it is totally up to you how you choose to go about this journey. Eating this way has helped me maintain proper digestive function and proper blood sugar regulation. It has given me clear skin and lots of energy. Ultimately, it makes me happy and I feel healthy.

Back in university, I used to eat a lot of really crappy, processed foods that modern technology has stripped of nutrition replacing it with empty calories and chemicals. Think: Sun Chips, Oreos, Twinkies, Ben & Jerry’s. I can’t tell you how often I craved this food. I, like so many people, associated my food choices with emotion and pleasure rather than nourishment. Bad day? Ice-cream. Stressed? Chocolate. Feeling fluffy? Salad.

My sugar cravings used to be intense. I’d get them and then demolish an entire tray of Oreos in one sitting because I physically and mentally could.not.stop. I kept on eating them. I was never satisfied. Sure it’s delicious going down, but how did I feel afterwards? Like crap.

Processed foods

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That’s precisely the effect of Franken-food. Have you ever felt that way about a piece of grilled chicken? No, I didn’t think so. Because chicken has nutrients. Without getting too science-y there’s this idea of satiety and satiation. They sound like synonyms right? Well they kinda are but here’s what I’ve learned:

Satiety occurs in the digestive tract and when our bodies digest and absorb enough nutrients for our needs, hormones signal a feeling of nourishment to the brain, which decreases the desire for more food – like eating chicken. Satiation is regulated in the brain and is based upon our perceptions not a measurement of nutrients – like eating Oreos. Get it? When you process food out of its original form, you process all of the appetite regulating, filling potential right out of it.

It really was not until last year that I began my “real food” journey. And it definitely has been a journey (and still is). First it was ditching Sun Chips, Twinkies, Campbell’s soup, frozen dinners, Oreos, and all those other “delicious” things. Next it was saying bye to every kind of health and protein bar out there (except Larabars obvs). Then I ditched processed dairy and grains. Today, I focus on eating real food from sources that raise, grow or catch it right. [Source]

Real-Food-Poster

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I obviously did not get here overnight and I’m not all the way “there.” But it first took the desire to make a change. Next, I educated myself. Then, it took a lot of time and commitment. But it’s worth it: to fuel and nourish my body with nutrient-dense, real food. A friend of mine recently emailed me:

I had McDonalds yesterday, I don’t even know what happened. But I am realizing how important my physical body is in the grand scheme of things. If I don’t take care of my body, where will I live?

Take care of your body

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Here are the steps I took and how it has worked for me.

1. Figure out what goes first. 

I truly believe sugar is an addiction and most of the Western world is addicted to it. The cold turkey approach will likely lead to intense feelings of deprivation causing you to just want sugar more and then eat it. Figuring out what to eliminate from your diet first will vary. For me it was junk food. No more Oreos. Then I got rid of overly processed, sugar-filled dinners, bars, cereals, snacks. Basically most things that came in a colorful, pretty box claiming to be good for you. It’s a process.

2. Throw it out.

Yup. Toss it in the garbage. Once you figure out what you are getting rid of, start throwing it out. I guess you could donate it but I didn’t because I didn’t want other people eating it either. This will take some time too. I don’t remember how long it took me but one week I threw out Oreos, the next month I threw out Lean Cuisines, then I threw out Luna bars, etc. etc. Eventually I got rid of (most) everything.

3. Find helpful resources. 

Now that you’ve overhauled your pantry and fridge, what next?! Deliciousness and nutritiousness, I promise. I needed to figure out how to cook with all this food. I found resources for recipes (Lexi’s blog was really helpful), read some helpful books (like this one or this one and definitely this one) and watched documentaries and listened to podcasts. There’s so much information out there, you just need to want to find it.

4. Make a plan. 

This was really when I learned the importance of planning and preparing. It used to be so easy to come home and pop a (low-cal) frozen dinner in the microwave. Well when that was no longer an option, I started making a meal plan every week. I prepared food in advance so I would always have options. Are you sick and tired of me talking about this? Well the truth is, it works!

5. Establish a support system.  

You need support. Most people will turn their noses up at you in judgement. That’s fine, that’s their choice. But that wasn’t so easy for me to accept at first, I let their judgement affect me a lot. “Why don’t you eat that?” There will be people who are supportive of your lifestyle changes and may even want to join you. Surround yourself with positivity and turn off the negativity. Remember: it’s your choice.

Kids holding hands

 

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6. Do the best you can. 

I think this is so important that I couldn’t just end at 5 tips. It’s a process. Of course I wish I could eat grass-fed beef, organic, non-GMO chicken, wild caught fish, organic fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds all the time. Heck, I wish I could have a farm. But that is not financially possible or realistic right now so I do what I can right now. I try to buy local foods from trusted sources. I ask a lot of questions about my food. I am figuring out what works for me.

Good Nutrition

 

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I eat this way (the majority of the time) because it makes me feel good, healthy and nourished. I can honestly tell you that I have absolutely zero desire to eat Oreos anymore. Honey and dates are sweet treats and I know they actually have some nourishment. If I want something Franken, I’ll eat it.

If you are interested in getting started but looking for more support, I’ve heard amazing things about Diane’s 21-Day-Sugar-Detox or of course embarking on the Whole 30.

Questions of the day…

What’s your take on “Franken-foods”? 

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67 thoughts on “How To Eliminate Franken-Food

  1. I definitely think the best thing is to throw out the food and never buy it. I do so well if I just don’t have it around. I will say the other day in the airport I was hungry and thought i wanted Doritos, and I got them (when on vaca..? ha) but they made me sick and reminded me that I don’t do well with that food!

  2. This is a great post and it made me chuckle when you said ” Heck, I wish I could have a farm” – I am exactly the same haha. But I totally agree – we have to do the best we can with what we have :) I have been on a similar journey – eating crap at Uni then hitting the low fat diet foods train and now eating full fat and as close to nature as possible. Our bodies deserve to be fed nutritiously dense food!

  3. This is a great post!! It’s something I’m still battling with especially when traveling or in a pinch. On my trip, I was constantly surrounded by “Franken Foods” and just like you said when I ate them, I felt awful! I’m still recovering for crying out loud. I adore the 100 words pic. I’m going to steal that! muhahahahahahaha

  4. I guess I still eat some things that would be considered “Franken-foods,” although I don’t think of them that way. I feel like processed foods exist on a spectrum, which you definitely alluded to. I think that is part of the journey, like you said, eliminating the worst offenders and then continuing to cut things out that aren’t working until you get to a place that works for you, where you feel healthy and vibrant. The other side of the equation of course is time and means. These foods succeed because they are cheap and convenient. For people working multiple jobs just to keep their heads above water, the choices are so limited. Like you said, I think it’s about doing the best you can and always keeping your long-term health in mind. Great post love <3

    1. Definitely a spectrum and as I said, we do what we can and what we WANT to do. It’s just unfortunate that our marketplace and economy is driven by such crappy food because it is where the money is!

  5. Your post is great and i larned a lot about nutrition thanks to your blog, but something really really bothers me: I really do think that prep food isn’t that good for you because several hours after opening and cutting it, a vegetable already lost lots of its nutrients, vitamins and enzyms.

    So, I’m not really an expert but i know for sure that you should never eat a salad the day after, because it is in fact, quite empty in terms of calories and nutrients. Maybe you could check on that!

    Kisses from France !

    1. Thank you so much for bringing this up Clara. You are definitely onto something here and I am actually learning about this in my course right now. I too struggle with this in my food prep so I try not to keep raw vegetables in the fridge that are cut. I am a bit on the fence as research is not conclusive as to how many nutrients are actually lost after exposure. As long as I am doing my best to avoid free radicals (when a food is exposed to too much oxygen and gets brown – like apples or avocado) then I think it’s okay for now. I definitely will do some more research and let you know what I learn :) ps. I need to plan a trip to France! xx

      1. Haha no problem !
        And yes, plan a trip to my country, and if you need good adresses to eat or someone to guide you in Paris, leave me a message; that’s the magic of internet :D

  6. I love this post, it really drives it home. I don’t tend to buy many packaged food (sticking to the grocery store perimeter helps tons) but when I do, I make it a point that they are a treat. I also like to choose things that are either Canadian-made, organic, non-GMO, fair trade, or all of the above; it makes me feel better that I am supporting a better cause than my own cravings :P

  7. I struggle with this topic a little bit. I think my opinion is that a healthy lifestyle has room for freedom (or error, as some people might see it), which for some people, can include things like Oreos or Sunchips. Do I think that most of our food should come from the sources you listed? Absolutely, but I think that it can be a slippery slope to decide that some foods should never enter our body. That sort of thinking led me down a baaad path in the past, so I know it;s better for me not to be black-and-white with how I eat. Do I eat mainly healthy, whole, non-processed foods? Yup – but I’ve also had ice cream 3 out of the last 4 days, and I’m not sorry. I agree that it’s all about doing the best you can, and what’s going to make you happy and healthy in the long run.

    1. I completely see where you are coming from and I think that you do not ever need to be sorry for ice cream. It is totally up to you and I am in noooo way sticking my nose up in judgement (or ever will). I just think it is important to be educated and then make the choices that work for you. And let’s be real, I will most definitely have an ice-cream (or two) this summer. It’s all about finding a balance that works for you.

  8. It’s all a process…so true!! My biggest thing is remembering that no one is perfect and even while I eat healthfully when I make my own meals, sometimes it’s ok to just go with the flow. The mental component is just as important as what we are putting into our bodies…why does food have to be so gosh darn emotional?!

  9. I am still learning what my body wants. I had never really thought about why I could/would eat an entire sleee of Oreos without being able to stop. I guess I never related it to the lack of nutrition. I do try to keep processed sugary foods out of the house but sometimes I just can’t resist the sugary sweetness.

  10. Thanks for linking me, girlfriend. Now more than ever, Franken-foods are not my friend. I couldn’t tell you the last time I had an Oreo because I, too, had the same satiety problem with them. I love that you said that processing foods takes the nutrients and basically mangles them – it’s true. Oreos aren’t real food, nor are potato chips. I mean, sometimes I’ll have a bite of those things because deprivation isn’t good either, but I am over mindlessly chomping away on those things. Weirdly, I’d rather have homemade versions of those same foods usually. Great post, friend.

  11. I do my best to eat whole foods as much as possible. It’s amazing because I started out making small changes, like you said, and now I’m to the point where MOST of my foods are not processed. I think, for me, what really helped was learning how to cook. I realized that I can make pretty much ANYTHING that I want. There are certain things that I have yet to figure out (like how in the WORLD I can make my favorite turkey and wild rice casserole without using a boxed rice mix and cream of chicken soup), but for the most part, I just limit those things from my diet. And I haven’t really missed them either. I certainly don’t eat perfectly, but that isn’t my goal. My goal is to eat well and be healthy. And it makes me proud to know that I’ve made changes and stuck with them! You should be INCREDIBLY proud of yourself too!!

  12. Great post! I wish I could get more people to understand this. My mom will buy something just because it says “all natural” even though I explain to her that it means nothing!

  13. Great post Amy! I love learning about nutrition and the best foods for the body, but sometimes I think it’s easy to let too much information consume, “take-over” and miss the point of balance in a way. As long as it’s done in a healthy way and remembering that balance in life is so important, I think it’s awesome to investigate and learn more about the foods that are entering your body. I tend to follow the 80/20 rule because for me because that’s when I’m happiest and feel like I can just enjoy life. At the end of the day you do what makes you the best version of you! I’m enjoying reading about your journey, love <3

          1. Yup. C’s is The Ascent Blog and J’s is Joy in the Day. They also have a GGW blog too! Their personal blogs don’t get updated as much and I think it’s because they mostly work on the podcast!

  14. I find it so amazing that when you quit eating junk, you stop craving junk! I used to have a serious chip craving problem, but I honestly never crave them anymore. As for sweets, dates do the trick for me too and I love it! I wouldn’t say it’s easy for those new to it and trying to break old habits is always tough at the beginning, but once you become used to a whole/real food diet, you can’t imagine eating any other way!!

  15. I can’t tell you how much I LOVE this post & that you’re sharing this message. These are pretty much my exact thoughts on the whole franken-food subject too… I was once a huge sugar addict, calorie counter, & “healthy” convenience food addict. I shudder at the things that I used to think were good & I’m glad you’re helping get the message out there about REAL food & how to properly nourish your body (in a non-preach-y sort of way). :D

    1. Thank you Karey! I am so glad you can relate and I too shudder at what I used to think was good for me – those marketing people are clearly good at their jobs :)

  16. I absolutely love this post. I felt so guilty when I threw out all my processed foods because I felt like I was wasting food/money, but I realized in the long run it was better for me. It’s amazing how when I eat processed foods my body craves so much more. it loses it’s hunger cues. When I eat whole, real foods i feel amazingly better and my blood sugar/energy levels are stable. now everything in my house is whole, clean foods, and I allow myself to eat in moderation treats when out. Great job!

    1. I hate wasting food too but I didn’t really see it as a waste because those things in the colorful boxes weren’t actually food! I am so glad you can relate.

  17. Great post, Amy. Eating clean, unprocessed food is good for your health. However, I believe that moderation is key. It is okay to eat the “franken food” once in a while, as long as it is only treated as a treat, not something daily. It’s all about balance! But everyone is different and the journey is different for everyone.

    1. You definitely have to figure out what works for you and as you said (and I hope I made clear in the post), everyone is different and the journey is different for everyone :)

  18. Great post! I definitely try to limit Frankenfoods as a regular occurrence. Once in a while I’ll eat them without sweating it, but I prefer for the majority of my diet to be from real foods. Not just for the nutrition but because I just find them so much more satisfying! A homemade cookie made from scratch? So much better than Oreos! Butter? Way better than margarine. Whole milk plain yogurt with just a few ingredients? Far tastier than low calorie artificially sweetened yogurt. I could go on and on and on!

  19. Great post. I am working on going more towards whole foods, but I feel the need to satisfy my cravings from time to time. I don’t think I will give them up all together, but I will definitely choose the latter. :)

  20. I love your posts, I have been struggling so much with sugar lately, since the holidays and all summer (I live in Chile) I have been ”allowing myself” foods that I used to eat years ago, before I lost a lot of weight but now I can’t stop (I even have gained more than 10 pounds in just a few weeks) and I think is because I’m really sensitive to carbs, my blood sugar become REALLY unstable and I can’t stop eating and craving even more sugar, so I’m preparing to detox through the Whole30, but this time I’ll do it with someone else and hopefully will be a successful month for us, support is really important when it comes to changes, when I first started my weight loss journey I did it with someone else and it helps a lot, I hope you have a lovely week, you’re very inspiring =)

    1. I am so glad you are prepping to do the Whole 30. It is a great place to start and I definitely think it has helped a lot of my sugar cravings (as I have mentioned). You are so right about the support in any journey – it is much easier to make changes with someone but I am glad I can blog about mine with you all :) I hope you have been having a wonderful week too! PS. I want to visit Chile so badly! xo

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