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  1. #1
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    Jul 2005
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    195

    Default Natural, unprocessed food "diet"

    DH and I realized recently that we depend entirely too much on processed foods for our meals, i.e. frozen dinners, fast food, etc. I have dieted in the past and know a reasonable amount about nutrition, but this knowledge mostly focuses on reducing calories. We would like to improve our overall health, not just lose weight. I've done some research and it's a bit overwhelming because there are so many different theories out there. Can anyone recommend some good books or websites that we could learn more from? Has anyone read or followed the Okinawa diet plan? TIA!

  2. #2
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    Jul 2005
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    SC
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    I've heard about the Okinawa Diet, but don't know any details about it except that it is based on the diet of people from Okinawa since they have a large population of centenarians.

    I am about halfway through The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. It goes into detail about what our food supply is made up of. Since I haven't finished it, I can't give full details about it, but it is really an eye opener. From what I've read so far, I'd recommend it. It is not a "diet plan", but it is very informative about what is in our food and where it comes from.
    Married 6-14-03
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    DD #2 9-21-07

  3. #3
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    Jun 2005
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    Going from a diet of lots of processed foods and fast food to something as stringent as the Okinawa diet is a little hasty IMO. That diet wouldn't work for me personally bc of almost no dairy and intense focus on beans which I don't care for much. Also I don't really like the idea of depriving yourself of so much. For ME that makes me just want the things I "can't" have more and sets me up to fail. Instead I try to do everything in moderation.

    We don't follow a specific "diet", but we eat very little processed food. Some quick suggestions:

    - stick to the outer aisles at the supermarket for the majority of your food; avoid the frozen foods (except veggies if you like; we prefer fresh) and shelf stable meals
    - read labels/pkgs
    - use good olive oil for cooking
    - stick to basic preparations (to start, depending on your cooking ability) & season things yourself rather than buying pre-seasoned/marinated
    - shop sales for things like boneless, skinless chicken breasts; stock up & freeze in individual portions for later use
    - don't be afraid to cook w/ things like tofu
    isabella noelle :: 12.7.09

  4. #4
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    Jun 2005
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    OH
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    I agree with Laura, we stick mainly to the outer aisles, sneaking into the main aisles only for things like frozen foods (veggies), some cereals, pasta, and bread, etc. Even then, we read all the ingredients.

    We started with eliminating HFCS. Now we're working on getting rid of anything that we don't know what it is. I thought HFCS was bad, but this is taking a lot of work too!
    My Projects - House stuff, sewing, gardening, etc....
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
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    Default

    Thanks for the info everyone! I would say that we already do most of what's on Laura's list, other than the last item. Maybe you will inspire me to finally try tofu though Laura- is there a particular olive oil that you would recommend?

    I really want to reduce our sodium and sugar intake as much as possible. We do fairly well when we are home (and we both love to cook), in the mornings/evenings and on weekends. We run into trouble mostly with lunches. My DH loves fast food (and doesn't have to watch his weight at all), so he tends to turn to that option whenever he is out of the house and hungry. For me, it's the frozen lean cuisine/healthy choice/smart ones dinners that get me. I normally bring one almost every day for lunch. I also worry about the specific ingredients we are using for cooking at home. I think we rely too much on pre-packaged rice, sauces, can soups, etc.

    I think what I'm really looking for are any great books or websites that will teach us more about what foods to avoid, new foods to try out, etc. for overall health. Specifically, I have questions about dairy and breads. What should I be looking for/avoiding? Right now, we drink skim milk and buy reduced fat packaged shredded cheese. I also recently began eating greek yogurt (which I love!) Is it better to drink Soy milk though? Should we be avoiding cheese as much as possible? As for bread, I know to look for whole grain varieties, but are there other things to look out for? Any great brands people can suggest?

    Thanks so much to everyone who has replied! Sorry for asking so many questions, there is just so much to learn!

  6. #6
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    Jun 2005
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    Virginia
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    Why do you want to avoid processed foods? I know that being healthy and potentially losing weight were mentioned in your first post, but what do those things mean? Does being healthy extend past eating along the outside of the supermarket? (It's okay if it doesn't, it's just hard to tell if there are any other motives!) What is healthy for you?

    I've changed my diet recently, partially for general health reasons and partially for environmental reasons. I'd second the recommendation for either The Omnivores Dilemma or In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. They aren't diet books but they give you an excellent idea of which foods are truly healthy and which aren't really foods. Our idea of healthy food has really become skewed! For me, the most important thing has been to stay away from processed foods. When I want pasta or bread, I make it and use organic whole wheat flour. I won't eat things that are low-fat or fat-free. If I drank milk (I don't like it) I'd go with whole, or raw if I could get it. I've cut out most of the meat that I eat but what I do eat comes from local farms. When buying food, I go with local first and organic second. We get most of our veggies from a CSA. Have you looked into those at all? That definitely encourages healthy eating since you're "forced" to use all the produce before the next box arrives! I'll make exceptions too - stupid Girl Scout cookies will probably be my downfall this weekend. But 95% of the time I'm okay with the way I eat because I feel like I'm doing the right thing.

  7. #7
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    Jun 2005
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    I have been working to eliminate processed foods from my own diet and you probably don't need a book to make better choices. It's fairly simple, if one follows similar guidelines as Jennylou. We buy fresh meat, fish, vegetables (also frozen with no sauces), fruit and whole grains. Things like boxed or prepared frozen meals are out, as well as pretty much anything that contains artificial sweetener. Also things like chips, soda, cookies and crackers don't make it into our grocery cart. We generally avoid anything that is reduced/no fat or reduced/no sugar, simply because they have to add SOMETHING to make it taste ok. I'm ok with eating something full fat or full sugar, simply because I know that it is a rare indulgence and not something I do every day.

    Granted, we will spend more for certain things, but it isn't outrageous.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    I think, as far as what foods to avoid, you avoid anything that has a long list of ingredients. If you are buying bread, look for one with natural ingredients vs. chemicals and additives.

    For example, here is the list of ingredients for Wonder 100% whole wheat bread:

    INGREDIENTS:
    Whole wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, high fructose corn syrup, contains 2% of less of: soybean oil, salt, molasses, yeast, mono and diglycerides, exthoxylated mono and diglycerides, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium iodate, calcium dioxide), datem, calcium sulfate, vinegar, yeast nutrient (ammonium sulfate), extracts of malted barley and corn, dicalcium phosphate, diammonium phosphate, calcium propionate (to retain freshness).
    Source

    And here is the list of ingredients for Vermont Bread Company Organic Whole Wheat bread:

    Ingredients: Organic Whole Wheat Flour, Organic Wheat Flour, Water, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice and/or Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Molasses, Cultured Wheat Starch, Salt, Yeast, Soy Flour. May Contain Sesame Seeds.
    Source


    You want to look for ingredients you can easily identify as "whole" foods, not ingredients that were created in a lab. The bread example isn't the best, but it was the first thing I could think of.

    You might try googling "Whole Foods Diet" and see what comes up. I'm not referring to the grocery store, that's just what I've heard this style of eating called before.

  9. #9
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    Jul 2005
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    WisWis, my concerns are health related. We have family history on both sides of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. On a very elementary level, I can't help but think that all the "junk" that goes into processed foods will have some negative health related consequence down the road. We don't have kids yet, but will start trying soon, so that is another factor. I'd like to be sure that I raise my kids with solid, healthy eating habits. In order to do so, I want to educate myself as much as possible on what that will mean for our family. Thank you (and others as well) for the recommendation of The Omnivores Dilemna - I just ordered a copy!

  10. #10
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    Jul 2005
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    Another Michael Pollan book that is even easier to digest is Food Rules. I read it in about an hour. It gives 60-something tips for how to eat more healthful and wholesome. Some are as simple as Don't Eat Anything Your Grandmother Wouldn't Recognize as Food.

    I am pretty good about our family diet and really only use processed foods for snacks, but even then try to make good choices (whole grain, organic, low sugar, low sodium, and certainly no HFCS). And, of course, the occasional Annie's mac and cheese. Anyway, the big surprise from Food Rules for me was that bread isn't supposed to have sugar (HFCS or otherwise). I now buy Whole Foods whole grain whole wheat with no added sugar. I have to admit I love Oroweat bread and miss it for my sandwiches, but I'll learn!

    I also read recently that the one food you should try to eat everyday is blueberries because of their amazing antioxidant/superfood qualities. The organic fresh are a bit tart right now but the wild frozen organic are good and great in oatmeal.

    I like Laura's list and would add not to get sucked in by labels that say all natural (simply a marketing word) or even organic. Organic is definitely great, but plenty of things can be made organic and still not be healthy.

    Another thought, maybe your health insurance covers a nutritionist?

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