What I do mean for this task is to wave a magnifying glass over the commonplace food items in your pantry/fridge/freezer and have a real look at what exactly you are eating and feeding your family.
This, for me, really became a focus with the arrival of the Thermomix into my kitchen in 2012. A friend had given me a book on artificial additives and preservatives a few years before and to be completely honest, I graciously accepted it and, though it did catch my interest at the time, obviously not enough as I never really read it and instead it fell onto a bookshelf never to be opened again.
But with the Thermomix and a series of other recent events leading me down this learning trail, wow! The passion, invigoration, enthusiasm and belief for where I am heading with this is the exact reason why I have made it one of our STEPS to the greater goal of wellness and happiness!
I ask myself now, back just one or two generations ago, what did the supermarket shelves look like? What did our parents and grandparents shopping bags contain?
I actually remember pasta sauces making their debut in the supermarket. Before the 'Leggo's' and 'Raguletto's' of the world were created, mum used tomato paste and dried herbs to flavour our spaghetti sauce. Then suddenly she started using Raguletto pasta sauce - Red Wine and Garlic flavour! How much 'real' red wine and garlic do you think would be in that bottle???! And how hard is it to add a few glugs of red wine and crush a clove of garlic anyway?
Perhaps the reasons so many additives are being used these days is coming from pressure from the supermarket chains to have longer used by dates on products for greater chance of sell through, and less chance of spoilt products that then costs them money?
Or perhaps it is coming from a consumer demand for stronger tasting products, for more flavour choices, for more convenient products, for longer lasting products?
One thing I know for sure is no longer does a product appeal to me with an ingredient list as long as my arm and its contents so foreign I can't explain them. And I don't want my kids to have those kind of products in their little systems day in and day out. (On certain occasions though is just life, and inevitable, and not a situation where I will disallow it)
So when you finish reading this post, I want you to open your pantry doors, open your fridge, open your freezer.
What have you got in there?
Pick up each jar, box, tub, bag, sachet, bottle, packet.
Have a look at the ingredients list.
How many of the ingredients listed are familiar to you?
Could you explain what each of those ingredients and numbers are?
Do you know the source of those ingredients?
Do you know how they are processed?
What are you expecting your body (and your familys) to process?
Cochineal (120) = derived from crushed insects.
Caramels (150's) = a colour produced in the presence of ammonia, sulphur dioxide and/or sodium hydroxide.
Hydrolysed vegetable protein = a less concentrated form of MSG
Flavour enhancer 621, plant protein extract, hydrolysed oat flour, calcium caseinate, potassium glutamate just to name a few = MSG (monosodium glutamate) (and numbers 620,622-27,631 and 635 are all flavour enhancers with similar side effects to that of MSG).
These few additives are just the very tip of a huge iceberg! And there are a lot of websites and information online so I won't repeat it all here. I have added a few links below for you to investigate further.
Have a look at this ingredient list below and see if you can work out what the product is.....
Milk chocolate (38%)(sugar, milk solids, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, emulsifiers (e322: soy, e476), flavouring), wheat flour, sugar, vegetable oil, golden syrup, colours (e102, e110, e129, e133, e150), milk solids, cocoa, salt, raising agent(e500), emulsifier (e322: soy) and flavouring.
Worked it out yet??
Now have a look at this ingredient list....
wheat flour, sugar, butter, eggs, cocoa.
The two ingredient lists look quite different don't they?! Well, the first one is for....... Tim Tams, the iconic Aussie chocolate coated chocolate biscuit. The second one is for a homemade chocolate biscuit. Now, avid Tim Tam fans (and I know there are a lot of you out there!) would be probably cursing my name at the moment but seriously, do you really want all those 'things' floating around your body??
Don't get me wrong, its not about never eating anything processed again. It can be as easy as swapping brands. The key is just to get more 'label savvy'. Arnotts scotch finger biscuits, for example, don't contain any artifical colours, flavours or preservatives and therefore could be a substitute for Tim Tams and other additive laden bikkies!
And as a side (but significant) benefit from reducing the amount of additives from your kitchen, you will, almost inevitably, find yourself heading towards a path of more whole foods; closer to nature, less refined. Your palate will find joy again in the flavour of real foods - a real strawberry for example, and not a combination of 25 chemically produced flavours and colours. And over time highly salted and overly sweet foods will be obvious and probably no longer favourable to you.
And surely this can only be a good thing, right??!
This is really the key to this task. Another way to move towards a diet where 90% of the time you are consuming whole foods - minimally processed, training your taste buds back to enjoying real flavours, and appreciating where they come from.
So, write a list of your regular products that you find filled with additives in your STEPS journal - it will be interesting to see if you can believe you used to eat them in a years time!
Stay tuned via Facebook for more brand comparisons and alternatives, and please add to the conversation as I always love to hear your thoughts.
Ready, set, go.. to the pantry!
Food Standards Australia New Zealand - Additives list
Hungry for Change - Top 10 Additives to avoid