Evaluating my eats

Like I’ve mentioned in past posts I am trying to clean up my eating as a part of my training and just for the sake of healthy lifestyle habits in general. I will be clear that I am not a healthy diet extraordinaire. I love beer and my favorite foods include pizza, bagels, and cookies. I maintain a healthy weight on my own terms (I’m sure partially because I exercise more than the average person) so I have yet to see the point in cutting these favorites completely out of my life. I LOVE food… a lot. And therefore if you are looking for advice on shedding pounds and calorie cutting I am not the girl to ask.

However, I agree wholeheartedly with the notion of clean eating. I see the value in knowing what’s in the food I am using to fuel my body and I want to strive to distance myself from processed foods and ingredients I can’t pronounce. (Like what the hell is niacinamide anyway?) It’s not easy; after all I grew up loving boxed Mac & Cheese and Wonderbread just as much as the next American kid and those habits are hard to break. But I am taking baby steps.

Has anyone else heard the advice that you should always stick to the outside aisles of the grocery store as much as possible when shopping? Aisles in the middle of the store are more likely processed and full of preservatives and the fresh stuff is on the outside. It makes perfect sense. Though familiar with the advice I have never intentionally put it into practice. My diet in college seemed too reliant on the middle aisles to even fathom how I would make it happen. But my diet has slowly evolved since then to rely more and more on fresh, healthy foods.

So this week I decided to do a little experiment. Having already done my grocery shopping for the week I looked back at my receipt and found all the things I bought from the inside aisles and then evaluated each of those things. Is it processed? Do I recognize the ingredients in it? Do I actually need it?

Out of about 30 items on my reciept, 7 were from “inside aisles”.

– 1 box of cereal – Jeremy and I are both cereal fans. Since I exercise in the morning and cereal doesn’t really work for my stomach pre- or post-workout, I only eat it about twice a week. I know cereal is one of those foods people tend to think is healthy even though it isn’t. But it’s so delicious. What’s a girl to do?

– Whole wheat english muffins – I eat these with peanut butter before my workouts. I don’t know if I would have even considered this an “inside aisle” item but, looking at the label, it does have a few questionable preservatives. The ultimate solution to this, and to keep my wheat sandwich bread as clean as possible too, would be to buy fresh bread from the bakery when I can.

– Frozen hash browns – All the ingredients are recognizable until you get to a handful of preservatives at the end. Maybe it would be worth a shot to make hashbrowns from hand-cut fresh potatoes since I don’t eat them all that often.

– 2 cans of soup – Another food I don’t eat often but have kept around the house for convenience. I know canned soups are full of sodium and the fact that they are stored in aluminum cans which I’ve heard is no bueno freaks me out. Might as well cut them from the grocery list; they can easily be replaced with homemades soups or at least the organic ones that come in handy cartons.

– Can of no salt added diced tomatoes – I cook these down to make sauces for pasta instead of using jars of sauce (which are full of added sugar, calories, and the like). The ingredients are minimal but there are a few added acids that don’t seem to belong. I could easily dice fresh tomato but I am not certain that this cooks down the same for sauce purposes. Anyone have any good, clean tomato based sauce recipes to share?

– Whole grain pasta – Short of making my own pasta by hand I am not sure there is a solution for this one. I love pasta so, in terms of my diet, this “middle aisle” ingredient is here to stay. Plus, the ingredient list is more than reasonable (whole wheat flour, egg, semolina).

Definitely a worthwhile experiment. I don’t expect to be a perfect clean eater but seeing where I can make minor changes in the future is great. Here’s to self-improvement!

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