The Only Way to Be Sure is to DIY

The ingredient list for some foods out there is quite scary. Here’s a nutrition label from a popular “healthy” granola bar from Kellogg’s.

CRUST: WHOLE GRAIN OATS, ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, VITAMIN B1 [THIAMIN MONONITRATE] , VITAMIN B2 [RIBOFLAVIN], FOLIC ACID), WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, SOYBEAN OIL, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SOLUBLE CORN FIBER, SUGAR, CALCIUM CARBONATE, WHEY, WHEAT BRAN, SALT, CELLULOSE, POTASSIUM BICARBONATE, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, SOY LECITHIN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, WHEAT GLUTEN, NIACINAMIDE, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, CARRAGEENAN, ZINC OXIDE, REDUCED IRON, GUAR GUM, VITAMIN B6 (PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE), VITAMIN B1 (THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE), VITAMIN B2 (RIBOFLAVIN) , FOLIC ACID.

FILLING: HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CORN SYRUP, RASPBERRY PUREE CONCENTRATE, GLYCERIN, SUGAR, SODIUM ALGINATE, NATURAL FLAVORS, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, CITRIC ACID, MALIC ACID, METHYLCELLULOSE, DICALCIUM PHOSPHATE, CARAMEL COLOR, RED

I have to admit that my kids would love it if I bought these for them all the time and let them count it as breakfast. However, as I lost weight way back when and even more during the ensuing years, I began to discover that the only way to be as sure as you can about what is in the foods you eat is to just do-it-yourself.

There are prepackaged diet plans out there in dietland that give dieters the opportunity to use boxed foods as the mainstay of their eating plan as well as diets that recommend shakes, lots of frozen diet foods, or other types of more processed options. However, although people may lose weight using those programs, not being conscious about the ingredients in the “diet” foods they eat may cause problems later. Extreme sodium, chemical additives, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, and other ingredients can put them at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and other conditions.

If you, like me, are concerned about what you are putting in your body, you need to become an avid label reader and probably need to learn to cook.

Even foods like cereals can have inordinate amounts of sugars, which is why we eat a lot of cereals from Attune foods, make our own oatmeal, and avoid highly sweetened breakfast foods.

Processed meats have an ingredient list that looks pretty scary. Here is one for Louis Rich turkey bologna:

Turkey Ingredients (Mechanically Separated Turkey, Turkey), Water, Modified Corn Starch, Contains less than 2% of Salt, Sodium Lactate, Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Flavor, Enzyme Modified Skim Milk, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Erythorbate (Made From Sugar), Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Nitrite, Extractives of Paprika

Although I am not a gourmet cook by anyone’s imagination, I have learned to cook most of our foods from scratch and avoid using a lot of processed foods.

I guess I call myself a do-it-yourself cook and weight loss person. It’s the only way I know to the best of my ability what is in the foods we eat. Here are some things that I make myself that I previously used processed foods for:

Healthy Substitution Ideas

  • Use milk and seasonings in place of creamed soups such as cream of mushroom soup.
  • Make my own bread using freshly ground flour.
  • Bake turkey or chicken breasts and slice it thinly for sandwiches or on top of a salad.
  • Homemade chicken broth instead of boxed or canned broths.
  • Use olive oil, vinegar, and fresh herbs instead of bottled dressings.
  • Make homemade bread crumbs and croutons instead of purchasing them.
  • Pop my own popcorn instead of using microwaved popcorn.
  • Make granola bars instead of purchasing them.

Are you a DIY cook? What are some of the ways you avoid processed foods? Any tips would be appreciated!  Diane

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22 thoughts on “The Only Way to Be Sure is to DIY

  1. blackhuff says:

    Before I lost the weight, I never worried about this but since I made the decision to lose the weight, came the fact that I needed to read the labels in order to know how many calories there are in a portion size as well as seeing if there is sugar in that product. With this came the realisation that there is much more in food, that I did not know and it scared me. This resulted in the fact that I decided that I will eat clean foods in order to know what I put into my and my family’s bodies.
    It’s scary what type of things you find in food.

  2. Jane at Keeping the Pounds off says:

    I believe in DIY food prep whenever possible. Since it is not always possible I had to adapt a set of guidelines to keep me from sliding into the use of ‘convenience foods’ just because they were available.

    I do all the healthy substitutions you listed except I do not use bread crumbs, I use corn meal. I do not use wheat so I buy 100% rye or oat flour breads only – and rarely even use bread and I do not eat popcorn.

    A suggestion I would like to add is to eat whole fruits, not packaged juice.

  3. me says:

    I make my poor kids have the same lunch every day, unless we have a picnic: homemade black bean soup with brown rice and vegetables. I always use rolled oats in place of bread crumbs, and I TRY to do as much as I can from scratch. We are still not perfect eaters though!!!! And I am using Shaklee’s Cinch as my weight loss food, as it went hand-in-hand with rending my heart for Lent and giving up the wells I was drinking from instead of turning to Christ.

  4. Karen@WaistingTime says:

    I wish I was! One of the worst labels in my house is on the black bean burgers I sometimes eat. Can’t pronounce most of the words! Every so often I think about making my own. Then I buy more of the processed ones:)

  5. Dr. J says:

    Yes, I’m a DIY all the way!! I’m continually disappointed with the food industry. Just recently I noticed that on a package of wild caught salmon I bought it had a sodium triphosphate ingredient along with the fillets listed for “moisture retention.” That means added salt to bloat the fish and us! I’m sure their advertising department spent time coming up with that one!

  6. liz says:

    I really need to get better about reading the labels. My sister came over last week and we were cooking and she was like you know there is a big difference between olive oil and extra virgin olive oil… I did not even realize what I picked up was not extra virgin.

    I really need to work on this… I think it is because I hate grocery stores so much…. I am not a shopper at all so usually I grab what I need and dash!

  7. Taryl says:

    I’m with you 100%. The best was I trimmed my family bottom line AND bellies was committing myself to cooking from scratch, in many of the same ways you do, I still use the occasional convenience item with them, like frozen nuggets or saltines, but it is rare. And any goodies are made at home, from scratch, if t all possible. That way they end up tastier, cheaper, AND healthier.

  8. Lisa says:

    I used to eat a ton of processed food because it was portion controlled and I knew how many calories I was eating. The last few years I’ve been getting away from that and making REAL food.

    Have you read the book “The End of Food”? Terrifying.

  9. Roz@weightingfor50 says:

    Since I started reading labels, I’m staggered by the additives, preservatives, dyes, and chemicals that we eat. I try to cook from scratch MOST of the time, but sometimes, I DO use prepackaged ingredients. I’m not sure my family will ever be “completely clean” but if we do eat scratch food 90% of the time, I’ll call it a success. Have a great day Diane.

  10. Jennifer says:

    I totally agree! Along the same lines, one of Michael Pollan’s food rules is that if you want junk food, you must make it yourself, therefore because of the added effort, you will not eat it as much. This totally helps me. I have to count the cost of making something first.

  11. Sharon says:

    I have come so far with this, but still have room for improvement. When I originally lost 65 pounds in 2006-2007, it was totally with the use of Lean Cuisine and similar “boxed” dinners. I add fruit and veggies, but the “main” course for lunch and dinner was one of those. And it worked! I cannot say that it didn’t. But I don’t want to ever do it that way again as I’ve learned so much about cooking nutritiously and enjoying it. The enjoying it part has made all the difference.

  12. Laura Jane @ Recovering Chocoholic says:

    Well, I’m not exactly where I want to be in this area, but I’m trying. It helps that I enjoy cooking, but my full time job with a long commute doesn’t help me to find the time. The most helpful thing for me is to have a lot of ingredients on hand, some meals in the freezer, and several things prepped. I always fry up ground beef or turkey in big batches then freeze already cooked. That way I can make taco salad, for example, in literally ten minutes! Also, I cook and shred my chicken, then freeze it. I have a couple ready made meals that I freeze for days when things are super hectic, but I don’t prefer a lot of completely frozen meals, because I find that they aren’t as tasty as fresh. I always cut myself some slack for those crazy weeks when I do rely heavily on Smart Ones or Lean Cuisine. That’s still far better than what I used to eat.

  13. nivedita says:

    In India, we mostly cook our meals. In fact we cook on a daily basis and don’t much freeze foods or have ready made frozen foods widely available. Its only catching up now. But its not so yummy that ppl want to go out and buy it. However, snacks, biscuits, granola bars etc are available and many are being touted as “healthy” just to push sales up.

    I have begun to read labels, and usually refrain from those that have high fructose corn syrup. I am also wary of “low fat”. Yes I cook my own meals cos that is the only way I have control and full knowledge of what I am putting in my mouth!

  14. Miz says:

    I do still love me some processed foods.
    WELL SNACK PACKS 🙂
    the ease of them.
    and I get around that by doing just as you say: DIY.
    setting myself up for success
    planning.

  15. Deniz says:

    I’m right with you for making food from scratch. Fresh ingredients beat E-numbers, preservatives, thickeners and other additives hands down. A couple of healthier substitutions have helped me too.
    These are:
    – using Greek yoghurt in place of mayonnaise for wraps,sandwiches, jacket potato toppings, etc. (works well for ‘coronation’ chicken, tuna & sweetcorn ‘mayo’ and anything which needs a little moisture to help it along). If you strain the yoghurt, you can also use it on bread to replace butter/spread and substitute it for double (heavy?) cream for desserts.
    – adding chopped spinach to dishes to pad them out, rather than carbs like potatoes, pasta, etc., and they add a nutritional bonus too
    – using herbs, herbs and more herbs, preferably fresh (and I’ll stretch the point to include garlic and chillies here) to add flavour to food instead of salty or oily additions
    – developing a taste for fresh fruit – once done, I found they were better than sugar-laden desserts any day

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