Processed food has been a HUGE learning process for myself and Griffin…. We switched to a vegan diet last summer after discovering our desire to be more aware of what was going into our bodies, where it came from and the ethics behind its creation. Obviously, this doesn’t simply lead us to purchasing everything with a vegan certified label on it, as some of those products are tricky and have a massive ingredient label and are equally unsafe compared to their nonvegan counterparts.
I always hear about the three types of vegans joke… is it a joke? I don’t know because it is super accurate lol but the three types of vegans being the plant-only eater, the junk food vegan (consuming candy, chips, pizza, etc.), and the protien over-consuming body builder type vegan. We started as the junk food vegans (and are still climbing out of the junk food hole we’ve trapped ourselves in) and are now trying to eat mostly raw/unprocessed/whole foods. Every time I am in the grocery store I think of how many steps I use to judge a good label… I’m hoping to cut out the hard part for you and give you a few focal points when examining food labels yourselves. Stick with me even if you aren’t vegan (if I haven’t lost you already!) there’s some good stuff you might not consider when approaching processed foods that fall in line with your values and morals when it comes to consumption.
- Read the ingredient label FIRST
I can’t count how many times I was on board with a nutrition label and then realized the ingredients inside were indeed NOT as nutritious as they sounded. I usually like to know what every ingredient is, which is a simple rule that knocks out any shades of grey. Now I’m flipping the package over, going straight to the ingredients, and then after deciding the ingredients are simple enough I’ll scan the nutrition label if I’m worried about it being a waste of an opportunity to get some nutrients/protein.
2. Most of the time I realize I can save hundreds of dollars by either making an item at home myself or opting for a natural whole food snack instead.
Why do we pay so much more for a 2-ingredient nutrition bar than we do for a candy bar at a gas station? Make that nutrition bar yourself by the batch and get a better value. (I feel like ranting on this one, but you get it.)
3. Is it worth the waste?
We can’t even comprehend the amount of waste we are creating with our processed packaged foods. Is it worth it? Can you reuse or recycle the packaging easily (and WILL YOU actually do it)? Can the ingredients be grown in a garden or are they developed in a factory then sent to yet another factory to be transformed into our “food”? The creation process could be (I mean it probably is) a waste of energy and resources and harmful to the planet.
4. If you’re just having a craving, RUN AWAY FROM THE FOOD! 🙂
Does it really taste better than a home cooked or whole food, or are you craving the bad stuff? If you have a good grasp on part of the food industry’s tactics and the way junk foods work in our bodies, you already know this is a trap. You eat these sugary fatty foods and crave more as a result. The only way to escape the trap is to be aware of what is actually happening. Replace these foods with things that will actually benefit your body. Also, as mentioned before, make it at home and save $!
5. Be brand smart.
Purchasing from any given brand is supporting that brand’s values. You may disagree with the handling of cattle by the beef industry and cringe at the sight of slaughterhouse exposure videos, but if you’re still buying beef you’re still supporting these acts. Do a small amount of research and make sure you aren’t unknowingly throwing money at a cause you absolutely disagree with. I’m finally sinking myself into the world of cruelty-free makeup and beauty brands…. I find one I believe to be great in one area only to find out I can’t support their values in anther area. Basically, educate yourself to be able to choose wisely.
Finally, we will never get it 100% right. We will keep making mistakes and learning from them, but this is a great place to start to better our pantry and the planet.
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