Unprocessed: The ‘Rules’

As I walked in to work this morning I re-listened to The Food Programme’s podcast from 16th October 2017 called ‘How We Eat: Eating By The Rules’. The concept of strict rules has always been one that I’ve disagreed with simply because if someone says you can’t have something – you’ll only want it more.

However, listening again to the podcast has actually made me realise that some people need rules, and that by having rules to adhere to – they can actually start to enjoy food more. It seems a bit contradictory that the creation of rules actually liberates people, but consider this; by following the rules, people can eat a little more guilt-free.

That concept to me, makes total sense. In the absence of any guidelines – be it financially, in work or in food – it’s easy to spiral out of control. I found this last year at work, where I increasingly found myself working 11-12 hour days in the office before crawling into my bed only to do the same the next day. A new year resolution of realising there is more to life then just work has seen me reduce my working day to 9 hours, making sure I take a lunch break and reclaiming evenings for ME.

Similarly with eating – with a bit of preparation, eating unprocessed means I regularly treat myself to a flapjack or chocolate cookie – with the luxury of knowing exactly what has gone in to it and therefore being confident that I’m filling my body with nutritious food and not lots of preservatives. I’m trying to be very careful not to use the words ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ as I don’t think what we eat falls simply into these two categories – and there are large degrees of variance – such as I suppose a fresh piece of Brie from your local deli could be considered processed – but to a much lesser degree (in my opinion) to say a McDonald’s burger. Gosh, I never thought that brand would feature on this blog!

Thinking about it now, perhaps it’s the word ‘rules’ that I struggle with – it takes me back to being in the playground at school. Swapping the word for something a bit softer such as guidelines or tips sits a bit better with me.

In the absence of any guidelines, we’re in danger of eating things with very little nutrition – so in essence it’s about education, preparation and a degree of discipline. But – it’s also about realising that we are all human, and if you really crave something, then as long as it’s proportionate – just have it! But – make sure you enjoy it! Dare I say it (speaking from experience) you probably actually won’t end up enjoying it quite as much as you thought you would – which plays back into the idea of following the rules to guilt-free eating…but you’ll only learn this by trial and error, so go for it!

Eating unprocessed is not about watching the calories but instead about watching the type of food you eat. Going back to basics and knowing what you’re putting in your body.

I would generally consider myself as someone that has always eaten fairly healthily, saves as for a very sweet tooth for pick ‘n’ mix (I don’t think you can get much more processed than that, and sadly I’m yet to find a suitable substitute!). However, when I started looking at the packets of food I was eating, I was shocked to realise the extent of processed foods. I’d expected it from most crisps and all sweets – but didn’t expect it quite as much from ‘natural’ cereal bars and organic flavoured yoghurt.

Guidelines for Eating Unprocessed

  1. The Kitchen Rule – if you can reasonably make it at home in your kitchen, then it’s good to go
  2. Ingredients – what Does It Say? – have a look at the ingredients, if you don’t recognise one of them as a whole food, put the packet back down and walk away
  3. Go Organic – I was surprised by this initially as there is so much information on do or don’t go organic – but organic produce is grown without pesticides, fertilisers etc
  4. Preparation is key – make it easy on yourself when preparing lunches and breakfasts so you’re not stuck in the supermarket wading through the ingredients on the back of every sandwich in Sainsburys at lunchtime
  5. Eat Seasonal – less preservatives and air miles = a happier fruit or vegetable, oh and planet!

In a time where we’re constantly striving for perfection, the last thing that we need to do is put even more pressure on ourselves to be something that we’re not – and so creating rule after rule will surely only make us go stir-crazy….but the allure of some simple guidelines that allow us to live (and of course eat) guilt-free and to just be ourselves – now that I can understand….


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