Packaged Foods Are Bad For You

Five packaged foods that you should never eat again.

A friend of mine just sent me the link to this very concise and informative article from Grist, and I want to share it with you. I went through this list and added some of my own tidbits and recipes for homemade chicken stock, hummus and gluten free granola…

In her article for Grist, Jane Mountain wrote:

What did you resolve to do this year? Eat healthier? Avoid processed foods? Stay away from GMOs? Stop buying products foisted on you by the man? Reduce the size of your weekly garbage bag? Become a domestic god(ess)?

I want to do all of those things, which is why I am so damn excited about this post. You see, until recently, these five packaged foods were staples on every shopping list I made. But, over the last few months, I’ve discovered that they are all completely unnecessary once you get the hang of making them at home.

1.Never buy soup

I’ve always hated trying to shop for soup. They always hide nasty ingredients in there, and more often than not, even the most vegan-sounding soup is made with chicken stock or a little beef fat. Campbell’s makes a vegetable soup that isn’t vegetarian. Why?

If there are no animal parts in the soup, there’s usually lots of salt, fat, and additives, or a little GMOs just for fun. And in case you haven’t heard, soup comes in cans lined with BPA. Nasty.

If there’s nothing objectionable in the ingredients, eating store-bought soup usually means taking a trip to bland city. Seriously, I’ve never found one I like.

The funny thing is, when you make soup at home, you don’t have to add any junk and it’s always bursting with the flavor of whatever vegetables you put in it. That’s the magic of eating whole foods.

Campbell’s and their corporate buddies have somehow managed to convince us that making soup is a task better left to the experts. In reality, it’s the easiest, quickest meal you can conjure. You don’t even need any special ingredients.

2. Never buy stock and bouillon

If you’ve done your homework with the soup, you’ve noticed that almost all soup recipes call for stock. Guess what? That’s another thing you never have to buy again. I discovered a few months ago that making stock is even easier than making soup. And you can make it from garbage! Honestly.

Click here forAimee’s favorite chicken stock recipe

3. Never buy canned beans

Remember how we were just talking about BPA in cans? Well, it’s in your canned beans, too. And just like soup, beans taste better and fresher, and are better for you, if you buy them dried and prepare them at home.

I know all that soaking and cooking seems like a huge pain in the ass. That’s what I thought until my husband started coming home with dried adzukis, chickpeas, and black beans.

In reality, it takes around three minutes to put the beans in some water, another minute to change that water during soaking, and then about five more minutes to put them on the stove. All the beans you’ll eat all week in less than 10 minutes.

Here’s a great guide to preparing various types of beans.

When we have a batch of beans sitting in the fridge, we use them to make our own burgers (thanks to Peggy at Lovin’ Spoonfuls in Tucson for her delicious recipe!), falafels, soups and chili, or just sprinkle them on a salad.

Basic bean tip: Get your spouse or kids to soak and cook the beans while you relax. That’s what I usually do!

4. Never buy hummus

One of the things we use our fresh chickpeas for is to make hummus. This takes me, oh, all of about six minutes now that I’ve done it a few times. Unlike store-bought hummus, it is not too salty, too sweet, too lemony, too bland, or too garlicky. It’s just right, because I made it that way.

Here’s the hummus recipe from my book, Chill Out and Get Healthy:
3 cups drained cooked organic chickpeas ( you can use canned organic chick peas)
2 medium cloves garlic
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
½ cup tahini
2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons organic lemon juice, to taste
4 tablespoons organic extra-virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves
¼ teaspoon paprika

In your food processor, puree the chickpeas, garlic cloves, red pepper, tahini, water, ½ the lemon juice, ½ the olive oil, until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. Taste and adjust the seasoning by adding salt and additional lemon juice, if necessary, to taste. Transfer to a wide shallow bowl for serving and use the back of a serving spoon to form a well in the center of the hummus. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle the top with the parsley, and paprika. Voila!

5. Never buy cereal
My initial eschewing of packaged cereal happened because of a one-two punch.

My mother-in-law started it. She makes amazing granola that we eat every morning at her cottage on Lake Muskoka. When we leave, the best way to recapture those lazy summer days is with a fresh batch of granola.

I’m really not a fan of standing in the grocery store scouring ingredients lists. But once I started, I discovered that most cereal is a combo of high-fructose corn syrup and GM corn. Plus, all of it is ridiculously overpriced.

So, the only solution is to make your own.

Here’s a great gluten free granola recipe from Gluten Free Girl

(Assume all ingredients are organic )
5 cup oats (please make sure they are certified gluten-free)
2 cups coarsely chopped almonds
1 cup pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup sesame seeds
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit (we used apricots, sour cherries, and golden raisins here)
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons of melted pastured butter

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Mix together the oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. Make sure you use a large baking sheet or roasting pan for this. (I prefer the roasting pan, because you can really swirl around those ingredients without spilling them on the floor.) Sprinkle the cinnamon, ginger, and salt over the top. Stir it up.

Toss the bite-sized pieces of dried fruit over the top of the oats mixture. To be honest, you might want more than 1 1/2 cups here. I kept throwing more on until about 1/2 of the surface of the oats had fruit on it. Use your own judgment here. Stir it all up.

Drizzle the maple syrup evenly over the surface of the oats mixture. Do the same with the oil. Stir it all up until everything is well coated — not too sticky, but not dry either. Done? Great. Throw it in the oven.

Bake for 12 minutes, then stir up the granola-in-the-making, then put the pan back in the oven. Repeat this process three more times (it could twice or four times for you, depending on your oven). You’re looking for the granola to be not-at-all wet, golden brown, with a bit of crunch.

Pull it out of the oven and let it cool before devouring it.

Makes 10 cups or so.

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