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No processed food for the whole family - possible?

(39 Posts)
breadhead Sat 01-Sep-18 21:26:45

What do you think? We all (me, dh, dss 12 and 15, baby) want to eat more healthily and feel more energised after a gluttonous summer.

We generally do pretty well, but we love our treats so much and love home baking too. I’m thinking the only way is to just not buy any processed food and make everything from scratch using honey or fruit for sweetening. I would buy some processed food but only nutritious ones e.g cream cheese.

I could do it alone, but is it possible to get the whole family doing it? Has anyone had enough time to prep wholesome, real foods for the whole family each day without relying on biscuits, cakes, cereals etc for treats?

OP’s posts: |
maxelly Sun 02-Sep-18 00:15:42

Hmm, depending on what you mean by 'only nutritious' processed foods and exactly how strict you would plan to be, I would say it is possible to feed a family this way, but would it really be worth it? Why would you be doing it? What health benefits are you hoping to get out of this and can they be achieved in another way?

I really do think that processed foods have become demonised on MN and in the media to an unfair extent, yes eating loads of shop bought cake filled with lard and sugar will make you fat and give you diabetes, heart disease and other nasties, but eating loads of lovingly homemade 'wellness balls' (or some other suchlike recipe peddled as 'healthy' by Ella and her ilk) made with coconut oil and date molasses will do exactly the same. Honey and fruit derived sugar substitutes are still sugar at the end of the day, yes delicious but not exactly health foods. Sadly very few things which are delicious and moreish like cake and biscuits are healthy, this seems to be sod's law (well maybe some lucky souls genuinely relish and gorge themselves on carrot sticks and celery but I have yet to meet that person!). So would you just be substituting foods you enjoy and are easy/work for the family, for 'unprocessed' versions which are harder to make, less tasty and not much more healthy?

If you really want to improve your/the family's diet with a focus on health and feeling well, there are other changes I would look at making first rather than worrying about processed vs non processed foods. So rather than denying everyone the treats you all enjoy, could you think about having them at the weekend only, or if that's too much, every other day to start with? On non treat days have fruit or natural (unsweetened) yogurt as a pudding?

Swap sugary/fizzy drinks for water, or again reduce down and swap for diet versions or limit to the weekends only at least as a starting point?

Reduce alcohol to within NHS guidelines, have at least 2 or 3 alcohol free days a week, or ideally stick to alcohol only at the weekend?

Reduce red meat consumption and replace with more fish/chicken/pulses as protein options?

Increase veg consumption so you are consistently getting your 5 a day? Base meals mainly around veg with moderate portions of lean protein and complex carbs - ideally wholegrain?

Increase exercise levels and regularly do a physical activity (walking, biking, swimming?) as a family?

Introduce some wellbeing/mental health improvement practices, e.g. mindfulness, meditation, daily gratitudes, journalling, self-care, positive thinking?

Apologies if you already do all of the above but if so then I would say you have a pretty healthy lifestyle already and don't need to sweat a few treats on holiday. Or on the other hand if all the above seems overwhelming/really difficult then remember that even making one of those changes, most of the time, would bring definite benefits to the family (more so than faddy or impossible to maintain 'clean eating' anyway) - so focus on one thing at a time and small, achievable steps rather than trying to achieve perfection in one step....

AwdBovril Sun 02-Sep-18 00:29:16

It depends on what you mean by processed food. Would you stick to proper wholegrain flour for all baking, for example? As I think it could be pretty miserable, and tricky, managing without any baked goods at all.

maxelly - I am one of those rare people who loves massive piles of salad, celery etc, even with no dressing on. Unfortunately I also love cake & chocolate... have just started a diet myself! From my own personal experience, sugar is a habit that it's easy to fall into & really hard to break. I still love salad etc. as much as ever, but I am just in the beginning stages of trying to break the sugar habit. It's really hard...

maxelly Sun 02-Sep-18 00:33:22

Good on you Avril! I was being a bit negative there, since we started getting a regular delivery of a veg box full of really nice, really fresh veg I have enjoyed chomping on a carrot or a tomato much more than I used to (so much supermarket veg is so tasteless) - I do actually quite like veg grin

There's still no competition between a plate of veggies and a big piece of chocolate cake though! Sorry OP...

maxelly Sun 02-Sep-18 00:34:08

Sorry, don't know why that autocorrected to Avril!

INeedNewShoes Sun 02-Sep-18 07:00:27

Due to multiple allergies I very very rarely buy ready made meals/treats as finding stuff I can eat is hard work and reading all the labels checking for things I'm allergic to has really made clear to me how much crap there is in most products.

I use a bread maker to make most of my bread and pizza bases and just cook meals from scratch (though I use things like tinned tomatoes for example - how far are you planning on going as things like that are processed!?)

Treats are tricky unless you have lots of time for baking. My go to treats are toast and jam or fruit. I spend money buying really nice fruit so that it's always a treat.

Millybingbong Sun 02-Sep-18 07:12:08

What counts as processed?
Jars of bolog sauce?
Shop bought bread?
We have started making yoghurt as that is very easy.
I think it is hard to find the line with this although a noble idea

INeedNewShoes Sun 02-Sep-18 07:17:04

I would definitely count anything that has combined ingredients as processed.

The question in my mind is whether it includes tinned veg like tomatoes, tomato puree, tinned fish like tuna, refined sugar, flour, jars of mustard etc. I know I couldn't live happily without these things where as I already don't use things like jars of pasta sauce, shop bought bread etc.

Calledyoulastnightfromglasgow Sun 02-Sep-18 07:18:45

Yes it’s completely do-able.

“Don’t eat anything your granny wouldn’t recognise as food” is a good mantra

But a homemade cake is a lovely thing and you will need balance for it to work longer term.

I make lots of soups with proper stock, mince and tatties.

School snacks are the hard bit TBH

ivykaty44 Sun 02-Sep-18 07:22:14

Why not ditch processed food a couple of items a week, therefore allowing the changes to gradually happen & over the weeks the dc will adjust.

I think a complete change will have your dc reeling & you may fail at the first- which would be a shame

Gradually introduce the idea of less processed foods, swapping foods along the way

cloudtree Sun 02-Sep-18 07:29:21

I would do it in phases, initially cutting out the complete rubbish like shop bought cakes, biscuits, sweets, crisps, ready meals, fizzy drinks etc.

I would struggle to cut out everything processed. Are you including things like bacon, ham, cheese? If so I'd find that impossible.

If however what you really mean is that you want to cook everything from scratch then that's perfectly doable but you will inevitably spend longer cooking and preparing food.

user1495884620 Sun 02-Sep-18 07:30:28

“Don’t eat anything your granny wouldn’t recognise as food”

My mum is a granny. She fed us findus crispy pancakes when we were growing up.

Calledyoulastnightfromglasgow Sun 02-Sep-18 07:32:43

Well you are much younger than me 😀

Grasslands Sun 02-Sep-18 07:33:34

Some of this is easy but doesn’t keep, mustard powder to make mustard is easy just add water, cereal is easy old fashioned oats baked with apple juice and dried fruit (search online for granola recipes), mayonnaise can be made but it’s only good for 24 hours. Home made pasta recipes are readily available. It just depend if you can devote the time...and don’t mind the clean up.

mrsnec Sun 02-Sep-18 08:22:10

Just make small changes and don't be too restrictive.

I have tried this and I have a few exceptions as well as the cream cheese! So we eat as little processed food as possible but still eat white flour, sugar, breakfast cereals (only the dc and it's shreddies and wheetabix) and baked beans as we all love them. They're our only fast food!

I bake but everything I bake has fresh or dried fruit, nuts or wholegrain of some sort. I use sugar im baking because I don't believe it's much different from using syrup or honey and it's cheaper. I hate sweeteners. Most only have about 100g of sugar in about 12 portions.

Most of my recipes are things you just bung in the food processor then chuck in the oven when I'm doing a roast. Banana bread for example.

cdtaylornats Sun 02-Sep-18 08:31:45

Processed foods I would miss are Tea, coffee, beer, wine, cheese, bacon, bread, pies, haggis, honey.

Grasslands Sun 02-Sep-18 10:01:45

My dh makes bread (every 2-3 day) pizza dough, and baked beans (a large batch freezes well). I make all my own salad dressings, soups, coffee cakes and preserves. Dh keeps bees so raw honey always available, I’ll be harvesting grapes next month for grape jelly and in January I’ll order my Valencia oranges. But all this means hours in the kitchen, and it’s not always cost effective. I’ve made pickles, and relish sadly some years 5x the cost of store bought.

kateandme Sun 02-Sep-18 15:11:46

what a miserable life.
id much rather teach my kids balance.you can have chicken drumsticks but have chicken thighs the next.
you can have choc cake but fruit too
noo food is off limits all food is on balance
food shouldn't be demonised or banned or junked or treated with labels.
food is about balanceis about learning you can have it all
make better choices having fruit over chocolate if needs be.upping your veggies.using a little less oil or butter having salad with ur sandwhihch or choosing light versions of mayo or sauces.
lean meat.
less sugar on cereal.healthy choices.
balanced choices.
give and take.
cooking together.
teaching and learning and being healthy together.way better than cutting out whole food groups.and telling kids some foods aren't good when all are in balance

breadhead Sun 02-Sep-18 19:44:20

Thanks for the replies. Kateandme you are right, it would be miserable to make us all stick to it all the time, which is why I know we couldn't do it 100% as we love our food and cooking, just have too many treats. I think what we need to aim for is minimising the junk with any ingredients that aren't actually recognizable food (which I think are the most damaging things to consume) and have no nutritional value. So I would be more than happy to eat a homemade flapjack with butter and honey, but wouldn't buy cheap biscuits with invert sugar or high crucified corn syrup, if you see what I mean. I do think a minimally-processed diet is the healthiest one, but I guess it would drive me nuts to be too strict.

OP’s posts: |
mrsnec Mon 03-Sep-18 07:49:43

I must admit it doesn't extend to drinks much in this house.

The rest of it happened by accident. You can't buy ready meals here and cooking sauce in jars are really expensive. I was essentially paying 4e a jar for water and modified startch so I stopped using it. I've never liked tinned veg or soup anyway.

We make our own bread and pizza too. I stopped buying cakes,biscuits and crisps for health reasons so as well as home baking we snack on nuts, olives and popcorn.

I think all that isn't too bad.

cdtaylornats Mon 03-Sep-18 08:14:47

Olives are processed of course, after harvest they sit in lye for 24 hours or brine for 6 weeks, otherwise they are too bitter to eat.

mrsnec Mon 03-Sep-18 08:21:20

Well I knew someone was going to pick me up on something.

I get given olives by my neighbours who process them themselves from their own trees in exchange for fruit from mine. I'd rather eat those than reach for the Pringles.

As others have said though it's about balance and where you draw the line.

grasspigeons Mon 03-Sep-18 08:27:28

I think its a good idea to make your own biscuits, cakes and other treats as I think you can reduce the sugar in quite a lot of recipes and also, as you say, there aren't lots of extras which are about either maximising profits, using up gluts, or making food travel and last longer. (thinking corn syrup and palm oil)

Also the same with sauces, soups and things like that.

I find home made pizza more filling and when I had gestational diabetes I could eat homemade pizza but a bought one made my blood sugar go mad. I think it was I used a wholegrain flour and didn't put sugar in my tomato sauce.

Almondio Mon 03-Sep-18 08:33:16

We generally tend to bake our own cakes and biscuits, pies and quiches etc. DCs eat low sugar cereal (shredded wheat or weetabix), we all have porridge or yoghurt and fruit, or eggs for breakfast.

We always make our own pasta sauces and stuff like spag bol, chilli, turkey meatballs, roast dinners, fish with pesto and breadcrumbs, lentil salads, veggie stirfries etc. We don't drink fizzy drinks tho the DCs (teens) have cordial.

I think if you stick to an 70/30 (or 80/20 if you can) fresh to processed guideline and do plenty of active stuff, drink water, keep snacks healthy and not too many sweets/alcohol then that's a pretty good balance.

BeardedMum Mon 03-Sep-18 08:38:13

I try to avoid processed food but only on best best effort basis. Never buy ready meals and we make our own pizza and bake our own cakes. I would not go as far as making my own ketchup as that would just take over my life. What I really struggle with is making our own bread. Whenever I try to bake buns they become so hard and don’t really last a day. I have spent so much time trying to get it rightsad

My children sadly also eat a lot of breakfast cereal. I find breakfast quite difficult to eat healthily as none of us are hungry early morning and its a lot easier to swallow some coco pops than heavy porride or my brick- buns......

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