Friday, October 24, 2014

Mad Gourmet goes Unprocessed

October Unprocessed 2014

A little change of pace on this post…

I tried the October Unprocessed Challenge this month. I was intrigued with the challenge and decided to give it a try. I thought it would be relatively easy since I eat pretty clean, eat at home, have a lot of veggies, whole grain, and really wholesome treats… most of the time.

For those not familiar with the October challenge, the challenge is going for an entire month without eating any processed foods. According to eating, unprocessed food is any food that passes the Kitchen Test, i.e. “food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with whole-food ingredients.” ”It does not mean that you have to cook it yourself; it just means you could do it.”

Deliberate Exceptions

In the challenge, you get Deliberate Exceptions. These would be “cases” where the unprocessed rule will  not apply. This was a lifesaver for me, since this was my first time.

Morning Chai. I added chai to my exception list because I need it to wake up in the morning. I tried to switch to coffee once, but coffee on an empty stomach gave me issues. It was not good. Choosing chai over coffee was the lesser of two evils.

I guess technically this can be considered as unprocessed. Although I can probably make my own chai mix, I have not found the ultimate flavor mix. I really like one of the packaged chai mix, but the only drawback is that it is full of sugar. For next year, I will try to cut down on the sugar by combining it with regular chai tea.

Exploration Weekends. When we dine out or exploring, I would bend the unprocessed rules a bit since I love exploring new foods and flavors. Admittedly, I am not sure how these are made. I will still try to make better choices whenever I can.

Setting My Intention: Goals

As part of the challenge, you do need to set what your intention or what you want to accomplish. I did not really have clear goals since this is my first Unprocessed challenge, but here’s the direction that I set.
  • Know where my weak points are, so I can further improve my diet.
  • Make better selections during snack time.
  • Be gentle with myself. This is my first unprocessed challenge.

My other goal was not to waste food, not just for October, but all the time. There is so much hunger in this country that throwing away good food is unacceptable. I kept my processed foods in our pantry and save them for “emergencies” or after the challenge.

Challenges within the Challenge
Veggie Burgers. Veggie burgers are usually my go-to lunch when I am working from home. So easy to make especially when you have a really busy work day: pop in the pan, put it between bread, add lettuce and tomatoes.

Unfortunately, veggie burgers are considered processed. I decided that in this case: turkey burgers would probably be better. I try not to have too much meat during the day, so I switched to egg salad sandwiches, salads, or veggie bowls.  Occasionally, I would have a tuna salad sandwich. These options seem to be gentler to my system.

Although I can make my tofu patties (plain, with kale and quinoa, or butternut squash), I am not sure how tofu stands on the unprocessed list and really did not have time to make fresh patties (Work has been taking over my life lately).

Chips. One of the things that I really craved was chips!!! I really need/want that savory (or is it unami?) snack mid-afternoon. I almost broke down and dug into the Lay’s chips my husband bought. That was really tough. I was able to resist, but I knew I realized that this is one of my weak spots.

During the first week, I was finishing off the remaining snappea crisps and I read an article that Snap Pea Crisps are considered processed (WHAT!!!). So disappointed…

I went to Whole Foods and looked for alternatives. The best one that I thought of was the Terra Chips. I figured root vegetables would be able to pass the kitchen test. Looking at the label, there are some ingredients that I cannot pronounce. So I do not think it will pass the kitchen test. I had a handful… and that was the last one since. Since then, I’ve satisfied my savory craving with nuts… pistachios mostly. Added bonus: it fills me up unlike the chips. Pair it with some apple slices, I get a sweet and salty combination and can last through dinner.

Chocolate. Oh, the rules for Chocolate are extensive. As expected, this would be the biggest challenge. I do cheat on this, but I try to choose bars where I can recognize most of the ingredients. My savior has been chocolate-covered almonds – the only ingredient I could not recognize was gum acacia, which in my limited reading, seems to be natural ingredient. During my first week, I was having my chocolate chips, but I ran out. I should remember that for next year.


This was challenge was really tough, even for one who eats pretty clean. You find certain habits that can have been so ingrained, but should be slightly modified. Veggie burgers and chips were difficult to break, but I found alternatives.

I guess my weakness is unami snacks and convenience.  Other than the chai or the chocolate, I really did not have an issue with sugar.

Another surprise (with sugar) is how it appears unexpectedly in foods. Sweet relish has high fructose corn syrup (REALLY?). I got to find another brand.

This really gives me an opportunity to refine my diet. Although I plan to do the challenge again next year, I’ll start these changes now… and we’ll see what other refinements we can do next year.

One more week then I can have chips… maybe.

For more details on October Unprocessed... look here.

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