Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Biggest Processed Food Holdout

When it comes to striving for "clean eating,"  I've had to change a lot of my food habits.  Winter Sundays used to mean baked potatoes for dinner, ice cream was my #1 comfort food, and coffee (loaded with International Delight) and Mountain Dew were what kept the blood running through my veins.  I've always "known" how to make healthier choices, but it wasn't until a few months ago that I actually started making them.

Part of the reason I chose veganism as my first self-imposed challenge was because I knew that taking away foods I loved would make me crazy, unless I replaced them with new things to love.  So, while I was pining for cheese-soaked chicken and pasta, I learned to love a whole bunch of new things.  During those 60 days, I also cut out the worst offenders, not necessarily just nonvegan foods.  Soda, potato chips, ice cream, some of my biggest food vices, were gone cold turkey.  I don't want them back.

But as I learn more about what goes into processed food and strive to keep away from it,  I'm drawn back to my biggest problem: breakfast.  Historically, I never ate breakfast, opting instead for a cup (or two, or three) of coffee with calorie-loaded artificial creamer.  Sometimes (frequently), I'd get home from work at 6:30pm never having had any solid food all day.  But my problem with breakfast usually wasn't time.  It was simply that I didn't like breakfast foods.  Cereal was boring and cold,  and my stomach could never handle something heavy like eggs or sweet like French toast early in the morning.

When I started the vegan thing, I figured I'd turn over a new leaf on all accounts and force myself to get into the habit of eating breakfast.  Still not keen on eating a lot that early, I opted to make a bowl of Cheerios with soy milk my AM tradition.  And now, five months later, I'm sticking to it with decent regularity.

So now that I've eliminated most processed food from my diet, I face a Cheerios conundrum:  should I give them up and try to find something more healthy and nutrient-rich to take their place, or should I keep eating them and consider this an exception that proves the rule?  And are Cheerios really that bad for you anyway?

The answer to the latter is rough: it really, really depends on who you ask.  It also depends on what you mean by "healthy."  Is feeding a kid a bowl of Cheerios better than feeding them a bowl of Froot Loops?  Yes.  Does a serving of Cheerios have less cholesterol than a plate of eggs and hash-browns?  Well, of course.  There are tons of breakfast options that are less healthy than Cheerios--including my former option of nothing at all.

But at the end of the day, it's still an extremely highly processed food, and really, most of the "whole grain" benefit you think you're getting is processed out or chemically altered.  People who claim it's healthy are quick to remind you that the most prevalent ingredient is "whole grain oats" while leaving out that second and third most prevalent are "modified corn starch" and "sugar."  (Refined sugar, by the way, is near the top of the clean eating blacklist.)

Ideally, I'd like to rid this from my diet.  But I'm at a loss for how to replace it.  Erica has been making her own oatmeal from scratch now, and as lovely as that is, I can't seem to get on board with the texture of the stuff.  We also, since the water-only thing has finished, have started making smoothies again, but I'm afraid a smoothie alone will leave me too hungry before lunchtime.  I'm thinking of making a challenge for myself where I branch out and try new things for breakfast.  I'm open to suggestions!


  1. My mom used to make her own oatmeal too, but was never big on texture. She found delicious ways to alter the texture by adding things like walnuts and cranberries. You'd be surprised how creative you can get with boring-old-oatmeal.

  2. A lot of people are telling me to give it another try, either with stuff in it or making it drier. I think both would help. Thanks!

    1. It's hard for me to spend time in the mornings with making Oatmeal that isnt "instant" I buy a brnad called "Uncle Sam" cereal from Krogers it is just whole oats, flax seeds, and a little sea salt. It isnt amazing tasting but at least I can say I know every ingrediant in the list