What are you buying? You read labels, see ads, read buzz words on menus. But for the most part, you really don’t know what you’re getting. That is, unless you ask the right questions.
What are you buying? – Industrial Food
The majority of food that is purchased throughout the world is called Industrial food. It is primarily the food you buy at your supermarket, mini mart or restaurant. Industrial food feeds billions of people on a daily basis. It includes produce, dairy, meat, eggs, bread, pasta, soup, pastries, nuts, seeds, butters, spices, oils, drinks, canned foods, and processed foods. It’s everything being sold everywhere for everyone!
Industrial Foods – Markets
There are some standard “pearls of wisdom” that many of us use that we believe will ensure we eat healthy. Two examples are “only shop the perimeter of the supermarket” and “stay away from processed foods”. These notions are only partially beneficial. The reality is that pretty much everyone is eating Industrial food that is mass produced for fast and convenient consumption. That is, unless they are consciously making an effort not to.
You may think you are doing better by paying $1.99 / pound vs 99 cents / pound when buying chicken. However, nutritionally it’s the same chicken. It’s been raised in feed lots, the hens are knee deep in their own feces, they’ve been injected with antibiotics and they are being fed a diet of mostly corn and soy! They are not grazing on pasture (even if it says cage-free), and when the label says, no-antibiotics, it usually means no antibiotics anywhere from 3 – 30 days before the animal was slaughtered. Similar outrageous standards are true for cow and pork.
Industrial Foods – Restaurants
How about restaurants? Take any national brand – Chili’s, Cheesecake Factory, Chipotle, Macaroni Grill etc. and order anything off their menu. It’s all Industrial food, all of it! So, you can go to Chipotle and spend $8 on a bowl of protein, some vegetables and starch, or go to Cheesecake Factory and spend twice as much for a similar dish. It’s the same food, perhaps prepared with a bit more skill in a sit-down restaurant. But it’s the same food.
The same goes for your favorite local restaurant that loves to use buzz words or phrases like ‘farm to table’, ‘made fresh’, ‘made from scratch’, etc. Once again, it’s all the same Industrial Food, cooked in industrial oils! If they are using those buzz words you need to ask about the details. You may get lucky and find they are sourcing from local, organic farms, but it’s more likely that won’t be the case.
If you decide to eat food at this level then the best advice is to choose cow over chicken. Chicken is the worst meat to buy. Also, be sure to pick produce from the ‘Clean 15’ list. And, yes, stay far away from processed food!
Tips for Eating Industrial Food
Sometimes you just cannot avoid eating industrial food. However, if you are in a situation where you have some control over your food choice you may use the following tips to minimize the effects of industrial foods:
- Do not eat processed food.
- Stop buying fast food.
- Avoid refined sugars.
- Avoid all vegetable oils (canola, soybean, cottonseed, peanut etc.).
- Stay away from HFCS, MSG and Artificial Colors.
- Stop drinking soda and ‘energy’ drinks.
- Follow the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen list.
- Buy beef over chicken and pork. Do not buy farm raised fish.
What are you buying? – Industrial Organic
Millions of people want to do better when it comes to what they are consuming and so they choose Industrial Organic food. These are the organic foods you’ll find at national grocery chains and big box stores. It includes, produce, dairy, meat, eggs, bread, pasta, soup, pastries, nuts, seeds, butters, spices, oils, drinks, canned foods, and processed foods…it’s readily available food, grown or prepared with slightly better standards than Industrial food for millions of people to consume!
Industrial Organic Produce
Let’s start with produce. You can basically walk into any supermarket and big-box store and find many organic options such as mangoes, blueberries and spinach. This produce is usually coming in from other countries like Mexico, Guatemala or China. It’s usually picked too early and perhaps have been sprayed with one of the approximately 25 synthetic pesticides and chemicals approved for organic farming.
Industrial Organic Meat
You can find organic chicken, beef, and pork from large industrial producers. This meat is better than Industrial, but the practices aren’t that different. The animals are still in feed lots, but here they are being fed a ‘vegetarian diet’, which usually means organic corn and soy. Chickens are omnivores and they like to eat bugs and worms, grass and plants. Cows are herbivores and their natural diet is grass and other plants.
Many of us think that “certified organic” is the gold standard for clean eating. However, this is where you need to educate yourself and start asking more questions. Once you begin to dig deeper, you will start to understand the various growing and buying practices used, and what it takes to scale the supply chain.
Industrial Organic Processed Foods
With regards to processed organic food options, think energy bars, cereals, frozen foods etc. These are some of the worst food options you can choose. Junk ingredients can exist whether the item is organic or not. In this case, it’s crucial that you let the ingredient list guide you. Pick up the item, turn it around, and read the ingredients; organic sugar is still sugar, organic soy is still soy! After you read the ingredients, you need to decide what is that product going to do for you? If it’s a sugar bomb masked in organic ingredients…it’s still a sugar bomb!
Overall, you are definitely making a better decision for you and your family to buy Industrial Organic when it comes to produce, meat, eggs, and dairy but beware of prepackaged organic processed foods.
What are you buying? – Industrial Pasture
More and more people are learning about the health benefits of eating pasture-raised meat and eggs. The nutrient density in pasture chicken is much higher than conventional, and the omega 3 levels in pasture beef is twice as high as industrial! The manufacturers are getting wise to this trend and they are jumping on the band-wagon and using terms like ‘pasture’ on their packaging when it really doesn’t mean pasture. The definition of pasture is simple – the animal is on grass, roaming and foraging for food. The farmer is able to turn the land on a daily basis so the nutrient density of the soil is high. This is non-existent in both Industrial and Industrial Organic farming practices.
The hens might have more room to roam or the cows might be eating grass but how is the land being turned? What else is the animal fed? How long before the hens lay their eggs do they get to the supermarket? These are all important questions to ask!
In our opinion, this layer is a waste of money. You should just leap-frog over this layer and go straight to Local Organic and Local Pasture.
What are you buying? – Local Organic and Local Pasture
This level is the highest level of food available to the general public. It’s rarely available in restaurants but it can be found at local farmers markets and carefully curated markets. Don’t assume that living in large urban areas guarantees you access to this type of food. You still have to ask questions. For example, it’s very chic to have backyard chickens and get eggs from a friend or neighbor. The first question to ask is, what do you feed the hens? Often the hens are being fed a scratch that has corn and soy (organic or not). The eggs might be ‘fresher’ than Industrial Pasture but that’s about it.
You might have a local farm that says their animals are on pasture. But then when you go to the farm there is no pasture. The animals are out on dirt. This is better than the categories below but not at the level which we’re describing. This level should represent the highest quality produce, meat, eggs, and dairy that is available. The price might be slightly higher than Industrial Organic but the health benefits and the return on your investment is priceless.
How to Find Local Organic and Local Pasture
We encourage you to go to your local farmer’s market and get to know your farmers. Ask them where their farm is located, if they offer farm tours, how they farm etc. Many of them might use organic farming practices but don’t have the resources to pay for the certification. As you begin to establish relationships with your farmer you’ll know when the hens laid their eggs and when the farmer harvested the produce. One important thing you’ll learn is what produce is in season. As you try to eat what’s in season you’ll start to realize that your body responds better. There’s a reason our bodies crave fruit and light salads in the summer and hearty stews in winter.
While you’re doing your research, watch out for the ‘roving farmers’. These are charlatans that pay for a stand and sell you product without any documentation or licenses. You want your farmer at your farmer’s market to be from your area. Not coming from several hundred miles away. You’ll get better at spotting your trusted vendors the more times you attend. If they’re there every week, it’s a good sign they are committed to what they’re doing and worthy of your support.
What are you buying? – Grow your own!
The best way to address “what are you buying?” is to grow your own. Yes, it would be awesome if we all had acreage and we were all skilled at farming and we could sustain and live off our land. But that’s just not realistic or feasible.
However, we can do simple things like grow herbs, plant fruit trees, or have a vegetable patch. It’s proven that when kids help to grow their own food then they are more likely to consume it. Our advice is to start small and then every season expand on your selection. For example, you might start a small herb garden and then add more herbs as you learn which ones grow best based on the climate and season. Too much? Maybe look at which herbs work well indoors and start there. Whatever choice you make, you’ll be one step closer on your journey for clean eating and you’ll be leading by example…which is exactly what is needed for this movement to grow and thrive.
So, what are you buying? You now have the tools to find out!
Check out the link below to see a live presentation of this information on our youtube channel!
We at I am a Clean Eater, do not want to tell you what your eating regimen should be. We only want to help support you wherever you are on your journey. The message is about understanding what’s at the end of your fork and making the best and most informed decisions for you and your lifestyle!
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