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When I was a kid my mom cooked almost everything from scratch because we were dirt poor. When I say dirt poor, I mean there was no heat in my bedroom and the first new outfit I got was purchased with my own money at the age of 14. When I moved out of the house I did not carry on those homemade traditions, because they screamed poverty to me.
Now I am a wife and mom who not only works outside of the home, I am 100% self-employed and own 3 businesses. My husband works 2 jobs, oh, and did I mention we only have 1 car? I am busy! Often too busy to make things from scratch, and quite frankly, if you use quality ingredients it isn’t always cheaper to cook from scratch anymore, anyways.
So why would I add the seeming inconvenience to cook from scratch to my already-busy schedule? Sugar.
I LOVE documentaries, particularly ones covering environmental and social issues, so if it is on Netflix, I have probably seen it. I have even got my action-movie-loving husband to start watching some food documentaries with me because he says they guilt him into eating healthier. Last weekend I decided to
make him watch introduce him to the documentary Fed Up.
I had seen this one before, but had forgotten just how shocking the content was. Fed Up talks about the obesity epidemic in our country, and WHY it is still rampant even though so many low-fat and low-calorie foods are available. Even though we eat fairly healthy around here, my husband and I both need to drop some weight, and after re-watching this documentary, I feel like I have a much clearer picture as to why it has been such a struggle. There is sugar in almost literally everything!
From ketchup, to bread, to yogurt, to pasta sauce, a vast majority of the processed foods we eat contain some form of added sugar, be it cane, high-fructose corn syrup, dextran, or one of the other bazillion names for added sugar. They all have the same effect on the body, and are causing sugar to be consumed in alarming amounts. The average American consumes 130-170 POUNDS of sugar every year. Not only is that way more than the recommended amount, it’s over 5 times more than we were consuming 100 years ago.
Excess sugar dramatically increases the risk of disease, it’s hard on your liver, and quite frankly, it’s making us fat. One of the most shocking parts of Fed Up is when they analyze the belly fat of several boys from the same family, who eat a less-than-stellar diet. One of the boys was overweight, but the others were average, even thin. But all of them had a high body fat percentage, putting even the thinnest ones at high risk for diseases often associated with obesity.
Shocking, right? So what steps can we take to start eliminating sugar from our diets? Stop buying food in packages. Cook from scratch.
This can seem overwhelming at first, but as is my mantra with almost everything in life, I am making better choices when I can. One unexpected source of added sugar in our diet was canned beans. So, I started buying dry beans in bulk, cooking them up in the crock pot, and bagging them in two cup portions. Another source was pasta sauce. While it is tempting budget-wise to grab those 99¢ cans, homemade blows them out of the water taste-wise, and it’s pretty easy to make. I haven’t worked up to making our own condiments, and bread and things like that, but those are definitely goals of mine this year. You may think you don’t have time to make things from scratch, but it really boils down to priorities. We are all busy, but we make time for what is important to us.
This article has some tips for starting to cut sugar from your diet, but be prepared – it’s not going to be easy. Some studies have suggested that sugar is more addictive than cocaine, which is scary in it’s own right. Start with small choices, like getting rid of alcohol and junk food. Now, there is little more I love than a glass of wine at night, but now it is reserved for a treat once in a while instead of a regular in my diet. Then start making some healthy swaps, like mung bean noodles instead of white pasta (I promise, they are actually pretty good! We also like the Einkorn spaghetti from Young Living). Don’t overhaul everything at once, or you won’t stick with it. The less sugar you have in your diet, the less you will even want to eat those kinds of foods.
My goal is to tackle swapping a processed product with a homemade product once a week. This week I am working on a recipe for homemade salad dressing. I already have one for peanut butter, and next I will tackle ketchup.
If you would like to do a little more research into this, I would recommend the books Fat Land: How We Got Overweight, and Why Diets Fail. There are lots of great food documentaries on Netflix like Fed Up, Fat Sick And Nearly Dead 1 & 2, PlantPure Nation, Hungry For Change, and more.
This information has made me want to drastically change my diet, but following through is sometimes another matter. To cook from scratch requires planning ahead, and can be a significant time commitment depending on the dish you are preparing, but I think the health benefits far outweigh the inconvenience, and I am excited to start implementing these changes.
I am blessed with kids that love fruits and vegetables as much as they love their sweets, but I don’t want to completely deprive them of treats. By cooking more foods from scratch and eliminating the sneaky, hidden sugar in our diet, their sugar intake will be radically decreased, even with the occasional treat.
Are you willing to cook from scratch in order to clean up your family’s diet? Remember, start small, and just concentrate on making the better choice on decision at a time.