Weeding Food Products Out of my Pantry: Stage One

Railroad tank car transporting high fructose c...

HFCS on the Move

What is a food product to me? A food product is anything that has ingredients in the label that send me to a dictionary or failing that Google. It is most things that are already in a box sitting on a shelf or in a freezer, ready to eat with just the addition of water or heat. Perhaps most importantly it is anything that has HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) in it. Do not misunderstand me, I am not anti-sweetener, HFCS is artificial, as in we have to create it by adding enzymes changing its glucose into fructose and though the debate rages on, Princeton University as well as other studies have linked HFCS to obesity. Our mouths may like the way it tastes, but our bodies do not like processing it. Moreover, I don’t like the fact that it seems to be in virtually everything. It makes me feel tricked into eating sweeteners when I don’t want them, making me feel as if I am not in control of what is going into my body.

The first thing I had to do in my quest was to remove all food products that were already in my house and believe me I dreaded doing it knowing I was going to lose some of my favorite treats.  This meant reading all the labels on everything that was prepackaged. The first label was the label of my Freeze Fruit bars, lime being my favorite. It had what I expected: water, lime purée, sugar  (I was getting excited at this point) and then the dreaded corn syrup solid reared its ugly head. Sorry, Freeze Fruit you’re out. I wasn’t even exactly sure what a corn syrup solid was, corn syrup powder basically. Next was my ‘bread.’ It was out because even though the label on the front boasted 4 grams of fiber in 2 slices, 13 grams of whole grains, and no HFCS, I definitely needed a dictionary for its label. It’s bread, how complicated does it need to be? And not for nothing why is the label boasting things that are the very definition of the product? If you aren’t getting fiber or grains with your bread it isn’t bread anymore, it’s a poser. Out went my cereals, corn flakes and O’s for dictionary reasons, which means I have to stop being lazy and go back to making granola like I used to. I didn’t even bother to read the label on my secret stash of Kraft Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese that I sometimes just crave for unknown reasons, and no, the other brands are not the same.  But my Trader Joes organic baked beans got to stay as well as my ketchups, which was a delightful surprise! In case anyone wants to know, both the Whole Foods Organic brand and the Trader’s Joes Brand are HFCS free.

The next thing I had to do was commit myself to reading labels every time I went to a store. And believe me, reading the label of a salsa jar while not quite sober requires more will and energy than one might think. Even sober, reading labels can be time-consuming as well as disheartening. All junk food is out, obviously. The upside has been that cutting out food products forces me to really think about what I want to eat. For example: do I want chocolate chip cookies badly enough to make them, or do I just want the immediate gratification moment? That moment when I imagine creaming the butter, smelling the musky sweetness of the vanilla, cracking the beautiful eggs I got from the farmers market with their bright orange yolks, watching the mahogany color of the dark brown sugar deepen as it joins the other wet ingredients, is either a fantasy or the inspiration to make the cookies. Either way, that moment, the time that it takes to make the decision, that hesitation, that respect for my ingredients and my body is the reconnection with my love for food and my food environment that I am searching for. And already that makes this endeavor well worth it.

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