With hectic schedules and limited budgets, staying healthy on campus can be quite the challenge. While popping in a lean microwave meal and grabbing a diet coke may seem like a healthy choice at the end of a long day, have you ever stopped to read the ingredients in these so-called “healthy” foods?
Processed foods (even the “healthy” ones) contain a variety of additives which alter color, taste, and shelf life. Some of the most common additives are sodium nitrate, aspartame, and BHA. Once eaten, these additives have the potential to significantly alter one’s health.
Sodium nitrate can be found in almost any packaged meat product available. Once consumed, Sodium nitrate has the potential to transform into a cancer-promoting substance. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener used in the place of sugar. Known side effects include headaches, weight gain, rashes, fatigue, irritability, heart palpitations, dizziness, insomnia, and seizures. BHA is typically found in butter, margarine, vegetable oil, packaged cereal, granola bars, crackers, bread, beer, and potato chips. The National Institute of Health links BHA to increased rates of cancer.
The only way to guarantee your health is not negatively affected by such additives is to avoid processed foods altogether.
Blogger Lisa Leake started an online phenomenon when she documented 100 days in which she did not eat processed foods with such additives. Her rules were simple:
1. No refined grains such as white flour or white rice. Wheat items must be whole wheat.
2. No refined sweeteners such as Splenda or corn syrup.
3. Nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle, or package with more than 5 ingredients.
4. No deep fried foods.
5. No fast foods.
Leake encourages those who are concerned about the ingredients in processed foods to take on her less intimidating “10 Days of Real Food” challenge. It will completely redefine your definition of “healthy” and probably help you shed a few pounds along the way!
If you decide to take on the challenge, here are a few pointers from my experience with cutting out processed foods:
1. Purge the processed! If you have processed foods filling up your freezer, you are more likely to break the challenge. So, get those temptations out of there!
2. Plan ahead! Before the challenge begins, be sure to plan out your meals and snacks. If the food is readily available in your kitchen, you will be more likely to eat it versus a processed alternative such as calling for delivery.
3. Pack those lunches! Vending machines will be calling your name if you stay on campus all day without something yummy to munch on. Be sure to take snacks or even meals when you leave the house so you are not tempted by the processed foods at every corner.
4. Start reading those labels! The more you read them, the more you become aware of what you are putting into your body.
For more information on switching to real foods and for delicious recipes visit 100daysofrealfood.com!