If you're sitting there mindlessly eating a bag of chips or a packaged cookie while reading this article, we hope that by the end of it you'll put those down and join Andrew Wilder in his annual movement, October Unprocessed.
SheKnows: Why unprocessed? Why not gluten-free/sugar-free/fat-free?
Andrew Wilder: October Unprocessed is ultimately an awareness exercise. It's not a weight-loss plan, and it's not a fad diet. The idea is to really look at all the foods you're putting in your body and ask yourself, ingredient by ingredient, if it's something that's actually real food.
Although I encourage people to define "processed" however they see fit, I like to use my "Kitchen Test" definition. The idea is that if a person of reasonable skill could make the food in a home kitchen with whole-food ingredients, it's unprocessed. It doesn't mean you have to make it yourself, just that you have to read the ingredient list and know that you could, at least in theory, make it yourself.
By applying this test to everything you eat, it increases your awareness — and you'll end up eating a lot more real food and a lot less of what Michael Pollan calls "edible, food-like substances."
SK: What's the hardest thing you've found to eat unprocessed? Have you conquered it yet or just push it aside come October?
AW: We eat almost entirely unprocessed throughout the year, but I'm always much stricter in October. It's the little things that have been the biggest challenge recently — specifically, thickeners like xanthan gum, lecithin, "natural" flavors and preservatives. It's amazing how many foods would qualify as unprocessed except they add these additional ingredients. I'm extremely careful in October, of course, and I do work hard to keep those items out of my diet — but I'll admit, sometimes they do creep in during the rest of the year.
One thing that I think is important to add is what I call the "deliberate exception" clause. The idea is that there may be some foods that are healthy — that truly promote health — but might not strictly pass the kitchen test. For example, when we make bread at home, we use 100 percent whole wheat flour, and we add a little bit of extra vital wheat gluten to help the texture. Strictly speaking, vital wheat gluten doesn't pass the kitchen test — but we figure that eating homemade, whole-grain bread is a net-positive, and it's worth making a deliberate exception. Of course, it's important to make these exceptions beforehand (that's why they're deliberate!) — and not just use them as an excuse to cheat.
SK: How do you inspire the community around you to eat unprocessed?
AW: I think the most important thing to do is lead by example. I do my best to "practice what I preach" — except that I also try not to preach (people hate being told what to do!). I just speak from my own experience and maybe give people a gentle little nudge every so often.
SK: What are some of your favorite unprocessed essential recipes?
AW: Oh, that's a tough one to answer — since I love so many recipes! Breakfast potatoes are a favorite weekend brunch dish in our house. I've been making portobello mushroom blue cheese burgers for years (yes, almost all cheeses pass the kitchen test!). Slow cooker "refried" beans are super-easy, ridiculously inexpensive and another staple in our house. And for a sweet treat, honey nut amaranth alegrias simply can't be beat (they're like Rice Krispies Treats times a million!).
I've got a recipe archive on my blog, of course, and throughout October I'll be publishing at least one recipe every day by guest food bloggers who are joining in the challenge.
SK: Who are some of your favorite food bloggers that share unprocessed recipes? Where do you get your inspiration when you are in a rut and just want to eat junk food?
AW: I'm friends with a lot of food bloggers, so I'll get in trouble if I only call out a few of them! The best answer is to read the guest posts on my site throughout October — you'll find a whole lot of wonderful bloggers contributing. As for when I just want to eat junk food? I'll eat junk food! We can't deprive ourselves completely, or we'll never be able to stick with the plan. That's why I'm such a big fan of the cheat meal!
Be sure to follow Andrew and the October Unprocessed movement on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest and Instagram for updates, motivation and recipes! Ready to take the challenge? Sign up today!
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