Someone asked me for suggestions for how to prepare for the month, as she is feeling nervous. The answer is, “It depends.” It depends on what you’re eating now, whether you are comfortable cooking, and whether you already eat fairly close to unprocessed now. My weekly posts should help you with that week’s target meal (Breakfast week starts Monday 10/1 with the how-to post on Sunday 9/30). But I wanted to offer some more general tips that will help you regardless of your current eating habits. I’m also participating in the Vegan MoFo (Vegan Month of Food) so I’ll be offering even more tips throughout the month on moving to a plant-based diet, sharing some round-up posts, and showing you what I’m eating on my Facebook page.
1. Take an honest look at your eating habits now. If everything you eat comes from a drive-through or a crinkly plastic bag, you will have a harder time adjusting to eating unprocessed. It’s not impossible, but you should be prepared for some challenges.
2. How often do you poop? I know, such a rude question. But if you eat processed food, you might only poop once or twice a week. Unprocessed eaters poop two to three times a day, which is how our bodies are designed to function. You might find yourself with a lot of gas and bloating as you adjust to eating unprocessed foods, so go easy on yourself and drink lots of water. If you don’t currently eat any beans, eat small servings (a couple of bites) once a day to begin. Your body, and your colon, will thank you for it over time!
3. Take a look inside your fridge and cupboards. What do you see? If it’s mostly processed foods right now, start thinking about substitutions you can make.
4. Make a list of what you ate yesterday. You don’t have to show it to anyone. Circle all the foods that don’t pass “the kitchen test.” Now think of an unprocessed item you could exchange for each one, and make a shopping list. The kitchen test: Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with whole-food ingredients.
5. If you’re really serious about making a long-term change, clean out your pantry, fridge, and freezer. If you think it’s likely that you will turn to these foods in a moment of weakness, you’ll need to get them out of your house. You can donate unopened items to a food bank, and/or see if some of your neighbors or co-workers might want things that are opened. Explain you’re trying something new this month and you don’t want things to go to waste. I have never had anyone say no to free food, even though they might be surprised at first.
6. Remember that you don’t have to cook everything yourself. Purchased food with simple ingredients is A-OK. Consider pre-cooked brown rice, rice or grain mixes with simple ingredients, and canned beans. See this post from last year’s October Unprocessed challenge for more information on how I compared products. If you already cook a lot, then make a list of your go-to recipes and see how unprocessed they are. If they need some renovating, search here for an alternative.
7. Start reading labels. It’s the most time-consuming part of making this change, but it doesn’t last forever. I have a list of great unprocessed, gluten-free items I like and use here.
8. Write up your reasons for going Unprocessed on index cards and post them on your fridge and bathroom mirror.
9. Think about what you are going to eat at work. While we can control everything at home, work is another story. Plan your snacks; plan to start walking or doing the stairs when you might otherwise eat a doughnut or hit the vending machine. Having a plan is key. Don’t leave it to chance.
10. Have fun! This isn’t a test, or meant to be a chore. Think of this month as a 31-day trip to a foreign country. Eat new foods. Try new restaurants. Get together with friends and have an unprocessed party.
And most of all, keep commenting here and on my Facebook page. Let me know how I can help!