processed foods

All posts tagged processed foods

Nutrition Makeover in Progress

Published May 12, 2014 by Jennie

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One of the reasons I started this blog was to share my successes and failures as I try to make healthy nutrition and lifestyle changes.  It may end up helping me get pregnant and it may not.  Either way, I figured I could stand to be a little more healthy.  In this post, I am sharing some of the changes I have made.  I am in no way a nutrition expert and I know that different people have different nutritional needs.  Even so, I always appreciate feedback and suggestions from my fellow bloggers.  I have made progress but I still have a ways to go.

My Biggest Struggles

In my very first post I discussed my desire to eliminate soy from my diet.  This is really hard.  Soy is in everything!  Any tips on how to avoid soy are greatly appreciated!

When I make food at home, it does not last nearly as long as the processed version at the store (since it is not processed..duh!).  I feel like I throw away a lot more food than I used to.  Also, sometimes recipes call for a small amount of an ingredient but I have to buy it in a larger quantity.  For example, I had a recipe call for half a cup of buttermilk and the rest of it will probably go bad before I figure out something to do with it.

New and Improved Food Choices

This is not a list of everything but I thought I would share some of them.

crystal_light_onthego_icedtea dietcoke        aladdin

Old: Soda and other beverages with artificial sweetener
New: Good old H20

I really never though I could break my diet soda addiction. I ended up having to get rid of all artificial sweeteners to get it out of my system.  I love my new ninja water bottle (see picture).  It is BPA-free and also opens up in the middle so you can add ice or clean it.  I take one with me everywhere I go.


50FD8CC4-D194-E146-440E-8DA592682AAE    oatmeal-500x350

Old: Quaker Oats Oatmeal Variety Pack.  IngredientsMaple & Brown Sugar: Whole grain rolled oats, sugar, natural and artificial flavor, salt, calcium carbonate, guar gum, caramel color, naicinamide, reduced iron, vitamin A palmitate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, thiamin mononitrate, folic acid

New: Homemade oatmeal from 100 Days of Real FoodIngredients: Milk, plain rolled oats, honey, cinnamon, pure vanilla extract, toppings (fruit, chia seeds, nuts, etc).

While the recipe instructs you to cook this on a stove top, I sometimes pop it in the microwave for 90 seconds when I am in a hurry. Raisins make a yummy topping but they have a lot of sugar so I have tried different things.  It is really good with vanilla almond milk.  This breakfast will keep you full way into lunchtime.


cheezeit   cheese crackers

Old: Cheez-Its Reduced Fat. Ingredients: Enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, vegetable oil (soybean and palm oil with TBHQ for freshness), cheese made with skim milk (skim milk, whey protein, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes, annatto extract for color), contains two percent or less of salt, yeast extract, paprika, yeast, paprika oleoresin for color, soy lecithin.
New: Homemade Cheese Crackers from Tidy MomIngredients: Sharp cheddar cheese, butter, salt, flour, red pepper flakes, milk.

Ok so yes I know that cheese crackers are not a health food.  Even so, I love them and eat them as occasional treats.  I used to think the processed version was okay because it is reduced fat but I know realize that this is misleading.  To make my own, I use Cabot Seriously Sharp cheese that contains no dyes (Ingredients are pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes).  I also use whole wheat flour (I like King Author 100% Whole Wheat).  I never have regular milk so I use almond milk.  These crackers are a little darker and not bright orange but they are delicious!

speck    kind      5-Ingredient-Granola-Bars-MinimalistBaker.com_

Old: Special K Protein Bar. Ingredients: Soluble corn fiber, rolled oats, isolated soy protein, cereal (rice, whole grain wheat, sugar, wheat bran, soluble wheat fiber, salt, malt flavoring, vitamin b [thiamin mononitrate], vitamin b2 [riboflavin]), sugar, vegetable oil ( partially hydrogenated palm kernel, palm and canola oil), fructose, corn syrup, inulin from chicory root, rice, roasted peanuts, roasted almonds, dextrose, contains 2% or less of sorbitol, glycerin, calcium carbonate, nonfat yogurt powder (cultured non fat milk [heat treated after cultured]) nonfat milk, whey, salt, soy lecithin, caramel color, natural and artificial flavors, niacinamide, bht (preservative), vitamin b6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), iron, riboflavin.
Middle: Kind Bars.  Ingredients: Mixed nuts (peanuts, almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts), dried fruits (raisins, apricot [apricot paste, glycerol (vegetable based), pectin, apple fiber, citric acid], dates), honey, chicory fiber, non-gmo glucose, puffed rice, flax seed, soy lecithin.
New: Homemade Granola Bars from the Minimalist BakerIngredients: Dates, honey, peanut or almond butter, rolled oats, anything else you want to add (fruits, nuts, chocolate, vanilla, etc).

I don’t want to speak badly of an entire brand but it seems that a lot of Kellogg’s products are highly processed.  I switched over to Kind Bars but then realized that it is easy to make them at home.  You do not even need to bake them!  Once they are made you can keep in them in the refrigerator for about 5 days or freeze them.  It is fun to experiment by adding different stuff to them.  All of these bars do have a considerable amount of sugar (added or natural) so I usually only eat these before a workout as opposed to a regular snack.

I wish there was an instruction manual for all of this!  Thanks for reading 🙂 – Jennie


Published April 30, 2014 by Jennie

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For those of you not familiar with my story, my husband and I decided in December to resume fertility treatments in May.  In January, I decided I would do everything possible to improve my physical, mental, emotional health.  I have worked hard and have made some significant changes.  Things were going great until a few weeks ago.  I have kept many of my good habits (no soda, artificial sweetener, limited added sweeteners, etc). Even so, I have let a lot of things slide.  I’ve been cooking less and relying more on quick meals which are more likely to be processed.  I have also not been to the gym as much and when I go, I have been focusing mainly on cardio (I know that it does not do me much good unless I balance it with strength and flexibility training).

I should also say that this time correlates with the end of my last semester of doctoral classes.  I have telling myself I have just been to busy to be healthy.  Logically, I know my reasoning is full of crap.  Being healthy is a lifestyle, not just something you do when you have time.  Life will always be busy.  I can not just be healthy when its convenient.  I am really disappointed with myself.  I also have this crazy thought that maybe I am sabotaging myself.  It would be extremely difficult to accept that I did everything to prepare myself for fertility treatments and I still failed.  I feel like I may be setting myself up to fail because I can not handle being let down again.  Why is it so hard for me to stay positive?  I get so tired of trying to be perfect.  I just want to hide in my closet and eat ice cream. – Jennie

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I’m So Smooth!

Published March 16, 2014 by Jennie

Last week I went home to spend time with my parents.  It is crazy to think that when I was a teenager, I could not wait to leave home and now that I am adult, I wish I could spend more time there!  While at home, we made whole pumpkin spelt muffins (which are addictive beware!).  We had some leftover pumpkin purée which we used a few days later to make pumpkin pancakes (I used pumpkin spice mix instead of nutmeg).  These were also delicious and idiot proof to make which I often need.  I am not under any delusion that pancakes are healthy but who really wants to live in a world without pancakes?  I decided to look into the ingredients and see if there was any room to make healthy changes.  Please note that food pictures and nutrition information are from (one of my favorite websites!).

In the past, we used to use Bisquick Pancake & Baking Mix.


Here is a list of the ingredients: enriched flour bleached (wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), corn starch, dextrose, partially hydrogenated soybean and/or cottonseed oil, leavening (baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate), canola oil, salt, sugar, datem, distilled monoglycerides. contains wheat ingredients.

If ingredients are not your concern, it is easy (and cheaper) to make a Bisquick equivalent at home (see recipe here from another great blog).

I also like to top my pancake with cinnamon and a little bit of butter. At the grocery store, there seems to be countless varieties of butter and margarine to choose from.


Ingredients: Liquid Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Whey, Salt, Vegetable Mono- and Diglycerides and Soy Lecithin (Emulsifiers), Sodium Benzoate (to Preserve Freshness), Natural and Artificial Flavor, Vitamin A Palmitate, Colored with Beta Carotene (Source of Vitamin A), Vitamin D3.

The Mayo Clinic says that compared to butter, margarine is healthier because it does not contain cholesterol. This is a valid point for consideration. My health goal, however, is to try my best to stay away from processed foods.

I used to buy I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter

Ingredients: Vegetable Oil Blend (Liquid Soybean Oil, Palm Oil, Palm Kernel Oil, Liquid Canola Oil), Water, Natural Sweet Cream Buttermilk (Adds a Dietarily Insignificant amount of cholesterol), Salt, Vegetable Mono and Diglycerides, Natural Soy Lecithin, Potassium Sorbate, Calcium disodium EDTA (used to protect quality), Citric Acid, Artificial Flavor, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta Carotene (for Color)

This does not look good. I decided to look into actual real butter.

Trader Joe’s Butter Quarters

Ingredients: Pasteurized cream.
This product is high in saturated fat so should be consumed sparingly. For me, though, I prefer to consume the real thing on a rare occasions compared to processed alternatives. I have also found good substitutes for butter.


So ghee is technically a class of clarified butters (read about it here) but for my purposes, I use the terms interchangeably.
Ingredients: unsalted butter, contains milk

I LOVE this stuff. It is also shelf stable and lasts a really long time unrefrigerated. You can actually even make ghee at home. I have not yet done so but I did find a recipe that I think I could handle without messing things up too bad. Also, for your viewing pleasure, I included a picture from the same site of the part of butter that is removed when making ghee.
tumblr_lx7llhv1ic1qdei8m (1)
Looks appetizing right 🙂

There are also good substitutes for butter including applesauce, olive oil, coconut oil, Greek yogurt, and fruit purée. For me, butter substitutions are okay sometimes when baking. If anyone has other substitutions or input I would love to hear them. I have actually gotten lots of good tips from other people’s comments (both to my blog and others I follow). Happy eating! – Jennie

A Cheesy Post

Published February 9, 2014 by Jennie


So cheese is one of my favorite foods.  Nothing is more comforting then curling up with a grilled cheese (and maybe some tomato soup) especially when it is rainy or cold outside  Cheese is not something I will ever give up so I wanted to learn how it may impact my fertility and overall health.  Here is what I found.


As I researched cheese, I kept seeing warnings about listeria.  I had heard about this in the past but was not really sure what it is.  According to WebMD, consuming listeria can increase the chance of miscarriage.  According to, the following foods can become contaminated:

  • Ready-to-eat deli meats and hot dogs
  • Refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads
  • Unpasteurized (raw) milk and dairy products
  • Soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk, such as queso fresco, Feta, Brie, Camembert
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood
  • Raw sprouts

It looks like avoiding soft cheese may be a good idea (especially if I ever do become pregnant).  While I have never taken a pregnancy test, I think there may have been times I was pregnant and lost it very early.  My cycle is usually like a clock but a few times I was a week late and felt several pregnancy symptoms.  Even though I love cheese, I rarely eat soft versions so for me this will not be to difficult to avoid.  There are other foods on this list that I plan to deal with later.

While information sources do not always agree, many claim that for women, cheese is ok for fertility.  Some sources recommend it due to its calcium (of course in moderation!).  Other sources state that it can aggravate conditions such as PCOS and Endometrosis.  I have unexplained infertility and testing indicates these conditions are not an issue for me.

I did learn that cheese may impact male fertility.  Men who eat 3+ serving of full fat dairy may have poorer quality sperm (You can read more about this here and here.  Lucky for me, my DH is not big on dairy.  He has also had several tests which indicate his swimmers are super healthy.  I know that these tests do not tell you everything but this is still good news.


As I have said before, one of my health goals is to cut out processed food by paying attention to food labels and ingredients.  I took a look at a few of the cheeses I sometimes buy.

Shredded Cheese 


Shredded Cheese is so convenient!  Unfortunately, I found that it may not be the healthiest option.  According to Fooducate, here are the ingredients

Vermont White Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Nonfat Milk and Milkfat, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes), Sharp Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Nonfat Milk and Milkfat, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto [Color]), Mild Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Nonfat Milk and Milkfat, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto [Color]), Potato Starch, Cellulose Powder, and Calcium Sulfate Added to Prevent Caking, Natamycin (a Natural Mold Inhibitor).

Um, this looks a little scary.  Lets check out a few of the ingredients

Annatto: This is a seed or extract primarily used to give cheese its yellow/orange color (apparently, cheese is not naturally bring yellow/orange).  The FDA states that certification of this food additive is not necessary to protect public health.  Some sources suggest that there may be issues with annatto but overall, it does not look that bad.  Even so, I do like to avoid food dye and additives when I can.

Cellulose Powder: states that cellulose is derived mainly from wood pulp and cotton, is used in paper ­manufacturing—and sometimes added to food.  Humans can’t digest it(this does not mean it harms us).  The FDA says it is safe but I am thinking this may not be the best thing to consume if my goal is to focus on avoiding processed foods.

Natamycin: This is also used to treat fungal eye infections.  It has a C rating for pregnancy which simply means that one can not rule out a risk (it does not mean that it is dangerous for sure).  The European Food Safety Authority  also says it is safe to consume and I could not find any FDA warnings.  One concern I did find is that it can lead to antibiotic resistance.

Sliced Cheese

I often use sliced cheese to make sandwiches.  This helps me with portion and calorie control.  While those are not my primary health concerns, it is good to keep them in check.  Using a slice prevents helps me control my serving.  One cheese I like is Trader Joe’s sliced provolone.  It has a 100 calories per slice.


According to Fooducate, here is the list of the ingredients: pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, animal rennet, salt.

Animal Rennet: Rennet is a complex of enzymes found in the stomach of baby mammals that allows them to process mother’s milk (

According to , here are some things to know

What you need to know:

1. Cheese has been manufactured using rennet for thousands of years, mostly in Europe.

2. Indeed, rennet is extracted from the lining of the inside of the stomach of mammals, and most commonly from the fourth stomach of young calves.

3. Rennet contains enzymes that cause milk to become cheese, by separating it into the solid curds and the liquid whey.

4. Different animal rennet are used as well to create other types of cheese.

5. Most cheese in the US is NOT manufactured using rennet, mostly due to the availability of cheaper alternatives.

6. Vegetable rennet is made from certain vegetables that have coagulation properties as well. Thistle is the most common form.

7. Microbial rennet is derived from molds. Yum. A side effect is a slightly bitter tasting cheese.

8. Genetically engineered rennet is derived from plants that have been injected with cow genes.

What to do at the supermarket:

9. Companies are not legally required to disclose the source of the rennet, so unless the product specifically states a non-animal source for rennet, you won’t know.

10. Another way to verify that the rennet is not from an animal source is to look for a kosher symbol. According to Jewish dietary laws, milk and meat ingredients cannot be mixed or eaten at the same time.

Overall, animal rennet does not look awful and may be hard to identify.  It does though have a pretty big ick factor.  If I had a choice, I would choose cheeses that did not contain it.

Block Cheese

Here are a few I sometimes buy


Ingredients: Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurized Nonfat Milk and Milkfat, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes, Annatto (Color)), Natamycin (a Natural Mold Inhibitor).


Ingredients: cultured pasteurized milk, salt, enzymes, annatto.

Cheese from Walmart actually looks better.  Even so, for many reasons, I am trying to shop less at Walmart.  Next I looked into other options.


Ingredients: Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes. Contains No Animal Rennet.

HOORAY!  It has no dyes (annatto) and specifically states that it has no animal rennett!  For some reason though, I had a hard time accepting that it is not yellow/orange.  I don’t know why this was an issue but it was.  After trying it, my concern subsided.  It is delicious!  It is also not crazy expensive.  An 8 oz block at Harris Teeter (a common grocery store in my area) costs $3.49, Kraft costs $3.89, and Harris Teeter store brand costs $3.19.  Of course this is not the only cheese I will ever eat.  Even so, I now have a lot of information I can use when buying one of my favorite foods.

I am now ending with a cheesy quote 🙂 (Get it?  I know I’m awful)