When I was growing up, there was no better lunch than a grilled cheese sandwich coupled with a bowl of Campbell’s Tomato Soup. Today, that meal continues to provide much comfort for me. Although, now the cheese is processed from cashew nuts and the soup is homemade. For the moment, back to tomatoes, as there was such a bumper crop this summer. I am busy preparing various tomato dishes. My recipe this month is so simple, I am almost embarrassed to offer it, but it’s too delicious and nutritious to neglect: my homemade tomato soup, minus the sugar.
What I have begun to realize is that just about all prepared foods, even the ones made with organic ingredients, contain “organic cane sugar.” That might sound good, but it’s not. We are deluged with too much sugar in our diets today. Maybe Americans are so programmed to the taste of sugar, we have trouble getting along without it. Unfortunately, the taste for it begins in childhood with the cereals and many other products containing sugar. As early as I can remember, those around me were pouring sugar on grapefruit, cereal, oatmeal, and other foods. I think there is a place for sugar, let’s say, in a piece of chocolate or some type of dessert, but do we need it in breakfast foods, lunch meats, and dinner entrees?
A realization I had when I first started drinking almond and coconut milk was that it was too sweet. First, I bought the Silk Almond Milk Light which provides 40 calories per serving. When I tasted it, I could tell immediately that it contained sugar. Then, I noticed that the original Unsweetened Silk Almond Milk contains 30 calories per serving with no sugar. Now if you are a consumer, you might just think, as I had, that the Light version would be healthier than the original. Not! In addition, I had bought Raw Meal by Garden of Life along with Raw Protein by Garden of Life in chocolate (my fav) and was planning to whip up my liquid breakfast with some Silk Almond Chocolate Milk at 100 calories per serving. Yes, it contains cane sugar ( 17 grams/serving), but for meal substitution, perhaps that’s not too worrisome. My argument is not one of calories although that matters down the road. My point is about taste and how we Americans are programmed from an early age to love sugar.
When you’ve been literally blasted by sugar your entire life, what happens when you try to eliminate it from your diet? Nothing earth shaking if you are getting enough fiber, thank goodness. The worst of it is that you miss that sugary taste and that might be what drives you back to your old habits. Yes, at first, the taste seems bland or even unpalatable. But if you persist, you will soon find yourself preferring the non-sugar version! Keep at it, and keep away from the inside grocery aisles, because the majority of prepared food contains sugar.
Even frozen organic foods contain sugar. I had some Amy’s frozen dinners, because there are days when work leaves me depleted, and I simply need some sustenance without cooking it myself. I really like Amy’s vegetarian products, so I bought the Thai Red Curry frozen dinner. It would have been wonderful if not for one thing: it was sugary and sweet. When I am eating my entree, I don’t want it to taste sweet.
When we indict individuals about their weight gain, diabetes, and unhealthy lifestyles, we had better examine the food manufacturing in our country. Not many live on a farm anymore and are able to grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables. We depend on large manufacturers to give us the nutrition we need. Sugar is a common ingredient, and unless we protest, it will not change. We do not need to be consuming the current amounts of sugar that are routine ingredients in most, but not all, packaged foods. My disclaimer is that I do not mean to pick on Silk and Amy brands. They simply serve as examples of many other health oriented products. I will continue to buy them myself, and especially like the Silk Original Unsweetened Almond Milk and Amy’s soups and chili.
Last month, I talked about making the switch from the omnivore to the herbivore diet. Here are my conclusions, at least at this time. I have made many changes. I had stopped eating meat, cheese, dairy, and other meat based foods, such as eggs, for a period of several weeks when I had an intense craving for meat. Since it was my birthday, I had a rib eye steak on the grill and it was great. Since then, I have not had any meat and don’t miss it, but I know down the road, I will. Here is how I envision the dietary habits of our cavepeople, which teach us the following: most of the diet was plant based—greens, nuts, berries. What drove those people to hunt? Was it a basic biological drive to avert anemia? Killing an animal for food was not foolproof, and my guess is it did not happen often. So my educated guess is that prehistoric man was an omnivore, primarily eating plant based foods but eating animals on a sporadic basis. Why would I think that? We do have canine like incisors, designed to tear flesh. So a healthy diet always seems to come back to common sense. The mainstay should be plant based interspaced by an occasional meat based treat, like a small bite of real cheddar cheese!