Almost All-Natural August: The Roundup

Almost All Natural August actually ended up being kind of a breeze. Once we got into the swing of things, it really didn’t represent a huge lifestyle change for us, though we did make some mistakes here and there.

Our normal non-natural Achilles heels: AANA let me notice what types of overly processed/artificial food we eat on a regular basis. It honestly wasn’t a ton. Chips, soda and candy were the biggies (mostly stuff I eat at work during the day). American cheese/processed cheese. Some condiments (Sriracha). The occasional package of ramen noodles, doctored up Missy-style. Wegmans pierogis (those I’m excited to tear into soon; not going to lie). Canned soup. Vegetarian sausage patties from Morningstar.

Snacking: We branched out a little in the snacking department due to AANA. More dried fruits (mm, Apricots), more nuts, more (non-processed) cheese. I ate a lot of pickles. I also tore into some previously homemade freezer items like white bean soup to supplement my snacking.

Challenges: Bread was one of the most annoying things to buy, and I don’t have the patience to really make it from scratch (I’d hoped to attempt a loaf of sourdough but never got around to it). Could find passable stuff at Harris Teeter and the Farmer’s Market though – it just had a shorter shelf life. Tortillas were another surprise, as I didn’t think of them as having additives. In general Trader Joe’s was a good bet for finding stuff, but you still had to look at the labels to make sure. I’m sure Whole Foods would be even better, but I try not to spend a ton of money there.

One day I literally only had time for a drive-through lunch, so figured the organic chain Elevation Burger was my best bet – still not entirely sure the bun was all-natural though. I kind of missed artificial sweetener in my coffee, but sugar in the raw got the job done and didn’t add a ton of calories. John had trouble finding natural stuff in his work cafeteria, and had to avoid fast food more than I did (he’ll occasionally get it when running errands; I rarely have it). I was most tempted when drunk one night and driving home from Baltimore, smelling the chicken nuggets my friend George was consuming. But I persevered!

Easy swaps: We had good luck with all-natural peanut butter, all-natural bacon, and substituting natural cheeses for processed ones. We drank a lot of homemade iced tea and seltzer in lieu of soda. I forced myself to drink water, which I am not a huge fan of.

From scratch projects: Homemade ginger beer was fun, and I also made my first homemade ice cream (chocolate peanut butter), and some chicken noodle soup when I was feeling sick. Plus, there’s some stuff I just always make from scratch without really thinking about it – spaghetti sauce, salad dressing, salsa. I also made my own steak sauce, which was really good. Never got around to crackers, mozzarella, fruit leather, homemade chips or bread, which was a little disappointing.

Cheats/Mistakes: I put gummy bears on my frozen yogurt when on vacation (I actually didn’t remember until I already bought it, and only had a few because I felt guilty). I twice had ginger ale without realizing it until after the fact, once in a mixed drink and once when avoiding alcohol at Becky’s sister’s shower. I also had it once on purpose because I was really sick stomach-wise, so I made the conscious choice to have it for health reasons. I had a half mini-bag of chips in the car (my “emergency stash” in my glove compartment) one time because I thought I didn’t have time for lunch (turns out I did, so I was kind of annoyed I caved). I also used soy sauce and fish sauce without really paying attention to the label – I figured I might be able to find all-natural ones if I tried, but didn’t feel like spending the money on new bottles of either. John ate a frozen Drumstick before realizing halfway through.

Weight loss? Not really. I’m down about 4 pounds from the start of the month, but my weight was weirdly inflated that day because of our Old Rag trip (8 hours of hiking does odd things to your body). I attribute the lack of weight loss to too much alcohol, too much red meat and too many food-related work events. I would say I generally felt a little healthier though, and am glad to have kicked my candy cravings and daily soda habit.

Other observations: I’d say we spent a bit more money on groceries, but not a dramatic difference.

I’m still trying to decide how I want to apply our experiences to life after August. I feel like it’s better for my health that I didn’t eat chips, candy or soda, but I also don’t necessarily think they are items I need to give up for life. Maybe I’ll make them a once a week treat? Soda I’d like to avoid when possible, as I just don’t really miss it. John plans to continue to avoid chips and soda, though he thought he’d be more affected by a lack of soda than he was.

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