Goodbye cakes, biscuits and bread. Hello smoothies, salads and home-cooked meals. But what exactly counts as processed? This is Lent: The first seven days.
The first week of giving up processed foods has had its difficult moments. From ignoring the tempting hot meals in the university canteen while my fellow students tuck in to their chips at lunchtime, to watching the Comic Relief Bake Off and managing to resist raiding the cake tin afterward, I feel my self control has been thoroughly tested.
That being said, giving up processed foods has not been as hard or inconvenient as I first anticipated. I found that by dedicating a little time at the beginning of the week to shopping lists and meal prepping, the pressure of having to spend ages in the kitchen each time I want a meal is lifted. No one wants to spend hours cooking after a long day of work, or set alarms early just to make a decent breakfast. Meal prepping is the key here.
Before the first day of Lent I spent some time looking up various breakfast and dinner recipes online (hello Pinterest!) and in recipe books. I made a list of ideas for meals for the week ahead and shopped according to the ingredients required. I then spent one afternoon preparing and cooking two soups, a vegan quinoa chili, lemon houmous and homemade Nakd bars, each of which provided at least four servings. This only took me a couple of hours to do, and by the end of it I had freshly prepared meals ready to be refrigerated and frozen into homemade “ready-meals”.
One of the main realisations I have come to during these early days of Lent, is this: Eating convenience foods and ready meals really takes away the joy of making your own food. I thoroughly enjoyed my culinary afternoon of cooking and creating my own meals. And you simply can’t beat the taste of home-cooked dinners. The Nakd bars also tasted far superior to the packaged ones, despite containing the exact same ingredients, so I give many thanks to the brilliant Health Inspirations blog for this recipe.
The only potential confusion with my intention of giving up processed foods is justifying what exactly counts or doesn’t count as “processed”, to me, at least, in this 40 day period. I have had a few internal debates, as well as verbal exchanges about whether I should be drinking coffee, eating packaged salads or indeed eating a Nakd bar rather than making one myself. But my basic answer to such quandarys is this: if it has added salt, sugar, or fat, it’s processed and I’m not eating it. If it has been baked (cakes and breads) or altered from its natural state in an unhealthy way, I’m not eating it. Finally, if a food product has additional ingredients I wouldn’t find in a homemade recipe, or a shelf expiry that could outlive me, I’m not touching it! (Think about it- cakes that have a six month expiry date? A homemade cake will last a couple of days in a tin… What on earth is in a shop bought one?!).
I’m only human, and sometimes convenience is a welcome help to combating a busy schedule. So I’m not going to give up my efforts if I grab a packaged salad for my lunch one day, or a bottled smoothie on the occasion that I didn’t have time for breakfast. But so far, Lent has been a manageable venture, and I’m keen to discover more great recipes to build up my home-made ready meal collection. Here’s to the next week of Lent!
Please check out these fab food blogs, from which I sourced the Quinoa chili and the Nakd bar recipes. The photos displayed of each of these in this post are credit to the respective blogs: