To stay that I am a man of routine would be an understatement. Wake up the same time each day, work the same amount of hours and generally eat and drink very similar things on a day to to day basis. Every morning I wake up around 5:30, generally leave the house at right around 5:50 am, at 7-Eleven for my morning coffee by 5:55 and opening the gym by just after 6am.
I am basically Phil Connors.
Upon one of my recent 7-11 visits and dodging the hammered bums hassling me for change (bums need to work on their manners in San Diego, by the way), I noticed the “Fresh Foods” section of the store again and it took me back to an article I wrote last year examining the ingredients in a “healthy” turkey sandwich.
“What should I eat?”
I find this question to posses the rare combination of both difficult and easy to answer.
The difficulty in that question arises from the fact that all people have different goals, energy requirements, training programs, etc. and nutrition is not always so cookie cutter for each person. Gaining muscle requires a different diet than burning fat. Training for an Ironman is different than training to fit into a wedding a dress.
You get the point.
On the flip side, the easiness of that question takes me back to the simplicity of just eating clean meats, vegetables, fruits and eggs regardless of age, gender, weight or goal. That’s it.
Keep it simple, keep it stupid.
Breads, pastas, bagels, deep fried twinkies. Completely refined and over processes grain and corn-based foods that once they exit the assembly line resemble nothing short of a science experiment. My biggest change in nutritional philosophy came in the first half of 2010 when I slowly started to buy into the belief that our bodies simply did not need grains or other man-made carbohydrates to sustain healthy living.
One of the single greatest food rules you can live by is to avoid foods that have ingredients.
Let me explain. If a food has to list its ingredients it means that it is a sum of collective parts, and often those parts are completely undesirable. You do not need to know the ingredients in a kale leaf, piece of chicken or bottle of olive oil.
The ingredient is the healthy food itself. Nothing less and nothing more.
Before I had my boy Jivat, the first human being I interact with each day, swipe my Wells Fargo card for $1.79 (I am definitely that guy that pays for coffee every day with a debit card), I decided to stroll over to the Fresh Foods section and take another look at the back of the Whole Wheat Turkey Sandwich Wrapper and once again what I found looked more like a recipe for homemade methamphetamine that something I’d electively eat.
Cracked wheat bread (flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour), water, cracked wheat flour, sugar, yeast raised shortening (partially hydrogenated soybean cottonseed oils and mono-deglycerides) yeast compressed, salt, est-3 (wheat flou, monoglycerides, guar gum, corn syrup solids contain 2% or less of ensyme, soybean oil), dough conditioner (wheat flour, diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono-digyrides (datem), contains 2% or less of L cyteseine enzyme, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide (ADA), starplex 90 kosher (monoglygeride and citric acid), calcium propionate (to retard spoilage), emplex kosher (sodium lactylate), caramel color, ascorbic acid, smoked turkey (turkey breast, turkey broth, dextrose, salt, sodium lactate, modified food starch, tapioca starch, carrageenan, sodium phosphate, sodium nitrate, sodium diactate and sodium erythorbate), southwest mayonnaise dressing (mayonnaise [soybean oil, vinegar, eggs, water, salt, egg yolks, sugar, calcium, disodium edta (to protect flavor), dried garlic, dried onions, natural flavor]), chipotle pepper blend (red jalapeno, [sauteed vegetable puree mix], [onions, carrots and celery], maltodextrin, chipotle powder, salt, corn oil, sorbitol, olive oil, spices, molasses, onion powder, water, vinegar, gluten, soybean oil, potassium sorbate (a preservative), citric acid, canola oil, disodium inosinate, dosodium, guanalyte, autolyzed yeast extract, lactic acid, natural flavor, natural smoke flavor, lipolyzed butter oil, soy lecithin), monterey jack cheese (cultured pasteurized milk, salt, enzymes), lettuce. Contains:egg, milk, soy and wheat.
WOW. Honestly, that took me 17 minutes to transcribe.
The best part? Check out the company that supplied that slice of chemicals to 7-Eleven: Fresh Grill
Yes, I am sure there is a large pit grill with open fames burning and fresh meats and vegetables being flame kissed. I am sure that is what’s going on over at the fine factories of Fresh Grill.
In transcribing this a few things immediately jump out at me.
- Turkey, a seemingly “whole food” has 12 ingredients and six different sodium or salt additives. Just shows what a deli can do to a breast of meat.
- There are over six different preservatives meant to “retard spoilage” as they put it. Or in other words, keep it on the shelf longer.
- Sodium and salt galore all throughout this sandwich. Just because you don’t add table salt to a meal does not mean it’s not loaded with sodium. Too much sodium causes a water imbalance in the cells and causes you to retain “water weight”.
Look, I get it. It’s from 7-Eleven, I am not expecting fresh organic or sprouted grain bread. And full disclosure I am dominating some Sunday night ice cream right now so complete perfection is not something I’ll ever seek in a diet. It’s about heavy inclusion of the good stuff and moderation of the not-so-good stuff. But, this is a microcosm of a larger health epidemic where seemingly healthy food have been over-processed, stripped and then fortified, salted and canned to the point where they’ve been killed off by their own additives.
Death by ingredients.
The 7-11 turkey sandwich is an example that is applicable to many places and many foods that you might consider healthy such as over-the-counter deli meat and whole grain bread.
When in doubt, ALWAYS check the ingredients and if they are not available there is probably a reason.
A simple group of rules I use are as follows.
- If it’s the main part of the meal it can only have one ingredient (steak, chicken, etc.)
- If i’s the side of the meal it can only have one ingredient (sauteed mushrooms, sweet potato, etc.). That’s not to say I don’t put butter, cinammon, etc on it, but the food itself cannot be a combination of ingredients.
- If it is the flavor enhancer, I cut myself some slack I just don’t add too much of it (cheese, sauce, etc.). I stay away from laundry lists of ingredients and try to keep it at around 3-5.
So on absolutely no level is that turkey sandwich an acceptable form of sustenance. Hell, even if the ingredients themselves are made up of ingredients!
Whole foods. Clean meats, vegetables, fruits and eggs.
Keep it simple, keep it stupid.