There’s been a lot of talk about processed foods recently, saying they’re not very good for us. I’ve just been talking to someone who has managed to start cooking from scratch. It was an interesting conversation. What she said was that when she looked at the recipes on my website it made her feel inadequate, that “I don’t know where to start” feeling.

‌So here’s me, a person who has always cooked from scratch, thinking the recipes are easy and this conversation put a whole new perspective on it for me.

When I ate processed food

‌I was lucky enough to be brought up by a Mum who cooked tasty food from scratch every day. She learned to cook in Algeria when working for a French family as an 18 year old and she never looked back. Everything we ate was made from fresh food and on a tight budget. My Mum bought cheap cuts of meat and made them tasty. We had things like sweetbreads, kidneys and liver and cheap cuts of lamb made into Irish stew. Not one of my husband’s favourites, he still mentions it to this day! He remembers eating it aged 17!

‌So at home, I ate really well. It became another story when I moved out aged 18. I remember well the first year I lived in London. My day consisted of cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and the same everyday roast beef and horseradish with cucumber on brown! With that, there would be a Diet Coke and a visit to the little sweet kiosk on the corner by the office, and mostly pasta in the evening. I put on 2 stones that year.

‌When I started nursing I had to lose it, I couldn’t survive the day and carry the extra weight around, I got too tired. So I started being more healthy.

Diet Coke can’t be that bad?

‌Then I remember a period after we were married when we drank Diet Coke like it was going out of fashion. Not as much as one of my clients though. She literally lived on it all day, with no food, just Diet Coke unit she got home late in the evening when she would eat a meal. What’s wrong with that? I hear you say, if you don’t know, here’s what. Diet Coke might not contain sugar but it still demands insulin, which means that it’s not great for people with Type 2 Diabetes or those wishing to prevent getting it in the future. If you want to know more about insulin take a look at this article: The Real Story of Insulin Sensitivity and Type 2 Diabetes

‌At that time we also did occasionally buy prepared meals, not many but we did. Have you ever looked at the labels properly on a preprepared meal? The sugar content, the salt content, the additives and preservatives, all of which play havoc with your health. One of my clients came to me with no desire to cook from fresh so I introduced her to a book called “The Roasting Tin”. Where you put all the ingredients in a tin and put it in the oven. Super easy, super tasty, and super nutritious. At the time there was just one, the yellow version. Rukmini Iyer has now written several more, green (vegan and vegetarian), quick and global. So there’s no excuse.

Me and monosodium glutamate

‌We also ate takeaways until I started having a severe reaction to monosodium glutamate my favourite was always a Chinese meal. Now I would choose an Indian, but it’s a treat not a regular occurrence, I don’t like the way I feel the next day. Have you ever noticed that you feel tired and you reach for more processed or junk food when you’ve had a takeaway? It becomes a vicious circle.

‌So I’ve talked about main meals and fizzy drinks. What about biscuits and cakes? They too are full of preservatives, additives and sugar. When you are looking at labels, look at the carbohydrate content rather than just the sugar. Every 5g of carbohydrate converts to a teaspoon of sugar in the body. Even some of the so-called “healthy” snacks contain 3 teaspoons of sugar. Even a plain digestive biscuit has 2 teaspoons. You may think that’s not much but do you stop at just one biscuit? It’s not just about the sugar.

Sugar’s impact on mood

‌If you want to know more about how sugar affects the way you feel and how you can still eat some without a serious impact then take a look here: What Happens When Your Body Can’t Manage Your Sugar Habits?

‌And finally, just to reassure you, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about knowing what your body can cope with and how to get back to your baseline. I’m always talking about that baseline. It’s the place you go back to when you’ve got into bad habits. It’s the good habits you know you can put in place to help yourself feel better and stay well as you age.