Wisdom Wednesday: Flakes Don’t Grow on Trees

by | Jan 7, 2015

Photo by Chicago Man

When I first took my “leap of science” to stop dieting and start eating Real Food, carbs were the scariest thing. I hadn’t eaten anything resembling a grain in years and didn’t know where to start.

So like any good American consumer I went to the cereal aisle and chose what looked like the “healthiest” cereal. It was a brown flake cereal with lots of fiber and omega-3s. It had the word “Nature” in the brand too.

I felt super virtuous.

Little did I know that even then I was being sucked in by marketing and pseudoscience.

The more I learned about health and nutrition, the more skeptical I became about what I actually believed was healthy.

Eventually I came to understand that the only consistent predictor of the health value of food is whether or not it has been processed. I became more rigorous in what I defined as Real Food.

That was when the cognitive dissonance hit me: flakes don’t grow on trees.

Even though I had accepted that carbs wouldn’t make me fat and grains were Real Food, I hadn’t realized that the “whole grain” label on the cereal box was a load of marketing BS.

There’s nothing whole about a cereal flake, no matter how much fiber or omega-3s it contains.

These days I eat plain ol’ muesli for breakfast prepared like oatmeal. I add 1/2 cup to a bowl, cover it with water, microwave it for two minutes, then flavor with cinnamon and a splash of unsweetened hemp milk. It’s freaking delicious.

I don’t pretend the hemp milk is super healthy, I use it because I like the creaminess and flavor.

Real Food comes from the earth. You can tell by how it looks and whether or not you can picture it growing from the ground, hanging from a tree, roaming a pasture, or swimming in the ocean.

If it started that way then spent time in a factory in order to arrive at its current form, it’s been processed.

Of course some light processing is fine (e.g. rolled oats, cultured yogurt), but industrial processing does not a health food make.

Eat what you like, but don’t be fooled by front of package health claims.

Have you been falsely led to believe a processed food is really a health food?

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16 Responses to “Wisdom Wednesday: Flakes Don’t Grow on Trees”

  1. Jay Wigley says:

    OK I have to admit: I hate this so much. Store-bought cereal is so yummy. I love Raisin Bran, Grape Nuts, lots of “healthy” brands. . .no sugary Cap’n stuff for me (not anymore). But now. . .well. I can’t argue with you really. My fiance and I have both figured out that even the healthy options (like many you mentioned above) leave us with upset stomachs and just general indigestion. Our bodies were already telling us what you’ve written so well above.

    • Darya Rose says:

      Like I mentioned, it was my last hold out so I totally understand. Again, I wouldn’t ever say this stuff is “bad,” just can’t pretend it’s actually healthy.

      • Karen B. says:

        Maybe the hemp milk is actually the last hold out. Why not a splash of cream? I’ll bet if I look back in your website I will find out that you’re dairy-free. 🙂 I didn’t even know they made milk out of hemp. Isn’t hemp what they use to make ropes? I know I had some kind of bar with hemp seeds in it once, it was delicious.

  2. Sherry A. says:

    Hi, Darya:
    Your articles are very helpful and although they make sense, how do you escape that hidden fear of carbs? Not the cereal, crackers and stuff with unknown ingredients; but the better for you carbs… it’s a mental block sometimes. In particular after the holiday, it’s easier for my mind to play war food – labeling some ‘good’ others ‘bad.’ As always…Thank you!

  3. Emily says:

    I have started rotating muesli into my breakfast routine and I love it. It’s fun going to the bins and picking out all of the things I want to have in my cupboard at work. I know bananas are high in sugar, but I discovered that if you do about 1/2 c muesli with some water and 1/2 a really rip banana and heat it in the microwave for about 1-2 minutes and then mash it all together and cover it with cinnamon, it is super creamy and tastes like banana bread. It’s great for days when you’re craving something sweet.

  4. Judith says:

    I feel so understood by this post of yours! It’s crazy how the list of healthy foods narrows down to natural foods when you think about the science behind things. I really like cereal but now when I eat it, I just know it’s good for my soul but not a REAL food. Same with most commercial brands of bread (and I really love bread). But it’s just a matter of being food-wise and continue to enjoy the things you eat! Eating “unreal” food from time to time won’t kill anyone.. And I sure enjoy eating real food too. Nice post, Darya!

  5. Fi says:

    Oh yeah, I am the queen of being fooled by marketing! For the longest time ever I thought that having a glass of fruit juice is necessary to healthy life- and if I didn’t have it I felt like ‘ohnooo I missed my dose of goodness’. Little did I know it’s just jam packed full of sugar. And the same thing with processed fruit flavour yoghurts. It started to dawn on me when I discovered Checkout- it’s an Australian tv programme, and they put videos up on Youtube. I especially like this one about ‘Superfoods’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPGnBkH3fBg and this one about ‘Health Labeling’- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbfCqnZs0qw

  6. lynda m says:

    I agree with Janet B. Isn’t hemp milk processed?

    • Darya Rose says:

      Yes, that’s why I say it’s not health food. I use it for flavor and creaminess. Dairy makes me break out and I’m also lactose intolerant.

      • lynda m says:

        I understand. Thanx for your answer. I have Foodist and like it a lot. Your website has been a great catalyst for me learning to enjoy good,and good tasting,food. In the process of rereading Foodist to kick off 2015. Looking forward to reading your blog this year, too.

  7. amy says:

    I love this post because it reminds us that this is a journey. I remember a post you wrote about not comparing ourselves to others who have already accomplished and maintained their goals. You said that it’s easy to assume the journey was easy or obvious for the other person, and not understand why it’s such a struggle for me. This post illustrates a challenge you had and reminds us that your journey was challenging, too.

    Thanks for the wisdom

    • Darya Rose says:

      Exactly. I typically struggle with 1-2 new things a year. Last year it was travel. The journey never ends, that’s why I don’t connect negative emotions to it. It is what it is and I do my best, adjust accordingly and keep working at it. There’s no point in feeling guilty or like a failure. You only need to get it mostly right to have “success,” which of course is relative.

  8. Jackie says:

    Hi Darya,
    I’m a big Foodist fan and love your insight into eating. I absolutely love the concept of “if you can picture it growing from the ground, hanging from a tree, roaming a pasture, or swimming in the ocean,” then it’s food. I love using this with my two daughters – because even a 5th grader can understand that.
    Any recommendations on how to eat well and still keep up with a busy lifestyle? I usually resort to some canned goods (although organic and as chemical free as possible). I’d love your insight.

    • Darya Rose says:

      All my advice is for people who are busy, because I don’t know anyone who isn’t 😉

      We all have to make decisions about where it is and isn’t worth it to take shortcuts, and what our tolerance level is there. It really depends on your situation. Just keep working at it and don’t beat yourself up. Nobody’s perfect.

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