Why Else We Eat Processed Foods (And One More Thing We Can Do About That)

There are reasons we humans move toward processed foods. For starters, many “convenience foods” include ingredients that are actually addictive -triggering us to physically crave them- and all of them include chemicals to enhance tastiness. Another reason, though, is simply time.

Today, many people tend to be overworked or otherwise over-scheduled. When we receive notice at 4pm of a party at school tomorrow, we panic -perhaps we’ve still got an 8 hour work shift to manage between now and morning, or we’ve just completed a 12 hour one and feel we cannot physically stand for another moment, never mind start baking! Or, having committed to building a nutrient-dense meal from scratch, we’re left gazing at a haystack of dripping knives, forks, spoons, plates, pots, and counters to wash.

Enter processed foods.

When I started doing a dietary program to save my son -this was even before we knew about GAPS- I was a sole parent 100% responsible for our finances and his care (think cloth diapers), as well of course for our laundry, housecleaning, yard care, and grocery shopping. In addition, I was the sole facilitator and hub for his disability-related services. I had no car, so I walked copious kilometers to take him to the doctor, other services, Mother Goose, and shopping. To support us, I worked contracts but also rented out space in my home, so had the additional job of managing tenancies (no small feat under the laws of British Columbia, Canada).

It probably goes without saying that I did not have a housekeeper but, less obvious in this day and age, I also had no dishwasher. Even though dishwashers are extremely common in my region, in the 24 years since leaving my parents’ home, I have had a dishwasher in only two of the (very modest) suites I have resided in.

Like so many other individuals and families, I was exhausted and busy, so I cut corners wherever possible: canned food, fast meals, and quick runs to the corner store. (Yes, your habits do totally make sense to me!)

But then I committed to a nutrient-dense diet, to healing my son and then myself. While many things got infinitely better, my house got messier. That was okay, but when my life went severely downhill over a recent 6-month period, I was starting to drown. I needed to make some new decisions. Some of them were huge, but…

…one was as small as a portable dishwasher!

Boy, do I wish I had known about this before! About the size of the first popular microwave ovens, this little guy sits on a countertop and hooks up, as needed, to the kitchen faucet. (Because my counter space was already severely limited, I moved the fridge over a few feet, flipped over the box the dishwasher came in, placed it between the fridge and sink, and set the machine on that.) I use it almost every day, and sometimes 2 or even 3 times within a 12 hour period. It fits even my cutting board and largest stock pot!

This gadget gave me back all my power and will to cook from scratch.

When we implement a nutrient-dense diet, we’re going to prepare the vast majority of our meals from their base up. To assist with this, we might consider investing in blenders, a dehydrator, and all sorts of other tools. Me, I function best when I have a clean, clear, organized space to work in. So, like the washing machine and dryer I share with my landlords, and my spray bottle of soapy water for quickly cleaning counters, the portable dishwasher turned out to be one of my most used appliances -and the one that proves most energizing in my goal of health.

A few months later, this awareness came in very handy. Now, years ago I learned that on low-pile carpet a stiff broom is all that’s needed -works great! However, on my current rental’s fluffier carpets, this just didn’t cut it. So when even duct tape would no longer hold my second-hand vacuum cleaner together and I needed to replace it with something, I decided on a trial of the iRobot Roomba 595 Pet Cleaner. (Is it near blasphemous within the nutrient-dense community to admit I sold my dehydrator to finance it??)

I love it!

Knowing that a robot is going to take over the second half of the job, I have more oomph to pick things up. (Because it’s the second-most comfortable option for me, and because I’m not keen on tripping over a couch in my little space, I sleep, work, write, and read on the floor.) I’m a huge believer in fresh air, so a decent amount of dust floats in through our windows, plus I have a homeschooling kid running in from our yard over and over, blessedly messy. I’m a meticulous cleaner, but my best efforts -on my hands and knees, scrubbing away with my old vacuum’s attachments- had nothing on this machine. The carpets come up softer, fluffier, and brighter than I have ever seen them, and the hard floors shine. The amount of dirt the Roomba picks up -as evidenced in its tray at the end of each cleaning- is stunning. (Some people report that they breathe better after some weeks of regular use of the iRobot.) Granted, the machine requires that my son or I give it a thorough cleaning once in a while, but I’d rather spend 20 minutes once a week in that quiet little meditation than sweeping several times daily plus vacuuming every few days.

Now, I get up in the morning, cook up a storm, then set up my laundry machine (if needed), the dishwasher, and the Roomba, and walk out of the house. When I return after a bout of fresh air and physical movement in the park -and perhaps with another load of nutrient-dense ingredients- I am inspired by a bright, clean space to resume my most important work: connecting with and supporting my son; developing resources for you; and whipping up the next batch of nutrient-dense foods.

What tool or service has helped you the most in achieving an improved diet? A dehydrator? A blender? An iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaner? A housekeeper? A home-organizing peer support group? Something else entirely? What tool or service that you currently use would you gladly trade for another?

4 Replies to “Why Else We Eat Processed Foods (And One More Thing We Can Do About That)”

  1. GREAT post! We LOVE our portable dishwasher and make sure we can fit it every time we move to a new apartment. We have a larger one – it told on the floor but is much more narrow than a traditional dishwasher – only 18″.

    I’m curious about the iRobot Rumba… Our apartment is only 400sq ft and I’ve heard from others that robot vacuums get stuck in corners and small spaces, and that they are better suited for large open spaces. What has your experience been?

    • Dear Amy,

      Thanks so much for joining the conversation -so good to hear from another frequent-mover who makes sure the portable dishwasher fits!

      My place is probably about 450 sq feet. At the same time, it would probably be considered a ‘large open space’. Here’s why: I have very little stuff. My only non-movable piece of furniture is the heavy shelf I bought to hold the GAPS Guide inventory on 🙂 When I set it up, I set the bottom shelf a few inches off the floor, so that the Roomba could go right underneath it.

      My kitchen has only a very small, light table and three chairs which fold. Other than that, for household furniture I have only a papasan chair. When I want to run the Roomba in the bedroom/office, I throw all my bedding onto the papasan, tuck the lamp cord in the corner, and turn Roomba on. It’s essentially running in an open area. In my son’s room, I moved his Ikea bin tower over a few inches so that the Roomba could get into every corner -that space just fits Roomba but it hasn’t gotten stuck so far. Like me, my son sleeps on the floor (he has recently set aside even the mat he had been using) and we just toss his bedding onto his toy basket for Roomba runs. For the kitchen, I sometimes fold the chairs and move them to another room, though this is totally not necessary. In the bathroom, the Roomba does not fit between our toilet and tub, so I just sweep that area toward the sink before starting it.

      Often we have it running in just one room at a time. We either close a door or set up the ‘virtual wall’ it came with. This electronic option allows us to set an invisible boundary for Roomba -protecting a floor area that has work papers or whatever on it- while we continue to easily flow through the house.

      So, basically, I help Roomba do a thorough job by making as much floor space as possible accessible. I’ve only had it a few weeks, but so far she’s gotten stuck nowhere. The only issue we have had so far is that in our 3rd and 4th runs, it kept circling in one spot and not moving outward. I gave it a gentle push and it was off and running, and the issue resolved on its own on from the 5th go. So, in our small-but-minimalist apartment, it’s only been awesome!

      I bought it at Costco so that if I didn’t like it, or it broke down too soon, I could return it. Costco (at least in Canada) has a phenomenal return policy, making purchases like this risk-free -important when we’re spending that much.

      I edited this comment to refer to the Roomba more often than not as a machine. In our place, we refer to Roomba like a person -Roomba (as opposed to ‘the Roomba’), she, he, etc. Apparently, we consider her part of the family! lol


  2. This is a good topic Baden!
    I was fascinated to hear about your new irobot. The thing I currently would like to trade in would be our vacuum cleaner. I have dust allergies and I’m sure our vacuum filters out the large particles but spews the extra fine stuff right back into the air. Does your new vacuum cleaner have a good filter for the fine stuff?

    What helped me to love working in the kitchen is when I discovered all the many little things that make it an aesthetically pleasing experience. Little things like the kind of sponge and scratchers that feel the best to use and the chopping knife that fits my hand and a large enough chopping board that doesn’t wobble….as I write this these things don’t sound so special. But my point is that having the tools that you like using can make a huge difference in being willing to keep doing all that cooking. It is one of the most challenging aspects to sticking with GAPS or similar food plan that requires building meals from the basics — spending a lot of time cooking and cleaning up after it. So it’s worth it to spend some time figuring out which tools and equipment that you really like.

    We also got a large chest freezer and then when our old fridge conked out we bought an energy efficient one that is totally fridge (no built in freezer). This gives me lots more room in the fridge. And having a big freezer means we can store the berries from the garden, the extras like broths and bulk orders of grass fed beef and surplus casseroles and soups etc for when we don’t have time or energy to cook.

    It’s nice to see you writing here again.

    • Hi Gel,

      I’ve been looking for a chance to get back to you on this…

      I don’t know how good or not-good the filter on the new vacuum is. I notice dust and like a clean, fresh space, but I’m not allergic to dust so may not be particularly sensitive to differences. I do know that this model picks up a lot more than our regular vacuum had been.

      I’m totally with you on the “little things” that make it all easier, yes! My kitchen is extremely minimalist (four plates, two bowls, very few cooking utensils, etc) but the things I have I’m fussy about. When I think about it, I realize that one of my key kitchen items is a blue ScotchBrite no-scratch pot scrubbie. I cut them in half before I start using them. Before I had the dishwasher, these made all the difference for me in washing dishes. They do most of the work without damaging even glassware, are easy to hold and manage, and reach even into tiny corners. Another trick I’ve mentioned before is only using Thermoses and jars I can fit my whole hand into for washing. I agree these details can make or break the journey for us!

      One day I might have a big freezer!

      Thanks for the awesome, comprehensive addition to this conversation, Gel!


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