Checking In

Today, we’re halfway through our unprocessed challenge! I want to give a huge thanks to all the guest authors so far, and to the ones still to come. Please be sure to visit their blogs and websites and show your appreciation in the comments.

This seems like a good time to check in with everyone and see how it’s going. I’ll go first.

I’ll admit that I’ve caught myself on autopilot a couple of times. A few days ago I reached for the bottle of Sriracha hot sauce to spice up my lunch. It wasn’t until later that day that I realized I forgot to check the ingredients — and unfortunately discovered that they add preservatives.  (I quickly checked the other bottles in my pantry: Chipotle Tabasco thankfully passes the Kitchen Test, but Tapatio? Not so much.)

I mentioned this to my boyfriend, and he recalled a conversation we had shortly after we first met. We were discussing his keeping mostly Kosher at home, and he told me that it helped change his relationship to food. Instead of reaching for something out of habit, he was forced to make specific, conscious choices. It’s all about eating deliberately, a process that takes a lot of effort even for the most diligent of us.

The other revelation I’ve had is that there is one ingredient that sneaks into a lot of foods from even the “healthiest” of companies: “Natural flavor.”

I’ll leave the flavoring details up to Erin in her upcoming guest post, but for now I’ll just say how surprised I was to find “natural flavor” in many foods that would otherwise pass the kitchen test. Even the best, most dedicated of companies are sometimes guilty of this.

I’m also still trying to find the answers to a couple of questions about specific ingredients.  Last weekend at the BlogHer Food conference, I grilled the Scharffen Berger reps about soy lecithin. Lecithin is used as an emulsifier in large-scale chocolate production. They told me that if you were making chocolate at home, you probably wouldn’t use it. Unfortunately, they did not know if lecithin itself could be made at home (in theory, at least). So the jury’s still out on that one. In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate with Almonds, Trader Joe’s 71% Fair Trade Chocolate, and Theo Chocolate’s 84% Dark — all are made without lecithin.

The other ingredient I’m trying to pin down is xanthan gum. I’ve learned that many people (especially those who are avoiding gluten) buy xanthan gum directly and use it at home.  However, I have yet to surmise if xanthan gum could be made at home. Anyone have insight on that?

So, now it’s your turn.  How is your unprocessed month going? Is it easier or harder than you expected?  Have you had any particularly revelatory experiences? Have you been supported by friends and family, or have they made it more difficult for you? Do tell!

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13 Comments on "Checking In"


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I’m loving my unprocessed month! As I expected I’m far less healthy than I thought! Examining all labels has been such a learning curve! I have found a bar of dark chocolate without lecithin and managed to go to the movies without buying popcorn which was remarkably easy and lots cheaper! I haven’t even missed diet coke, if I can eliminate just that from my diet long term I shall be very happy (and healthier)!


This blog post explains soy lecithin. I don’t think its something you could make at home.


Having read the soy lecithin article I shall continue to avoid it at least for this month (didn’t know it was an E number!) Cant help but be suspicious of its seemingly sudden appearance in so many things! Thanks for the info.

Kristin Smith

I am too interested to hear what you find out about Xanthum gum! I use it in all our gluten free cookies because I know it acts as a binding agent, but what the heck is that stuff!

Well, I caved. This truly has been a challenge for me, even though I consider myself to be a healthy, conscious eater. My philosophy on food revolves heavily around balance, and I’m a firm believer that the mind has as much influence over how healthy we are as the body does; that’s where the balance comes in, since we all know a lifetime of Big Mac’s does not a healthy body make, even if you really enjoy them. So instead of feeling satisfaction I’ve felt a lot of deprivation for the last 15 days, and that makes me feel decidedly unhealthy. Oh I still have a middle finger solidly extended to Big Food, but I’m not going to grill (no pun intended) the chef of The Flying Pig about what’s in his Dealth Sauce when I eat it once a year. I’m just going to lick the damn sauce off… Read more »

Wow, some crazy computer buggyness is affecting me – It’s called The Toddler. Sorry about that.
Having said all that, thank you so much for starting this challenge and raising awareness about what we eat and where our food comes from. You are in the front of a big wave that I hope just keeps getting bigger!

Amber Stott

I’ve got a bag of xanthan gum from Bob’s Red Mill. The package says, “xanthan gum is made from the outer layer of a tiny, inactive bacterium”. I’m reading a book about Twinkies, and the author researches every ingredient in the processed cakes. The author says that the bacteria that make xanthan gum are: “fermented in good old Midwestern corn syrup”.



Thanks Andrew; yes, I deifnitely have my own unique definition of unprocessed which certainly falls under “better rather than “best”. I was bummed nonetheless – I wanted to go whole hog for October, but you’re right in that for me, 100% felt too much like dieting and that breeds failure, which is never a good idea.