What’s Your Absolute Worst Regular Meal?

The Diet Fix by Yoni FreedhoffYoni Freedhoff, MD, is an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, where he’s the founder and medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute—dedicated to non-surgical weight management since 2004. Dr. Freedhoff is the author of the groundbreaking book, The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work He sounds off daily on his award-winning blog, Weighty Matters, and is also easily reachable on Twitter and Facebook.

I know Andrew wants us to go wholly October Unprocessed, but I’m guessing that even for many regular readers that’s a loftier goal than we’re ready, willing, or able to meet. Well I’d like to take my guest posting opportunity and offer you an easily doable, no-excuses way out.

What I I want you to do is take a few minutes and consider what I like to call your “Foodscape” – That would be all of the meals that make the regular culinary rotation of your life (meals you have at least a few times a month) and what I want you to identify is your very “worst” meal, where “worst” refers to that meal which is the most diametrically opposed to your understanding of nutrition in the context of your health and life goals. For some of you that may mean crazily high in calories. For others it may be more about sodium, and for others still it may be about being basically pre-chewed, in that it’s as instant and processed as a food can be.

I’m guessing you know what I want you to do next.

I want you to commit to not only booting it from your October rotation, but committing to an unprocessed alternative. One that you’ve cooked from as many scratch, whole, unadulterated ingredients as you can manage. Some of you may manage more ingredients than others (for instance some of you may bake your own bread and make sauces from scratch whereas others will find that to be too daunting), but don’t worry about that – you know your own limits better than anyone.

What I’m trying to say here is that your October Unprocessed best doesn’t need to be perfect to represent a step forward and perhaps it’s a step you might take in the context of a longer journey. Perhaps you could drop that one “worst” meal from your rotation altogether, and who knows, maybe each month for the coming year you could repeat the exercise so that by the time next October Unprocessed rolls around you’ll actually feel confident that you can do the full monty.

Ultimately I’d hate to see a person not try because the chasm seemed too wide, and flying leaps do have a tendency to land people on their faces. So if October Unprocessed’s leap seems too far, why not commit to taking just one tiny unprocessed step a month? Can’t think of anything you’ve got to lose, and clearly, there’s plenty to gain.

Photo © 2011 BoyGoku, used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

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42 Comments on "What’s Your Absolute Worst Regular Meal?"

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Cheryl
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Cheryl
October 2, 2012 7:01 am

Great article. Surprisingly, my worst meal is salad. I eat at least one every day. I use romaine and spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers and whatever else I have in the fridge, topped off with a sprinkle of feta cheese. Sounds healthy, right? The problem of course, is I top it all off with a store-bought salad dressing. And I use a lot of it. I’m making many changes this month, but the biggest one is to make my own salad dressing and to be mindful of the amount I use. Thanks for the encouragement!

Amanda
Guest
Amanda
October 2, 2012 8:50 am

I top my salads off with fresh squeezed lemon juice. It adds a little bit of the extra flavor I’m looking for without all the oil and calories

Andrew
Admin
October 2, 2012 8:56 am

Salad dressing is SO easy to make! And if you’re eating out, it’s easy to bring along, since it only needs a small container. Here’s a guest post from last year’s challenge, that may be helpful, too: http://www.eatingrules.com/2011/10/salad-dressing-formula/

Noel B
Guest
Noel B
October 3, 2012 7:07 am

Just wanted to share this item I just purchased on Amazon. It is a salad dressing bottle that has the recipes on the side of the jar for 6 difference homemade salad dressings. All you have to do is fill it up to where the line says for oil, vinegar, and water, and then just add the spices. I can’t wait to try it!

http://www.amazon.com/Kolder-13214-Salad-Dressing-Bottle/dp/B002OOVB0I/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_t_1

Genevieve S
Guest
Genevieve S
October 2, 2012 8:59 am

This one is so bad:
2 tubes of Flaky Rolls
1 can of Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
2 cans of Flaked Tuna
Various veggies like celery, onion, carrot and peas

I put 2 pre-cooked rolls in a wedge shape at the bottom of a large muffin tin. I saute the soup and tuna and veggies until all is well blended, then I spoon the mixture onto the wedges. Last, I cook it until the pastry puffs all around the tuna, and Voila! Really fattening, high in sodium, individual tuna pot pies. My family loves them so much, they eat 2 each! I only make this recipe twice a year. (To balance out my guilt, I serve it with salad.)

Alexia
Guest
Alexia
October 9, 2012 2:49 pm

Okay, but you know — you eat it twice a year. Big deal. Providing your diet is generally based on whole foods, ain’t no thing to indulge in something totally processed and unhealthy is no reason to feel guilt!

Christina
Guest
October 2, 2012 10:03 am

What a great post!! And a brilliant idea. I’m not sure what my “worst” meal is, but I bet with a little brain power, I’ll come up with it in no time. And then dash it away! Yay for creating healthy habits, one step at a time 🙂

Maggie
Guest
October 2, 2012 10:25 am

Regarding the above comments on salad dressing: are there any recipes around for creamy salad dressing, similar to ranch or blue cheese. I can’t handle the acidity of dressings based on oil and vinegar.

Barbara
Guest
Barbara
October 2, 2012 12:04 pm

I just made the dipping sauce in this recipe, and then diluted it a bit with water for a smooth and creamy salad dressing that I brought to work today. Blend avocado with herbs and spices and a little lemon or lime juice and you have a great, creamy, healthy unprocessed salad dressing!
http://www.food52.com/recipes/18180_cocktail_shrimp_with_spicy_mintavocado_dipping_sauce

Sandy
Guest
Sandy
October 8, 2012 4:10 pm

Yes – Katie at Kitchen Stewardship has (somewhere on her blog) recipes for Ranch and an Oriental salad dressing – watch the garlic, she uses about 5x what I consider tasty, but the whole-foods ingredients are right there. Sorry, I don’t have the URL handy, but she just did a guest post here the other day . . . you should be able t find her.
Places like RecipeZaar and Epicurious.com also have salad dressing recipes; however, you may have to edit them for convenience ingredients!

Chris
Guest
Chris
October 2, 2012 10:27 am

My worst meal is homemade pizza. I make my own dough, but it requires bread flour, which I know is bad, bad, bad. I also make my own artisan-style bread, from the same flour and croutons and bread crumbs from the left over bread.

Sarah
Guest
October 3, 2012 9:19 am

Chris, you can swap in white whole wheat flour for bread flour. It works just fine! (And WWW Flour is a type of wheat, it isn’t bleached or anything – you can even grind your own.)

Sandy
Guest
Sandy
October 8, 2012 4:05 pm

Bread flour is NOT a mortal sin. It’s just wheat with bran sifted out! Try gradually substituting in, increasing proportions of whole wheat flour – it’s easy to get used to.

Alexia
Guest
Alexia
October 9, 2012 2:50 pm

You can also buy whole wheat bread flour at any kind of whole foods store (including, of course, Whole Foods). I use it for both bread and pizza dough & it works extremely well.

Eleanor J
Guest
Eleanor J
October 2, 2012 11:04 am
That’s so sad I didn’t have to think about it twice! I make this awesome Haitian Spaghetti, my girlfriend who used to be a missionary in Haiti thought me how-to, so easy and oh so good even though it sounds odd. It’s sliced hot dogs (I know right!) fried in a wok with onions and a habanero then you add tomato paste, a good bit of maggi chicken seasoning (yep!) some starch water from the spaghetti, finally stir the pasta in. It’s a delish!! LOL! I looked and looked, and there’s no way to make homemade bouillion, you need those chemicals to get the taste, on the bright side, I keep a jar on hand ONLY for this purpose. Hot dogs, well, I’ve tried making it with different brands of uncured hot dogs, and it just doesn’t work, they get an odd texture which isn’t good, so Beef Ball Park… Read more »
Dlana
Guest
Dlana
October 2, 2012 11:22 am

Thanks for this post. I signed up in late Sept because it sounded to good and I thought how great I’d feel if I could go a month without processed foods. I soon realized that A. I bit off more than I can chew and B. Progress in baby steps is OK. Perfection is not possible at this stage in my change process.
I don’t cook at all, just don’t enjoy it. I have eaten badly for years but I have been doing much better for the last 6 months or so. I will gradually incorporate more and more of what I learn here into my life but will not be able to come close to perfect in Oct. Maybe next Oct. In the mean time I expect to change many things and move toward my goals. I also expect to feel better with each change.

Julie Moore
Guest
October 2, 2012 11:33 am
Wonderful post! Cold turkey is NOT easy – I’ve done it. It took me a whole month to get over the grouchies from the withdrawls! LOL That should tell you something, though – My body went through detox when I cut out processed food. Those chemicals are DEFINITELY a drug…and one I don’t want! I think probably there are a few meals that I throw in the mix that are not as unprocessed as they should be, and I know the fixes and I’m definitely going to do what I can to cut them out one at a time. 🙂 The best part, though, is that my kids prefer my homemade healthy versions to the processed ones. Go figure. 🙂 At the end of the day, convenience is not worth health. That’s what I have to remember. And I know that from experience! Good luck to all!
Lisa
Guest
Lisa
October 2, 2012 12:14 pm

My quick, go to, processed meal is spaghetti made with jarred sauce. I use one with “natural” ingredients, but it still has added sugar. This post motivates me to make my own (tomatoes are plentiful now) and freeze it. Thanks for the help!

Kim
Guest
Kim
October 2, 2012 12:22 pm

I think the hardest thing for me to let go of is the easy food for the kids. I keep one box of organic Mac&Cheese in the back of the pantry for those days when everything falls apart and need to feed the toddlers. They won’t eat my homemade Mac&Cheese because of this one box that they get about once a month 🙁 The hardest part of eating whole foods is when you have picky eaters that just want PB&J and won’t touch the stew you slaved over for hours that has pastured raised beef, veggies from the garden and spices you ground yourself.

greenstrivings
Guest
greenstrivings
October 2, 2012 1:20 pm
I hear you on the Mac&Cheese. I had to make my little mac&cheese eater go cold turkey and the boxed stuff is still requested. There are many plaintive cries in the supermarket –“why don’t we get that any more?” and “how come you never let us have pudding from the box?” Unless there’s a sensory issue interfering with their eating, when they’re hungry, they’ll eat. So if there’s a complaint about dinner or some little person wants to leave the table early, I just leave the dinner plate on the table. Often little person comes back 30 minutes later and finishes dinner. And sometimes it’s the form the food comes in. Mine went through that period where they didn’t want anything mixed together — so no stews, stirfries or casseroles. One child doesn’t like any kind of sauce. And their palates expand and they try more, different foods as they… Read more »
Danielle
Guest
Danielle
October 2, 2012 12:31 pm

The worst meal for my family would have to be Tator Tot Casserole. Ground beef, I do use grass fed and local. Cream of mushroom soup, campbell’s of course, Tator tots and Cheese… a ton of cheese. The family will miss it.

Kristen
Guest
Kristen
October 2, 2012 12:40 pm

This is a really yummy homemade condensed soup recipe! I’ve used it a few times now, came out great each time. Of course, can’t help you with the tater tots 😉
http://www.grouprecipes.com/36004/condensed-cream-of-mushroom-soup-substitute.html

Danielle
Guest
Danielle
October 2, 2012 4:23 pm

Thank you Kristen, I found one as well from Alton Brown, he uses it in the green bean casserole, which I plan to make for Thanksgiving. You can find it on the Food network site, sorry I don’t have the link handy.

Laura
Guest
Laura
October 3, 2012 10:05 am

I use Alton Brown’s home-made cream of mushroom soup recipe for everything that calls for cream of mushroom soup. It is delicious and a life savor!!

Barbara
Guest
Barbara
October 2, 2012 2:05 pm

Here’s a recipe for home made Tater Tots (and Ketchup!):
http://www.food52.com/recipes/17144_chive_tater_tots_with_green_onion_ketchup

Danielle
Guest
Danielle
October 2, 2012 4:26 pm

Thank you Barbara, I make my own ketchup, have for a few years now. The tator tot recipe looks great though, I will be trying it out.

Kristen
Guest
Kristen
October 2, 2012 12:36 pm

I eat pretty well but even I have my weakness – Shake n’ Bake. Yup. Shake n’ Bake is terrible processed crap and I like it. My husband and son like it. It is salty and tasty (probably from the MSG goodness) and I’m sure it has hydronated oils in it. I only pull it out once a month but still, it’s tragic. I need to get comfortable with panko and some seasonings – at least it would be a step up. So NO Shake N’ Bake this month. I pledge to try seasoning my pork chops with some panko and herbs (unless someone has a better less processed suggestion?!) 🙂

Genevieve S
Guest
October 3, 2012 10:33 am

I use this one and my family loves it.

Genevieve S
Guest
Genevieve S
October 3, 2012 10:34 am

Whoops:

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/homemade-shake-and-bake-mixture/

(I use celery seed instead of celery salt, and cut out the garlic salt)

Becky
Guest
Becky
October 2, 2012 12:51 pm

Currently (well before challenge): Frozen pizza or pizza rolls and craft beer or a pint of Ben and Jerrys.

Growing up: Swanson’s Salsbury Steaks, Mac & Cheese (from the blue box), canned green beans and probably a few slices of white bread smothered in margerine.

I have been cooking different types of squash and potatoes.

Mary Kate
Guest
Mary Kate
October 2, 2012 2:31 pm

Usually, when I actually do the cooking I do pretty good staying unprocessed(except occasionally when I buy seemingly innocent ingredients that have bad stuff snuck in them!). That being said, my big goal for October is to greatly decrease the number of times we eat out and to work on getting in a routine so that meal planning and making things from scratch is less time consuming/expensive.

Heather
Guest
Heather
October 2, 2012 3:39 pm

Cheez-Its and Diet Dr. Pepper. I eat mostly homemade and unprocessed, but those Cheez-Its and Dr. Peppers are my absolute weakness. Artificial sweeteners, “caramel” color, msg, preservatives, sodium benzoate, etc. But I started a week early as soon as I saw this website and have gone six days with neither!

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