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  • Writer's pictureKathie Scalf

Decoding the American Diet

In an effort to optimize my physical and mental health, as well as to pinpoint some ongoing hormone issues, I decided in 2024 to refine my already limited diet and move forward with completely clean eating.  For me that meant eliminating multiple common causes of inflammation and only consuming 1-ingredient foods, adding supplements as needed, and focusing on purchasing as close to home-grown as my budget will allow.  I figured this would be a negligible difference in eating habits, as I’ve been a highly conscious food consumer my whole life; but once I began inspecting every single label and leaving nothing to assumption, I was shocked by just how many toxic and seemingly unnecessary ingredients are being added to our food. They’re sneaking this stuff into practically every item on our shelves and you have to ask yourself ‘why’?

I’ve counted calories my whole life; being raised by a mother who started taking me along to her Weight Watchers meetings at the age of 7 will do that to a person.  About 10 years ago I met my ex-husband who competed in the local body-building circuit so I became even more aware of proper eating, learning how to calculate macros and the importance of what makes up our food versus simple calorie restriction. Since then I’ve stuck primarily to the outer perimeter of the supermarket, consuming primarily produce, meats, and dairy and avoiding the packaged processed stuff.  I felt like I was doing pretty well until this month when I started double checking the labels on things I presumed to be healthy and basically single-ingredient food.  

I wanted to focus on improving my gut health to improve my overall bodily function and naturally stabilize my hormone imbalances, so I completely removed gluten, soy, seed oils, corn, added sugars, and most dairy except strong sources of probiotics.  As I began working through my current daily diet, I took the time to examine nutrition labels one-by-one just to confirm I was in compliance and had a rude awakening- not a single thing I was consuming conformed to that list.  My peanut butter had seed oils and sugar, my marinade full of gluten, sugar and soy; even my nonstick ‘olive oil’ spray contained soy and a chemical cocktail!  The turkey sausage and bacon I consumed religiously for breakfast had a list of ingredients 15 deep, most of which I couldn’t pronounce and even my skinless, boneless chicken breast had an added 15% chemical solution injection!   

No one needs this crap in their food!  American groceries contain known toxins and carcinogens that the rest of the world has banned and it’s alarming.  If you don’t believe me you can google search it, or go to Europe and find out for yourself.  A person can galivant across Italy, eating pasta and drinking wine with wild abandon, and never experience the bloat and side-effects off one single bowl of pasta from Carrabbas here in the US.  Our bodies are having adverse reactions to all the weird stuff we can’t pronounce that is being added to make it filling and addictive, and it’s making us sick.  

I’ll be honest with you, I never cared to know what gluten was and just wrote it off as a diet fad that was a major annoyance working in the restaurant industry.  Even still, I’m not proper certain, but basically understand it to be a sticky, unnecessary protein added to food to make it hold shape and add texture and flavor.  In my mind, I associate it with glue; glue=gluten=not good.  Because I still don’t really understand it but just know its an added chemical, I avoid sources of it altogether – that includes ‘gluten free’ versions of things like bread.  I am sticking to 1-ingredient food sources, and even popular GF brands like Dave’s and Udi’s have a list of chemicals a mile long.  Instead, I opt for potatoes or rice to meet my carbohydrate needs.  

Added sugar was another one that was a bit tricky to hammer out.  Obvious sugar sources like candy and cakes stand out like a sore thumb, but it turns out they’re sneaking sugar into practically everything.  And what does ‘added’ sugar even mean?  Well, there’s definitely a difference in naturally occurring and added sugars and when you think about it, it’s not difficult to differentiate.  You want your sugar to come from naturally occurring sources like fresh fruit (key word ‘fresh’) and dairy.  The only sugar in my diet is now sourced from the cantaloupe and 1/2C low-fat/high protein cottage cheese I have at breakfast, and the probiotic-rich kefir I put in my post-run shake. Also, aside from those two dairy products, I’ve eliminated everything else, which includes cheese, butter and even coffee creamer.  Dairy is full of weird hormones they’re shooting into the cattle to make them produce more and considering I’m having issues regulating my own hormones at the moment, I certainly do not want to take in any extra.

Soy, corn, and seed oils run rampant and it’s important to double check everything.  As I previously mentioned, I was shocked to find out I was paying $1 more for ‘olive oil’ nonstick spray in an effort to be healthy, only to find out it was actually EVOO plus soy lechtin and dimethyl silicone (WTH is that??)  The easiest way to avoid all these unnecessary toxins and sources of inflammation is to stick to actual 1-ingredient sources.  I now use 100% olive, coconut or avocado oil for my nonstick needs, and while it does contain fats and calories, they’re the good kind and perfectly healthy in moderation.  I make my own salad dressing using olive oil, lemon juice, and a blend of herbs and spices instead of buying bottled.  I’ve replaced my morning turkey sausage by buying 93/7 ground turkey and seasoning myself with rosemary, sage, garlic salt and a pepper blend.  Keep your diet simple; most everything needs little more than a toss in olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper to be delicious.  

As far as meat is concerned, it is financially difficult to navigate this.  First, stay away from processed sources like deli meats and opt for lean, whole options only; things like chicken, turkey, eggs, lamb, and beef.  But the meat industry is really, really gross and deceptive, with livestock being kept in deplorable, inhumane conditions.  I personally don’t eat pork just because pigs in their natural state will eat anything, but in captivity are fed the worst crap you can imagine, held knee-deep in their own excrement.  Major brands will slap words like “cage free” and “grass fed” on their labels as a way to deceive consumers into spending more and not investigating the food sources, when these terms mean next to nothing.  Try to only buy livestock that is labeled “animal welfare approved,”  it’s pricey, but it’s worthwhile in both quality and clear conscience.  

This dietary approach might seem extreme, especially considering how difficult it has been made to eat this way.  But I urge you to at least familiarize yourself with these factors and consider making small steps toward elimination.  It’s only for your benefit and is such a strong investment in your future health and happiness.  Happy eating!


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