L.A. blogger Andrew Wilder of Eating Rules struck a chord when he threw down the gauntlet in October and challenged readers to join him for 31 consecutive days of unprocessed eating during a month normally known for bowls and bowls of Halloween candy. More than 400 people signed the pledge, while scores more tagged along the best they could. “What was great about it is that it struck up a conversation," Wilder said. "People were really looking at labels.”
But some of those pledgers -- myself included -- struggled at times with the guidelines calling for a moratorium on any processed food, defined as anything that could not reasonably be made in the average home kitchen. Some complained that it was all too hard, too expensive and too confusing. (On more than one occasion I found myself standing in my kitchen pondering the likes of Genoa salami, soy milk and even coffee. Could I really roast coffee beans in my kitchen?)
Well, Wilder is trying to make it easier this time around. Starting Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011, readers are challenged to follow just three rules for one month:
--When eating grains, eat 100% whole grains (100% whole wheat flour, quinoa, etc.).
--Avoid high fructose corn syrup. (Wilder doesn't label HFCS as evil, just a handy indicator that the food item is likely to be heavily processed.)
--And avoid hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and fried foods like the plague.
But before you say, "How in the world is this any easier!?!?" know that there is a golden rule: One day a week, you can "cheat."
If this sounds like an awfully lenient way to clean up your act in 2011, you're right.
Wilder is not about diets or calories or demonizing sugar. In fact, he ate his share –- and then some -– of Christmas cookies this holiday season. The point is to pay attention to what we're eating, Wilder said. Take French fries. Everyone loves them, right? And they're everywhere. In fact, more often than not, they're on our lunch plate. And, more often than not, they're soggy, or cold, and not all that good. So, Wilder said, skip those not-worth-it fries and instead have a salad or some other side with your sandwich. And then, when your freebie meal comes around once a week, make it your mission to seek out the best fries in town -- or make your own -- and then gleefully enjoy every bite. No guilt necessary.
"I believe in eating 'better,' not 'best,'" Wilder said. "This is all a work in progress. Diet and food is intensely personal, and intensely complicated, and what's right is different for everybody."
He’s hoping once again to generate conversation, and the challenge is open to everyone, and especially welcome are those who are confused by the whole thing and don’t know where to begin. They'll find a supportive online community willing to answer questions and share their wisdom, with Wilder as Chief Hand Holder.
He said he thought long and hard about launching a January challenge. "I don't want to be a stunt blogger, I don't want to be seen as gimmicky." But the reaction to Unprocessed October leads him to believe that there are others out there who are looking for an interactive community that can share struggles, tips, food epiphanies and, perhaps most important, delicious recipes.
"I always make it clear, I'm not a health food guy, I'm a healthy foodie, and there is so much to learn out there, we are all learning every day. So we might as well do it together.”
So, what do you think? Are you up for the challenge? I'm in -- and I'm looking for recommendations for the best French fries in town.
Twitter / renelynch
Photo credit: Bubbo tubbo