When I was a kid, I ate pretty well. My parents provided a lot of vegetables (some of which I liked, and some of which I spread very thinly around my plate to avoid), a lot of fruit (which I loved and very much still do), and a wide variety of fish, meat, and generally interesting foods at mealtimes. Scalloped potatoes? Thanks, Mom!
While I was busy eating all this good food, however, I was also stuffing my face with as much candy, salty snacks, and pop (call it what you like—in Michigan, it’s “pop”) as I could handle. I spent every waking minute that I wasn’t eating running around, and I certainly never ate any of those things as meals, so I remained generally healthy. All the same, I put a lot of horrible things into my body between the ages of 4 and 16.
There were some offerings, though, that I refused to eat from the moment I became aware of them. The worst offenders (for my parents, anyway) were American cheese(food) and mayonnaise. I’d tried them, and they weren’t compatible with my idea of deliciousness. And the more I realized just how common these foods were, the more steadfastly I refused to eat them.
Disgust is a powerful motivator. Every time I was offered a grilled cheese sandwich chock full of Kraft American singles, I would tactfully decline and think to myself, “That’s gross. And food isn’t gross. Food is wonderful and delicious! That’s not even food!” Other people eagerly chowing down on my disliked items only grew my distaste.
A particularly memorable (disgusting) moment for me was the sewer slime demonstration in biology. I love science—hey, look! I’m a scientist! Fancy that. So I was fascinated (and maybe a bit gullible) in 10th grade biology when we learned of a special kind of bug that lived in sewer sludge, as demonstrated by the bright green liquid in a graduated cylinder at the front of the class. From my desk I could see these creatures: tiny little brown things that used the nutrients in the sewer sludge to swim to the top, then slowly drift back down in a never-ending cycle of processing human waste.
Of course, it was raisins in Mountain Dew. But the fact that I was at all convinced that the fluorescent green liquid was, in fact, sewer slime, made me realize that even though I had never liked it in the first place, I could never enjoy it, and would purposely avoid it for the rest of my life.
Now that I cook for myself and others quite regularly, I have a much broader array of ‘food’ items on my yucky list. It’s not that I mentally assembled all the tasteless, unnourishing things I despised and chose never to use them. I just started thinking about what was in the food I made, which translated into all the food I ate. And I realized that some of it was, well, hardly food after all. Put it on the list.
I realize this isn’t maybe the best approach for people who want to eat healthier. It is also not the exclusive method I used to ascertain which things I wanted to allow into my digestive tract to provide me with calories and nutrients. But it has helped me a LOT. I didn’t stop eating or drinking anything in spite of really wanting to eat it. I stopped because I had considered what went into preparing that thing and realized I didn’t want it inside me.** I have outlined my most least favorite foods below. What’s on your list?
“That’s Gross” List
Any kind of pop/soda
Fried potato chips
American cheesefood (note: not the same as real American cheese, although MUCH more widely available)
Any fast food not assembled from freshly prepped ingredients (Taco Bell: “that’s gross!” Chipotle: “That has a ridiculous amount of calories, but is relatively nontoxic!”)
Nacho “cheese” or Cheese Whiz
Anything with “high fructose corn syrup” listed as the first or second ingredient (Heads up: your favorite “juice” is very likely in this category)
Candy (while this frequently falls under the HFCS grouping, a lot of people make the “just a little bit” exception, but let me tell you: if you stop eating candy altogether for two weeks, you will never crave it again, and then you can actually enjoy it when you do eat it)
Anything that can’t possibly be that color in nature (sorry, Jello)
Any frozen dessert with more than half a dozen ingredients
White bread (*notable exception being delis that make their own bread)
Any food for which one serving has half or more of my recommended daily sodium value
Store-made desserts (chain stores, not your mom-and-pop bakery; they can’t afford to stock up on the crazy preservatives Kroger puts in their baked goods)
Items with the word “flavor” right in the title (hint: that means they probably didn’t put any of the actual thing in it)
**Note: I am NOT a medical professional, nor am I licensed to give any kind of nutritional advice whatsoever. But I noticed that once I looked deep inside and realized that thinking about what I eat leads to me wanting to eat better, tastier, well, less-disgusting food, I naturally stopped eating everything on this list. I do not follow it as a rule; rather, when I do eat, I intuitively limit my intake of offensive stuff because I am subconsciously judging its ingredients. Do with it what you will, but I guarantee if you make your own list, you will find that it grows rapidly, and suddenly the food comprising your meals tastes WAY better.