Want to Escape Foodland? –Start in the Pantry

February 24, 2010 in Blog Recipes, Cooking & Baking Hints, Diabetic Menu Item, Foodland, Mediterranean, Uncategorized, Whole Grains by Joyce Bunderson

I don’t think that there is anyone that hasn’t heard at least some of the obesity chat. It’s often degrading and counter productive. Some of it is designed to be punishing – punishing those in the grips of despair. I think that we as a society need to stop focusing on blaming; blaming society, blaming fast food, blaming sugar, blaming soda pop, blaming fat, blaming individuals, blaming families, blaming genetics and so on, for the swift rise in obesity. We need to recognize why we have the problem, and start moving to solving the problem.

Yes, it is true that many of the factors that are being ‘blamed’ do in fact contribute to the problem; some in a very big way. But I would propose that we stop waiting for some definitive single answer that will never come. Can we start with problems that have been clearly identified? There’re mountains of research that show that fast food; junk food; restaurant meals; snack foods; manufactured foods layered with sugar, salt, and fat; foods available at every turn, nook, corner and cranny; contribute to our society’s obesity. It’s a very complex problem to work through, but possibly if we begin taking some steps, we can get where we need to go – or at least move in the right direction.

Those of you that follow this blog know that I strive to help introduce you to recipes consistent with a Mediterranean-style of eating. There is a large volume of valid research pointing us in the direction of eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish; less meat, cheese, saturated fats, processed foods, and sugar. One of the most direct routes to achieve these goals is to cook the food yourself. I wrote the other day, “The easiest and most delightful way to eat well is to cook.”

I want to add to the other post where I used that line, because it is not just about delightful eating. It is about taking back from the food processors their control over the type and quality of ingredients. Taking back from the fast food providers their control over the limited variety, quantity and quality of vegetables and whole grains. Taking back from the restaurants the choice to load our serving with sodium and fat. Standing up to snack machines; making other choices instead of their offerings of crispy or gooey snacks laden with more sugar, salt and fat, or drinks laden with high-fructose corn syrup. And we must recognize that the process of ‘taking back’ involves choosing and preparing your own whole real food; providing for yourself and your family, truly nutritious foods that will support a healthy weight and health in general, and provide the thousands of trace nutrients and antioxidants that are in the whole real foods.

So many people don’t cook now days; I realize that there is a complex list of reasons for avoiding cooking. I won’t list them all here, but it includes not knowing how to cook; not liking to cook; not having time for cooking; not having the ingredients; and not knowing where to start. Maybe I should add, not understanding the tremendous potential value of preparing your own food, and not realizing how enjoyable it can be and what wonderful social experiences it creates. I really do understand some of the struggle. For example, realizing that it’s time to move toward home and nothing is planned for dinner; already being exhausted from a day’s work, but facing another. I realize that family members asking for fast food or a restaurant meal can further complicate the challenge; the temptation is almost overwhelmingly intoxicating. I look at those challenges with empathy, but the understanding of nutrition, the food supply and the knowledge of what happens during the production of fast food and restaurant meals.   ….. and I really can’t leave out my decades-old love of public health. It breaks my heart to think of the resulting public health problems when I think of pizza, take out, burgers, fried chicken, frozen dinners; as compared to the option of real whole food. I do wish that the public could eat more real food, because it will lead to more real health.

The art of cooking has suffered over the past decades – our busy, busy lives and complex family lifestyles have been squished into what works, or more aptly said, what seems to work in the short run.

Just yesterday, we were cleaning out some boxes that were moved from Vic’s (Dr. Grandpa’s) university office. Some were from desk drawers that had not been touched for about 8 years or so. I saw those Styrofoam cups with dried soup – the all you have to do is add hot water and voilà – a meal. It made me somewhat sad. It made me think that some people are still essentially doing this – trying to nourish themselves with salt, a dehydrated pea or two, bullion, maybe even a chicken fleck, and some white flour noodles. Boo double Hoo. I’m glad that I’m able to cook for Vic and to give him a generous serving of real vegetables and whole grains in his real soup.

This non-cooking phase of civilization is really new in the history of humans on earth. What we now know is that some other things are new. The effects of turning the control of cooking over to those who have a conflict of interest; the food processor’s responsibility is to the board of their company – make more profits. Are they thinking of nourishing you as their top priority? It so often appears that the answer is ‘no.’ Because we have the medical knowledge to patch up hearts, open arteries (however temporarily), manage diabetes, recover from some cardiovascular disease and some cancer, we may feel that nourishing our bodies is not so very important.

We recently hired a new employee, who mentioned that he lost 65 pounds and only made two changes. He did this all prior to working with us. The two changes were: no longer eating fast food or junk food. He did not start a new exercise program, but just continued to exercise as before. I do realize this is just an anecdotal story, but there is evidence in science that this has happened to millions of Americans in reverse – they increase the intake of these foods – and sugar-laden drinks, and one day wake up to serious weight and health problems. Increasingly, there are more stories about swearing off these fast and junk foods and drinks and seeing pounds melt away.

I believe that one way to stop the madness of frequent fast food meals and junk food consumption is to begin to focus on what you and your family like. Develop some methods of making those meals ahead. If you’re ‘time crunched,’ try things like the crock-pot. Be creative! Try something new. You could start with something as easy as chicken tenders (boneless skinless chicken breast strips) coat with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with rotisserie seasoning; brown rice with a little soy sauce; and vegetables (greens salad – see salad fixin’ ideas; or broccoli, green beans, or carrots.) That’s fast skillet and saucepan meal; but the food is real.

Another recent eye-opener was when our grandson, who attends college near our home came over for a lunch. He was telling us about not eating breakfast. Can you imagine how Dr. Grandma felt about this, her very own grandson about (6 foot 4 inches), sometimes eating a tiny packet of dry instant oatmeal (sugar and ground up oats) to nourish himself for an intense day of learning? I made ten packets of real oats, with a little sugar, and cinnamon. I showed him how easy it was to be ready ahead. Told him to get the water hot from the tap and throw in the contents of the packet – microwave for about 5 minutes, add some raisins and milk and be nourished for the morning. It only took a couple of minutes, but I think so many people are out of the cooking mind set, that they …… well, just go without; until they see a donut, bagel or candy bar (I should remember that some people call those chocolate-covered bars, nutrition bars). It’s not optimal. We’ve discussed breakfast before.

I told you many months ago that I would help you set up your pantry; today, I am finally getting around to that.

If you want to increase the number of meals that you prepare at home, having a stock of staples on your shelves, refrigerator and freezer can be a big benefit in reaching your goal. If your stomach is growling, will you go to the market; or the freezer and shelves of your home; or will you end up at the fast food establishment? If you’ve developed some quick options and have the supplies to make them, on hand, you’ve taken a step to bring you closer to eating real whole food – and escaping Foodland (the fast food, junk food, processed food world where you surrender your control of ingredients).

The following is a place to start – items that I would encourage you to have on hand. Certainly, these are items that I would start with, but there are many other lists; I’m putting the links for four other website lists for setting up your pantry and food storage. Remember to stock the items that you would actually use.

Four website lists:




When you are getting low on one of your staple items, put it on the list for the next grocery shopping expedition. Canned fruits, vegetables are perfect for last minute needs. Running out of fresh yams, for example, drain a can of yams, sprinkle with cinnamon or limejuice and microwave.

My ideas of a place to start:

Cherry Pecan Muffins - a snack that you can feel good about.

Cherry Pecan Muffins - a snack that you can feel good about.

Cherry Pecan Muffins

These muffins have no added sugar (fruit extracts only), only extra virgin olive oil, and 100% organic hard red spring wheat – no white flour. This is a comforting filling homemade food that you can serve for breakfast, snack or dessert and feel good about it.


One Package of Dr. Grandma's Whole Wheat Muffins Your Way (with accompanying extra virgin olive oil packet).

Two eggs or ½ cup egg substitute

½ cup water

1 cup applesauce

¾ cup coarsely chopped pecans

¾ cup of chopped dried cherries

  • Optional: Sprinkle top with cinnamon and Delight (or sugar), if desired.


  1. Preheat oven to 400º F.
  2. Coat muffin pans with vegetable spray.
  3. Mix cherries and pecans into dry mix. Mix eggs, oil, water, and applesauce. Mix egg mixture to dry ingredients until just moist (do not over mix).
  4. Fill 12 muffin tins.
  5. Optional: Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, if desired.
  6. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the muffin; about 16 to 20 minutes.
  7. Remove from muffin tin to wire rack immediately, before cooling
  8. Makes 12 muffins.
  9. Can be frozen