Today we're laying out the nitty-gritty rules of the challenge and also presenting the first writing prompt at the end. Muse about your answers to the prompt, and come back next week to link up your posts or leave a comment with your answer.
Why six ingredients?The idea of lowering the amount of ingredients in the foods we buy and eat is that our bodies do best with foods that are close to what humans have been eating for millennia. The fewer the ingredients, generally the less processed and more natural the food.
However, the reason for six ingredients exactly? Frankly, Sam and I made up the challenge to suit ourselves. We'd seen various "real foods" and whole foods challenges that suggested limiting foods to five ingredients or fewer, but when we looked at a selection of the items we loved and that seemed wholesome (enough) to us, they had more. (Ha ha!) So we worked backwards until we found a level, along with the rules we also gradually came up with, that allowed us to eat the variety of foods we were used to and limited the amount of non-processed foods we would need to replace. Six it was!
In trying this out ourselves, we determined that six was a pretty reasonable number. It cuts out most processed and a lot of packaged foods, but it still allows for some condiments and treats, as well as homemade versions of what would otherwise be processed foods.
Here are the rules we came up with for ourselves. If you want to be stricter or less so, that's up to you (honestly!) — do what works for you and your family, and make some strides toward eating more traditionally. If you're not using our rules, I'd just urge you to come up with your own concrete guidelines and then stick to those for the challenge.
What counts as an ingredient?We decided early on that some elements should not count as ingredients, and there was some debating back and forth on what to include on this list. We wanted to preserve the spirit of the challenge (eating more whole and natural foods) without either unduly restricting wholesome foods that just had a bunch of yummy parts to them or making the guidelines so broad as to be meaningless.
It's easier to tell you what doesn't count:
- Fruits (this was a sticking point for us — we finally decided whole fruits and fruit pieces could be excluded, but fruit purees and juices could not, since they were primarily sugar)
- Spices and herbs
In other words, if a food product had any of those in its ingredient list, we'd skip over them when counting. If a soup was "Water, vegetable broth, carrots, beef, green beans, vinegar, garlic, black pepper," for instance, it would pass because it would count as just two ingredients: the beef and the vinegar.
If sub-ingredients were listed in parentheses after a single ingredient (for instance, "milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin)," we would count all the ingredients in parentheses and skip the parent ingredient in our count.
That's what we came up with, and you're free to alter the list to fit your own preferences or beliefs.