September is just around the corner and I’ve heard that many of you are taking on the September Whole30, myself included! Whether this will be your first round of Whole30 or you’re a seasoned vet looking to reset after a laidback summer, you will likely find yourself in need of quick and easy options that are both affordable and tasty (myself included here as well)!
Inevitably, you will come across the term ‘Emergency Food’, which refers to products or items that are compliant with the program yet should only be eaten in case of an emergency, such as during travel. Perhaps the most common of these Emergency Foods are bars, jerkies, and meat sticks. More recently, bottled, drinkable soups have become popular with the Whole30 crowd.
Since starting my health journey back in 2013, I’ve noticed an exponential growth in the amount of health-focused, real-food products that have gone to market. I’m talking specifically about the ones that target the paleo and Whole30 crowds.
The good news is that as the Whole30 community continues to grow, so too do the pre-packaged food options that cater to us. Many brands have finally realized the value in developing real-food products that are free of added sugars, grains, dairy and unhealthy oils. Not only is it healthier for their customers, it’s actually good for business! Their efforts are being rewarded by loyal patrons spreading the good word!
Things like RX and Epic Bars are slowly becoming household names. Better yet, cans of flavoured fizzy water that were once unheard of are now borderline cult obsessions.
Is it just me, or are soda water brands the gremlins of the food industry? They just keep multiplying!
In an effort to establish quality control and no trademark infringement, Whole30 began a Whole30 Approved program. I will go on record and say that I think the Whole30 team has done an excellent job in terms of developing a strict, no-nonsense program. Products are vetted and only if the ingredients, “core values, and mission are in line” with those of Whole30 and their followers, they earn a Whole30 Approved label. If you see the label, there is no doubt that whatever it is you’re buying has gone through a comprehensive screening process.
Having spoken directly with certain brands, I know that the Whole30 Approved program is above board and not something taken lightly. Many applications are denied.
One thing many of the people who read my blog don’t actually realize is that I live in Canada (Toronto, ON), and the Whole30 approved product landscape is very different here. We don’t get half of the products that have gone to market in the US and those that have made their way north are oftentimes significantly more expensive! Don’t even get me started on the Costco situation in Canada!
Because many brands reach out to me with product sample offers, I know that it’s a literal nightmare to try to get things across the border. It’s always funny when companies ask to send samples. I can almost predict the speed at which they change their mind once they hear I’m in Canada and learn of the customs documents and duties required for shipping food products across the border! I can only imagine what the logistics are when doing things at scale!
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t experience some FOMO. I recently reached a tipping point and convinced Catalina to take a road trip with me to Buffalo just to do some grocery shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Thanks to the power of social media, I now know that Wegman’s carries a lot of the same products for cheaper!
I have to admit, Catalina and I really liked many of the products we purchased (caveat: some were paleo compliant but not Whole30 approved). I was happy to see that most of the new kids on the block are very keen on creating things that are of high quality and actually taste good! Granted, most of the products were not exactly cheap but using alternative flours or organic, grass-fed, sustainably raised animals is no small feat. Not to mention the fact that many of these companies are at the forefront of a food industry revolution and the winds of change are only just starting to blow. My only hope is that as the market for these products continues to grow, costs associated with production will go down and the savings will be passed on to the consumer.
Despite the lack of Whole30 approved products available in Canada (and the high price for those that are), I think I’m rather lucky in a certain sense. Not only am I forced to be a bit more resourceful in seeking out products that are compliant but don’t necessarily have the Whole30 approved badge, but I’ve also had to consider what qualifies as emergency food in terms of what’s available to me.
Thankfully, Melissa Hartwig has already tackled most of the questions that come my way so if you’re looking to hear it from the headmistress herself, please read this very insightful and useful article.
Nevertheless, I am constantly asked which Whole30 Approved items are my favourite and where to buy them in Canada. First and foremost, Canada is huge and what’s available in Toronto might not be in Moncton. Secondly, when I tell people that I like prosciutto, roasted almonds and carrot sticks, they are thrown for a bit of a loop.
For me, emergency foods are things that are pre-cooked or can be eaten raw, can be eaten on their own or mixed together to create a dish. They can also be things that are premade, such as compliant salsa or mayo. They should keep well in the fridge or fit in my pantry cupboard. Ideally, they can be eaten cold or at room temperature.
Emergency Food examples include:
- Deli meats
- Cured meats (such as prosciutto)
- Canned artichokes packed in water
- Roasted red peppers
- Crushed chili peppers in olive oil
- Sardines canned in olive oil
- Canned wild tuna
- Canned wild salmon
- Almond butter
- Nuts and seeds
- Red Salsa
- Green Salsa
- Pickled Hot Peppers
- Fruits (apples, pears, peaches, apricots, plums, bananas, grapes, cherries, peeled oranges, peeled grapefruits, berries, etc).
Don’t get me wrong, I take no issue with the occasional RX bar, for example, insofar as it’s done within reason. After all, these are called Emergency Foods. The problem, however, is the inherent risk of people inadvertently falling into the same poor habits they were trying to break by doing a round of Whole30.
Before you know it, you’ll be moving more and more towards pre-packaged foods and further away from whole foods that require more of your attention. It’s important to keep in mind that one of the Whole30’s greatest strength’s is its ability to restore a person’s connection with the produce section of their grocery store.
One thing that truly saved my butt during my January Whole30 was my commitment to the portable salad (AKA the Car Salad). Every night, I packed a salad for my commute to work the next day. I’m not talking boring, bland salads here. I’m talking big, beautiful monsters bursting at the seams with interesting flavours, textures and ingredients.
In fact, the ‘car salad’ itself became my emergency food. I got so good at packing salads that it inspired an Instagram challenge with over 500 entries. Some of you might remember the #PGsaladchallenge. I’ll probably bring it back in September as I plan to do another round of Whole30!
On most days, salads were constructed around the need to repurpose leftovers, which meant that all I had to do was throw things into a container with some leafy greens and I was set. Other times, when the fridge was a bit bare, it was about challenging myself to make something out of nothing. In these dire circumstances, I leaned more heavily on my list of Emergency Foods that I had in my pantry. Let me tell you, I’ve never been happier to see a jar of fire-roasted red peppers in my life.
I quickly realized that having a well-stocked fridge and pantry were crucial to my success in staying within the program rules. I don’t fare well when I’m not prepared and my guess is you don’t either! Failing to prepare is preparing to fail! My hunger contributes to poor health choices. I want to grab the nearest carbohydrate and shove it in my mouth as fast as possible.
Conversely, I’m the type of person that will eat whatever it is I have prepared ahead of time. Probably because I can’t erase the image of my mother beating me with a wooden spoon for wasting food!
I truly believe that the words we use to describe our food have an impact on our understanding of them. Do your best not to fall into the trap of equating emergency food with grab-and-go, pre-packaged options. Know that they are available should you need them, but they should not be your first choice.
You can (and should) start thinking about ways to create your own definitions of what qualifies as Emergency Food. Fire-roasted red peppers might be a good place to start?!