With so many mixed messages about healthy food, it can be hard to know what to believe. In today’s media, we even see the fast food companies, and soda companies trying to tell us their junk food is good for us. Sadly, the media and the food industry are not necessarily giving us the full story.
I have found the simplest thing to do is start by carefully looking at your food. Does it look like real food? Does it look like what it started out as? Can you easily identify the original food product? If not, then leave it at the store.
If we think about taking a trip around a standard grocery store remember to shop the outside edges of your store. And don’t be fooled by Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, as not everything in their stores are as good as you might think. In any store, however, start in the produce and fill your basket or cart. Produce, as in vegetables and fruits, are the best examples of real food. An apple looks like an apple. Even if cut up, it still closely resembles an apple, just be careful about pre-prepared cut apples, as they also have preservatives and chemicals to keep them fresh. Lettuce, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes all look like the true food they are. Chose organic whenever you can, as the pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals they are putting on our food is not good for us. I always tell people to read their food labels, but most real food doesn’t have a food label – it is what it is.
Continuing around the perimeter of the store, if you tolerate dairy, you will find milk and other dairy products usually along the back of the store. This is also where you find meat – again, look for the highest quality meat you can afford. Preferably grass fed, pasture raised beef, chicken and pork, but these are hard to find in a traditional grocery store. Along the side of the store opposite the produce is usually the bakery, which I skip altogether, as I don’t see any real food there and I don’t tolerate gluten.
In the bakery and the middle aisles of the grocery store, you will find processed foods like pastries and potato chips, which look nothing like a what they started out as. Potato chips do not look like a potato, nor do they taste like one. Processed foods are simple to identify, as they look nothing like what they started out as. They are processed, packaged, boxed, bagged, canned or more. They are a far departure from the original food product. Bread is a great example of this – whole wheat bread is FAR from whole. There is nothing whole about the wheat in whole wheat bread. The wheat has been pulverized into flour, mixed with other ingredients to change the makeup of the wheat, and baked or otherwise further prepared, then packaged, and transported to our store, before it hits the shelves at the store, or your shopping cart. Processed rice and noodle dishes, some canned goods, etc. have all been highly processed before it reached the grocery shelves.
Beans, legumes, rice, quinoa, and other whole grains are found in the middle of the store and are whole and real food. Frozen foods (without additives) are also good, especially for convenience, but they will not be as fresh tasting nor as nutritious as straight up real fresh food. You will notice a difference at some point if you really pay attention.
Be aware also, that sugar is hiding in probably 90% of these processed products. It is in almost EVERY prepared food. If you read your ingredient labels you are highly likely to find some form of sugar. The worst culprit in probably High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), which is being fazed out, but I have seen them trying to hide this product in the food labels by calling it fructose or sucrose, or one of 250+ names of hidden sugars in our food products. Watch for sugars, in all forms, it may shock you.
Generally, healthy food is:
Organic vegetables, and fruit; beans, legumes, nuts, seeds; grass fed and pastured beef; free range organic chicken and eggs; pork that is pastured, and fed the natural diet of foraged plants, roots, mushrooms and humus from the soil. Wild caught fish and seafood, especially salmon, sardines, lake trout, herring, mackerel and albacore tuna, but be careful of mercury levels in fish, especially King mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, ahi tuna, and bigeye tuna. Healthy fats, like extra virgin olive oil, avocado and avocado oil, coconut oil are also good things you should have on hand, getting rid of all those trans fat vegetable oils you’ve been told were good for you.
Real food is easier to identify than you think, we are just accustomed to seeing junk food and fast food as real food. When you start to pay attention and really look at what you are eating each day, you will soon realize the quantity and quality of your food. Let this observation guide you in a new direction.
Try to slowly start eliminating these processed, junk and fast food items from your diet, your shopping list, and your lifestyle.
Start small, pick one or two things to switch up – find a real food, healthy item to substitute for that fast food burger, or taco, or bag of potato chips, and slowly increase the new item to slowly push the junk food right out of your life.
Be more conscientious, be more aware of your food choices, and conscientiously switch up your choices to create a transition rather than deprivation. This will help to curb the cravings of the unhealthy foods, too. Slowly switch out junk food with healthy options and you can more easily crowd out the junk. Small changes, slow and steady, without beating yourself up about your bad habits, is progress. Perfection does not work here, so don’t even try. If you slip up, don’t stress, just pick up the next day or your next meal and try to improve.
If you need more guidance my new program Simply Eat Real Food – SERF is beginning online on October 3, 2016. This is an 8-week online class that walks you through a transformation from your current diet to a diet of real, whole, and nutritious food. You will discover a more healthy you, and get a handle on your cravings and all the things working against you now. In just 8 short weeks, you can quite literally change your eating habits, and begin to feel vibrant and healthy. Join me this Fall as we explore the concept of SIMPLY EATING REAL FOOD, this program begins on Monday, October 3, 2016 and runs through November 21, 2016. Just in time for the holidays, learn to make better choices and start next year out on a different note. Contact me for more information or sign up here.
I hope you’ll join me in challenging yourself to switch up one item this week, and a different one next week. Plan a bit now, and you can save yourself any stress about it later. I bought goat cheese yesterday, rather than cow’s milk cheese, as cow dairy causes nasal congestion for me. I will limit my dairy consumption this week.
What will you switch up?
Let me know what your plan is, or ask questions in the comments. Let’s get started!!