If your grocery store was a sweet Sega CD emulator, this whole eating right thing would be a whole lot easier, cause you'd just enter in the cheat information and boom, you'd be playing "Healthy Eating Fantasy Part XIV A" at level 99 with infinite health and mana. But real life isn't quite as simple as lining up the codes right. Infinite health is possible, but the equation is different for everyone. However, there are a few simple rules that anyone can implement to make the grocery store grind a little less confusing, especially if you think buying the diet version of everything does anything other than make your butt wider.
So here I'm going to share with you a client handout that I, in my infinite awesomeness, formulated to give you a fighting chance at walking out of Super Shopping Save Max Mart with a cart full of goodies that will do a little less to kill you and a lot more to heal you. Wow, you say. Say it. Because this is free for you, blog readers. It goes with a packet for clients who have a LOT of diet changes to implement, and is just one of the many educational handouts I'm currently working in anticipation of beginning a nutritional consultation business.
What CAN I Eat?
Changing one's diet can feel overwhelming at first, especially when it seems that all your favorite foods are now “off limits”. Here are some tips that can help you to make these new changes into old habits with ease. Take this handout with you on your next grocery trip.
• Carbohydrates are not evil. Focus on complex carbohydrates, not refined ones. If you like bread and pasta, enjoy it! Buy organic sprouted grain breads, and try flaxseed pasta. Flourless varieties are best. Organic brown rice bread and pastas are gluten-free and a great choice. You can even buy sprouted grain tortillas!
• Organic is key. When given the choice, always choose organic. You cannot tell the difference between real food and genetically modified food by looking at it, and you cannot wash away the chemicals it absorbed.
• Read ingredient lists, even on “healthy” foods. Don't assume something is healthy just because the package tells you it is. Many alternatives to dairy products have carrageenan and added oils. If it's processed in any way, skip it! For instance, a carton of soy milk should contain nothing but organic soybeans and water (and added vitamins if the product is fortified). Many “sugar free” foods contain artificial sweeteners that are detrimental to your health.
• Cooked food is dead food! The farther your food is removed from it's natural state, the less it will nourish your body. Focus on fresh food. Choose frozen over canned, and fresh over frozen. Raw nuts and seeds will provide much more nutrition than roasted.
• Bottled juice is not juice. It's been boiled, pasteurized, and doesn't even closely resemble real fruit juice. It has more in common with soda than it does fruit, and should be avoided. Fruit is best eaten whole, or juiced fresh at home and consumed immediately.
• Which lettuce is best? Buy spinach or romaine instead of iceberg for a salad, or pick up a package of organic mixed greens for a quick nutritious main dish or side. Wash them well, even if they are pre-washed.
• Dried or canned? When shopping for beans, dried is superior. If you buy them, remember to soak them overnight before cooking them. The exception for soaking is lentils, and they should be on your shopping list. Try sprouting them for salads or sandwiches.
• High fiber cereal? Check the sugar content. Just because it isn't marketed to children doesn't mean it isn't covered with flavoring, additives, and dyes. Try hot, whole grain cereals, and avoid ones that are instant or flavored. Many grocery stores have bulk bins where you can buy 8 grain cereals by the pound and save lots of money on your families' breakfast.
• The dangers of “diet”. Never buy the diet version of anything. It will not help you to lose weight and in many cases contains chemicals that will make you hungrier (and fatter). Buy the real thing or something better.
And most importantly,
• If in doubt, throw it out (of the shopping cart). If you've read the label and can't understand what the food is made of, it isn't food at all. Put it back and find something you feel more confident putting in your body. In today's supermarkets it's easy to find wholesome food, and the best place to do that is by sticking to the outer aisles of the store.