Have you ever walked down a grocery store aisle staring blankly at the overwhelmingly abundant number of choices? How many brands of tomato sauce does there have to be? Which one is the best? Unfortunately, slick marketing tactics and fancy labeling on “healthy” options can leave you misled or paying a fortune for something as common place as a box of cereal.
Buying real, healthy food for your family should not have to be so difficult. By doing a little extra reading of the labels and planning your meals, you will be well on your way to becoming a grocery store expert. Here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind next time you go shopping:
Peanut butter is one of sneakiest “health” foods on the market. Many parents think the age-old PB&J sandwich in their kids’ lunch boxes is a great option for its protein and vitamins but most peanut butters are hiding massive amounts of added sugar and harmful hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Instead of the normal, popular brands you are used to seeing, turn your jar around and check out the ingredients. There should only be one: Peanuts (and maybe some salt). Look for “organic” on the label verses “all natural.” Even “all natural” brands can sneak in some unwanted ingredients.
Going along with our peanut butter, you need a good quality bread to make your sandwich. By now, most people know the harmful effects of white bread, but standard whole wheat bread is not good for you either. Modern farming techniques plant seeds in depleted soil using fertilizer and chemicals which usually results in high amounts of gluten. Upon harvest, the grains are rapidly ground by machines whose high heat destroys the few enzymes left. The bread is then bleached, removing all remaining nutrients. Even brands labeled as “enriched” or “fortified” don’t have the necessary elements needed to digest the grains which can lead to gluten allergies and leaky gut syndrome.
Look for brands labeled as “sprouted” from companies like Food for Life or Berlin Natural Bakery. You will find these brands in the freezer section because they go bad very quickly as they don’t contain any preservatives. The grain used to make these breads were harvested and prepared the old fashion way, carefully, to breakdown the outer layer to release all the beneficial nutrients.
One of the biggest misconceptions in our modern day food pyramid is that saturated fat is bad for you. When in actuality, more and more studies have come out debunking this myth. Full-fat dairy is loaded with essential nutrients including fat-solution vitamins A, D, E, and K. Low fat dairy products are stripped of these nutrients leaving behind a sugary, nutrient-less concoction. To make matters worse, modern homogenizing (the process of breaking down the fat so milk is a consistent texture) destroys valuable enzymes used to help you digest it.
Local farms, like Hartzler Family Dairy, pasteurize their milk at the lowest legal limit, killing off any bad bacteria but preserving the nutrients in the milk. Their milk is also non-homogenized ensuring that all those valuable enzymes are left unharmed.
Does red meat cause cancer? The answer is NO! Well, not sustainably raised, grass-fed meat as least. Meat from a cow raised on grass is rich in nutrients that are vital to human health—essential fatty acids, trace minerals and Vitamin A to name a few. This creates an alarming difference compared to factory-farmed cattle raised on processed grain feed and modified with antibiotics. This type of meat can be very inflammatory and lead to conditions like cancer.
Look for a local farm in your community that raises their livestock in an open pasture grazing on grass. Many farms offer shares where you can buy a large portion of a cow and have it prepared in different ways. This is often the most cost-effective option if you can afford to pay a little extra upfront. Most local health food stores also carry high quality meat. If you aren’t sure where the meat came from, ask! Most stores will be happy to provide you with that information.
Chips, Crackers, Pretzels & Popcorn
Junk food… the bane is millions of American’s existence. While we don’t usually recommend junk food of any type, sometimes you have to splurge a little. And there is a way to do it a little healthier! Things like potato chips, crackers, popcorn, and pretzels are usually made with corn oil, soybean oil, and believe it or not, added sugar and artificial flavors and preservatives. Even products labeled as “baked” can be hiding harmful chemicals and additives.
If you have to fulfill your snack attack, look for products that are fried or cooked in avocado oil and flavored with natural sea salt and don’t have added sugars or flavoring. Read the labels—if there are more than a handful of ingredients, especially one’s you can’t pronounce, it’s best to stay away. A few of our favorite brands are Good Health Snacks and Lesser Evil Buddha Bowl.
Sugar is by far the most detrimental thing you can eat for your health. Not only does it lack any nutritional value, but it wreaks havoc on your hormonal system, causing weight gain and high cholesterol, and can lead you down the path to chronic disease. However, we all need a little something sweet sometimes. So what can you do? Do NOT reach for a low-fat or “sugar-free” substitute thinking you are saving yourself some calories. When manufacturers take fat and sugar out of food, they have to load it up with harmful chemicals to give it flavor.
When looking for something sweet, look for desserts with natural and organic ingredients like cacao or coconut oil, sweetened with honey, maple syrup, or other natural sweeteners. There are many delicious chocolate candy bars made with cacao on the market using only a few ingredients while providing you with antioxidants and other nutrients. One of our favorite brands is eatingEVOLVED® Primal Chocolate. It comes in a variety of flavors to satisfy any sweet tooth.
Education is Key
Educating yourself and spending a little extra time reading nutrition labels is the key to ensuring you and your family are as healthy as possible. It may take a little extra time at first, but if you follow these tips, you will be off to a great start.
If you still need a little help, stop by our next Weston A. Price Foundation meeting on May 19. We will be talking all about positive lifestyle choices and the five secrets to raising healthy children. If you have a concern that is bothering you, give us a call at 330-764-3434 and make an appointment. We would love to help you.