Tag Archives: food

Confused about what to buy at the grocery store? Worry no more!

“The news abounds with stories such as countless tales of deadly bacteria-laden meats and vegetables; packaged-food poisonings; estrogen-laced meats; pesticide-enriched produce; more and more irradiated and genetically modified foods; antibiotics in animals leading to resistance in humans.Consumers of food, which is to say all of us, have become concerned that the food supply is no longer safe, may be creating or perpetuating chronic illness, or worse, may be capable of killing us.”

If you are confused about what to buy or should we say what not to buy at the grocery store, you are not alone! With all the fancy packaging, confusing words in the ingredient lists and with so many products to choose from, I don’t blame anyone for being confused or frustrated. There are some simple guidelines that you can follow to ensure that you are getting the optimal nutrients out of the foods you are putting into your body. These simple guidelines will also ensure that you are keeping chemicals and toxins-which eventually lead to disease- out of your body.  Let’s go back to the basics.

The term “organic” is scary and expensive for most people. We need to take a step back in order to realistically understand that the pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones that are added to conventional food is the scary part of the equation and that medical bills resulting from food-based disease  are the expensive part. Now that organic no longer means scary and expensive, let’s define what it really means.

In simple terms, organic means that there are no pesticides or chemicals involved in the growing and processing of fruits and vegetables. It also means that there are no antibiotics or hormones added to animal protein.

If there is one thing that you decide to buy organic, it should be your animal products. Without going into the very sad and disgusting details about how animal products are processed now-a-days, I will STRONGLY advise you to buy animal products that are organic. Here are some more detailed guidelines for buying safe food products.

Guide for buying fruits and vegetables

Better to buy organic:More likely to be handled with pesticides, antibiotics & hormones Okay To Buy Conventional:Less likely to be handled with pesticides, antibiotics & hormones
Peaches/ NectarinesStrawberries/ Blueberries/ GrapesApples/PearsCeleryBell PeppersCarrots/PotatoesLettuce/Leafy Greens/ SpinachKale/ Collard GreensBaby FoodMilk and Other Dairy ProductsMeat (Chicken, Beef,Pork)CoffeeNuts/ Nut Butters

Cooking Oils

OnionsCabbageEggplantAsparagusSweet PeasSweet PotatoesAvocadosPineapplesMangoesMushroomsCantaloupeWatermelonGrapefruit

Kiwi

** I keep a small print out of the table above in my wallet. No need to memorize!

What to look for on packaged food labels

First thing I look for is the ingredient list. My rules for ingredients are simple:

1. No more than 3 (maybe 5) ingredients

2. You should be able to pronounce and understand every ingredient

3. Sugar should not be in the first 3 ingredients (if it is even in the list at all is up to you)

This is tricky because there are many different terms to hide sugar. Just stick to rule #2 and you shouldn’t have a problem.

Now that you have checked the ingredients, it is time to refer to the some-what helpful nutrition facts. First look at how many servings there are and what the serving size is. Next look for anything that looks abnormally high. For example, are the carbohydrates, fats or proteins very high in comparison to one another. Another thing I always look at are the sodium and sugar contents in packaged food as they tend to be very high due to the way packaged food is  processed.

It is very hard to find a perfect packaged product because in reality a perfect food does not come in a package, it comes from nature. However, comparing food labels between different brands can help you choose products that are much healthier than other products that are offered to you as a consumer.

What to look for when buying eggs

Simple….Pastured, free-range, organic

What to look for when buying fish

In most cases you want to buy fish that were caught in the wild as opposed to farmed fish. There are a few exceptions so do your research first to make sure that you are buying from reputable sources. As you have probably heard in the news, there is concern with mercury levels in some fish based on which areas they are caught in. Be sure to check the following websites for updated information about responsible/sustainable fish consumption:

http://apps.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=1521

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx

You can also buy sustainable seafood from from www.vitalchoice.com

What to look for when buying beef products

Step 1: Make sure your beef is organic

“When you see the green USDA organic label-you know the food is going to be free of pesticide residues-synthetic hormones- antibiotics-and genetically modified grain.”

Step 2: Make sure that the cattle was grass-fed as opposed to grain fed.

Since cattle are naturally meant to eat grain, they have a difficult time breaking down the grain in their bellies. This leads to lower immune systems which require farmers to add antibiotics to the grain feed. Grass fed cattle have proven to produce meat and dairy products that are higher in nutrients. There is also less chance of food-borne illness such as E. coli when consuming grass-fed beef. To find out more refer to www.eatwild.com

What to look for when buying chicken products

This is where things get a little bit tricky. However, if you know what to look for then you will not be fooled by the labeling tricks–aka purposefully misleading statements. For example, “cage free” does not mean that the birds are free-roaming. Birds that are raised in their natural environment AND feed off their natural diet are healthier than the way most chickens are raised now-a-days. Birds that are stuffed into small spaces with no light have high stress levels, leading to low immune systems, at which point farmers introduce antibiotics into their feed to keep them from spreading disease. Another trick in the big chicken-company book is that “anti-biotic free” does not mean that the FDA regulated that product. It must say “raised without antibiotics.” The last thing that you need to look for is “air-chilled.” If a chicken is not air-chilled then it has been dunked in cold water with chemicals to speed up the production process. Last but not least it should be organic. So why go through all of the trouble to identify which chicken to buy?

Industrial farming practices produce unhealthy animals that 500,000 packed together in tight spaces, treated in-humanly, and are fed GMO grains. Conventional poultry can expose you to antibiotics, high levels of arsenic, toxins from fertilizers and pesticides.

The best place to buy your chicken is the farmer’s market. There are also local reliable farms that  you can order from online. You can buy chicken that meets the above criteria at Whole-Foods. I spent 15 minutes today looking at the pre-packaged chicken. After a little chuckle of frustration, I walked over to the meat counter where I found the perfect bird;

  • air chilled
  • organic
  • raised without antibiotics
  • hormone free
  • free range

It absolutely absured that we should have to search for this criteria in order to find chicken that will not contribute to unhealthy reactions in our bodies. Better to spend $18 on a whole chicken than to spend over thousands of dollars in medical bills when you still need money to pay for retirement. OH MY!

It is really sad that we have to protect ourselves from food companies who find it more important to make money than to care about people’s health. You do not have to freak out or be terrified of all the information that I have provided above. The more educated we are about how our food is processed, the more chance we stand to protect ourselves from disease. Making small changes at a time is the most successful tactic. Remember that you have the power in the grocery store. Every time you swipe your card you are voting for what type of products you want the grocery store to offer. More specifically, if there is less demand for unhealthy products, the companies will have to reduce production because they will have excess product which costs them money. Conversely, if there is more demand for healthy products, responsible food companies will have to produce more of the good stuff to keep up with the high demand.

If you have any specific questions, please comment! I would love to help you make more educated decisions in the grocery store.

Sources:

Organic guide for fruit and vegetables: Adapted by Bauman College from the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides.

www.eatwild.com

http://apps.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=1521

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx

Notes from class lecture at Bauman College- Spring 2012 Berkeley, CA.

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Homemade Hummus (Raw)

I am very impressed with my first attempt at making hummus. This is a great dip or spread that pairs up with crunchy veggies as a tasty snack. You can also use this spread on homemade crackers or a great brand that can be found at any health food store is “Mary’s Gone Crackers.”

Hummus

Ingredients

1 16 oz can of chickpea, garbonzo beans (or white beans for those who have a hard time digesting beans)

1/4 cup liquid from can of beans

3-5 tablespoons of lemon juice*

1 1/2 Tablespoons of tahini**

1 clove of garlic, crushed (optional)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 Tablespoons olive oil

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Procedure

1. Drain beans of choice- I used garbonzo beans for this one- set liquid aside

2. Add remainder of ingredients to a blender

3. Measure out 1/4 cup of liquid from beans and add to blender

4. Blend until smooth

If needed for texture, add 1 extra teaspoon of olive oil

* Lemons vary in size and bitterness. Start with 3 Tablespoons then add more if needed for taste

** Tahini is a creamy puree of roasted sesame seeds. You can use it for a creamy salad dressing.

Garnish: dried parsley & sesame seeds

Raw hummus should last for about a week. Enjoy on a sandwich or as one of the snacks recommended above. So easy, So delicious, So Nutritious!

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What’s In Season?

South Berkeley Farmer's Market

Visiting a local farmers market is the best way to find out what is in season. Second to growing your own food, buying local and seasonal is the most sustainable way to consume food. During the transition from winter to spring people often get sick because they have weaker immune systems. Interestingly enough, it is during this time that nature provides us with citrus fruits which support the immune system through their high levels of Vitamin C. Enough about the transition period, spring is here.. finally! I am not used to having distinct seasons considering that I have lived in Southern California for most of my life. Thus, transitioning from winter to spring has been a beautiful growing experience in Northern California.

Here are some fruits and veggies that I have been scoping out at the local farmers market the past couple of weeks:

What’s In Season?!                                 

Nutrient Content

Health Benefits

Asparagus

Vitamin A, B(s), C, K, folate, iron, fiber

Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, digestive support

Avocados

Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, Vitamins C and E, selenium, zinc, phytosterols and carotenoids

Heart health, anti-inflammatory, eye health, immune support

Oranges

Vitamin A, B1, C, fiber, folate, calcium, potassium

Antioxidant, lower cholesterol, prevents colds

Snap Peas

Vitamin A,B1,C, K, manganese, fiber, folate

Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory

Strawberries

Vitamin C, K, fiber, manganese

50th best antioxidant source of all foods

Oranges

Oranges: Use as a snack, juice, in a salad or marinade

Remember that fruits (some more than others) have much higher sugar contents than vegetables. Push the veggies more while continuing to incorporate fruit in your daily diet.

Snap Peas

Snap Peas Great as a snack- alone or dip in hummus

Harvest of the Month is another great resource to find out what is in season.

http://www.harvestofthemonth.cdph.ca.gov/product-list.asp

Strawberries

Strawberries Use in a salad, as a breakfast topping or dessert topping. Delicious because it contains a high sugar content 😉

Sources:

www.naturalnews.com

World’s Healthiest Foods, www.whfoods.org

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Perspective on Our Relationship With Food

Each of us has our own unique relationship with food. We all need food to survive. Food can also be used as a form of comfort or a social outlet. There are also many intricate layers within our relationship with food, which include behavioral aspects, physical aspects and emotional aspects. It has been said that changing a person’s eating habits is harder than changing someone’s religion. This sounds absurd yet, take a minute to think about how defensive we are about our favorite foods.

Here is some insight from the book Lost and Found, written by Geneen Roth. Geneen had a very unhealthy relationship with food and dieting for ongoing years. This particular book talks about her relationship with food and money, which have some very fascinating correlations with one-another. She shares her turning point in her relationship with food:

“….Since I was then twenty-eight and had been dieting for more than half my life–seventeen years– the only way I knew to accomplish this was to eat what I hadn’t allowed myself to eat– fattening foods that only men and thin people ate. Chunky cookies and pumpkin ice cream and four-cheese pizza. After a few weeks of vacillating between nausea and giddiness, there was a clunk, a shift in my attitude: I understood that food wasn’t good or bad and eating wasn’t about right or wrong or being loved or rejected. It was only about this body–my body– and figuring out what it needed to move, think, thrive. Removing judgements from food made eating much simpler; it’s not that my crazy eating suddenly disappeared, it’s that my perspective shifted, and my orientation was about what gave my body energy versus what drained it, decisions about cheesecake or ice cream slowly lost their fraught, hysterical quality. Eating became a way to sustain and support my body, not the way I was either trying to prove I was worthy (by denying myself) or rebelling against the internal voice that told me I wasn’t (by bingeing).” p.62

It is very admirable that Geneen is able to open up to other people through her writing in order for others to look into their own relationship with food. Just as s most relationships continuously take some effort and TLC, so does each of our relationships with food. Take some time to delve into your relationship with food. Before you open the fridge or pantry ask yourself “am I truly hungry right now or am I eating for other reasons.” If you are not hungry then find a way to distract yourself until those instincts pass. On the other hand, if you are hungry, you should prepare your food then take a moment to breathe and appreciate the food in front of you before you shovel it in to your mouth. Each bite is a connection between your food and your body. Thus, chew thoughtfully. Work on building your own healthy relationship with food one bite at a time.

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Tools to Reach Your Nutrition and Fitness Goals

MyFitnessPal is the easiest and most user friendly App to help you achieve your health goals. This app is FREE. It is a great way to keep track of your caloric intake, which will help you achieve your goals. You can download this app via iPhones or android software.

The health equation consists of Mind, Body and Spirit. I am going to touch on two of the most common components that affect your health which are Fitness and Nutrition.

The biggest challenge in my personal health equation is by far the Nutrition component, because I LOVE LOVE LOVE food… And growing up in Western society where food is far from promoted for it’s original purpose (to nourish our bodies) but rather as a hot commodity that we “have to have.”

If there is one thing that comes easy to me in the health equation it is the fitness component. I absolutely love getting a good workout in on a regular basis. None the less, after all my experience with fitness I am here to tell you that I believe the nutrition component is more important than the fitness component. No, I am not saying that the fitness component is not important. I am saying that the nutrition component is MORE important to help you achieve your goals. Why? In order for your body to function efficiently, it needs a a good baseline nutrient intake. If you nourish your body well, you are less likely to be deficient in vitamins and minerals thus your essential body functions can perform more efficiently.

Picture your mouth as a filter. If you let foods (or drinks) pass this filter they are going to have either a positive or negative affect on your body. If you continuously expose your body to negative substances, it will respond with an illness, disease or allergy. If you continuously expose your body to positive substances, your body will respond with a “thank you,” and you will feel good. Unfortunately, due to toxins in our environment, there is no guarantee that living a healthy lifestyle guarantees you a disease free life. However, science and history have proven that you tremendously lower your risk for disease if you do treat your body well. I don’t think that we need to live by the rules for every single bite we take in order to reduce our risk. There is room for a few cheats on your diet, however if you find yourself getting into a habit or continuously exposing yourself to foods that do not contribute to your health then maybe you need to check your filter. Or find tools to help keep you on track.

I have found that My Fitness Planner helped me to get back on track because it provides facts for me to base my food choices on. Another tool I have used over the years to get back on track with nutrition is the old pen and paper Food Log. I simply write down everything that I eat & drink during the day for 5-7 days. This way I hold myself accountable for my choices and I can track any negative or positive patterns. I also write at the end of the day how I felt and what exercise I did.

Try out these tools to see what they can do for you!

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Navigating Through the Supermarket- Insider Tips

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Grocery shopping can be a mundane, routine, expensive and stressful experience if you allow it to be. However, it does not and should not be such a negative experience. My first supermarket experience by myself was when I went to college. I found myself calling my mom several times to ask questions and most of the time I spent more money than I needed too. Sure I had been to the supermarket with my mom hundreds of times before but like most children I had never been encouraged to be a part of the grocery shopping experience. Most children are told “not to touch that” or to “sit in the cart and behave while mommy shops.” It is important that parents encourage children to be a part of the grocery shopping and cooking experience so that they feel a sense of responsibility for the food that they consume. It is quite surprising how confused people look when they walk into a supermarket that is not a Ralph’s, Vons or Alberstons. Here are my insider grocery store tips to help both those who are experienced and new grocery shoppers. Hopefully I can help put some pep in your step 🙂

Remember that Eating well starts with good ingredients!

Recommended grocery stores:

Sprouts (formerly known as Henry’s)- great produce

Trader Joes- average produce, resourceful/ relatively cheap staple goods

Whole Foods- more expensive yet majority organic

Farmers Markets!- best place to get to know more about where your food comes from. Also a more exciting shopping experience.

Local health food store: in my area its Jimbo’s.. Naturally!

Tips for grocery shopping

  1. Make a grocery list before you go to the store
  2. Don’t shop when you are hungry
  3. Shop around the edges of the supermarket first then head to the isles if you still need a few products.
  4. Fresh-frozen-canned-packaged (listed from most preferable to least)
  5. Read food labels for ingredient content and nutritional value (who cares if its ONLY 100 calories? If the first ingredient is sugar or corn syrup then its not a favorable item)
  6. Avoid foods that have more than 5 ingredients, ingredients that you can’t pronounce and artificial ingredients.
  7. Buy seasonally! Fruits and vegetables that are in season taste better and are fresher.  This will also help you break the routine of buying the same products all the time. Spice up your life!
  8. Try a new fruit or vegetable each week
  9. Buy a reusable water bottle to save costs on plastic water bottles each week (not to mention you will be saving the planet as well!

10. Use reusable grocery bags (only 99 cents)

Supermarket sections:

Produce: fruits & vegetables (Vitamins & Minerals)

Spend most of your time in the produce section. Buy a variety of colors when it comes to vegetables. Check fruit for bruises or mold. Remember that fruits are high in sugar so make sure you are shopping for vegetables as well.

Grains: bread, cereal (Fiber)

Always go for whole-grains pasta and bread. Choose brown or wild rice. Shop for cereals that have less than 4g of sugar per serving.

Dairy: Milk, cheese, yogurt (Calcium)

Dairy products have a high fat content, however most of the fat is considered “healthy fat.” Shop for dairy products that are low-fat or 2%. The fat content is important but whole milk has too much fat per serving. Almond milk is a GREAT alternative for milk if you are lactose intolerant or if you want to switch it up.

Meat, fish poultry: (Protein/ Omega 3)

Buy meats that are GMO, hormone and antibiotic FREE. Organic meats are worth the price that you pay because the animals are treated with respect and they are much healthier than non-organic meats. Fish is great because there is a wide variety of options and it is easy to cook. It also has great Omega-3 fatty acids. Choose lean cuts of meat and skinless chicken.

 Frozen Foods

Frozen vegetables have the same amount of nutrients as fresh vegetables. Frozen foods have a much higher sodium content than fresh foods, therefore they should be eaten in moderation.

 Canned and Dried Foods

Choose canned fruits and vegetables that don’t have any sugar or juice added to them. Canned tuna is healthiest in water. Peanut butter and almond butter are healthy sources of fat in moderation.

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Food Matters- Free online viewing this week only!

http://www.foodmatters.tv/screeningeventcinema

Just got word that a new documentary called food matters is only available for free viewing this week. Will write more feedback when I have finished watching the film, just thought I would share so that you don’t miss out!

Enjoy

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