Tag Archives: healthy lifestyle

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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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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Prevention is the Key.. To a Healthy Life

When it comes to health, Western mentality is to wait until someone has been diagnosed with a disease and then to use a “bandaid” to cover up the problem. Eastern society doesn’t wait until the problem exists, rather they put forth strong efforts to prevent the disease from developing. It is 2012, and we may not have a CURE for cancer yet we do know some of the leading causes of cancer. It is 2012, and we may not have a magic pill to CURE obesity but have an understanding of what causes obesity and diabetes. So why do we wait until we have to FIGHT the cancer or struggle to lose weight? Why is the leading cause of death in the United States, heart disease, a disease that in most cases could have been prevented. Or why is the leading type of cancer, lung cancer, a preventable disease?

Instead of waiting to find a cure we should be making efforts to prevent disease. Spreading knowledge about what foods are good for you and what foods are not. Supporting each other in healthy decision making instead of egging each other on with unhealthy options is one place to start. Every choice that you make counts because you have the ability to improve your health and serve as a role model for others. Next time you meet up with a friend, ask them if they want to cook dinner together or go for a hike or walk. Supporting each other to make healthy decisions makes it easier and more enjoyable for both parties. Why wait for a cure when you can take steps to prevent getting a life threatening disease in the first place.

 

 

 

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Healthy Cooking Classes in San Diego

Hi!!
This Sunday from 4:30-6:00 pm is my first official cooking class. The focus of my 5- class cooking series is healthy/convenient recipes that will help you save time during your busy week. It will be a basic cooking class filled with lots of great nutrition facts. Beginners are WELCOME!

The classes will be held at Center For A Healthy Lifestyle on Lomas Santa Fe Drive.

Please check out the calendar on the website for more details.
Only$20 per class and you can see descriptions of what we are cooking each class before you sign up. Please e-mail me to make a reservation. Amy.pamensky@gmail.com


www.centerforhealthylifestyle.com : I have been working with this wonderful non-profit since I moved back to San Diego and I have fallen in LOVE. Center For A Healthy Lifestyle (CHL) is a little yellow cottage located next to the Boys and Girls club. There are cooking classes for children & adults as well as gardening classes. The overall goal is to have a CHL in connection with every Boys and Girls club so that we can make a difference on a larger scale. For now, we are very content at our little cottage. Come join the fun!

Looking forward to sharing my passion for a healthy and happy lifestyle with you.

Amy

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