Tag Archives: Obesity

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


** 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:



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.


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




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


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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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Isabel’s Cantina- Wisdom about cooking at home from Isabel!

A good friend of mine recentley introduced me to an amazing restaurant in San Diego called Isabel’s Cantina. I just bought Isabel’s cookbook (so excited!). Isabel also has an amazing blog from which I found the entry posted below.

Her take on cooking at home directly matches the value that I place on home-cooked meals. We both agree that “prepping” ahead of time is the key to success.

“The last thing I wanted to do when I’d come home from the restaurant was cook. I was tired after working all day. But I also didn’t want to give my family to go food from the restaurant every night. Cooking for your family (or friends) is a very special thing. I didn’t want to lose that.
Believe me, I know why cooking at home is on the verge of extinction in our hustle-bustle lives. After working all day, you’re just too tired to start thinking about shopping, cooking, and cleaning. These are the moments when take-out, fast-food, and frozen, prepacked, processed foods start looking really good. I was tempted, but, little by little, I began to incorporate the quick cooking methods I’d learned in my restaurant into my kitchen at home. I learned that using fewer, fresh ingredients you can make a diverse and interesting meal.

Think of it this way, when you go to a restaurant, you order, then wait 15 to 30 minutes for your food. It doesn’t take the chef three hours to make your meal. He or she is already prepared (the term is called “prepped” in kitchen lingo). The chef doesn’t have to shop, clean the meat, cut the vegetables, or measure spices for that magic sauce. All of that is done ahead of time, portioned out, and ready to go.

I’m a lazy cook. If I see a recipe with too many ingredients, I back off quickly. I like my food simple, tasty, nourishing—and yet—still eclectic. I have discovered much of what can help you in this regard. Avoiding the prepacked, processed food will take some time and energy. But remember that the purpose of food is to nourish your body and soul so that you can go out and enjoy the rest of your life, not raise your cholesterol, fill your body with preservatives, or keep you chained to the stove every night. It takes commitment to take the high road. And you can do it!”

– Isabel

Here is the link to her blog. Be sure to check out her amazing restaurants!


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Food Matters- Free online viewing this week only!


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!


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Jaime Oliver- Teach every child about food

Jaime Oliver, is a chef from England who is gaining recognition for his Food Revolution in the U.S.

He, along with many other American’s are making strides toward creating a healthier lifestyle for American children. However, bigger changes need to be made in order to make a difference; every individual effort makes a difference. In this TED talk Jaime gives real tangible solutions that can help this country fight against obesity. Some of his recommendations include:

– Change food labeling

– Educate children in school about food

– Teach each child to cook at least 10 quick and healthy meals before they leave high    school. He calls these cooking skills “Life skills”

– Have a food ambassador in every major supermarket  to help people shop and to show them how to cook meals that are quick and tasty.

Jaime is an inspiration to myself and others in the Public Health industry. Take a moment to hear in simple terms what needs to be done in order to make changes in this country.

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Killer at Large: Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat

“Obesity causes 110,000 American deaths each year and plays a role in one-third of all cancer deaths. Yet, despite ballooning concerns, little is being done on the public policy level, as this probing documentary explains. Exploring the issue from individual, political, scientific and cultural perspectives, the film features appearances by Bill Clinton, Ralph Nader, Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Surgeon General Richard Carmona and others”

This documentary presents an all encompassing summary of various contributing causes of Obesity in America. The future of this country relies on today’s children, however for the first time in history forecasts show that the average American life expectancy “could decline by as much as 5 years unless aggressive efforts are made to slow rising rates of obesity.” As we take a look to the future of this country some of the expected outcomes are:

– decreased productivity rates in the workforce

– lack of government funds (aka tax payer’s money) for the medical bills resulting from diabetes 2, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

–  higher rates of obesity in our country’s military and police forces.

Watching this documentary will help you gain a better understanding of how the obesity epidemic has reached this point and how it affects both you and your family.

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Obesity Rates Spin Out of Control- What can you do to make a difference?

” In the 1970s, one out of two American adults was overweight or obese. Today, it’s two out of three. And the obese have gone from one out of seven to one out of three Americans between the ages of 20 and 74.

Excess weight increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and osteoarthritis.

And youngsters aren’t immune. The percentage of overweight children and adolescents has tripled over the past 40 years. Public health experts worry that extra pounds may make today’s children the first generation of Americans to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

– Article from Nutrition Action Health letter (Jan/Feb 2011)

You may or may not know someone who is obese, however your children and your grandchildren are at high risk for obesity as the obesity epidemic continues on the rise.

Even if you are not overweight it does not mean that you are healthy, nor does it mean that you practice healthy eating habits. Take a moment to evaluate the similarities between your lifestyle and the average American’s lifestyle.

How often do you eat at restaurants? How much fast food do you eat per week? How often to you make microwave meals? How often do you cook? How often do you exercise?

Start making changes today. Be a leader. Set examples for others in your community. They need your help!

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