In an ideal world we'd grow our own vegetables...pick fresh fruit off our trees & bushes...gather eggs from our pet hens...and milk our own cows and goats. Yeah, that's not my world today. Though it's nice picking fresh basil and peppers from our small backyard garden, it's certainly not going to sustain me...or my constantly hungry teenagers.
While it would be great to have year round availability to fresh, local produce, unfortunately that's not the Midwest reality either.
Yet, one of the biggest contributors to our health is the food we eat. Certainly the "Western diet" hasn't done our bodies any favors:
estimated 48% of Americans have heart disease, 1 in 3 US adults are pre-diabetic, and more than 15 million Americans have food allergies.
The common misconception is that eating healthy is too expensive and time-consuming. There's no shortage of Instagram and Pinterest images of picture-perfect foods and juices that are simple to whip up...if you have a trust fund...abundant free-time...or no kids.
Every time I hear someone tell me that I should start "juicing" I picture more dirty dishes and trying to find cabinet space to store the damn thing. I'll just eat an apple, thanks.
Even if you don't know your quinoa from your kimchi, healthy eating is possible
...without costing your whole paycheck
...or spending all of your free-time prepping meals.
It also doesn't mean giving up all of your favorite foods...just learning how to choose healthier options.
Less brand loyalty- more ingredient loyalty.
Here are 4 criteria I follow when grocery shopping:
- Skip the synthetic sugars. This one is non-negotiable for me and my family- I will not purchase anything that contains synthetic sugars. Yes, the negative effects on your health are that dramatic. How can you tell if a product contains synthetic sugars? Labels claiming "low/no sugar" or "low/no fat" are a bold, flashing warning sign. Also, look for High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sucralose, Splenda, Truvia, "Natural Sweetener", Equal, Aspartame, or Acesulfame-K/ace-K in the ingredients.
- Look for the Butterfly. In the US, Non-GMO Project Verified is currently the only third-party organization that verifies an entire product (not just select ingredients) is non genetically modified. Unlike many countries around the world, companies in the US are not required to designate if ingredients have been genetically modified...essentially creating a new organism by combining two organisms that could never naturally reproduce (think salmon and a polar bear). Which could be potentially life threatening if the modification includes any of the 8 common food allergens (soy, eggs, nuts, fish, milk, tree nuts, shellfish, wheat). Look for the butterfly.
- Watch the Dirty Dozen. Every year the EWG lists the 12 most pesticide-laden produce (dirty dozen) and the 15 least pesticide ridden (clean 15). This year's top three? Spinach, strawberries, apples. To avoid health risks from pesticide exposure (sorry, they all can't be simply washed off), choose organic when purchasing the "Dirty Dozen". Fresh too expensive? Try the frozen aisle or check out this #10secondTuesday tip for another option.
- Get the family involved. We want our kids to tie their own shoes and wipe their own butts, but we're missing the opportunity to teach them how to choose healthy foods on their own. Sure it's convenient to have our groceries delivered to our car or appear on our doorstep, but teaching our kids (and significant others!) how to check ingredients, interpret labels, and watch for artificial additives empowers another generation for better health.
Eliminating fake ingredients doesn't mean you're avoiding flavor...or giving up snack favorites. Missed my favorite "better for you junk food" chip suggestions? Find them here. Looking for the best prices on healthier alternatives? You can find those here!
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