Grocery Shopping 101 Finding Healthy Foods
by Lisa Metzgar, PhD
Take a look at what people put in their grocery carts. These are usually mothers shopping for their families and it is scary what they are feeding them. Most of the food is in boxes, bags, or cans with very little fresh food to be seen.
There are a few simple rules for healthy shopping. You don’t necessarily have to go all organic to be healthy (although, that would be optimal), but you can make a lot more healthy choices in the grocery store you typically shop in.
The first rule is: Stay out of the center aisles as much as possible! Most of the foods in the center aisles are processed foods. The boxes, bags, and cans that I mentioned. There is an entire aisle dedicated to cereals. Every processed sugar bomb that cereal manufacturers can imagine is located in this aisle. Of course they make the boxes very desirable to the actual consumers of these products your child. What little girl can walk past a princess covered cereal box and not beg as though her life depends on getting that cereal?
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There is another aisle totally dedicated to soda. This aisle alone should be banned from every store in my opinion! Soda creates numerous health issues and is creating an epidemic of obese adolescence. There is not one redeemable ingredient in soda. The high fructose corn syrup makes the body into a fat storage unit and can lead to type 2 diabetes with just one soda a day! The phosphoric acid leaches calcium out of your bones. Diet is no better the only thing you are saving is calories. In my opinion, you should never venture down the soda aisle!
The best way to shop is to stay to the perimeter. This is where all the fresh food is located. The majority of your shopping cart should be a pile of fresh fresh fruits and vegetables. There is no such thing as a bad fruit or vegetable for you. Anything in natures own packaging is perfect for our bodies design. We were designed to digest these things and they all have a perfect balance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. You can eat a whole shopping cart full of these things and still maintain your optimal weight and health.
The meat department has some danger zones. Make sure you are going for lean meats and fish. The best choices are chicken breast, turkey breast, lean pork, lean cuts of beef, and fish. There are also some pretty tasty meat substitutes made from soy products that are a good alternative. You can use these in spaghetti sauces in place of ground beef, pan fried in place of your morning sausage, or used in any of your favorite recipes! Stay away from the meats loaded with saturated fats. These include ground beef with fat content over 10%, all marbled cuts of beef, sausages, corn beef, ham, and bacon. Eating too much saturated fat is contributing to our epidemic of high cholesterol.
Dairy and eggs are fine to eat. Again, there are healthier choices for these items. If you buy milk, get 2%, 1%, or skim milk. Milk is a great source of calcium which is a very important mineral for growing bones. Other options for dairy are cheese and yogurt. The hard cheeses are lower in fat. Watch the sugar content of most yogurts. The best option is to buy plain yogurt and add your own flavors like fresh strawberries, vanilla, and sweetener like honey or stevia. There are also lower sugar options if you are looking for more convenience. Just check the labels.
Look for eggs that have Omega 3’s. These were laid by chickens that were fed a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids which are very healthy for us. Omega 3 fatty acids help lower our bad cholesterol and raise our good cholesterol.
The key to healthy grocery shopping is checking the labels. If you are going to buy packaged foods then it is worth taking the extra time to read the labels. There are a lot of items that are seemingly healthy if you look at the front of the package. For example, there is white bread that advertises made with whole grains. If you look at the label though, you will see that the content is still primarily white processed flour with a few whole grains. It is still primarily white bread. You also see packaging that advertises no cholesterol or no trans fats. These items are still loaded with saturated fats. If a serving size has less than 0.5 grams of trans fats they can say it contains 0 grams. Most people usually eat 3 or 4 servings and therefore are eating about 1.5 grams of trans fats. The so called low carb items on the market are loaded with saturated fats. Don’t fall into the marketing traps that make a product seemingly healthy read the labels!
Here are some items to beware of when you read the labels
Anything hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated (these are trans fats!)
High fructose corn syrup
Anything you can’t pronounce
Wheat gluten (a lot of people are sensitive to this)
Enriched (means it is overly processed)
Check for sodium content no more than 1800 mg per day
Here are some things to look for
100% whole grains
Omega 3 essential fats
Olive oil or canola oil
Less than 1 gram saturated fat per 100 calories
Natural ingredients, things you actually can identify
We all get into our routines when we go to the grocery store. With just a little effort you can find healthy alternatives for the things you buy for your family every week. Just little changes in your habits can lead to better health for you and your children. Bring your children to the grocery store with you and teach them what to look for this will create healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
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LisaMetzgar, PhD,she received her BA in Biology from UCSD, is a certified Holistic Health Practitioner, and received her Ph.D. in Holistic Nutrition.
Lisa has taught body mind retreats in San Diego, Seattle, and Australia and currently has a practice in Reno, NV where she does nutrition counseling.Lisa's passion is to educate families about a healthy lifestyle.
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