The importance of the QUALITY of your food is truly underestimated by most people. Your life will change once you begin to really understand and appreciate what you're putting into your mouth. Remember, it's your body, and it's your job to take care of it! Stop feeding it junk, start feeding it real, high-quality foods, and you'll see a shift in your body, skin, hair, your energy, mood and sex life!
So what does that mean? Let me start off by giving you the most important tip: READ FOOD LABELS & INGREDIENTS. People tend to look at the labels and focus only on the calories and fat calories. There are so many shortcomings with that, I don't even know where to begin! For one, American food manufacturers know their customers, and know the best marketing techniques to get their products purchased. For ex, they cut the serving size in half so that it appears to the eye of the calorie-conscious consumer to have half the calories, when really the average consumer will be eating 2-3 servings, so 2-3 times the calories per serving.
So what else matters if not calories?
Slightly more nutrition-savvy folks check out the grams of sugar and sodium. And that's key. But it's so much more than that!
Avoid buying products with too many ingredients, especially ones that you can't pronounce. Some things to look out for (and avoid) include:
- high fructose corn syrup
- artificial flavors
- preservatives (most common ones include potassium sorbate, BHA and BHT)
- artificial food colorings
- enriched wheat
- hydrogenated oils
- potassium or sodium benzoate
Also, the order of the ingredients matters.
Avoid anything where sugar is listed as the first or second ingredient on the list (and this includes all hidden sugar names, including agave, barley malt, blackstrap molasses, rice syrup, cane juice,...).
My general rule of thumb is to avoid buying products with more that 4-5 ingredients.
Or even better, stick to foods with only one ingredient. For ex. Organic lentils, or organic quinoa. Period. No added anything. Even better than that? Buy products with NO INGREDIENT LABELS. Whole foods don't come in packaging!
Your supermarket cart should be 70- 80% fresh vegetables and fruits.
I recommend buying all organic when possible, but if this is difficult or outside your budget, check out the list of the "dirty dozen and clean fifteen" ( http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/) as a guide to when it's really worth it to buy organic fruits and vegetables.
The rest should be made up of fresh or frozen protein, whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, etc. If you eat animal protein, I highly recommend organic, pasture-raised poultry, organic cage-free and antibiotic-free eggs,, grass fed meat, and wild fish. Also, be careful about eating too much high mercury fish (swordfish, mackerel, shark, tuna) and when possible, avoid farm-raised salmon which can contain harmful chemicals.
For the packaged goods, remember, aim for one ingredient and NO ADDITIVES.
Buy RAW nuts and seeds. Avoid roasted and salted as this increases the acidity of the food, will of course imply higher sodium, and will often include unhealthy fats if they're roasted with added corn or vegetable oils.
Just paying attention to food labels and following some of these broad guidelines will take you a huge way towards a healthier lifestyle and a thinner waistline!
Happy supermarket shopping!