Most people either don’t read food labels or read them but focus on the wrong stuff, like calories and fat content.
Unfortunately, pretty packaging, calorie counting and eating low-fat results in a kitchen full of chemistry concoctions. These so-called “health foods” are void of natural fats that help you feel full, which is one of the reasons you can eat these products all day without feeling satisfied. They also lack the essential nutrients needed to keep you healthy. Although you can lose weight initially on a low calorie, low-fat diet, eventually you’ll gain all of your weight back and then some. It’s definitely not enjoyable, sustainable or recommended. Instead, start with the four tips below to start transforming your health now.
1. Read Food Labels
Reading food labels increases your awareness of what you’re eating, benefits blood sugar levels and decreases toxins in your diet. Knowing the difference between a good label and a bad one will greatly improve your grocery shopping experience, save time and save you money from filling your cart with junk.
- Ingredients are listed from most to least abundant. For example, when buying tomato sauce the first ingredient should be tomatoes and not water or some type of sugar.
- Look for minimal ingredients. The less ingredients, the better.
- Whole food sources are better than processed/refined. For example, it’s better to choose a date (first ingredient in a LARABAR) than organic brown rice syrup (first ingredient in a ClifBar).
- Are there any words you can’t pronounce or that look like a chemistry experiment? If yes, ditch it!
- Opt for the highest quality organic, GMO-free foods you can find.
- Processed products contain over 40 different types of refined sugars and artificial sweeteners!
- Choose less processed forms of sugar, such as fruit over fructose or honey over brown rice syrup.
- Aim for less than 5 grams of sugar per serving.
- Naturally decrease your sugar intake by choosing whole foods that don’t have labels, such as veggies.
- Avoid low-fat and fat-free foods. They tend to have added sugars and/or artificial ingredients.
- Avoid sugar free foods as they often contain artificial sweeteners.
- Avoid hidden sugars, such as words ending in “-ose” (fructose, lactose, maltose, dextrose, etc.)
2. Purge Your Pantry
Now that you’re label savvy, it’s time to purge your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Don’t forget any hiding places, such as your desk, night stand, car, purse, brief case, sock drawer, etc. If you want to eat healthier, keep the bad stuff out of sight and out of mind. This includes your kid’s junk food too. Many parents say they’d have an easy time eating healthy if they weren’t constantly tempted to eat their kid’s food. It’s during their younger, body growing, brain developing years that kids need nutrient dense foods more than ever. Just because kids don’t gain weight or are picky eaters, doesn’t mean they get a free pass to chow down on anything available. Especially if they’re picky eaters, they need to get the junk out now or they’ll have serious health issues to come. Chances are too that your picky eater learned those bad habits from you or your spouse. Start cleaning up your diet and be a good example for the whole family to follow.
3. Stock Your Kitchen
Which are you more likely to grab when you’re “hangry,” an apple or bag of chips? Make it easy to opt for something nutritious by stocking your kitchen with healthier choices so you always have something healthy on hand. With easy and affordable online shopping (Thrive Market and Amazon) there’s no excuse to not stock up. There are plenty of healthier alternatives (here) and endless meal ideas (here) to benefit your body without compromising on flavor.
4. Go Out to Cheat
Plan two cheat meals to indulge per week. Although cheat meals sound counterproductive, they prevent you from feeling deprived and help keep you on track the rest of the week. The best way to indulge without going overboard is to have your cheat meals out. Dining out costs more and increases your awareness for what you’re putting in your body. Both of which can help to keep you in check. If you do decide to “cheat” at home, then toss anything leftover deep into the trash when you’re done. No dumpster diving!
- How to Eat Healthy on a Budget
- 7 Tips for Supermarket Success
- Environmental Working Group (EWG) Food Scores
- Food Rules to Cure Picky Eating by Wellness Mama
- Crafty Food Labeling Tricks by Dr. Mercola
- 6 Step Checklist to Avoid the Worst Ingredients by Dr. Axe
Cate Ritter is a Certified Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner specializing in weight loss, digestive health and hormone balance. In person, Skype, phone and corporate health programs available.