Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I went grocery shopping last week with one of my children in tow and while I was stopped in an aisle crossing items off my list and adding up my total, my child was doing something I haven’t done in a long time. He was reading the ingredients off the back of a bottle. Pretty soon he started asking me what some of those words meant and really, they sounded like something out of my high school chemistry class. When I took a look at the bottle myself I realized that only two of the listed ingredients were actually food, you know, something beneficial to my body. The rest was unpronounceable, laboratory created additives of some sort. I started to sweat a little as I tried to rationalize our diet. I assumed we were healthy eaters since we make most of our meals from scratch and eat a generous amount of fruits and vegetables. But as I walked down the aisles full of bleached flour, pesticide treated fruits and vegetables, and packages full of ingredients I could barely pronounce I had an epiphany: There wasn’t much left in the store that was actually good fuel for my body.
Now, it’s pretty unrealistic to think I could easily switch to organic gardening and raising my own hormone free livestock by the next time I need to grocery shop. In fact, a drastic switch to more expensive albeit more natural foods just isn’t in my budget. But I can start small and work on eliminating some of the worst offenders from my family’s diet as we slowly transition to more natural grocery items. So here are some ideas to make some changes in your diet and work towards having more natural foods on your plate.
• Pick the five most frequently bought items on your grocery list and start researching what their healthier alternatives might be. Produce is a simple place to start and then work your way up to milk and meats. Don’t try to change everything at once or you run the risk of getting overwhelmed and giving up.
• Make sure you understand what organic means or doesn’t mean. Organic foods aren’t foods that are just grown on a farm. Foods that have an organic label are grown without toxic chemicals or synthetic hormones. Look for the USDA organic seal which means that at least 95% of the product is organic.
• Remember that foods with less chemicals and preservatives don’t have as long of a shelf life so make sure that you are buying the right amount for your family. It would be a shame for it all to spoil before you get a chance to eat it.
• Read the labels. The smaller the ingredient list, the more likely that it is a healthier form of food. If you can’t pronounce the names or they sound like a chemistry assignment put it back on the shelf and keep on looking.
• Be willing to do some research. One of my biggest processed-food weaknesses are artificial sweeteners. I prefer to chew my calories so I try to make sure that all my drinks have no calories in them. Water is a no brainer but my coffee, tea and sodas all have chemical sweeteners. My first goal is to experiment with my options and switch to honey, raw sugar, pure maple syrup or agave syrup.
• Food closest to its natural form is always a healthier option.
Switching to real foods and a healthier less-processed diet doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. Making small changes each time you shop will set you well on your way to a grocery cart full of nutrition for you and your entire family.