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Yesterday in the grocery store, I overheard one woman talking to another in the canned vegetables/tomatoes aisle:
“Which brand should we get?” One woman asked.
“Oh”, answered the other, “I just buy whatever is cheapest.”
My heart sank when I heard this reply, and I was disappointed. I wanted to blurt out, “Really? Your health and your body or your family’s health and body don’t deserve more thought than that?”
I was in the same aisle looking for an organic boxed (not canned) tomato product from Italy I adore called “Pomi” – fresh chopped tomatoes. I love them! A little garlic sautéed in olive oil, a box of Pomi, some fresh basil, and salt and pepper and wham bam - a simple sauce that tastes like it came from your garden and is ready in 5-10 minutes.
But often when Pomi is sold out, I buy any canned organic tomatoes (several brands are available). I choose organically-grown products first and foremost, period. This is one simple healthy choice I make when shopping. Within that category, I pick the brand which may have a weekly special or “buy one get one free” deal to be money wise. After all I love my family and want what is best for them, the flavor is wonderful, and they do not need any extra chemicals (pesticides, herbicides or hormones) in their diet. Neither do you! Please stop using the "cheapest is best" philosophy as an excuse. Illness can be expensive, too.
Don't assume you cannot afford the good organic stuff or that these things do not matter – it is the typical short run vs. long run argument so prevalent in our culture. Over the long run you will pay dearly in poorer nutrition and health. Let’s look at eggs for a minute. Often I notice organically-raised cage-free chicken eggs selling for as little as $2.50 a dozen (which won’t break your budget) and, really, the healthier you eat, the better you and your family will feel. The cage-free eggs taste better, and you are putting a better product into your body – you know the saying “You are what you eat.” Think about these things, make a few small changes; you will notice the difference.
Do you want to put into your body eggs that are laid by hens that are never allowed to walk around in the sunshine and live out their life in a tiny cage? Where the poor sweet chickens never get to leave the nest or use their legs? They defecate on themselves and often are kept in an environment where they do not rest in darkness but are kept in bright light 24/7. Do a quick experiment: compare a cage-free organically-raised chicken egg against a commercially (cramped in their cage for life) processed egg. The cage-free organic eggs will have thicker sturdier shells, deep orange yolks with a clear transparent white; the other commercial eggs have thinner shells, pale yellow yolks and cloudy whites. Which one would you want to put into your body?
Trust me, I am the furthest thing from perfect. It is not that I eat a perfectly healthy diet, but I try to make a few choices to diminish my intake of pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and low quality produce, dairy, and meat. Truth be known, I think Gary Null, nutrition and wellness expert, is a bit off putting. My friend Kari eats a raw foods diet and she has amazing health, bless her heart. She studied nutrition in school and is making an educated choice for her health. However, it is not easy to be true to a raw foods diet. While I choose not to follow her strict diet plan, I do try eating organic, growing organic, and abiding by an 80/20 rule where I choose healthy over unhealthy 80% of the time. There are small changes and choices I can make that will move me in the direction of ingesting better tasting and higher quality food.
I am a proponent of always buying and choosing “real” food first, which means I prefer real butter over margarine. You have heard or seen the advertisements that tout, “I can’t believe it’s not butter,” right? Man-made is not better than natural food. If butter is the taste you are going for, then just use the real thing in smaller quantities. I purchase real maple syrup (delicious sap from the trees) over commercially-created sugar syrup with maple flavoring. To be thriftier, there is always a “real” 100% maple syrup brand from Vermont or Canada that has a weekly special or discount. And I choose “real mayonnaise” over the other sandwich spread. Get where I am going here?
There are always going to be food fads coming at you to cloud your vision. Remember the soy vs. meat controversy? Use a little common sense, and remember the bigger the corporation the greater the advertising to further confuse and overwhelm. If the soybean products are not organic, then you are probably ingesting chemicals you did not pay for and do not want. Think about going for balance in your eating choices - add in other protein sources such as beans, lentils, legumes, seeds, and nuts - balance the sweet tooth cravings with fresh fruit or high quality chocolates. What is good for the yoga practice is also good for other life choices.
And since I love lists I have created a list of ten easy changes one can make to improve their food choices, health and wellness for themselves, and ultimately for the planet. Drum roll please....
Ten Positive Healthy Grocery Shopping Food Choices
1. Cage-free/organic eggs over commercial cramped chickens’ eggs. Remember the more the shopper chooses the cage free over the commercial eggs produced by caged chickens with no freedom or outside time, then the commercial egg producers are losing business and money and perhaps may change their ways. Well, it is a nice thought anyway.
2. Organic over non-organic produce, period. Whether it is tomatoes or applesauce, choose organic if you can find it. It tastes better and your family is worth the extra few cents or dollars. At least my family is worth it.
3. Real 100% products over man-made and processed. Real vanilla over imitation vanilla, real maple syrup (that means 100% Maple syrup) over processed sugar/corn syrup with maple flavoring; real organic butter over margarine; real mayonnaise (which is simply eggs, oil and lemons) over the other brands with processed chemical ingredients; real peanut butter over the commercial sugar-added brands. (Note: There is a delicious organic peanut butter that does not contain added sugar and completely blends the peanut oil in so it does not rest on top, which can be off putting (yes, I understand). Your kids will not tell the difference from the big name brand.
4. Grass-fed organically-raised animal meats over hormone and feed-lot fed animals. See references www.cnn.com below for a better understanding.
5. Healthy processed vegetable oils. Look for the words “virgin, cold-pressed, non-hydrogenated, organic." Try oils such as: olive, soybean, grape seed, flax, walnut, sesame, peanut, sunflower, and eliminate the overly processed oils that contain the words “partially hydrogenated" or GM (genetically modified) or GE (genetically engineered) corn or canola oil, to name a few.
6. Unbleached organic flour over bleached non-organic flour. The bleaching process can damage some of the protein content. Furthermore, unbleached flour will naturally lighten and get softer with aging. Of course, try whole grain stone-ground flour added to your white flour recipes to increase healthy benefits.
7. 100% Whole grain breads over plain white bread. Look for stone ground flours (whole wheat, rye, oats, etc.) and try many brands until you find one that your palette loves. Whole grain means that the bran and wheat germ are intact in the flour and have not been removed by milling. Whole grains are better sources of fiber and other important nutrients, such as selenium, potassium and magnesium. Whole grains are either single foods, such as brown rice and popcorn, or ingredients in products, such as buckwheat in pancakes or whole wheat in bread (MayoClinic).
8. When in doubt read the labels if you are in a quandary. If one of the first ingredients is sugar or sodium think about that and compare with other brands. If the label ingredients list “tomatoes and basil” without a long list of additives, this is a good thing!
9. Monitor shopping, cooking and eating choices for illnesses that concern dietary issues. With lactose intolerance remove dairy such as milk or cheese, but include kefir and yogurt which contains the good bacteria that can produce lactase; with Celiac disease choose gluten-free items; with hypertension lower salt (NaCl) intake; and with diabetes reduce consumption of processed sugar.
10. Know your Super foods and include them in your weekly diet. These are foods that give a big nutritional bang for your buck such as: green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, yellow vegetables like sweet potatoes/yams and carrots, blueberries, salmon, avocados, kefir or organic yogurt, almonds, beans, dark chocolate, eggs, to name a few.
So be a good egg - make better choices in the grocery store. Have fun choosing, tasting and experimenting with products that will benefit your health, your family's health, and the health of the planet. Stay informed and open-minded always!