Grocery Guide

Grocery shopping can be a pretty daunting task for most of us. Misleading health claims, deceptive packaging, and simply being low on time can all add to the difficulty of making the healthiest purchases. That’s why we’ve created a grocery guide to help you decipher which foods to pick and which foods to ditch. We’ve also included some healthy alternatives and bargains for those savvy shoppers!

A quick rule is to primarily shop the perimeter of the store. This is where you will usually find the healthiest and freshest foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and low-fat dairy. The less healthy, processed foods are usually located on the inner aisles.

Produce Section

Shop the rainbow. Each differently colored fruit or vegetable represents a variety of vitamins and minerals. Try to buy something from each color category as you pass through the produce section.

Grocery Guide

Healthy Alternative: Try making baked fruit or veggie chips with apples, kale, spinach, eggplant, or zucchini. Simply toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake at 425°F for 10 minutes or longer. 

Bargain Buy: As your produce starts to over-ripen (bananas, strawberries, blueberries) throw them in the freezer and mix with low-fat milk to make a smoothie. Don’t waste money on not-so-healthy- frozen smoothie mixes or ice cream.

Quick Tip: When it comes to buying salad greens, the darker the leaf, the more nutrient dense the food. For example, spinach has 19 times more Vitamin A and 3 times as much protein as iceberg lettuce.

Meat, Fish, and Deli

Quick Tip: In general, the lighter the color, the leaner the meat.

Beef: 93% lean ground beef, eye, top and bottom round, sirloin, and flank steak are all a great source of protein that offers less fat and cholesterol in comparison to other popular cuts.

Healthy Alternative: 99% fat-free ground turkey breast is often cheaper than ground beef and lower in fat which is helpful in fighting cardiovascular disease.

Boneless skinless chicken breast: Is a great source of protein. Try to get “all natural” or non-enhanced chicken breasts if you can because enhanced chicken is injected with saltwater to keep it moist; 3 ounces can pack more than 300 mg of sodium.

Healthy Alternative: Tofu and beans are a great source of protein that is usually cheaper and a great option for vegetarians.

Healthy Food Phony: Deli meat and canned meat are usually much higher in sodium and preservatives such as nitrites which have been linked to certain cancers.

Pantry Aisle

Mustard: Toss the mayo and try mustard. Dijon and spicy mustard are both much lower in calories and fat, but pack a powerful flavor punch.

Healthy Alternative: Avocado offers heart healthy unsaturated fats in place of saturated fats found in mayonnaise.

Vinaigrette-based salad dressing: Go for vinaigrette-based dressings instead of mayonnaise-based dressings like ranch or bleu cheese and you’ll save calories and fat.

Whole grain cereal: Check for less than 200 calories per serving, ≤8 grams of sugar per serving, and aim for a cereal with more fiber than sugar per serving.

Healthy Food Phony: Granola. Many granola-based cereals want to be perceived as healthy but contain more calories, sugar, and fat in comparison to other cereals.

Snacks

Popcorn: Ditch the pre-bagged kind that is high in fat and unhealthy preservatives. Instead, pop your own.

Cheese sticks: Reduced fat, often called “light” string cheese sticks are a great source of protein for kids and adults alike.

Hummus: Made from protein packed chickpeas, hummus is also a good source of fiber. Try eating with carrots, celery, or bell peppers instead of potato chips.

70% Dark chocolate: A healthier choice for those with a sweet tooth, but make sure it’s at least 70% dark. This kind is lower in sugar and fat and has more antioxidants in it which have been shown to reduce risk of heart disease and some cancers.

Nuts: (especially walnuts) have heart healthy omega- 3 fatty acids and protein. If you need some help enjoying these in moderation, try the pre-packaged individual serving sizes. Or to save money, buy the larger container and package them into smaller snack-size bags yourself.  Just make sure to avoid sugar coated, honey-roasted varieties. Stick to the raw form.

Drinks

1% Low-fat milk: Is a great source of lean protein, calcium, and vitamin D.

Healthy substitute: Try soy, almond or coconut milk instead of cow’s milk. Just make sure you get the unsweetened kind to avoid too much added sugar.

Tea: Black, green, and herbal teas are all high in antioxidants. Just don’t add too much sugar or honey. Opt for the caffeine free option for afternoons and evenings.

Healthy Food Phony: Sport Drinks. On average, sport drinks contain 20 grams of sugar in one 12 oz. serving. Not to mention a plethora of other UFOs (Unidentifiable Food-Like Objects). Unless you’re engaging in endurance sports, water is sufficient for hydration.

Refrigerator/Freezer Aisle

Quick Tip: Frozen fruits and vegetables are often packaged at their peak ripeness which makes them just as nutrient dense if not more than fresh fruits and vegetables, and often at a fraction of the price. Just check the ingredients label to make sure there is no added sugar, preservatives, sodium, etc.

Low-fat cottage cheese: This is a great source of protein and calcium. Jazz it up with some fruit!

Low-fat cheese: Try goat, feta, or ricotta instead of American which is heavily processed and often contains the most salt and fat of all cheese!

Healthy Food Phony: Smoothie kits. Often these ready to go kits have added sugar and other junk. Try making your own instead.

Bargain Buy: A one pound package of cooked frozen spinach is inexpensive and packed full of nutrients. It takes about 1 ½ pounds of fresh spinach to make one standard 10 ounce package of frozen spinach...now that’s a bargain!

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Omega Fatty Acids

You’ve probably heard about Omega fatty acids, and that they are good for your health. What many people may not know, however, is that there are two types of Omega fatty acids and both play a role in the necessary processes of inflammation and blood clotting, but in a very different way.

What are Omega fatty acids?

Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs). Both of these types of unsaturated fats are healthy and essential in the diet. Both are biologically active in the body, unlike most fats which are used for energy or stored. This means that they play important roles in sustaining health, specifically in blood clotting and inflammation. Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory, and Omega-3s have an anti-inflammatory effect. The inflammatory process is a normal and healthy function of the body, specifically when an injury occurs. The early stages of inflammation enlist the immune system to help control infection, and wound healing and tissue re-growth occur in the later stages of inflammation. It is also necessary for blood to have the ability to clot in order to prevent excessive bleeding. The problem occurs when there is excessive inflammation and clotting in the body, which can lead to heart disease, arthritis, and other serious diseases. The key is to balance the consumption of Omega-6 and Omega-3.

How much do I need?

Health experts do not endorse a daily recommended intake for Omega-6 or Omega-3, rather, the emphasis is on the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3. Most people consume a diet that is too high in Omega-6 fatty acids, and lacks in Omega-3s. This unbalanced ratio has a damaging effect on the body, and is one of the most negative aspects of the typical American diet. Anthropological studies show that humans evolved eating a ratio of Omega-6: Omega-3 somewhere around 1:1. The typical diet today has a ratio of 16:1!

To better balance the ratio of Omega fatty acids in your diet, follow these tips:

  • Processed oils are loaded with Omega-6s, so limit or avoid them. The oils highest in Omega-6s include sunflower, corn, sesame, and peanut oil. These are typically found in highly processed or fried foods because they are inexpensive and readily available. Limiting these foods in your diet will reduce the overall amount of Omega-6 consumed.
  • Omega-3s are found in seafood such as salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, anchovies, and halibut. Other sources are beans, nuts, and spinach. Some foods are fortified or enriched with Omega-3s, such as bread, cereal, oatmeal, and yogurt. Choose canola, flaxseed, soybean and olive oils when cooking.
  • The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (like salmon) at least twice a week. Eating a variety of non-processed foods in place of processed or fried foods will also help to improve the ratio of fatty acid consumption in your diet.
  • If you feel that your diet lacks in Omega-3s, consider taking a Fish Oil Supplement to get these beneficial fatty acids. Supplements will vary in the amount of fatty acids they contain, so look for one with at least 600mg of DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid, the primary form of fatty acid found in fish that offers health benefits). Let your doctor know if you are taking a Fish Oil Supplement.
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A Calorie is a Calorie Myth

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It has been well understood that in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, one must reduce overall calorie consumption and increase calorie expenditure through physical activity. One pound of body weight equals 3500 calories (so to lose one pound a week, one must decrease food intake by 500 cals/day), but not all calories are created equal!

Get the Most Bang For Your Buck

When trying to lose or maintain weight, it is best to choose your calories wisely; this means that in order to get "more bang for your caloric buck", choose foods that will positively affect your health. If most of your calories come from fatty foods like red meat, sausage, fried foods, baked goods, and creamy dishes, then blood cholesterol levels tend to be higher, which in turn can lead to clogged arteries and other cardiovascular diseases. Consuming most of your calories from healthier sources like lean protein (beans, nuts, white meats), vegetables, fruits, low fat dairy, and whole grains will have a positive effect on cholesterol and blood sugar levels which leads to a steady release of energy and an overall feeling of wellness.

Another benefit of selecting healthier foods towards your daily calorie goal is that you will feel full (not hungry!) even while losing weight. Calories that come from sugary, refined foods like candy, white breads, sugary cereals, and white potatoes will cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels followed by a surge of insulin to bring blood sugar levels back down. When blood sugar rises and falls at rapid rates, you tend to feel hungry more often and have less energy. On the other hand, a diet that is rich in whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy (unsaturated) fats will allow blood sugar levels to rise and fall at a steadier, more controlled pace, leaving you feeling satisfied between meals and more energetic. 

UFO’s

Beware of dietary “UFOs”, or Unidentifiable Food-like Objects. This term refers to foods that are highly processed, contain many chemicals, and offer very little (if any) nutritional value for the calories they contain. Choosing whole foods that are closer to their natural state will help maximize the health benefits of the foods you are eating. The calories that come from whole, natural foods will help you in meeting your health goals and feeling the best you can.

 

 

A Calorie is a Calorie Myth Graphic

image sources: http://www.ihearexercisewillkillyou.com/2013/05/peanut-free-chewy-granola-bars.html, http://www.myjewishlearning.com/blog/rabbis-without-borders/2013/02/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SnackWells, http://talesfromthelou.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/the-nasty-nine-food-additives-to-avoid/

Navigating the Buffet

Like all buffet-style dining, the dining facility offers a vast selection of food options. Before you enter the DFAC, prepare yourself to say no to unhealthy items because they will inevitably be available. Despite popular belief, there are healthy meal options at every DFAC. If you’re not sure which food items are the healthiest, pay attention to the “Go for Green” labeled foods.  These foods are high performance, healthy food options. 

Make a Healthy Plate  

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Try One of These

  • Salad with extra vegetables and fruit topped with protein source (lean meat, beans, chick peas)
  • Turkey sandwich on wheat bread with vegetables and low-fat cheese and mustard or low-fat mayonnaise
  • Burger with low-fat cheese on wheat bread with side of grilled or steamed vegetables
  • Chick pea or bean salad with added vegetables and vinaigrette-based or low-fat salad dressing
  • Baked/boiled/grilled chicken or fish and steamed veggies with wheat roll

Just Say No!

  • Large portions. Don’t be afraid to ask for a smaller serving size
  • The snack line (pizza, fried chicken sandwich, French fries, pizza)
  • Ice cream, cake, cookies, and other desserts (try fruit instead)
  • Salads topped with heavy amounts of cheese, bacon, and/or fat-based salad dressings like ranch, blue-cheese, and thousand island
  • Soda, juice-cocktail, and sweet tea. Did you know that on average, a 20 ounce fountain soda has ≈225kcal and 50g of sugar? That’s a lot of sugar and calories for such a small drink
  • Vending machines. Vending machine foods are typically high in empty calories, fat, sugar, and sodium. Always have a healthy snack on hand to curb your appetite in between meals
  • Multiple trips. Do not return for second or third helpings.  Give yourself enough time (20-30 minutes) to “feel” full rather than eating seconds before you’ve had time to digest your food

Sports Drinks

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What to look for: natural sources of electrolytes like bananas & coconut water 

What to stay away from: sports drinks all together unless intensely exercising

Sports drinks are intended to maintain hydration and restore electrolyte balance lost during heavy exercise. Electrolytes are maintained in body fluids and needed for nerve impulses and muscle contractions. Electrolytes like sodium and potassium are lost through heavy sweat and must be replaced to keep the concentrations in your body fluids constant. But, buyer beware.  On average, sport drinks contain 20 grams of sugar in one 12 oz. serving.  That’s over 13 teaspoons of sugar in the average 32 ounce sport drink bottle. All of the added calories from sugar can seriously interfere with weight loss/maintenance efforts in addition to sending blood sugar levels on a roller-coaster ride of peaks and valleys. Therefore, it is important to know when sports drinks are appropriate and useful and when they are not necessary.

Sport drinks are ideally used by athletes engaged in high‐intensity workouts lasting 60 minutes or more. They are not recommended for routine consumption.  However, factors such as duration of exercise and weather conditions can affect the need for an athlete to supplement carbohydrate and electrolyte loss with a sport drink.  It is especially important to be mindful of electrolyte loss when exercising in high temperatures.

Most people exercising at a moderate-vigorous rate can stay hydrated and energized by eating a healthy meal or snack and drinking enough water prior to and during their workout. Check out the list below of electrolytes and common food sources for each.

Potassium-bananas, kiwis, green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes

Magnesium- green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nut butters, pumpkin

Calcium- milk, yogurt, black eyed peas

Chloride- olives, tomatoes, celery

Sodium- The typical American diet is quite high in sodium, so dietary need to supplement is rare. However, nut butters are a healthy source of sodium if needed.