1). Purchase whole foods that are minimally processed. These foods are typically
positioned in the outer parameter of the store such as the raw fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy, fish and whole grains. Avoid the inner sanctum where all the sugary and salty junk and convenience foods live. Heavily emphasize the incorporation of fresh or frozen vegetables and un-sweetened fruits and whole grains in your diet and purchases.
2). Avoid simple carbohydrates, emphasize complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are the types of sugars made up of one or two molecules and that are absorbed into the body very rapidly resulting in a dramatic spike in your glycemic load (amount of sugar in the blood). Simple carbohydrates are heavily present in the ingredients used in sweets, candy, syrups and soda pop made with table sugar, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup and honey. Common simple sugars include glucose, fructose, lactose and sucrose. Fruit and milk contain simple sugars (fructose and lactose) but these foods are not considered to be bad sources of simple carbohydrates because these foods also contain nutritious vitamins and fiber. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates are starches and fiber consisting of long chains of three or more sugar molecules linked together and which are digested more slowly and do not spike your blood sugar levels up as quickly. Complex carbohydrates are commonly found in food such as whole grains, legumes and some vegetables such as broccoli, corn and potatoes. Purchase and eat more whole-grain bread and pastas, brown (not white) rice, quinoa, bugler, beans, legumes, whole oats and barley instead of starchy foods made with finely ground and refined flours. Select unsweetened cereals that contain four or more grams of dietary fiber per serving. Look for the words “whole grain” in the first ingredient of the nutrition label or 100% whole grain as opposed to words such as “multi-grain” or “refined wheat flour” or “enriched wheat flour” which can indicate the flour used is refined and thereby lower in fiber and nutrients despite the healthy sounding connotations.
3.) Purchase Healthier Meat and Protein Sources. Shop and select lean cuts of meat such as those with the word “loin” or “round” in the name, skinless poultry, lean cold water fish, and wild caught salmon (farm raised salmon is feed a diet of fishmeal that is typically high in PCB’s and dioxins). Try recipes that utilize canned salmon because it is almost always wild caught. Avoid processed meats such as bologna, pepperoni and hot dogs. Also, watch your meat portion sizes – try to keep them at 3 ounces or less per serving and no more than two servings per day. Non-meat sources of protein are great choices for making your diet healthier. Try incorporating Tofu, Seitan, Tempeh, Beans, and Egg Whites or Egg Substitutes into your meals in place of meat protein.
4). Purchase and eat lean food rich in calcium and vitamin D. Good foods that meet this criterion are primarily of the lean dairy types such as non-sweetened yogurts, low fat cheeses, low fat milk, and low fat cottage cheese.
5). Do not buy foods that contain trans-fats/hydrogenated fat. Avoid and eliminate buying any foods that contain synthetic trans-fats (hydrogenated fats) or high amounts of unhealthy fats. The philosophy as to which fats are considered to be unhealthy has been undergoing a revolution in recent years. However, all credible parties now agree that synthetic trans-fats are by far the unhealthiest fats and their use has been a complete disaster in the industrialized world diet. Trans fats are un-saturated fats (oils) that have been un-naturally hydrogenated (forced industrially to become more saturated and solid) in order to increase their heat stability and length of shelf life. Trans-fat helped the food manufacturing and a grocery industry for years before it was realized they were a major contributor to the dramatic spike in dietary-related diseases (such as heart disease, obesity and stoke) occurring throughout first-world countries in recent decades. The presence of trans-fats are now required (by the USFDA since 2006) to be divulged on food nutritional labels and ingredient lists and therefore, their use in food is decreasing. There are also naturally occurring trans-fats which are found in foods such as beef and dairy however; about 80% of trans-fat consumed in the American diet comes from factory-produced partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. You can still find the villainous synthetic type trans-fats in doughnuts, muffins, cookies, candies, crackers, canned dough, icing, cake and pancake mixes, pie crusts, potato chips, some stick margarine, vegetable shortenings, microwave popcorn, fried food, fast food, and instant latte-type coffee and chocolate drink mix beverages.
6). Choose foods containing healthier fats. Fat is a necessary part of a healthy diet and a healthy functioning body. It provides us with energy, it is used to make cell membranes, hormones and decrease inflammation. The omega 3’s can protect us from cancers and help elevate our levels of good cholesterol. If we don’t eat enough fat or we eat the too much of the bad kinds of fats – things go bad. The healthy fats (or neutral fats) are now considered to be Omega-3 fats, natural saturated fats, and monounsaturated fats. Foods that contain higher levels of healthy monounsaturated fats include avocados, olive oil, nuts and nut oils, seeds and seed oils. Foods that contain a good source of natural saturated fat include fish oil, coconut oil, organic grass-fed cow milk, cheese and butter, and grass fed animal fat - but aim to reduce your overall consumption of meats and dairy products and when you do eat them, eat the lean varieties. Flax oil is a good source of ALA Omega-3 fatty acids for vegans but it also has a good amount of polyunsaturated fat which lowers HDL (good cholesterol) and it is easily damaged when heated so it should only be used it in cold food preparations. The best source of Omega-3’ fats are found in cold water fatty fish oils but for vegans, fish oil is not an option.
7). Select foods that the store recommends as healthy choices. Many grocery store chains are implementing programs that flag the healthier choice foods and ingredients right on the isle pricing tags. These flags are typically based on current dietary recommendations and regulations and can be (for the most part) trusted.
Chef Kelly Yorke