Shopping without a list Preparing a list keeps you focused on the healthiest food purchases, and saves time.
Forgetting to shop the store's perimeter Remember that the outermost edge of the supermarket contains the healthier, non-processed foods.
Skimping on vegetables Be aware that the deeper and more vibrantly colored produce is packed with the most nutrients.
Ignoring the nutrition label The label helps you to identify ingredients, maximize nutrients and compare products.
You probably know that genetically modified (GM) foods in the US food supply currently carry no labeling requirements whatsoever. That means if you're eating any processed foods you're getting a daily dose of GM corn or GM soy or their many derivatives. This also unfortunately means you are eating the most pesticide/herbicide sprayed food in the history of agriculture.
Don't believe me?
The fact is, well over 90 percent of both US corn and soy crops are GM crops, and these two foods or their many derivatives (soybean oil, corn oil, high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, modified food starch, tofu, etc) are the most common ingredients in ALL processed food. This means you are most likely ingesting massive amounts of biologically altered corn and soy plants that have been Franken-created to either resist dying from pesticide, or to produce their own pesticide.
That's right, GM corn and soy can be doused in the synthetic poison Roundup in unlimited quantities and still survive with no ill effects (the only ill effects are those YOU get from eating them). And with GM crop fields now seeing the emergence of superweeds and new never before seen biological pathogens, farmers are required to spray ever more synthetic poison on their crops to kill off the offending superweeds and superbugs.
For a truly eye opening look at GM foods, see my previous article here.
So today we're going to investigate the advantages of buying "USDA Organic" labeled foods, how to avoid the worst processed food health-offenders, and the value of meal planning and making a shopping list you can stick to.
The True Value of Eating Organic
Buying "USDA Organic" labeled food or buying your fruits, vegetables and meats from a local farmer who you know uses sustainable methods pays dividends beyond supporting the kind of farms that protect your environment. Buying USDA Organic also virtually ensures you are avoiding the worst processed food offenders found in your grocery store because organic farmers (and many small, local organic farms working without certification) must use different standards when growing vegetables. These standards include never using:
- Synthetic Fertilizers
- Sewage sludge
- Genetically modified organisms
- Ionizing radiation
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides, and 30 percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic, and most are damaging to your nervous system as well. All of these toxins are permitted on conventional farms, and all of them end up in your processed foods. For an eye-opening look at what goes on at the Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) raising chicken, pigs and beef, see this previous article.
So besides looking for the "USDA Organic" label, a great way to counter the AFO feedlot meats is to buy only organic, grass fed beef and organic chicken and pork.
When shopping, always look for the "USDA Organic" label (don't be fooled by "All Natural" or "Made With Organic Ingredients" imposters, more about that below), or buy from local farmers who you know to be using organic, sustainable methods. You can also use the helpful GMO Shopping Guide which will help you to choose not only organic meats, but organic foods in general.
Ignoring Nutrition Labels, ESPECIALLY on Processed Foods
The food labels found today on everything that's canned, packed, packaged or wrapped fall into a realm of "anything goes". While the FDA does check food labels, they only check to see whether or not the Nutrition Facts panel is present, rather than whether or not it is true and accurate.
The FDA also allows processed food manufacturers to use tiny serving sizes on their labels, which can lull you into a false sense of security when it comes to how many calories you are actually consuming. Real life portions are often just not accurately portrayed by the nutrition labels. Also, if the serving size is small enough then things like trans-fats can fall under the minimum requirement for labeling them, meaning they are left off the label entirely despite the fact they are present in the product.
It's deceptive tricks like this that can leave you eating things you would rather avoid. Another example is the lack of any requirement to label genetically modified components in packaged foods. You simply will never know if GM foods are present in your processed food (HINT: They are, since 90 percent of soy and corn are GM crops in the US, virtually assuring you these two GM crops are in in the vast majority of processed foods).
The FDA also doesn't check very often for mammalian feces, rat hairs or fly eggs in your food. And believe it or not, the FDA has acceptable levels for all of these "defects" that may find their way into your processed food (and tests show they ARE present). In the case of tomato sauces and juices, the FDA doesn't have very stringent requirements for mold, either.
When they do inspect a product it's usually a small batch, and in the case of tomato ketchup a full 45 percent of samples are allowed to contain mold before the FDA considers action necessary. Does this mean we can assume that 44 percent of all tomato ketchup contains some traces of mold, or that processed foods are loaded with these acceptable levels of fly eggs, rat hairs and feces? It wouldn't surprise me, given the track record of processed food companies caring about your health.
Processed Food Advertising, Can Destroy Your Family's Health
Did you know the Coca-Cola advertising and marketing budget in 2010 was almost 3 billion dollars? Do you know why they have to spend such massive amounts of money to keep convincing you to continue drinking their caramel colored high fructose corn syrup drink?
Could it be because high fructose corn syrup and aspartame (two ingredients in their most popular offerings) is something that your conscious mind might reject unless your emotions were manipulated into feeling good about identifying with the Coca-Cola brands? (They offer more than 3,500 products, by the way).
Coca-Cola is one of the most identifiable brand names on the planet, yet they still spend $3 billion a year promoting it (along with their 3,500 other products).
Maybe they have to spend such massive amounts of money every year promoting their colored sugar water –that can devastate your health -- because they don't want to give you a chance to think about what you're doing to yourself, they just want you to "feel good" about your decision to drink their lifespan-reducing products.
As the article above points out, the middle section of your grocery store or supermarket is packed with similar foods loaded with sugar, salt or rancid vegetable oils and fats that the manufacturers would like you to keep purchasing without really giving their ingredients much thought.
Here are the advertising/marketing budgets of some of the top processed food manufacturers:
- Macdonalds – well over a billion dollars
- Kraft – $1.1 billion and increasing in 2011
- Kellogg – beyond the billion dollar mark
- PepsiCo – was $1.3 billion in 1999, today ???
- Nestle – nearly $4 billion in 2001
So the big processed food manufacturers are clearly spending quite a bit of money to get you to emotionally respond to a Big Mac or a box of Oreos, or Tony the Tiger or virtually every box of snack crackers -- but you're not really expected to respond emotionally to a fresh, ripe tomato or an organically grown carrot.
Because fresh organically grown vegetables have no marketing budget to speak of (compared to processed food manufacturers!), you have to rely on your intelligence, not your emotions, to purchase these kinds of fresh foods.
Organically grown carrots and fresh ripe tomatoes are found on the outer edges of your supermarket or grocery store, the preferred place to shop if you are trying to buy foods that are nutritionally good for you.
Shopping on the Outer Edge of the Market = Not Skimping on Veggies!
According to the featured article, when you are correctly shopping on the outer edges of your market, you are buying fresh, whole foods like vegetables, preferably organic vegetables. I have long recommended vegetable juicing as a great way to maximize the nutrition you get out of your food, so I am going to include a section on fresh vegetables and vegetable juicing for those of you who may be new to my eating philosophy.
Whether you're munching them raw or juicing, some vegetables contain more health building nutrients than others. This list details some of the best and worst vegetables for your health.
The Value of Meal Planning and Sticking to a Shopping List
If you're still not planning your meals (up to a week in advance, preferably), and if you're not keeping an accurate shopping list that corresponds to your planned meals, then you need to seriously consider starting this valuable practice for several good reasons:
- It helps you avoid "emotional" purchases at the grocery store (remember the advertising budgets of those processed food companies?)
- It focuses your meals on freshly prepared, nutritionally viable choices not empty calorie processed (ie, dead) food meals
- It helps you avoid fast food impulse purchases
- It helps you take control of your health
If you are truly ready to take the time to prepare fresh and healthy food, and serve the kind of meals for your family that will give you health and not health issues, then you need to get serious about meal planning and making a shopping list focused on whole, fresh, organic foods.
You are up against many multi-billions of dollars in advertising and marketing designed to convince you that processed food is either harmless or somehow good for you, when in fact it's a nutritional disaster and should be boycotted and avoided.To take control of your health you have to cut through the slick advertising, plan your fresh, healthy meals, make a shopping list and stick to it.
Folks, it's not rocket science, but it does take some work on your part.
How to say Goodbye to Processed Foods for Good
If you're absolutely hooked on fast food and other processed foods, you're going to need some help and most likely some support from friends and family if you want to kick the fast food lifestyle. Besides surrounding yourself with supportive people, you can also review my recent article "How to Wean Yourself Off Processed Foods in 7 Steps."
So what exactly are you supposed to buy on the outer edges of the supermarket or grocery store?
First and foremost, you want to focus your purchases on items that have no labels at all … namely fresh vegetables, preferably organic and locally grown. Grass-fed, organic meats and raw dairy products are also staples your family can safely invest in.
Next, whether you're shopping at a supermarket or a farmer's market, here are the signs of a high-quality, healthy food:
- It's grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers (organic foods fit this description, but so do some non-organic foods).
- It's not genetically modified. You can get your free GMO shopping guide here.
- It contains no added growth hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs.
- It does not contain artificial anything, nor any preservatives.
- It is a whole food, and this means it will not have a long list of ingredients (for instance, high-quality almond butter should contain almonds (preferably raw) and maybe sea salt -- no added oils, sugars, etc.).
- It is fresh (if you have to choose between wilted organic produce or fresh local conventional produce, the latter is the better option).
- It did not come from an animal feeding operation (AFO), commonly called feetlots.
- It is grown with the laws of nature in mind (meaning animals are fed their native diets, not a mix of grains and animal byproducts, and have free-range access to the outdoors).
- It is grown in a sustainable way (using minimal amounts of water, protecting the soil from burnout, and turning animal wastes into natural fertilizers instead of environmental pollutants).
By educating yourself on what 'healthy food' really is, you'll easily be able to spot gimmicks like the word "Natural" on processed foods, or spot advertising and marketing tricks crafted by professional manipulators to create "emotional" ties to nutritionally devoid products – all of which will allow you to put your family's food money toward purchases that will not only satisfy your appetite but also nourish your health.