by Julie Cornelius, MS
The grocery store can be a daunting place- so many different foods to choose from. How do you decide what to buy? Is based on taste? Is based on health? Is it based on that funny commercial you just saw?
The way that I choose the foods I buy is based on one basic principle: ingredients. The ingredient list tells more of a story about a food than the nutrition facts panel. I look for foods with the least number of ingredients. I also look for ingredients that I know and can pronounce. And I avoid a few choice ingredients- namely any kind of added sugar, as well as trans fats in the form of “partially hydrogenated oils.” The best foods you can buy are the ones without ingredient lists- any kind of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Here is a list of 3 foods that you should throw away and keep out of your fridge or pantry:
1. Foods with hidden added sugar.
This includes most pasta sauces, soups, and salad dressings. Breakfast cereals and crackers are a few other ones to watch out for. Make sure to read the ingredient list to check for added sugar, which might be disguised under a different name such as maltodextrin, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, maltose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, corn syrup solids, or many others.
Partially hydrogenated oils are a type of fat that is manufactured to improve taste and texture, as well as help preserve a food. It is commonly found in commercial baked goods, margarines and other processed foods. The problem with them is that they contribute trans fats to the diet. Trans fats are a type of fat that both RAISE bad cholesterol and LOWER good cholesterol. These are two things that we don’t want and trans fats have been shown to contribute to heart disease and other chronic diseases. They should not be consumed in any amount, and just reading the nutrition facts panel doesn’t tell us the whole story. If a food has less than 0.5 g of trans fat, a manufacturer can label is as free of trans fat. There still might be a little bit in there, so make sure to read the ingredient list to find this sneaky fat.
3. Sugary drinks
Added sugar should be limited as much as possible and sugary drinks like soda and fruit juices can really pack an added sugar punch. These drinks can contain way more than the recommended limit of 6-9
teaspoons of added sugar per day.. all in one drink! Added sugar will spike blood sugar and can cause a resulting energy crash, causing you to look for the next one. Avoid them all together and grab plain water or a carbonated water instead.
Now let’s talk about some of the foods that you should keep stocked in your fridge and pantry:
Try to aim for a variety of fruits and vegetables every day- berries, citrus, cruciferous vegetables, berries, you name it. A lot of people like to talk about so called “super foods.” I think that every type of fruit and vegetable has some kind of super power and more research show that eating a variety of them can have synergistic effects in your health. Try to sneak in fruits and vegetables in any way you can- add some berries to your oatmeal, have a small salad with your lunch, grab some veggies and hummus for a snack, grill some vegetables for dinner. Have some creative ways that you add them to foods? I would love to hear!
If you are not vegetarian, choose meats that were raised on a grass fed diet. Cattle evolved to eat grass, not grains, so the meat from grass fed cow is lower in saturated fat, and higher in healthy omega-3 fats. Organic poultry and eggs do not contain antibiotics- which have been shown to contribute to bacterial resistance to antibiotics.
3. Healthy grains, legumes and other carbohydrates.
Look for whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. Be careful of your whole wheat products that they don’t contain enriched flours and added sugar. Add in some legumes like beans and lentils to your diet for some healthy fiber and protein. Choose other healthy carbohydrates like potatoes of any variety- sweet potatoes, red potatoes, they all contain a lot of good nutrients! Try to choose organic potatoes since root vegetables absorb a lot of pesticides.
This list is definitely not complete, but its a good starting point to help point your diet in a healthier direction! Feel free to get in touch with any questions you have!
Julie Cornelius, MS is Co-founder of Potential Energy Training & Nutrition. She has an extensive background in nutrition and graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ with both her Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science in Nutrition. She has worked in fitness studios helping clients achieve their nutrition goals, spent two years teaching college nutrition courses, and was the founder of Julie Bar, an energy bar company. Julie is a long time cyclist and mountain biker who loves being outdoors. Julie helps individuals to meet their nutrition goals, whether it is eating to win an endurance mountain bike race, losing weight, or just eating to be healthier.