To me, healthy eating simply means removing, or limiting the foods in your diet that could be harming you and eating enough of the foods that contain the nutrients essential to your health. It is always preferable to get your nutrients from food itself rather than supplements, although replenishing nutrients using supplements is necessary, too. Most importantly, eating should be a pleasurable experience. If you are not enjoying your meals because you feel deprived or bored, your diet is not right for you. There is no one right diet, or way to eat, different people thrive on different foods.
1. Try doing some of your shopping at local farmers markets if possible. Here is a great link to find one near you.
2. Never go shopping when you are feeling hungry. This will help prevent impulse buying – usually something junky – to satisfy your hunger.
3. Most of your shopping should be in the outer aisles – the produce, the meats, fish, eggs. The inner aisles are usually full of processed foods (which you want to avoid) – the ones full of sugar, trans fats and other preservatives that extends their shelf life. Processed foods also tend to have a lot of the healthy protective micronutrients missing and are high in sodium and low in fiber.
4. Buy fresh food whenever possible – the fresher the food, the more nutritious.
5. Buy organic fruits and vegetables whenever you can and if possible, locally grown. Locally grown fruits and vegetables are less likely to have been sprayed with pesticides and chemicals. It’s also a great way to support local farmers.
6. Choose the most colorful fruits and vegetables, the more varied the colors, the better. This way you will get as many different phytonutrients as possible.
7. Choose simple whole foods – those closest to mother-nature. The more refined or processed, the less the nutritional value.
8. As a general rule, if there are ingredients that you cannot recognize, pronounce or spell, you should not be putting those into your body. And no cartoon characters either.
9. Become a label reader – though most of the foods you should be eating do not require labels. If you do buy packaged or boxed foods, know what is in them.
10. Be wary of “all natural” labels. Although I recommend an all natural way of eating, “all natural” on a label is often meaningless and deceptive and a guise for hidden sugars.
11. Look for sugars in all its different forms on the label. A variety of different versions of refined sugars are often used to trick you into thinking that there is not much sugar in the product. Here are some of the different versions of refined sugar – cane sugar, brown sugar, beet sugar, date sugar, grape sugar, glucose, sucrose, maltose, maltodextrin, dextran, dextrose, sorbitol, corn syrup, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, corn sugar, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, barley malt, caramel, carob syrup and sorghum syrup.
12. Look for the number of grams of sugar on a label – 4 grams is equivalent to 1 teaspoon. If possible buy foods that contain 3 grams or less.
13. Try to buy grass feds meats and free range chickens. Organic meats and poultry without hormones would be next best and if you cannot find them, then chose lean cuts of meats and remove the skin from chicken as this is where toxins are stored.
14. Limit buying fish with a high mercury content. Choosing ocean caught fish is generally better than farm raised fish which are usually full of PCB’s.
15. Lastly, bring your own shopping bags with you to the supermarket.
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Frank Lipman MD, is the founder and director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in NYC a center whose emphasis is on preventive health care and patient education. His personal blend of Western and Eastern Medicine combined with the many other complimentary modalities he has studied has helped thousands of people recover their energy and zest for life. He is the author of the recent Revive: Stop Feeling Spent and Start Living Again (2009) and Total Renewal; 7 key steps to Resilience, Vitality and Long-Term Health (2003).