Smart, Savvy Grocery Shopping

How much thought and planning goes into your grocery store experience? Do you stick to a grocery list or do you just “wing” it every time and hope for the best? The good news is that with a little understanding and planning, you can transform your health completely by stocking your kitchen with wholesome, nourishing foods. The opposite is also true; If you stock your kitchen with junk food and give no thought as to what you will eat, your health will suffer.

Let’s talk about confusion for a moment. Think about catchy buzzwords or phrases that grab your attention–  “High protein, low-carb, gluten-free, non-gmo, organic, made with whole grains, 100% natural, immune support.” What do all these terms really mean? Well, not much. They are just words that have been glossed up so you’ll by their product. The first step to becoming a savvy and smart shopper is simply an awareness that your food purchasing decisions are heavily influenced by external factors such as marketing, product placement, consumer trends, etc. Buyer Beware and be on the lookout for marketing ploys. Even the layout, the lighting and the smells at grocery stores may have been manufactured to encourage increased spending on junk food.

The second step involves sticking to a plan, or a shopping list, but how do you determine if a food is healthy or worthy to be in your cart? There are some general rules to follow:

  • Eat food in its mostly natural state. Begin the process of incorporating whole, REAL foods into your diet and phase out “food-like substances.” As a general rule, the majority of your food should have less than 5 ingredients.
  • Forget the packaging and look deeper. Peek at the Nutrition Facts Label and thoroughly read the ingredient list. Are the ingredients substances that you want in your body?
  • Is this food satisfying and nourishing, without being addictive?
  • Is this food high in sugar and salt? Hint: there are over 50 names for sugar. If you struggle with portion control or binge eating, engineered foods with the fat-salt-sugar combo may be nearly impossible to eat mindfully
  • Is this food a good investment for my health? Does it fit within my budget?

There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to meeting your nutrition needs and it’s important to consider your goals, preferences, genetics and lifestyle factors. So although I wholly believe in eating natural, REAL foods, keep this in mind when preparing your nutrition plan and most importantly, seek the support and advice of your registered dietitian or nutrition coach.  He or she can provide advice, as well as offer suggestions on tools and apps that may help with your grocery planning.

Smart Buys for Convenience:

Proteins

  • Chicken, Fish, Shrimp
  • Tuna, Salmon packages/cans
  • Tofu/Tempeh
  • Protein powder of choice
  • Egg whites
  • Eggs
  • Natural Nut Butters/Natural Peanut Butter
  • Protein bar of choice, low in sugar

Starches

  • Canned beans/lentils
  • Frozen Quinoa/Brown Rice
  • Steel Cut Oats
  • squash

Vegetables/Fruits

  • Frozen or Fresh Vegetables
  • Fresh or Frozen Fruit

Dairy

  • Plain, Lowfat yogurt
  • Lowfat dairy or unsweetened Almond or Soymilk
  • Low-fat Cheese Sticks

Miscellaneous

  • Sparkling water, La Croix, Club Soda or Unsweetened Tea
  • Herbs and Seasoning
  • Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or low sodium Tamari
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Nutritional Yeast

When you get home from the grocery store, make sure to set yourself up for success by prepping vegetables, fruits and healthy snacks for easy access. If you have the opportunity, try to attend a grocery shopping tour that’s held on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at 6pm.

Mindful Eating

Reflect on your typical day. Is it filled with stress, tension and emotional eating? It seems there are never enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to be done. Exercise? Planning meals? Fahgettaboudit! There’s barely enough time for sleep, much less planning ahead for quality meals and exercise. If this sounds all too familiar, get out of the rat race and learn a new way of doing life. It’s called Mindfulness. Combine mindfulness with the experience of eating and you have “Mindful Eating,” which is what we talked about in class this week.

Most of us regularly practice mindless eating—eating on the go, skipping meals, eating in front of the TV or computer. We eat while completely disconnected from the experience. In contrast, Mindful Eating is a practice that allows individuals to plug back into their own internal cues for hunger and satiety so that they can understand when to eat and when to stop. With Mindful Eating, there are no good and bad foods, and there is no one right or wrong way to eat. Simply put, mindful eating is eating with intention and attention. Michelle May, MD describes mindful eating as eating with the intention of caring for yourself and eating with the attention necessary for noticing and enjoying your food and its effects on your body. Can you imagine eating in way that supports health, yet is also satisfying and rich? Perhaps you’re among the millions of Americans trapped in a cycle of yo-yo dieting, fueled by guilt and the promise of tomorrow when you’ll get “back on track.” Mindful Eating provides a way out of that vicious dieting cycle by helping you understand the root causes of your unwanted eating habits

What can Mindful Eating do for you?

  • Help reduce overeating/binge eating
  • Lose body fat
  • Help remove negative, automatic food habits (like eating while watching TV)
  • Promote a peaceful eating relationship with food
  • Enjoy food that is satisfying
  • Improve digestion
  • Help change thoughts and behaviors around food. Instead of reacting, you learn how to respond
  • Help reduce anxious thoughts about food

Practicing Mindful Eating can help you plug back into your body’s internal cues so you know when you are hungry and when you are full, but there’s a catch. Most of us have spent years, if not nearly an entire lifetime learning how to ignore those signals. We come from a “clean your plate” club where not finishing everything on your plate might be considered rude, or worse, wasteful. We’ve also spent years eating food-like substances that are high in sugar, salt and chemicals, while simultaneously being low in nutrients. I can’t prove it, but I’m quite sure this combination scrambles the satiety regulating signals to the brain. Mindful Eating may be the cure to heal our relationship with food, but it isn’t magic, and it certainly isn’t a new practice. Mindful Eating requires lots of practice and patience, but it’s worth the effort. If you truly want to improve your eating habits and enjoy vibrant health, I encourage you to find ways to commit to more Mindful Meals.

Here’s some practical ways to get started:

  • Practice being more mindful in all aspects of your life
  • Practice understanding the difference between hunger and craving
  • Simply notice and acknowledge your emotions when you eat. How do you feel? Are you stressed? Sad? Happy?
  • Begin to eat using all your senses, paying attention to sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures
  • Commit to non-judgment. You are not a good person when you eat well, nor are you a bad person when you eat poorly
  • There are no bad or good foods, but engineered food-like substances may be addictive
  • Start small, perhaps with one mindful meal a week
  • Slow down your eating and take 20-30 minutes to finish a meal
  • Use chopsticks
  • Try eating with non-dominant hand
  • Eat until 80% full
  • Practice, and then practice some more

Mindful Eating can change your life, but not overnight. It may take time for you to listen to and trust your inner intuition when it comes to eating. Eating habits begin when we are very young and are quite firmly established by the time we are adults. I encourage you to begin your journey by visiting the following websites http://amihungry.com/ and http://thecenterformindfuleating.org/ Don’t wait. Start practicing today!

Nutrition Science 101

The study of Nutrition is a science; The application of nutrition is an art.  The wonderful thing about nutrition is that eating right for your body doesn’t require any special knowledge or training.  Humans have an intuitive ability to know what their body needs, and yet, most of us aren’t listening.  Many people tend to be obsessed with fad diets and nutrition facts, and yet lack an overall appreciation or understanding of the affects that whole foods have on their health.  They may “major in the minors” when it comes to nutrition and “miss the forest for the trees.”  An example might be avoiding gluten, while neglecting areas such as over-consumption of foods and physical inactivity.  Four major areas to investigate with weight loss are nutrition, exercise, stress and sleep, but let’s start with a super basic review of nutrition.

Calories

  • In human nutrition, calories are needed by the body to do work
  • Individual needs vary depending on age, sex, size, genetics and activity levels
  • They are neither bad, nor good, but simply a way of measuring the amount of energy a food provides us

Calorie expenditure is divided between resting metabolic rate, thermic effect of foods (energy used for the digestion of food), non-exercise activity and exercise. Our muscles and organs are the biggest consumers of calories at rest.

Macronutrients

  • Nutrients that provide calories or energy
  • Nutrients are substances needed for growth, metabolism, and for other body functions
  • Needed in large amounts

Carbohydrates*Generally, should comprise ~45-65% of daily caloric intake. Provide 4 calories/gm. Slow carbs are low-glycemic load and fast carbs are high-glycemic load.

ProteinGenerally, should comprise ~20-30% of daily caloric intake. Provide 4 calories/gm. 

FatGenerally, should comprise ~15-30%. Provide 9 calories/gm. Saturated fats are typically found in animal products, whereas unsaturated fats are primarily sourced from plants.

Phytochemicals

Phytochemicals are naturally occurring chemicals that provide plants with color, odor and flavor. They contribute greatly to our health by fighting inflammation, free radical damage and they also help to balance our hormones.

Right now many individuals are starting to understand that a calorie is not a calorie.  In fact, different foods have different effects on the body and with genetic testing more widely available, we know that no two people respond to the same diet in the same way.  That’s why it’s important to get a nutrition plan specifically tailored for you.  If you are interested in working with a registered dietitian who can write a nutrition plan for you, click here.  Dietitians are uniquely qualified to prescribe specific nutrient recommendations and it can be highly worth your time.