The question that I get asked all the times by my clients is, “how do I eat healthy?” the term “healthy” can mean many things to each individual person and it depends on their specific goals. Does the client want to lose weight? Do they want to eat “clean”? Do they want to gain muscle mass? Do they want to prepare healthy meals for their family without breaking the bank? All of these questions need to be answered before I give any suggestions for eating healthy. Everyone has different metabolic needs, and different lifestyles.
One general rule of thumb that I like to share with my clients is: “if your Grandmother would not recognize it as a food, then you probably should not eat the food” (at least in excess). When you look at the ingredients on most food packages these days, it’s like a foreign language. You will see hydrogenated oils, Monosodium glutamate, high fructose corn syrup, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Benzoate, Sodium Nitrates, blue 1 and 2, green 3, red 3, and yellow 6. What are these things? What are they doing in our foods? Our bodies use food for energy, when we put these things into our bodies, I wonder if our body knows what to do with them? The body will try to determine, do I use this for energy, or do I store it? Does the body get confused when we put these “foods” into it?
Here is a great article about some of these artificial ingredients: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/04/17/worst-toxic-food-ingredients_n_3101043.html
When you think about being an adult, and eating these foods for a large portion of our life, what is that doing to our body in the long-term? Many people will say these are fine in moderation, but are we only consuming a small amount of these ingredients? I wonder if there is a correlation between the way food is processed, and the rise in type 2 diabetes, obesity, childhood cancers, heart disease etc.?
This is the main reason why I am so passionate about knowing where my family’s food comes from. What are these foods doing to our children? When a small child or baby is consuming a packaged food that contains some of these ingredients, their little body and immature digestive tract are taking in a lot more of these ingredients than an average sized adult. When a pregnant mother is consuming these, how much is going to her fetus? A good portion of these might get filtered out through the placenta, but do these small amounts add up over the period of 9 months? When a breastfeeding mother eats these foods, how much is in the milk that her newborn is drinking all day every day? These are the questions that you need to ask. Small amounts may not be harmful once or twice, but when its all day every day, these small amounts may add up in a small body quickly.
I did a post awhile back about eating healthy on a budget: https://crunchyfamilyfitness.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/how-to-eat-healthy-on-a-budget/ This was geared towards clean eating, and eating more whold foods. Check it out, a lot of people are not aware of the “dirty dozen”. I am not telling you to throw away all packaged foods in your home, and only buy organic whole foods from here on out. Becoming more aware and mindful of what you are putting into your body, and your loved ones’ bodies, is an important step. I do not blindly trust the food companies, they are trying to make money, that’s what they care about. Most of these companies will add whatever they can get away with to their products to keep the cost down, and keep the shelf life up. I recommend doing your own research to make a decision for yourself, that is what I did. I have watched documentaries, (here is a good one: http://www.takepart.com/foodinc) I have read articles, and I have talked to many individuals about their real-life experiences.
For these reasons, to keep things simple, I like to say “If your Grandmother would not recognize it as a food, you probably don’t want to eat it”. Taking a moment, and pausing to think about this before you put a food into your mouth, or your child’s mouth, would benefit your overall health in my opinion. Try to consume quality foods; grass-fed beef steak, or burger from McDonald’s? Both are “beef”, but quality plays a huge factor in our health! Yes quality foods tend to cost more money, but when you are eating a high-quality food source, you will need to eat less of the food to feel satisfied and obtain nutrition. When it comes to baked goods, moderation is important (especially if fat loss is your goal), but quality is important as well. If it is fresh bakery bread from the farmers market that will go moldy on your counter in 3-4 days, that is good! That means the bread is not packed with preservatives. If it is a loaf of sliced bread that was $1 at the store and will sit in your pantry for a month without getting moldy, that is bad! Taking a moment to pause and think when we are grocery shopping, or out to dinner, will make a huge impact in your overall health, no matter what your goals are.
Sarah Williams MS, ATC, SFN