I have a friend who is beginning her own healthy eating revolution. She keeps asking me to go grocery shopping with her so I can show her what to buy. It made me realize that the grocery store can be a really overwhelming place when you’re trying to change the way you eat. You don’t know what is good or bad or how to tell the difference. With big companies using deceptive marketing techniques, you may think you’re buying great, healthy foods, when you’re really not. If everything was labeled and advertised honestly, big food corporations would probably go out of business.
Have you ever seen this chart? There’s a few big corporations that own practically everything. There’s a lot of brands out there are are considered to be healthy, or are labeled as organic; when you buy them, you think you’re making a good choice but the truth is, they’re owned but bigger corporations and are using marketing techniques to confuse consumers.
Here’s another chart that shows some bigger companies that own different organic brands. Well now that you’ve seen all that, you may be wondering, what can I buy? Well here is a little guide for shopping that will give you a few tips to help you make better choices and learn how to identify what’s real food, and what’s not.
1.) Read the ingredients. I’m sorry, but you need to read the ingredients. You need to know exactly what is in the food you’re buying. I know this seems really time consuming, and it can be a little at first until you start to find the products you like and are going to keep buying. But this is so important.
2.) If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. Seriously, look at the ingredients in the brands you typically buy, you may be finding yourself scratching your head. What is that? How do I even pronounce it? If you don’t know, don’t eat it, I promise you, it’s not real food and you do not want it in your body.
3.) Avoid “natural and/or artificial flavor”. While we’re still on the topic of ingredients, stay away from natural and artificial flavor. Why? Well what is natural or artificial flavors? Well that’s just it, you will never know because manufacturers are not required to disclose exactly what chemicals are in their artificial flavors. There could be 50 different chemicals used and all the manufacturer has to list is “artificial flavors”. Many chemicals used in artificial flavors are derived from petroleum, and many of the chemicals are volatile. Mm, tasty.
4.) Chose organic over “natural”. You can find products that say they’re “natural” but in the U.S., the word “natural” has no regulated definition. When you see “certified organic” on the label, you know that food was made with a set of farming and production practices defined and regulated, in great detail, by the USDA.
5.) The Dirty Dozen. While you should always try to buy your fruits and vegetables organic, I understand it’s more expensive and not always possible. “The Dirty Dozen” is a list that shows us what produce we should always be buying organic. Why? When conventionally grown, the fruits and vegetables on this list tested positive for at least 47 different chemicals, with some testing positive for as many as 67. So if you can only buy some organic produce, make it these: celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, domestic blueberries, nectarines, sweet bell peppers, spinach, kale and collard greens, cherries, potatoes, imported grapes, and lettuce.
6.) The Clean 15. On a slightly less scary note, here is a list of 15 fruits and vegetables that tested with little or no traces of pesticides and are safe to eat non-organic: onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, mango, sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi fruit, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potatoes, and sweet onions.
7.) Just because it’s in the health food section, don’t assume it’s healthy. This is where you need to use your detective powers again. Remember in the beginning of this article we talked about false advertising and bigger corporations owning companies that appear to be health food companies. Well a lot of those incorrectly advertised “health foods” make their way into the healthy food isle. So always, always, always read the ingredients.
8.) Look out for added sugar. The ingredients label won’t always say sugar but a lot of the time, sugar is still hiding in there. Look out for these words on your ingredients labels that also mean sugar: sucrose, glucose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, invert sugar, maltose, dextrose and dehydrated cane juice.
9.) Grass fed meats. You are what you eat, and you’re also what your food eats. You may be eating clean but if the chicken you’re buying ate a terrible diet, then in turn, so will you. You want to look for wild caught fish, 100% organic grass-fed meat, and 100% organic eggs that state “from 100% organic feed.”
10.) Just say no to refined. Stay far away from refined sugars, flours, and salt.
Have any questions? Or do you have any tips of your own that you feel may be helpful to consumers? Leave them in the comments below.