In a time when modern technology makes it easy to access any kind of information, we find ourselves - as consumers - still scratching our head when faced with the simple daily decision about our plate: what's for dinner? There are so many choices, so many restaurants and menus, and an even greater supply of DIY recipes or frozen meals to chose from...but ultimately, do we know what's on our plate? When faced with this question, it is essential that we understand that the contents of our dinner, or lunch, or breakfast, has a direct effect on our state of health tomorrow. Our body is in perpetual transformation, building and re-building tissues, and the building blocks are the ingredients that make up our meals.
The Dietary Guidelines, current edition 2015-2020, is a govenment mandated national go-to source for nutrition advice. OK, so let's see what the experts have to say: "Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy, and reduce the risk of chronic disease." Not sure about you, but to me this is just stating the obvious, and a pretty blurry obvious that is, since we still don't know what this actually is supposed to mean. Ok, let's drill further. Another recommendation within the Guidelines states: "Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats, and reduce sodium intake." Once again, the information is blurry at best, and shady at worst. How many times did you pick up a 16 fl oz bottle of soda, for example, and the label stated that it contained 13 tablespoon worth of sugar? Yes, that is exactly the equivalent of the sugar content that is printed on the label! Or, how many times did you go grocery shopping and added up the saturated fat content of the products in your shopping cart? How about sodium content? Never, right? We don shop for individual ingredients. Food is a package deal! You can't go shopping for chicken breast and ask to hold the fat and cholesterol, can you? Not to mention Growth Hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and various food-borne pathogens. So, you see, making the choice of what should end up on our plate becomes very quickly a pretty bad dilemma.
Now let's look at ingredient lists! By now, most of us know that ingredients are listed according to their ratio by weight in the final product. Meaning, that ingredients listed first, are contained the most in the product.
Here is the label of a loaf of bread I picked up at the market. It is a whole paragraph long, and quite frankly half of the ingredients I don't even recognize without using mighty Google! Some of these names ring close to my chemistry classes, like calcium stearoyl lactylate, or azodicarbonamide. I remember from childhood that bread is supposed to have four ingredients: flour, salt, water, and yeast. Now those are ingredients I can recognize! Throughout the years I developed a rule I stand by when it comes to shopping for my food: if I can't pronounce the ingredients...I don't eat it!
My recommendation is to shop for whole foods, as close as to their natural form as possible, exclude animal products (meat, dairy, and eggs) and cook your own meals! This way you'll know exactly what's on your plate, you don't have to keep track of fats, sugar, or salt content (most of it is contained in animal products and processed foods), and you don't even have to keep an eye on calorie counting, because quite frankly there's just no way one can overeat on vegetables, legumes, fruits, and seeds.
I offer personalized and in-depth nutritional consultations and recommendations. If you struggle with health or weight issues, or just want to revamp your nutrition altogether, please reach out and let's explore together the many ways I can help you on this journey.
"The food you eat can be the safest form of medicine or the slowest form of poison." Anne Wigmore