So many times we are not eating healthy, but we think that we are making good choices because of useless “health claims” that really don’t even pertain to most of us! With so many options available, we are just trying to buy the right thing and make the best choices for our family, but how do we know if our efforts are working or if we are falling victim to the giant government fueled marketing scheme?!
How often have you picked something up in the store and thought “hhmmm, it’s gluten free, it can’t be that bad!” Or, how about the bag of chips with a simple, recycled-looking green and brown bag with the word “natural” on the front and thought it was probably a healthier option? (mostly because it costs $3 more per bag!) The truth is, labeling is marketing and it is, quite often a mystery. Besides that, getting big food companies to play the common sense game is not always realistic. So when you add these up, it leads to massive confusion.
Just this past weekend, my in-laws were over helping us get a couple projects done before baby comes and we had a conversation about how they thought the “gluten free” corn tostadas they brought for the kids are healthy. I am not being judgmental, I love me some chips and salsa (maybe one of my favorite things – ever) however, I work to teach my kids daily what is healthy and what is not. I give my kids the resources they need to choose what they put into their bodies and most of the time, they make great choices! Trying to convince me and the kids that these deep-fried-in-trans-fat-with-more-ingredients -than-I-can-name-chips are healthy is just not going to work. “look, they are gluten free! They can’t be that bad” and “you ate this stuff when you were growing up, and you’re healthy” were the arguments I was facing, so I was inspired to write this because this is the reality of what most people think about our food supply today.
So without standing on my soapbox too long, I want to give you some fun facts about our food and how it has changed, just in my short 30 years here…
- Whole grains: the word makes you believe you are getting all the parts of the grain, which must be good for you, right? Wrong. When the grain is processed it is already partially broken down. It is dead. So the next time you go to but your kids a box of Lucky Charms and assume it isn’t that bad, consider the fact that just because it says “whole grain” doesn’t change the fact that it also contains TONS of sugar, preservatives, artificial flavorings, dyes and who knows what else. A dead grain as the first ingredient means virtually nothing.
- Wheat: Let’s discuss the most popular grain in the world and how much it is NOT the same as it used to be. This grain has been evolving because of humans for over 50 years. The plant doesn’t even look the same as it used to and the grain itself has been changed so much that genetically it barely resembles the original plant. On top of that, we look at the amount of chemicals that are use to grow and harvest wheat and it is no wonder so many people have become seriously allergic to gluten and many have gluten sensitivities! Celiac disease has increased 400% since the 1960’s.
- Corn & Soy: Most corn in the US is GMO, Genetically Modified, which means someone in a lab somewhere is messing with the DNA of our “food”. And for a GREAT reason… so they can spray it with POISON so they get more corn, less weeds and make more money. It is common practice to spray soy bean fields with pesticides to stop the growing process and help the plant dry faster. (Yup, you heard that right, they kill the plant with poison, harvest it and make “food” out of it. They also feed this to the livestock we are eating, too) You have heard “you are what you eat” well, it’s true. What you eat is what gives you life, your food creates your blood, which is pumping through your organs… you get the idea. Glyphosate, main ingredient in Round-Up is actually an antibiotic and when you are eating products that contain crops sprayed with it, that is what is in your body and is contributing to inflammation (your body is fighting this foreign ingredient) and also is helping us become immune to antibiotics. So, that’s why I say that you might not feel or see the effects now, but eventually the food choices you make today will catch up with you. It is no wonder there are so many food sensitivities, corn and soy (and GMO sugar) are in almost every processed, packaged food and is also fed to the animals we eat. 70% of your immune system is in your gut, where all of the “food” ends up and is dispersed into your body. Also, in Gluten Free products, the gluten is often replaced by corn starch, potato starch, tapioca flour and rice flour. Read the label, be informed!
- Dairy: Dairy is not what it used to be either. Raw, unprocessed milk is actually illegal to purchase in some states because of people getting sick from one parlor a very long time ago. So milk is pasteurized and processed to give you the milk you can buy in the store today. Again, your best bet of actually getting nutrition out of dairy, should you choose to have it as part of your diet, is to buy local and organic. The lifestyle and how the cow was raised, fed and treated has everything to do with the quality of milk you get. Whole milk is the least processed, while skim is basically white water. Watch any dairy products that are less than full fat. In order to get less fat (useless, btw) the fat is removed and replaced with sugar to make sure it still has good flavor. Similar to the corn and soy bullet above, this could be a whole book (and is actually, many books) but, please know, because of processing and hormones given to the cows milk (and other dairy products) is not a “health food”. Because of the way it is altered, many people have an aversion to dairy. Some have a full on allergy while some just get phlegm or digestive upset. Eat/drink it only in moderation and please forget what you’ve heard about it doing a body good. There is much evidence stating that too much is actually detrimental to your teeth and bones, leading to osteoporosis, not keeping it away.
- Buzz words that make you think you are making smart decisions or make you feel guilty or stressed or overwhelmed… most of them mean nothing to most people. Unless you have an allergy or sensitivity, you don’t need to worry about these claims. If you do, you actually need to still do your research because labels are regulated by the government and lets be real… common sense need not apply.
- “Gluten free” can be used even if the item is not 100% GF! What?! People with Celiac can have very serious, life threatening reactions… and that is allowed?
- “Fat free” besides the face that this fad diet has been proven irrelevant and actually detrimental to your body, makes you believe it is a healthier option, when really it means this: we processed the crap out of this product, took out the good parts (nutrition and flavor) and added back in some chemicals, salt and LOTS of sugar!
- “Zero-calorie” similar to fat free, this term is used to make you think you don’t need to worry about it – after all, there’s no calories! This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Nothing that grows on earth is zero calories. Calories are energy, you need energy to live. If there aren’t calories, you can surely expect that product to be synthetic and therefore extremely detrimental to your health over the long term. Yes, this includes Diet Coke and the like… sorry not sorry!
- “GMO”s I stay away as much as possible, not an easy task! However, just because something says non-GMO does not make it a health food. Junk is junk is junk. Non-GMO is better that GMO, but don’t blow your grocery bill on a buzz word.
- “Natural” another buzz word that actually means squat. Sorry, the extra $2 you paid for natural corn chips just went down the drain. This word is barely regulated and can be used on just about anything.
Remember what Michael Pollan says: “if it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t”
I want to make sure you know that I am NOT telling you that if you eat junk from time to time that all of your healthy eating doesn’t count. I am also not telling you that you need to be perfect. Please keep in mind that what you do most of the time is what really matters, what you do sometimes is not as big of a deal. The best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to shop local. Find a farmer you trust, go to the farm and see how they raise their animals and grow their crops. Shop local co-ops and farmer’s markets when they are available! It is fun and you can learn so much just by talking to the farmers and other vendors. Many around my home have fun activities to get the kids involved, too! Most importantly, remember to trust your gut! (literally and hypothetically) If you think what you are eating is healthy and serving you, it probably is (yes, even the ice cream sundae that you got after baseball with the kids! It’s feeding your soul, therefore SO healthy!) if you feel that pang of guilt or the little voice in the back of your head reminding you that you are just making excuses, then stop… that is not good for you and feeling shame is NEVER good for your health. We are all just doing the best we can but being informed and educated is the strongest tool in your tool box!
You can download this PDF Grocery Store Guide to help you out and check out the other great resources in the library! If you have questions or would like to talk 1 on 1 you can find me in the Facebook group or schedule a time to chat here! I hope you found this helpful, there is more to come! I have MANY guest experts lined up to discuss each of these topics more in depth over in the Academy! (Don’t forget… you can get your first month for just $5 and get a FREE copy of First Steps to Health if you enroll by the end of June!)