Healthy eating begins with knowing what we put in our mouth.
Until about 60 years ago, it was much more simple and easy to know what it was that people put in their mouth at each meal. Food was more wholesome, less processed, from more nearby sources, seasonal and certainly with less artificial ingredients!
And as a result, people were overall healthier, disease rates were lower, obesity rates were lower, and certain conditions were basically unheard of (like leaky gut syndrome, ADD, and more.)
We are realizing that returning to wholesome, clean, unprocessed eating is critical to regaining health, preventing physical and mental wellbeing, and turning around the epidemic of obesity and all related illness.
But where does one begin?
How about simply becoming aware of what goes in our body with each meal.
And I mean, really looking at it, understanding it.
What are the ingredients that make up our food and meals? Where do those ingredients come from? And what do they do to our body once we consumed them?
Here are my top tips for understanding what you eat:
1. LEARN WHAT "WHOLE FOOD" MEANS
Here is my simple definition of whole foods as I teach is to kids in grades K-3:
Food that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances.
Raw or frozen foods from the food group list (basic ingredients),
Homemade, prepared from basic ingredients from the food group list
Store bought packaged food with less than 5 ingredients, the name of which you can recognize, and where sugar is not among the first 3 ingredients
2. LEARN THE MAIN FOOD GROUPS
My simple categories of food groups are:
Fats and Oils
Protein (Meats, Legumes, Eggs)
Nuts and Seeds
Then learn what goes under which category.
3. UNDERSTAND ORGANIC VS CONVENTIONAL
Pesticides used on foods and in the soil cause serious damage to our gut, digestive and nervous system, as well as the environment. If you can, buy organic. If you are on a budget, here is what I recommend you DO buy organic:
Animal fats (butter, lard, internal organs)
Produce from the Dirty Dozen list (The Clean 15 items are the least contaminated items)
4. LEARN TO READ NUTRITIONAL LABELS
Do you ever check the nutrition label before you buy an item? Well, best is if the item does not even have packaging or a label, such as produce!!! (no, not the Danish from Starbucks) But as far as packaged foods, get in the habit of reading the ingredients and the nutrition facts!
Things to look for in a packaged "Whole Food":
Short and wholesome ingredient list: less than 5 ingredients is my rule of thumb, where you recognize the name of all 5 ingredients and your grandma would have recognized them, too! Sorbitol, BHT and similar ingredients would not qualify.
Organic ingredients, if possible (or at least for the categories suggested to buy organic, listed above)
Non-GMO (genetically modified) ingredients
The geographic source of the food
And as far as nutritional value:
Be aware of serving size and servings per package information!!!
Higher in healthy fats (yes, saturated, too)
Low in sugar (and all the other names of "sugar" like corn syrup, malitol, etc.)
Low in net carbohydrates (carbs minus fiber)
Higher in protein
Low in sodium
High in minerals and vitamins
It does take a little practice but is more about getting in the habit! Becoming aware is always the first step!