Ultimately on this journey you will have to decide for yourself what foods are worth the splurge and what is not. Today we are going to peel back labels and see what is really in that can of beans you are buying. Remember to consult with a dietitian or doctor before making any changes in your diet. You want to ensure a safe and healthy change.
First let us look at the word organic. Is the food you are buying worth going organic? Starting in the produce section, if your fruit or veggie has a thick peel around it, you need not go organic. The thick peel, like those on oranges, protects the plant from chemicals penetrating the edible inside. I do find a major taste advantage in going organic with bananas. On the other hand, foods like strawberries, lettuce, and peppers should be organic when possible. My husband used to dislike strawberries because they tasted acidic to him. I bought organic ones and he loves the taste! Sometimes going organic is worth it if you simply prefer the taste. Some of us are on a tight budget and just need to know where to cut corners. Organic meat in my opinion is worth it when you can. The most important detail when buying meat is finding hormone-free meat. As far as grains go, it is nice to go organic when you can. Understand when you buy organic the difference is in the quality of the product you are buying. It does not make something laden with calories better for weight loss. It is easy to forget that when you get wrapped up in going organic.
Canned goods are not as good as you may think. If you are looking for a side item that cuts down your cooking time, it may not be worth the sacrifice. I am not saying never to use any canned goods. You should strictly limit them. Go for frozen or jarred varieties when you can. Canned goods often come with a host of problems. Some suggest there is mercury in the lining of the cans. Not something you want to in your body. Many canned goods also have hidden calories and salt lingering inside. The fruit is often kept in juice or syrup. That is loaded with sugar and preservatives. Those definitely take away from your nutritional value. Check the nutritional label to see what you are really getting into. Even jarred varieties need a second glance. If you feel you must use canned goods rinse the fruit or vegetable, make sure there are no dents in the can (a sign of mold), and make sure the product is swimming in water not sugar. While we are on the subject, check your pantry and ensure there are no outdated cans sitting waiting for that recipe you never got around to. It happens to the best of us.
Don’t be afraid of quality ingredients. If you are on a tight budget like me, it may seem difficult to splurge on a special gourmet item. The item worth the splurge may be different for you. I find good cheese and chocolate are worth the splurge to me! You obviously won’t be splurging just from your wallet. Enjoying your food and using quality ingredients are worth the jump. When you use quality ingredients, you won’t need a great amount to get satisfied. Simply find when your splurge item goes on sale and snag it then. This will limit how often you splurge and keep you within budget. When you eat like a food snob you get to enjoy in moderation.
Free is not always free. Fat-free and sugar-free does not always equal healthy. We have all heard about the dangers of aspartame and other chemicals in most sugar-free products. There are other dangers to look out for when going sugar-free. Usually companies add fat or salt to the product to help give a better taste. When buying fat-free some products have added salt or sugar. Read your nutritional labels and ingredients list to see what you are really getting. If you are trying to watch your sugar intake, try reduced-sugar products instead. I do like a few sugar-free products made with Splenda or the like. I use Smucker’s Breakfast Syrup for my pancakes. It tastes great unlike other sugar-free products. Believe me I have tried my fair share. You can also look for reduced-fat items, like slow churn ice-creams. Whatever you choose to buy, look at the label to see what you are actually purchasing.
Frozen foods can be tricky. When we browse the frozen isle we are bombarded with tempting words in bold print, beckoning us to buy. Words like Fast, Healthy, Grilled, Fresh, Natural, Family Sized, and Lean catch us in our moment of weakness. At my grocery store, the frozen isle is at the far side of the opposite end of the entrance. At this point, especially if you are toting kids, you are exhausted from near collisions, searching for that specialty item, trying to get around that indecisive shopper, thinking about the dishes palled up at home, etc. You are at a weakened state and convince yourself that some of these items are a good idea. Let me help you. They are not. When I was pregnant with my first baby, I wanted something healthy and quick. I grabbed Healthy Choice Steamers. At my next prenatal visit, my blood pressure shot up from 104/60 to 130/72! I looked at the label of my healthy choice, and it was loaded with sodium. Dropped the frozen and my blood pressure went right back down. These convenient meals are not so convenient when you think of health problems that could put you out for longer than it takes to throw a salad or wrap together. The tag words are tempting, but you can be better than frozen! Trust me. The frozen items that are worth buying are fruits and vegetables not in sauce, frozen free-range meat, frozen yogurt, and frozen slow-churn ice-cream.
In the end we have to make positive changes without sacrificing taste. Once you get home from the grocery, you may be exhausted. As you become more familiar of what is really healthy shopping will be faster and your visits will be more efficient. When you make your list for the store, make sure that you divide your list into sections like produce, breads, isles, frozen, household, meats, and dairy. Then try to keep the list in order of what you would encounter. This shaves off time and prevents you from entering isles that temp you to buy things you do not even need. Keep reading labels of products you buy. What is in the food enters your body.