Recording from Week One HERE
Week one will start with setting your intentions and goals. What do you want out of this program? Learn what to purchase at the store? What to avoid? How to plan a menu? What are you most interested in learning? How will you get there? Join our weekly calls or listen to the replay? Read the extra resources? Complete the assignments?
Assignment #1: Fill out the attached worksheet, send a copy to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and keep a copy handy for yourself – we’ll check back in at the end of the program to see if you met your goals.
Label reading isn’t hard, but aside from fat and calories, most of us have never been taught what you should or shouldn’t look for on the back of a label. So, I’m going to walk you through how to read a label – this is your first step in becoming an educated (and therefore healthier) eater.
Item #1: Cheetos
Let’s start out with the serving size. This particular bag is what I’d consider family sized at 9 and 1/2 ounces. Right at the top of the back, under Nutrition Facts, a serving size is given as 1 ounce (about 21 pieces). So the servings per container are about 10.
Calories for one serving is only 150 – not bad, but who really sticks to one serving with a bag this size? The fat content is pretty high too at 10 g fat (and that is just for one serving). Sodium is 250 mg per serving – something to consider if you are watching salt intake. The rest of the numbers are what you’d expect for a junk food – nothing spectacular.
Next and more importantly in my book is checking out the ingredients. This is where this snack food really fails. The first ingredient is always the ingredient that the food item contains the most of. This one is Enriched Corn Meal – and then the ingredients in that ingredient are listed – in this case basically corn meal that has had vitamins added to it. After enriched corn meal comes vegetable oil, then a cheese seasoning, more oil and then things get really ugly. You’ll notice they have monosodium glutamate (MSG) listed – they aren’t even trying to hide this one, natural and artificial flavorings (another place MSG often hides), and artificial color – specifically yellow 6.
This item would definitely be crossed off my list for the MSG alone. We’ll discuss my reasons why in the next section.
Item #2 Triscuits
Here is another example of a boxed or packaged good, but by looking at the label, you can tell that this is a better choice for your family.
Okay, serving size is 6 crackers, and this box contains about 9 servings. So, if you place six crackers on your plate, you are good to go. Calories are 120, fat 4 g and sodium 160 mg. Still like food item #1, a snack food, so treat it as such. However, with lower calories, fat and sodium, it is a better choice for a snack.
Now, check out the ingredients – this is where I think this product is a winner. There are only THREE ingredients listed: whole grain soft white wheat, soybean oil and sea salt. The first ingredient is a positive in my book – since it states it is “whole grain”, it’s telling me that it is a true whole wheat – it hasn’t been stripped or “enhanced.” If the ingredient had just said “wheat” I would have known it wasn’t a whole grain – it has to specifically include that word WHOLE. Next is soybean oil – although I’m not a big fan of soybean oil, at least it’s not hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated (so no trans fats). Not a terrific ingredient but not bad for a snack food. Finally sea salt. We don’t know the quality of the sea salt, but the fact that it’s sea salt versus regular is an improvement.
Assignment #2: Practice label reading. Go to your pantry, fridge or freezer and randomly pick two or three things you or your family commonly eats. Turn the box or can around and look at the label. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How many servings is in this container?
- How many calories? fat? fiber?
- What are the ingredients? Any of the “bad guys” included? Anything I can’t pronounce?
- What could I buy/use/make instead of this product?
I’d recommend picking the most common three things your family eats and write down in your journal some healthier alternatives.
Eventually this will become second nature for you, but for now, just practice on the food items your family eats the most often. If you can find healthier versions/ replacements for these foods, you’ll make a significant difference in how you eat!
WHAT TO AVOID AT THE STORE
I mentioned a few of these ingredients above, but attached below is a list of ingredients you should watch for when shopping and avoid as often as possible in the items you purchase and consume.
WHAT TO BUY AT THE STORE
By now you are probably wondering what in the heck you CAN buy at the store. Don’t worry, there are plenty of options – it just takes a different mindset!
We’ll talk next week specifically about organic, so for this week, just purchase your food according to these guidelines:
When you go to the store, try to do most of your shopping on the outside aisles – you know, the produce, meat, dairy – avoid the inside aisles as those are just packaged foods – I typically only go down those aisles if I have a specific ingredient on my list – on those occasions I head straight for the item I need and then back to the “safer” outside. A bonus is your shopping trips will become much quicker!
Since you are on the outside perimeter of the store, this should be pretty easy, but my best advice is to purchase as many fresh, whole foods as possible. By whole foods I mean foods that only contain one ingredient – for example, an apple is a whole food, applesauce (assuming it has added sugar) is not a whole food. Another example – a chicken breast is a whole food, but a breaded chicken nugget is not.
Finally, if you do purchase packaged goods (and we all do), avoid foods with the “bad” ingredients from the last section along with anything else you can’t pronounce or don’t recognize. In other words, if you don’t recognize it as a food, don’t buy it.
My quickest and easiest tip is to try to purchase foods with 5 ingredients or less – you are less likely to get into trouble if you have fewer ingredients in a packaged good.
Need an example of a healthy shopping trip? Don’t worry, we’ll delve into more detail on this topic in the weeks to come, and I’ll show you how to create a shopping list and use groceries like these to build healthy meals, but in the meantime, here are pics from a recent week – I stopped at three stores (normally I only shop at one, maybe two), and spent around $75. This was enough food for our family of 4 for six dinners as well as most of our lunches and breakfasts (including what I had at home already – basics like flour, sugar, etc.).
Extra Credit Assignment #3 Take this week and go through your pantry. Eliminate (donate or pitch – I KNOW it’s hard) any food items that contain ingredients on the “bad” list. When you go to the store this week, try to replace some of them with better choices. If you feel overwhelmed, then just do one shelf a day – by the end of the week you’ll have seven clean shelves full of only healthy foods!
Next week we’ll talk about all those crazy food definitions, which of them you should be concerned about, and how you can afford to buy real food. See you next week!