Relax, Not Every Processed Food is Evil
For years we've been hearing that shopping the perimeter of the grocery store promotes a healthy diet. Why? The fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, and cheeses tend to be located here. If you avoid the center aisles while shopping at your local market, you will arrive home with wholesome, minimally processed foods. Peruse the center aisles and you will more than likely add chips, crackers, soups, condiments, and other processed convenient foods to your cart. Tasty, yes. Good for you? Not so much. The more processed a food is, the more it is likely to contain strange, unutterable ingredients. These food items also tend to be high in sugar, and salt.
The perimeter of the grocery store is the place to begin. It is the place to conduct the bulk of your shopping. But given our busy lifestyles, adding in convenience items is often necessary and helpful. Think of the perimeter of the store as the main event, and treat the foods that you get from this area as the main course when you cook.
I know. Coming home from the grocery store without a processed food item in the cart is near impossible. But remember, moderation is key in almost everything we do. Not all processed foods are evil. There was and is a point to them, right? Our ancestors would have died during the harsh New England winters had they not figured out how to can vegetables and cure meat. Look at your processed options carefully. Read the labels. Here is my very simple label reading checklist:
- Are the ingredients recognizable?
- Are there less than 8 ingredients?
- Is the sodium content acceptable?
- Is the sugar content acceptable?
The answers to questions #3 and #4 can be tricky. I have ideas about the amount of sugar and sodium that I feel is acceptable, and sometimes it varies by food item. For example, I will never buy a cereal that has more than 8 grams of sugar in it. I don't think that there is any reason for spaghetti sauce to have sugar in it, so I always buy one with as little sugar as possible. Sodium is a big preservative. I don't buy any frozen foods because they are chock full of sodium. I love soup and watch for low sodium options. Begin reading labels to understand what is in your processed foods. Compare them. Before long, you will be able to quickly peruse a food label and know whether you want the food item in your body or not.