15 March 2012

Whole Foods – what they are, why they are important and tips for eating more!


You intuitively know which foods are healthy, and more importantly which aren’t.  You do.  But we are often seduced by convenience, and make so many daily decisions that we don’t want to analyze food labels while rushing through the grocery aisles.  

We wrote this post to bring your attention to whole foods because so many foods eaten today that are pre-packaged or from fast food restaurants are processed to lengthen shelf life and as a consequence have been chemically altered, nutritionally drained and excessively flavored with empty calories.

Today, 90% of America’s food budget is spent on processed food with added ingredients that have been linked to childhood obesity, hyperactivity, asthma and degenerative diseases (type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer to name a few).  It may not be realistic for you to feed your family a strictly whole-food diet, but you can at least start making informed choices and small changes to shift this % in a healthier direction. 
 
Let’s start with identifying what whole foods are, and which are the worst processed that you should avoid:

What are whole foods?  Whole foods are unprocessed, natural foods.  Or maybe more easily defined by what it is NOT.  It is food without additives (saturated fat, sugar or sodium), preservatives (nitrates), coloring, hormones or antibiotics.  A simple way to think of them is foods that actually look like the source they came from and are a single ingredient.  For example, whole cranberries vs. the canned gelatin sauce complete with ringed design.  

Note: Healthy foods can come in a box or jar, just check the food label for a  list of ingredients (try for fewer than 5, and those which you can pronounce).
What foods should you avoid or limit?   Canned soup, potato chips and hot dogs are among the not-so-obvious worst foods that contain loads of sodium, saturated fat and artificial preservatives. While if you have kids it’s not easy to avoid chicken nuggets and french fries, do your best to control the frequency that you order them from fast food.  Salt is the fourth of 15+ ingredients in McDonald’s nuggets, and they are cooked in oil with TBHQ (a preservative made with butane).

Three general rules to make it easier.
1.       Plan your meals.  Take time to think through what you will eat for the week so you have healthy foods in stock, and a controlled list of items to buy.
2.       Eat before you shop to reduce hunger temptations and impulse purchases.
3.       Shop the perimeter where the fresh produce and whole foods are stocked.

Four tips to make your produce last longer:
1.  Store most foods in the refrigerator to slow the respiration process (with a few exceptions including winter squash, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, bananas and garlic.)
2.  Separate ethylene-emitting foods and toss spoiled items immediately, because they will spoil surrounding food faster.
3.  Store most foods in perforated plastic bags (air tight seals will age them faster); storing mushrooms in paper bags prevents them from getting slimy.
4.  Keep lettuce and root vegetables dry as moisture encourages rot.

Now that we've covered the fundamentals, happy cooking!

Cooking Light recipes
SouthBeach Diet cookbook
How it all Vegan!   Irresistable recipes foran animal free diet” by Kramer and Bernard
Living Raw Food” by Sarma Melngailis

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