Health food crazes come and go, and they are often characterized by items so bland that you may well prefer scraps of cardboard with a little mustard for dipping. And yet, most adults reach a point in their lives where greasy, fast-food fare and preservative-laden processed foods are less desirable than they used to be (usually right after a physical complete with blood tests and a stint on that unforgiving scale at your doctor’s office).
It may not be easy to get on track with a healthy diet for life, but that doesn’t stop most people from vowing to do so and then seeking out ways to make it happen. So if you’re looking to start eating better, but you’re having a hard time determining which items are okay to add to your shopping list, here are a few pointers to help steer you towards foods that are actually healthy (as opposed to those that only appear to be good for you).
The first thing you need to know is that even “natural” foods may not be as healthy as you presume. For example, fresh produce in your average grocery store has been exposed to all kinds of chemicals in the growing process, including fertilizers, pesticides, and so on. You can wash them or boil them all you want, but minute traces will be ingested no matter what, and if you think they can’t harm you, then you’re fooling yourself.
As for meats and other animal products, most are exposed to injections of antibiotics and hormones (which can interact with your own immune system in some strange ways). It is for these reasons that many people are seeking a healthier lifestyle turn to organic items.
Then, of course, there are prepackaged goods that claim to be natural. But you really can’t trust this terminology since it has no legal definition. Splenda may be made from natural sugar, but after a gazillion, chemical processes to remove calories, the remainder is anything but. If you want to be certain that you understand what you’re buying you really need to look for the certified organic label, which indicates manufacturers and products that have undergone a rigorous screening process by the USDA to receive approval.
Sadly, there’s, even more, to watch out for when it comes to securing the healthy alternatives you want on your grocery list. Suppose you grab a Lean Cuisine or Weight Watchers product from the store shelf, assuming that a lower calorie count signals a healthier choice. While the number of calories you consume is certainly important, the content of those calories is also crucial to your health. Did you know, for example, that many frozen meals contain a huge percentage of your daily recommended intake of sodium? As you may know, excessive salt in the diet can lead to hypertension.
The point is that there are a lot of seemingly “healthy” foods that are purposely marketed to mislead unwary shoppers. So the best thing you can do if you want to keep your diet as healthy as possible is stick to foods that you can easily identify as coming from actual, natural sources (meats, produce, whole grains, etc.), seek out organic options, and even consider buying from local farmers, ranchers, co-ops, or markets that support these sources. Heck, you could even plant your own veggie garden just to be sure. And for everything else, become a diligent and informed label-reader so that you know exactly what you’re putting into your body.