Can I make a confession? I have taught Nutrition for a university for over 6 years now. That’s actually the longest job I have ever had. My confession isn’t that I switch jobs too frequently for my resume. My confession is that I have taught nutrition for a long time, and I am still (slightly) overweight, and just recently realized how much sugar I am feeding my family.
My husband turned on the documentary
the other night and asked me to watch it with him. I thought I would know most of the stuff they were saying (hello, I have a Masters in Health Education, and I’ve been teaching Nutrition for over 6 years), but they made a couple of great points that have never before hit me with that light bulb, “Aha,” moment.
Instead of hanging my head in shame, I became fueled to share with you what I learned, and what I have known for a while now. And right now seems like the perfect time, because we are all more attuned to eating healthy and helping our families eat healthy as well.
1. Avoid processed foods, as much as possible.
I already try to make most of our meals from scratch (lots of those meals have been or will be featured on this blog), but I have an entire shelf in my pantry full of boxed cereal. Do you know how much sugar is in a serving of regular cereal? And that sugar is on top of the carbohydrates from the grains in the cereal.
Almost all of the food that comes in a box has added sugar, plus a bunch of other chemicals for preservatives and flavor. When I was studying for my masters, and in every class I teach, I conduct this experiment. Go to 5 different areas of the grocery store (bread, soups, luncheon meats, etc.), grab one item at random off the shelf and look at the ingredient list. How many of those items have sugar, or sugar related ingredients (high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, etc.)? How many different sugary ingredients are in just one item? How many grams of sugar are in one serving?
2. Stick to the outer parts of the grocery store.
The outer areas of almost any grocery is where you are going to find the raw, unprocessed foods that will make up the basics of most of your meals. This is how I typically shop (except for my trip down the cereal aisle). I love shopping in the bulk foods section, check out my reasons here.
Grab your dairy, your produce, your fresh meat, and head home to make some great meals.
In my attempts to be completely honest, and realistic, you will have to drive the grocery cart down a few other aisles, but try to avoid the hamburger helpers, the granola bars, the fruit snacks.
It’s okay to grab the flour, the sugar (seriously), and the whole wheat, whole grain pastas. But pay attention to how much of those ingredients you are using in your weekly recipes.
3. Learn to Read a Nutrition Facts Label
This is another activity I do with every class I teach. I am surprised at the number of my students who don’t understand how to calculate the number of calories in an entire package. It comes as second nature to me because I’ve been studying for so long. So let me share with you…
Pay attention to the Serving Size and the Servings Per Package. These are not the same thing! Bryan Regan has a great skit about serving sizes.
You will be surprised at how small some serving sizes are. Most of those “healthy” drinks have more than one serving in the bottle. A serving size of most dressings is only 2 tablespoons.
Pay attention to the amount of sugar and sodium the food contains. These are two major contributors to disease.
Read through the ingredients list. Look up any words you don’t know what they are (or how to pronounce). I have done this for years, but just allowed my mind to gloss over the number of sugar ingredients my favorite foods contain. The ingredients are listed in the order of highest content. If sugar (or syrup of any kind) is listed in the first three ingredients, it is not healthy.
4. Make recipe substitutions
Don’t get the low-fat or fat-free versions, or even low-calorie, or no-calorie options for your favorite food and beverages. (This was one of my aha moments from the film.) The low-fat and fat-free versions usually have added sugar to help with the change in flavor. The low-calorie, no-calorie options trick your brain into thinking sugar is coming, so the body starts waiting for it, and when it doesn’t come, the body becomes sluggish, moods can shift, and the body stores the rest of the food waiting for the easy burning sugar to come.
Instead of buying those processed options, make substitutions in your favorite recipes that really are healthier. I frequently switch applesauce for most fats in most recipes. In my pancakes I’ll do 75% applesauce and 25% whatever fat the recipe calls for. Applesauce also adds fiber, and you can reduce the amount of granulated sugar you add to a recipe. I’ve reduced the sugar as much as half and not had any problems. You can also swap avocado for some fats, depending on the recipe. Coconut oil is a better fat that shortening or butter.
Natural, raw honey, is another healthier swap for sugar in many recipes. Use whole wheat flour instead of white flour. Switch to brown rice instead of white.
*If you swap applesauce, use homemade applesauce or make sure the applesauce from the store has no added sugar, read the labels!
5. Keep track of what you are eating
This is another area I really have to work on. I think I’m eating healthy, and most of the foods I prepare are fairly healthy. And yet, the scale stays the same (or goes up, ugghh). So then I start tracking what I am eating. There are some great apps to help with this. Or even the USDA tracker, that’s free (and can provide nutritional information and help with meal plans).
Once I start writing down every bite of food I eat, I realize how many extra bites I’m taking throughout the day. This doesn’t mean avoid snacking. It just means pay attention to the type and the amount of snacks you are eating. I like to have about 100 calories for a mid morning and mid afternoon snack. This tells my body it can burn what I’ve already eaten because more food is on the way. It also helps me avoid extra servings at breakfast and lunch because I know I will be eating again soon.
I’m currently participating in a weight loss challenge through a facebook group. But in my research I found another program I can’t wait to start. And I have the opportunity to share this awesome challenge with you. It’s called the Feel Great In 8 program.
This is not just a weight loss competition. It is a healthy living competition. The next round starts in February. So check out the program. Sign up to get a little motivation, and a lot of support! I just missed the January start. But I’m joining the February challenge. I’d love you to join with me and we can help each other get healthy!
One last parting word, check back in a few weeks for my review of Garcinia Cambogia. I’m currently trying a Garcinia Cambogia supplement, and doing a bunch of research, so you can know if this is a supplement choice for you.
What do you think? Did you already know everything I shared? How does your diet measure up? What are you going to focus on to start eating healthier?
This post contains an affiliate link. By clicking on the link and joining the program, I receive a commission.