America is a wealthy nation, with an abundant and varied food supply. But walk into any supermarket, and you could purchase a cart full of “food” with no more nutrition than a sheet of plywood, and containing a multitude of unpronounceable man made ingredients. Careful choices are necessary to make sure you feed yourself and your family in a way that will meet your nutritional needs, and not cause health problems down the road.
Count on our government to come up with “new dietary guidelines” every few years, in various geometric shapes. They have their good points. But plain old common sense is a reliable guide when choosing your diet.
Eat a wide variety of foods. Your body needs many different micro-nutrients and minerals, and the best way to get them is by choosing many different foods. Apples and bananas are great, but how about kiwis, mangoes, pears, grapes, cherries.
Eat whole foods. As much as you can, choose foods as close to their original state as possible. Pick a baked potato over chips or fries. A fresh apple over apple pie. A lean pork chop over sausage. Every step of processing that a food undergoes drains nutrients, and often adds ingredients you’re better off without. Look at that box of instant dinner (fortified with seven nutrients!) you’re thinking of putting in the cart, and try to imagine how far from its original state everything in that picture is. If you’re really brave, read the ingredient list. (Clue: most fresh whole foods do not come with ingredient lists…)
Eat organic and local food. Organically grown food leaves pesticides, herbicides, and most artificial ingredients out of the picture. Local food is likely fresher, less processed, and in season. Ever tasted an Ecuadoran strawberry in February? The eyes say WOW! The tongue says ICK. Strawberries grown in your region will only be available seasonally, but when they are they’ll be delicious.
Eat colorful food. Turns out the deeper the color of your fresh fruits and veggies, the more nutrients they pack. Look for red peppers, purple cabbage, dark green salad greens, and blueberries. Instead of mashed potatoes and cauliflower with a chicken breast, choose a yam, broccoli and, okay a chicken breast. But maybe salmon? Cheetos and grape soda don’t count.
Do not eat counterfeit foods. If the word ‘substitute’ appears anywhere on the package, think twice. It’s true you should not eat a lot of sugar. But fake sugar is worse. How about a little honey? Butter is good in moderation. Fake butter is…not food. There’s water, and there’s juice, even time-honored beer and wine. But what kind of food is pop? I just can’t think of one fake food that would be a wiser choice than its genuine counterpart.
In your supermarket, the best place to look for a variety of whole, fresh, colorful foods is around the edges. Produce counter, meat counter, and dairy. Dart into those middle aisles as little as possible, for Kleenex and a birthday card maybe. No Cheetos.
David Brooke, aka “The Brooker” has been a coach, speaker, and motivator for over 25 years, specializing in coaching people to be more productive and overcome tragedies in their lives. To access his “How to be Great in 2008” strategies for getting your life back on track, visit: http://www.thebrooker.com
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