Here's a quick and simple way to get started eating healthy by learning how to read labels and make good food choices. I hope to inspire people to eat better and spark a desire to get better informed about food.

If you're already on a special diet please continue to follow your diet.

I chose to take pictures at Wal-Mart. This is NOT an endorsement of Wal-Mart. I chose Wal-Mart because nearly everyone has access to a Wal-Mart and they carry both organic and conventional food. My health food store doesn't carry conventional food so I couldn't take pictures there.

I no longer moniter this Instructable.

Step 1: Do Not Eat Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils are oils that have hydrogen atoms added to give it a higher melting point and longer shelf life. The process makes liquid fats into solid or semi-solid fats. It’s the processing of good oils into hydrogenated fats that produces the trans fatty acids. The human body has no way of handling trans fats making them act like a poison in our bodies. Trans fats cause all kinds of problems such as heart disease and diabetes to name just two. The body stores trans fats because it can’t process it. This leads to weight gain and a whole other list of problems.

The food industry uses hydrogenated oil because it’s a cheap way to add texture and taste to processed foods.

If you’ve seen a can of Crisco you’ve seen a lump of hydrogenated oil. Do not use Crisco or most margarines.

Step 2: Don't Cut Out Fat Just Choose Good Fats

To avoid hydrogenated oils read the label. Even if the product has 0 trans fats on the front, read the list of ingredients. Even if you think a product couldn’t have oils in it READ THE LABEL. Even ice cream has hydrogenated oil. Another way to cut hydrogenated oils out of your diet is to avoid eating out, especially fast food. Fast food has large amounts of trans fats. If you have to eat out avoid breads and fried foods. I prefer to buy food at a grocery store and eat in the park or my car, but that’s not possible for some people.

Do not cut fat out of your diet. Fats are necessary for good health. There are a lot of bodily functions that need fat to work properly. Your brain can’t function without fat. A child five years old and under should have plenty of good fats in their diet so that they have good brain growth and development. Ice cream and cookies do NOT have good fats.

Look for good fats.

Expeller pressed oils are good for you. They generally need to be refrigerated after opening. Don’t put olive oil in the refrigerator because it’ll get solid. Ask me how I know this!!

Fats from fish are good for you. They contain omega fatty acids which are very good for you.

Raw nuts have good fat.

Avocados are very fatty but luckily for us they also contain an appetite suppressant, so you get the fat but not too much of it.

Butter’s a better choice than most margarines but only eat small amounts of butter. If you eat pancakes with fresh fruit butter isn’t necessary. Potatoes can be whipped with some fat free broth and then butter isn’t needed. Some people think eating butter at all is bad for you. I’m just saying it’s a better choice than most margarines. Your body can digest butter but it can’t digest the hydrogenated fats in most margarines.

There is a lot that can and has been written about processed oils. I only hope I gave enough information to inspire people to stop eating hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oil.

Step 3: Eat Whole Grains and Unprocessed Legumes (beans, Peanut, Lentils, Etc):

Our bodies need grains. A big part of our diets should include grains and legumes.

Avoid eating white flour, white rice. They have been stripped of all the good stuff.

White flour doesn’t give the body the nutrients it needs to be healthy, in the digestive track it turns to goo because a lot of the fiber has been stripped away.

Whole grain flours have, well…. the whole grain, that’s redundant but it makes the point. Whole grains have the food value and fiber bodies need to stay healthy and working well.

It’s hard to talk about nutrition without mentioning the intestines because the intestines are a big part of getting nutrients into the body. I’ll be as delicate as possible while writing about intestines.

Whole grains help keep the intestines working well. Whole grain has fiber that clean the intestinal walls and keep people regular. Clean intestines extract more nutrients from food. Clean intestines help move food through better and eliminate everything better. With white flours things get gunked up in the intestines. White flour can get stuck to the lining and hinder the intestines ability to work well.

Why do we even have white flour? White flour is easy to work with and produces fluffy bread products. In it’s defense white flour makes baking with whole grains easier. It’s difficult to make yeast breads with only whole grain flour. Bakers add white flour to the whole grain flour to get enough gluten to get a good dough. So, white flour has it’s purpose but shouldn’t be eaten as the sole choice.

White rice was the cause of a beriberi outbreak in Asia many moons ago. Only the rich had contracted beriberi. The poor seemed immune to it. The poor couldn’t afford processed white rice and were stuck eating brown rice, but it was the B vitamins in the brown rice that prevented them from getting beriberi. Eat whole grain brown rice and stay healthy.

Processed beans , lentils, peanuts and the like are found in cans and jars. The high heat needed to can food destroys nutrients. Can food can also contain large amounts of salt, sugar and preservatives.

Choose steel cut oats over rolled oats because steel cut oats are the whole oat grain. It takes longer to cook but it’s has more nutrients. A large batch of steel cut oats can be cooked at one time and frozen in single serving portions. This makes eating a healthy breakfast possible on busy mornings.

Eat whole food and be healthy.

Step 4: Drastically Cut Down on Sugar

Sugars can be found on the list of ingredients. Look for sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, fructose… (look for the suffix -ose).

I don’t suggest cutting sugar out of your diet completely because sugar is in so many foods it‘s almost impossible to cut it out completely. Look for alternatives to white sugar such as rice, malt or barley syrups, evaporated cane juice, molasses, or honey. These are not great for your health but they’re a better choice.

There are no forms of refined sugar that are healthy to eat.

Sugar has empty calories. Don’t eat ice cream, candy, soda, sugar cereal, etc. Once you get away from sugar your palette will adjust to eating healthy and you won’t like the flavor of sugary food. That’s what happened to my family and me.

Sugar has a terrible effect on the body. Sugar is linked to heart disease, diabetes and kidney problems. It suppresses the immune system. It causes both hyperactivity and lethargy depending on the person. Sugar feeds the yeast in the intestines causing an overgrowth. This overgrowth leads to yeast infects, athletes foot, jock itch, and nail fungus just to name a few. Some breads need sugar to feed the yeast but your body doesn’t.

Do yourself a favor and kick the sugar habit. You’ll feel better and you’ll look better.

Do not substitute artificial sweeteners for sugar. Artificial sweeteners are really really bad for you and should never be consumed.

Life shouldn’t be a drudgery. Cut down on sugar but when your at a birthday party EAT SOME CAKE. Don’t drink the soda though it contains way too much sugar and phosphorus (which will leach out your calcium) and can cause cancer!!

Don’t avoid fruits and vegetable because they have fructose (fruit sugar).

Step 5: Eat Fruits and Vegetables!!!

Fruits and veggies are very healthy to eat. Most fruits and veggies contain good amounts of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps stop sugar cravings. Look for organic fruits and vegetables. They have more nutrients and are raise without artificial fertilizer or pesticides. They taste much better than their conventional counter part and when bought in season are a great value. Have at least one or two servings of fruits or veggies with every meal and as snacks to make sure your getting enough in your diet.

Juicing has become a popular way to get the health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Both vegetable and fruit juices pack all the nutrients and none of the fiber so it’s possible to get a large dose of vitamins and minerals. I juice occasionally and I know there are people out there that juice medicinally. I know some but I don’t know enough about it to do juicing justice but I thought it would be a good idea to let people know that it’s available and anyone interested in knowing more could research it for themselves.

Step 6: Get Enough Protein

A body needs protein to be healthy.

Most Americans get more they need. The same is true for the British.

The average person needs about .37 grams per pound or .8 grams per kilogram of body weight.

It’s important to get enough protein but eating to much can be toxic.

To get protein from plants it’s important to eat complimentary foods to get a complete protein. Beans and rice together are a complete protein. Peanut butter on whole wheat bread is a complete protein. Peanuts are heavily sprayed with pesticides so choose only organic peanut products.

All animal products have protein but not all are healthy. Conventionally raise animal products should be avoided. Those animals are raised in horrible conditions and have all kinds of growth hormones and antibiotics administered to them. It’s bad for the animal and you don’t want that stuff inside you.

Most jerky, bacon, ham, lunch meats and sausages have sodium nitrite, which is a preservative and very bad for you. Most pickles also have sodium nitrite so avoid them, too.

Look for pasture raised or organic meat. Grass fed beef has more available protein than conventionally raised beef.

Free range chickens are better for you than conventionally raised chicken. Conventional chicken is mushy and has no flavor.

Eggs are a great source of protein. Look for hens fed a vegetarian diet. Free ranges eggs are great. Fertilized eggs have vitamin E. A healthy egg has an orange yolk and a sturdy shell.

Alternatively raised animals are treated well and the ranchers practice humane animal husbandry. Hopefully alternative farms will become the norm and conventional farms and the mean way they raise animals will be history.

Anyone choosing to cut meat products out of their diet needs to add B12 either by adding B12 fortified foods or taking supplements. A B12 deficiency can take years to rear it’s head. The effects of a B12 deficiency are anemia and nerve disorders including blindness. If you choose to be a vegan please get plenty of information about balancing your diet so you can stay healthy.

Step 7: Choose Organic When Possible

Eat as much organic food as your budget will allow. You will be cutting out a lot of pesticides and preservatives from your diet. You will be supporting healthy farming practices and supporting alternative farms. Don’t buy just any old organic foods. Look for the real deal. Look for labels that tell you the company believes in the whole philosophy of good stewardship toward Mother Earth and not just trying to make a buck. Don’t buy Ragu organic pasta sauce. Don’t buy organic Rice Krispies. Don’t buy into the myth that organic food isn’t any better. Google organic food and find out. It’s also a myth that organic foods are expensive. On top of being a good value for your dollar organic food fills you up sooner so you eat less food. Get in the habit of preparing as much of your own food as possible. Homemade bread is cheaper and delicious. Home cooked beans are cheap and can be made in large batches and frozen for later. Make your own hot cereal. Buy in bulk if it’s available. Only buy bulk foods from a store that sells lots of bulk food. You’ll get fresher food.

Step 8: Buy Local

The food you buy locally can be picked closer to being ripe so it’s got more food value. It hasn’t taken gallons of fuel to get it to you and it’s nice to support your own community.

Shop at your local farmer’s market. While at the grocers look for signs on produce that state it’s grown locally. Buy from local farmers. These farms can be found by searching Eatwild.com or Localharvest.org. The best way to eat local is to grow it youself, you have more control over the food you eat if you grow it yourself.
By the way, if you are a vegan and are worried about vitamin B12 deficiencies, a really good source of all your vitamin B's is nutritional yeast (brewer's yeast). Just throw a spoonful into soup, sprinkle some on a salad, sprinkle some on your sandwich, and voila! You are set! Besides, your body only needs about 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12, so if you have some nutritional yeast once in a while you should be fine. <br>
Despite what people may think, protein isn't really as big of a deal as people make it. Almost every food you eat has protein, so as long as you consume enough calories then you should be fine. Seriously, has anyone actually known someone with a &quot;protein deficiency&quot;? You might hear about it in poor, developing countries, but those people aren't getting enough calories in general! As long as you eat a variety of foods (whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and nuts) then it would be virtually impossible to NOT get sufficient protein. <br>Also, it isn't necessary to combine proteins. Your body is going to break down the protein you eat into amino acids and again, it you eat a varied diet then you are naturally going to get all the amino acids that you need. <br>But other than that, this article is great! It's always nice to see other people trying to spread some common sense. Keep it up!
Um, although carrots ARE healty, the remark about rabbits is inaccurate. Rabbits &quot;prefer&quot; the leaves, and rarely dig up roots and tubers.
So is your cow's name moo or did you just say that 'cause he's a cow?
I'm enjoying your posts, but chickens are not vegetarian, they eat insects, and each other when kept in cages : (, so to be fed a totally vegetarian diet, they must be kept in batteries, in the same poor conditions as the large chicken farms.
I live in Dominican Republic and there are not many organic food producers here, so if I want to eat organic I need to buy imported food, which I do but it makes my choice of life quite expensive :s
&nbsp;You have to watch out though, sometimes at Farmers Markets theres a lot of people selling non-organic food that you can get at the grocery store. I live in Southern California and you can&nbsp;definitely&nbsp;tell that some of the food they are selling they either bought from the supermarket and then marketed up the price or they actually work for the large corporations that sell fruit to super markets and that it is actually the same product. Try to see what things are in season in your area, If one stand is selling peaches in the winter when everyone else is selling parsnips or whatever, then save your money and just buy the peaches from the super market. Farmers Markets are expensive because it is&nbsp;supposed&nbsp;to be home grown, but there are a lot of scams too. Also when shopping for meat or milk realize that although they are feeding the animals organic corn and may not use antibiotics, the animals still live in the same horrible conditions as non-organic livestock.&nbsp;
oh alot of people got scammed like that the omish were just buying like a can of green beans for 2.43 and were selling it for 3.56.
A great alternative to sugar is the Blue Agave nectar. It can be found on the web. It's a low glycemic sweetener made from a plant nectar. It doesn't give the sugar rush and it taste great. It 25% sweeter than sugar. I use it in drinks as well on yogurts and waffles.<br />
It isn't necessary to combine whole grains and legumes in the same meal to form a complete protein.&nbsp; You can, for example, eat whole wheat toast in the morning, then eat lentil soup for dinner and still create a full protein.&nbsp; Pretty cool eh.<br />
A note on organic meat or chicken:&nbsp;It's <em>frightfully </em>expensive compared to conventional products. But look, just look at the way animals are treated when raised conventionally, and compare that to the way they're treated on organic farms. Seriously, if you <em>have </em>to eat meat (and I do because I love it), do so in a responsible way:&nbsp;Not too much or often, but with a good conscience. Plus, supermarket-bought meat often shrinks because a lot of its weight is made up of water which is injected into the meat (true!) - so on that account, a good piece of meat might be a bit more expensive, but it doesn't evaporate in your pan...<br /> Also, the CO2-footprint of meat is very, very large, even for organic meat. It takes a lot of energy, water and other resources to raise those animals and proceed the meat until it turns up in the supermarket. One more reason to cut down on your meat-eating...<br /> Your local (organic?) farmer might be another good source for quality meat, and you know where it came from, what he does or doesn't do to the animals, and it's not transported long ways to you. It also strengthens your community if you buy locally. <br />
I'll second your hint to avoid eating out. This doesn't only count for fast food joints, but also for other very cheap eateries:&nbsp;When you pay (an example that would hold true for most European cities) 4 Euros for a chicken curry dish, guess at the quality of the ingredients. <br /> If you do want (or need)&nbsp;to eat out, check for restaurants with (the following are all and/or options) regional, home-grown, organic, fresh produce and a fair value-for-money-relation. A small menu with only up to 10 items or a &quot;dish of the day&quot; tableau usually hints at an owner /&nbsp;chef who likes to buy good produce in small amounts rather than have tons of freezer bag food in his attic. A good chef also won't mind telling you where the produce comes from or what's in it.&nbsp;<br /> Most of the times you won't find these restaurants down the big shopping streets. A good place to ask for hints might be local farmer's markets or even organic food stores. <br /> Good dining out normally starts at about 8-10 Euros for vegetarian or 12-15 Euros for meat dishes (in Germany), any lower for a normal sized 1-course dinner plate and you can be almost sure that the produce is not good. Rather eat out less and then spend a decent amount on decent food!<br />
Thanks for this...the rabbit wearing glasses annotation on the carrot photo reminded me of my grandma. She used to say exactly that to me all the time.
What kind of butter is that?
If it has a label listing ingredients, it means it has been processed, which means it has reduced value. A simple rule we follow is to use unprocessed food as much as possible. It feels good! Thanks for encouraging healthy living.
Great photos--your Moo cow is so cute!
Dont eat sugar substitutes or really anything with aspartame Aspartame, when heated to your body temperature becomes a poison which is used to preserve bombs or something like that, Who would say 11 calories and put poison in their body instead?
That type of Organic Valley milk isn't exactly the best for you, although they don't use pesticides or herbicides, its &quot;Ultra-Pasteurized,&quot; which means it's heated to a high temperature for a long period of time. This takes out a LOT of minerals and vitamins that you want from milk.<br/><br/>Go with the milk that's the least homogenized (pasteurized is fine: it kills the bacteria that makes the milk safe to drink. but, if you're buying locally, which everyone should do: then don't get it pasteurized). It might go bad faster, but once you get used to the real taste of milk (nd this <strong>IS<em> the <strong>real<em> taste of milk) it's quite healthy for you.</em></strong></em></strong><br/><br/>There is Organic Valley NON-HOMOGENIZED, Cream on top milk, but I haven't seen that much around. Strauss has a <em>cream on top</em> milk, and so does Stonyfield, which is the type I get.<br/><br/>Buy locally! And read the book Animal Vegetable Miracle: It'll change your life!<br/>
Sugar is also a poison, as it dehydrates you when consumed excessively
Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants. eat slowly, try not to eat alone. Avoid food products containing ingredients that are unfamiliar, unpronounceable or more than five in number. Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. Pay more. Eat less. Cook. these are few entries in Michael Pollan's "Eater's Manifesto". If one uses it as a guide one doesn't need to have these oddly charged/righteous/heated exchanges on chemicals & nutrients...read Marion Nestle or M Pollan on the politics/ecomonics of food as it relates to we first worlders.... Enjoy what you eat & with who you eat. Remember who works hardest to get this food to you. Be grateful for your plate...
Very interesting guide. Just for fun if anyone is interested there was a great documentary film a few years back called "The Real Dirt on Farmer John". Really fun. With a handle like punkrockfarmer, I think I'd definitely recommend it to ya.
I saw The Real Dirt on Farmer John and you're absolutely right it's really fun to watch. I loved it.
This is good info, more or less what I found myself. <br/>Add two things: <br/>vegs have important role in mechanical functions of the digestion process; it bulks up the digestive bowl with fibers. That's especially important with intestinal digestion problems (excretions that are too hard or too liquid often get brought back to normal just by eating more vegs). <br/>Second, there's a big problem with eating complete grain (= with its envelop) that's not grown organically, b/c most of the chemicals are stored in the envelop of the grain. But yes, white flour is really not good either. <br/>Hence the importance of getting organized with even only a couple of neighbours to order organic food in bulks at cost price if there's no organic shop at decent prices around you. <br/>The places to order from are easily found on the net, but try to source your orders as locally as possible. <br/>Good luck.<br/>
Thanks for the great information. I hope it helps people see the great advantage to eating healthy. Organic is so important to our health and the health of our planet.
Also, bulk order's less shocking quantities of packaging :-)
&quot;Our bodies need grains. A big part of our diets should include grains and legumes.&quot;<br/><br/>Why?<br/><br/>We need macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals for survival. There is absolutely no reason that grains and legumes MUST be in our diets.<br/><br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleolithic#Diet_and_nutrition">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleolithic#Diet_and_nutrition</a><br/><br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleolithic_diet">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleolithic_diet</a><br/><br/>We evolved on, and lived for thousands of years on, diets containing no grains or legumes.<br/><br/>While yes, whole grains are &quot;better&quot; than processed or bleached flours, breads and such, they are definitely not a vital part of our diets.<br/>
According to one of the footnotes (#146) on the Wikipedia article: “The Paleolithic diet is not primarily a weight-loss programme. Rather, it is part of a theoretical (THEORETICAL!!) template for health promotion (1, 25). It has not been proven to prolong life…” The Paleolithic people had a high infant mortality which could have been lowered if they had access to more whole grains and legumes, which have many of the vitamins and minerals that infants need for good health and brain development. Maybe if the Paleolithic people had access to more grains and legumes they would have had good brain development and could have been smart enough to eat more whole grains and legumes. Whole grains and legumes contain antioxidants, omega fatty acids, calcium, zinc, protein, and B vitamins. These are just a few of the beneficial nutrients they provide us for optimum health. There’s the one line from the same article: “However, seeds, such as grains and beans, were rarely eaten and never in large quantities on a daily basis. BUT according to that article: “Large seeded legumes were part of the human diet long before the Neolithic agricultural revolution as evident from archaeobotanical finds from the Mousterian layers of Kebara Cave, in Israel.[137] Moreover, recent evidence indicates that humans processed and consumed wild cereal grains as far back as 23,000 years ago in the Upper Paleolithic.[138]” So did they or did they not eat grains and legumes?? Eating few or no grains and legumes doesn’t necessarily mean that they were healthy because they ate few grains and legumes. They could have had less diseases because they were very active. The more active a person is, generally speaking, the healthier a person is, except maybe Jim Fixx (an attempt at dark humor). I would encourage everyone to research food and find what’s best for them. I wrote my How to Eat Healthy because this is what I’ve found after years of study. I haven’t been sick in 6 years and I feel great. Same goes for my family.
"Lower Paleolithic (c. 2.6 Ma - 100,000 ka) (genus Homo) Olduwan (2.6 - 1.8 Ma) earliest stone tools Acheulean (1.7 - 0.1 Ma) Controlled fire, earliest large game hunting Clactonian (0.3 - 0.2 Ma) Middle Paleolithic (300,000 - 30,000 ka) (Neanderthal, H. sapiens) earliest evidence of behavioral modernity (art and intentional burials) earliest undisputed evidence of cooking food migration beyond Africa). Mousterian (300 - 30 ka) Aterian (82 ka) Upper Paleolithic(50,000 - 10,000 ka) (behavioral modernity: abundant artwork, fully developed language) Baradostian (36 ka) Châtelperronian (35 - 29 ka) Aurignacian (32 - 26 ka) Gravettian (28 - 22 ka) Solutrean (21 - 17 ka) Magdalenian (18 - 10 ka) Hamburg (14 ka) Ahrensberg (13 ka) Swiderian (10 ka) " The Upper Paleolithic denotes the last 40,000 years or so of the 2 million year+ long Paleolithic period. Our ancestors didn't begin consuming grains and legumes on any scale until 23,000 years ago, a relatively short time in an evolutionary context. I'm going to spare you the argument for the Paleo diet ;). Look up lectins in grains and legumes if you're interested. My point was merely to note that grains and legumes are not a necessity in a healthy diet. It is entirely possible to obtain all of the necessary nutrients without consuming grains or legumes.
This is definitely the best of the 'eat healthy' instructables that I have seen so far and is pretty comprehensive. Well done!
>>The best way to eat local is to grow it yourself, you have more control over the food you eat if you grow it yourself. Amen to that! I've grown my own in the spring and summer the past 5 years and the supermarkets can not beat the flavor of home-grown. You eat better, eat cheaper, save trips to the grocer and get exercise.

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Bio: I'm a mom and a wife. I'm an old L.A. punk rocker. I quit the city life Sept '06 to start a ... More »
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