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.
First Prize in the
Burning Questions: Round 5