By Karla Heintz
The road to good nutrition begins at the grocery store. It does not matter what angle you look at it your body is only as good as to how well you fuel it. For starters, you can do some ‘spring cleaning’ but instead of the removal of dust mites and cobwebs, you can remove the food items that do not agree with a healthy waistline or heart.
In all the ‘kitchen clean up’s’ I have done, it never surprises me to see a fridge that is barely full. Instead I see boxes and bags of items stuffed into many cupboards and pantries that often can be classified as empty calories.
Those empty calories are those common food items that really are not classified as food at all but more commercial type goods often rich in sugar and salt. Here is a listing of some of those items you want to consider ‘ditching’:
- Confectionary candy items such as chocolate bars, licorice, candies and bubble gum and other ‘chew toys’. These sweet tooth items are nothing more than sugar (and maybe some food dyes) that means inches on the waistline to you. Simple sugar with no nutrition value does not benefit anyone. The World Health Organization recommends as a maximum 10 teaspoons of ‘free sugar’ for adults. This does not include any sugar found in raw fruits and vegetables or plain dairy items. To calculate the teaspoons of sugar divide the grams of sugar (found under carbohydrates) by 4, and that number equals the total teaspoons of sugar in that serving size. Be aware of serving sizes as they do vary between products and can be misleading.
- Pre-Sugared breakfast items. This includes packaged oatmeal, breakfast bars and tarts along with any sugar-coated cereal. You can easily cut 3-4 teaspoons of sugar by replacing instant packaged oatmeal with the old fashion farmer kind called large flake which may only take five minutes more of patience to cook until it is ready to eat.
- Fruit drinks, beverages or cocktails. Juice is not really a good contender versus whole fruit as it does not contain bowel-promoting fiber and is merely a simple sugar your body recognizes like candy. If you do have juice it should only be ‘100% fruit juice’ as no additional sugars have been added. The Canadian Pediatric Society states that the maximum amount of 100% fruit juice recommended for children 1-6yrs of age is ¾ cup, and for 7 yrs and above 1.5 cups which is not hard to consume in our 2.5 cup store bottles. A useful trick is to dilute your juice with water in a 50:50 ratio to wean off in emergency situations.
- Desserts – frozen or the kind that sits on the counter. This includes your favorite ice cream, pies, baking, cheesecakes and other square type items. The old theory of muffins being such a smarter choice is hard to accept as most store bought or coffee shop muffins hold more calories and salt than a dohnut, which is really hard to swallow. Some like to refer to a muffin as a fancy word for a dohnut, with more fiber. If however, you make the muffin or loaf on your own and cut back on the sugar and fat then we can up its nutrition power.
- Deep-fried items such as potato chips, French fries, onion rings, chicken wings, fish, corn dogs, chicken nuggets and mozzarella sticks. One rule of thumb I like to go by is if the item has more fat than protein I usually skip it. Baked chips are a much healthier version, as one of my favourite brands is ‘Guiltless Gourmet’.
- Fruit, vegetables and meals in a can, jar or box. This includes pasta and rice concoctions like ravioli, spaghetti, bologna/hot dogs, cheese, ham and pizza like sandwich pockets. These items are very processed and often come with a heartache of salt, artery plugging saturated fat, sugar and hold little (if any) fiber which only makes weight loss easier. If you do shop for canned vegetables there are some new great choices with ‘no salt added’ featured on the label that would be exceptions to this rule.
- Grainy type items with ‘enriched’ on the ingredient list. This means that the nutrients were pulled (or robbed) from the original grain during processing and the odd nutrient was graciously thrown back in. Enriched flours do not compare to whole grain flours as whole grain have not been torn apart with nutrients removed. Check your cereals, crackers, pasta and rice. Only shop for items that have the word ‘whole’ before the specific grain.
- Fat - rich Dairy Items. My rule of thumb in being heart healthy (as many dairy items have saturated fat) is to shop for hard cheese that has less than 22% M.F. which you will find on the front label. Part skim mozzarella and goat cheese fit this description as smarter choices. Softer cheeses like ricotta or cottage cheese are a good source of protein, which can help conquer any afternoon munchies.
Apply these tips to your kitchen area and you are sure to be on the path of a trimmer waist, better bowels and a healthier heart. One tip you can do too is take any un-opened nonperishable item and give it to places in need such as the food bank instead of throwing it away. Happy shopping!
Karla Heintz, BSc Nutrition, is a health TV and radio personality across Canada, consultant and speaker based in Calgary. She is the national author of ‘Picky! Not Me Mom! A parents’ guide to children’s nutrition. www.karlaheintz.com
*This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. For any health related concerns, please consult your doctor. Community Natural Foods and all of its associates shall not be held accountable for how this information is perceived or utilized.