In a perfect world, we’d only eat the foods that nourish us. Nothing but nutrient dense, grass-fed, organic goods at all times. We’d grind our own grains just minutes before baking our own bread. We’d stop off at our neighbor’s farm for our weekly supply of raw milk.
If this sums up your daily life, kudos to you. But for the majority of us, it looks a tad different. Sure, a good number of us sprinkle as much nutrition in our diet as we can, but in the end…we’re going to buy some processed foods. I can hear the protests now. Egads! Say it ain’t so!
Sometimes, in the interest of just getting food on the table, convenience rules the day (or the weekly menu, in this case). The reason there are a katrillion food items at your local market is because people buy them. The key is knowing which of those food items are the best options.
That’s why the most simple way to upgrade your nutrition is to upgrade the processed foods that you purchase.
Yup, I said it. Telling you to stop buying processed foods altogether would be ridiculous—because it isn’t going to happen. So let’s take a look at some simple baby steps that will at least improve the choices you’re making for the sake of convenience.
Read food labels. Don’t just grab the same brand you’ve always bought, and don’t reach for whatever’s on sale. Try turning the package over and taking a look at the ingredients inside of it. You may be surprised by what goes into your favorite nut butter. In reality, nut butter requires nothing more than nuts and a food processor. You may need a little oil and/or a touch of raw honey, but that’s it.
Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual offers up some basic and beautiful suggestions when it comes to making good food choices. Here are a few of my favorites:
“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
“Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients.”
“Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.”
“Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature.”
Another practical guide for being a better food shopper is Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is! by Stephanie Selene Anderson. After laying out the four steps to superior health, she reveals many generous tips and resources that will upgrade the nutritional value of your food choices.
Last is a resource you can take with you to the market and refer to as you’re staring at the options on the shelves. The Weston A. Price Foundation Shopping Guide is a compact resource of the best brands of fats, cheeses, jerky, and just about anything else you might need at the store. Tuck this in your bag or back pocket, and you’ll have all the answers you need the next time you shop.
Here’s my prediction. As you start upgrading your nutrition with the best possible processed food choices, you’ll realize how simple it is to make some of those things on your own. Eventually, instead of shopping for beef broth, you’ll find yourself making a one-time purchase of a large stockpot, and then shopping for marrow and knucklebones, carrots, onion, celery, fresh parsley, and thyme. Once you make your own broth, you’ll realize, if nothing else, how superior the flavor is, and how easy it is to obtain it. And after that, you’ll only buy broth at the store in a pinch.
By upgrading your processed food purchases, you’ll buy fewer and fewer of them all the time. You’ll begin moving toward that perfect state of better nutrition—or your own version of it.
What are the simple ways you’ve upgraded your nutrition?
Image from iStock/shironosov.