Your doctor has probably told you to avoid certain foods and eat more of others. But do you ever wish you could just tag along on her next trip to the grocery store to see how she shops for nutritious food?
Michael Ruhlman, a chef and author, does just that in his book “Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America.”
Roxane B. Sukol, a preventive medicine specialist and the medical director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Enterprise, takes Ruhlman through the aisles of her local grocery store to point out which foods she picks, which products she avoids, and which sections she spends the most time in at the market.
Sukol's first stop at her grocery store -- the Cleveland, Ohio-based Heinen's Fine Foods -- is the produce section. 'This is where I do most of my shopping, when I'm in this section,' she told Ruhlman.
Several recent studies suggest that whether you're looking for weight loss or to improve your overall health, the best eating plans are based around produce, plus some whole grains and lean proteins. In its most recent report on the best eating plans, US News and World Report described vegetable-based ('plant-based') diets as 'good for the environment, your heart, your weight, and your overall health.'
Sukol said she buys a lot of freshly-made peanut butter because its ingredients are so simple -- just peanuts.
Unfortunately, make-your-own-peanut-butter is often pretty pricey: around $US7 per pound, so registered dietitian and nutritionist Andy Bellatti advises simply buying pre-made nut butter (a 16-oz container of Smucker's Chunky Peanut Butter retails for around $US3 at Walmart) that only lists two ingredients on the nutrition label.
'If the only ingredients are nuts and salt, just natural nut butter, that totally works,' Bellatti told Business Insider. It's going to have your protein, healthy fats, and vitamin E.'
In a special section at Heinen's on the way to the dairy section, Sukol paused at a snack section and picked up a lemon tart. After reading the ingredients, she said, 'It's expensive, but it's food.'
Sukol doesn't buy bottled juices like orange juice. Besides, she told Ruhlman, when you drink those, 'you're not really drinking orange juice. You're drinking juice with all the fibre removed.'
While juice has some vitamins and in some cases even a small amount of protein, research shows that the best way to get those nutrients is to eat them. Since juicing fruit removes most of its fibre, it doesn't keep you as full as a whole orange or apple might. A 12-ounce glass of orange juice, for example, has almost the same calorie content as a can of soda, close to the same amount of sugar and carbohydrates as a bag of M&Ms, and virtually no fibre.
'Granola bars are just candy,' Sukol said. 'They have got so much sugar in them.'
She's right. Granola can pack anywhere between six and 16 grams of sugar per serving, while energy bars can have anywhere from 9 to 23 grams.
Like granola bars, many cereals are high in sugar. They also tend to be low in the fibre that keeps you feeling full because they rely on refined carbohydrates, or as Sukol calls them, 'stripped carbs.'
These are essentially whole grains that have had their most nutritious components, such as their germ and bran, removed. In the body, these stripped, or simple, carbs are converted quickly to sugar.
Sukol maintains a blog called 'Your Health is On Your Plate,' where she lists some of her favourite recipes. In the fish section, you'll find several made with salmon and one with tilapia. Since fish like salmon is a good source of protein and healthy fats, many dietitians recommend incorporating them into a diet based around vegetables and whole grains.
According to Sukol, there are three kinds of fats: good fats, like the healthy fats found in fish, avocado, and olive oil; bad fats, like the kind found in processed foods like margarine and corn oil; and 'fats that are in between.'
In this category, she includes fats from beef and lamb. For those types of fats, Sukol said there simply isn't enough evidence to suggest on the whole that they're good for us or bad for us. In the meantime, she recommends eating a vegetable-based diet. 'Moderate meat consumption, and stay away from the processed fats,' she said. 'And stay tuned.'
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