Experts have been saying for a long time now that fresh is better, but packaged foods continue to become more readily available to consumers. What’s the big deal with packaged foods? They are filled with questionable ingredients, but the most dangerous thing about them is that they are often engineered to trick people. We are finding out that sugar is a real addiction, and could possibly be more addictive than street drugs, (Robert Lustig has done extensive work on how humans respond to sugar, and I definitely recommend his documentaries) with this knowledge, food companies work to make sure that they create lifelong customers.
It sounds great, but how do you do this in a "health fad" obsessed world? You use buzzwords like “fiber”, “superfood”, “ancient grains”, and just hope that consumers don’t read the labels, and guess what, most people don’t, or if they don’t they don’t know what they’re looking for. I looked at a box of granola bars the other day that had “real quinoa” in them and they had FIVE types of sugar in them, not super healthy, guys. What can you do once you realize how misleading packages are? Stop buying them. It’s a simple fix, but it’s harder to implement, a lot of us are super reliant on packaged foods.
1. Plan Ahead
The biggest thing that I can suggest is always keeping snacks on you. I’ve had girlfriends call my glove box the pantry, seriously, I have a snack food problem, but the difference is that all of my snacks are real food, I keep raw pepitas, or cashews, maybe a homemade shelf stable power bar, nut butters, protein powder ready to be dropped into my water bottle, all sorts of goodies in my car, and there’s almost always fruit in my purse. Being prepared helps you to cut down on impulses and saves you money (double bonus!). Being hypoglycemic (my blood sugar crashes sometimes), I have had to go to some pretty nasty extremes to keep myself safe, like one time 6 or 7 years ago I was helping a friend move, and all of her food was moved to the new apartment except condiments, my sugars were really low from not eating enough and exerting myself all day, so I actually ate barbecue sauce off a spoon. Gross! If I’d just thought to keep some almonds on me I could have balanced myself out before hitting my danger zone.
2. Make it Yourself
What about at home? I try to make my own pasta sauce when I can, in huge batches and then I freeze what I’m not using within the week so that I know what’s in it. I also make sure that I check every label and compile a ‘safe foods’ list so that the foods that I do buy in boxes are safe and aligned with my nutrition philosophy and goals. Get really good at finding sugar on labels, would you ever guess that ethyl maltol is sugar? It is! Remember, if it ends in -ose it’s a sugar, so that’s glucose, fructose, maltose, etc. Buy fresh as often as you can so that you can avoid labels altogether and make your own. I know we are all busy, but is a ding dong worth being sick or feeling bloated when you could take an hour and make your own clean brownies? I know that the time commitment can be really tough, but you have to ask yourself what is important to you? Are you willing to change your habits to make that happen? It’s not easy but it is so so worth your health and life. Promise.
3. Shop in the Safe Parts of the Store
Don't go into the middle of the store where cakes, and cookies, and chips are kept. Stay where the produce and meat departments are when you do your shopping so that you aren't tempted by packaged goods, and remember, marketing teams devise strategies for how to make junk food more appealing to kiddos by putting colourful character boxes at their eye level. Do the whole family a favour by shopping only where the fresh food is located, better yet, go to the farmer's market in the summer.