How to Shop for and Buy Healthier Foods For Your Family

Technorati Profile Today there are so many food choices it is sometimes difficult to navigate a trip to the grocery store, not to mention trying to find healthy food choices,especially if we have kids in tow.   We hope to help you navigate through your local grocery store and give you some basic advice about shopping for healthier food options and which products our families love.
If you have not ever watched the show that was on TLC last year called, Honey, We're Killing the Kids you should look it up on www.tlc.com. The show brought a nutritionist and family counselor into the homes of many different families and showed each family what the effect of poor eating, the lack of exercise and the family's current lifestyle would do to the family's kids in 10, 20, 30, 40 years and the results were terrifying. As the kids were shown at different ages using a computer program and gathered data, the kids looked heavy and older than their ages (in many cases the kids are already having health issues at the age of 6,10,14. The Show helped the families learn to eat healthier, get rid of the junk food and unhealthy foods, get exercise and limit screen time for tv and video games.
The show is a perfect example of what is happening to most of America - we are depriving our kids of the healthy foods they need to grow and giving them foods that hurt their bodies (unhealthy foods, sugary drinks, and fast food ... most of these food have little or no health benefits and tons of adverse effects.) Often parents do not seem to realize the harm they are causing to their children now and in the future just by making poor or no food choices for their kids.
I want to provide you with some basic ideas to go from what you may currently be giving your family to eat and how you can start giving them healthier options.
1.  Grocery Store Layout-
For those of you that have not heard this before, the fresh foods are found around the perimeter of the store.  If you think about it you will realize this is true. The fruits and vegetables, meats, eggs, fish, seafood, and dairy are found around the outside circle of most grocery stores.
Why should this matter to you?

 

Well, you should spend most of your time and budget on those fresh, unprocessed foods.  Those are, for the most part, the healthiest food options (minus end caps with chips, soda, etc...) of fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, and lean meats and eggs. 

What should you buy?
1. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables- You want to buy fresh fruits and vegetables your family enjoys (or that you may be able to serve with some creative meal or dip).  Also, frozen fruits and vegetables are also just as healthy because they flash freeze them and retain the nutrients. For more information about Fruits and Vegetables and that frozen are just as good for you as fresh go to www.fda.gov/Fdac/features/1997/297_five.html.
I also know from experience that you can buy more fruits and veggies than your family will eat if you do not plan your meals or offer the fruit and veggies as snacks throughout the day.  In that case, you may want to buy a smaller amount and return to the store if you run out of bananas or apples or spinach. Or buy frozen fruits and veggies your family enjoys because they will be available when you need them.
2. Fresh or Frozen Wild Fish
Fish is one food that is healthy and provides important Omega 3's and other benefits to us and we should include in our diets.  If you are concerned that you and your family do not like fish I would recommend trying white fish fillets and go to www.cookinglight.com and type in fish to get healthy and tasty recipes to prepare the fish.  My favorite fish is Salmon but not everyone likes the taste of it. You can also go to the Environmental Working Group website at http://www.ewg.org/safefishlist or click to open the EWG Fish Guide in PDF Form. for a list of the safest and most sustainable fish to buy and a list of the fish to eat in moderation or avoid.
3.  Lean Meats and Eggs
Buy Skinless Chicken Breasts or a Turkey Breast or Ground Turkey. Eggs are also a very healthy option to add to your diet in moderation.  If you can buy organic meat, that is best, but it is very expensive.  The second best option is to buy meat that is not treated with antibiotics or growth-hormones.
One brand of eggs that is especially good is Christopher Eggs that have 600 Omega 3's per egg (which is 18 times more Omega 3's than most eggs).  These eggs are sold at many groceries, even some Walmarts and Krogers. To find out more about Christopher Eggs go to www.christophereggs.com.
4.  Beans, Beans, and More Beans
Beans are definitely under-rated by many of  us in the US.  But look at the many cultures that serve beans with all of their meals.  Beans are a food powerhouse that have very high levels of protein, fiber, and other nutrients and they make a great side dish or main dish for your family (and it is a vegetarian favorite).  My family loves all beans.  My favorite beans that are both tasty, healthy and versatile are black beans and pinto beans, but all beans are great.  There are so many ways to serve beans so your kids will eat them and love them.  I usually buy organic beans
Serve vegetarian refried beans (pinto beans) with healthy baked chips or whole wheat pita wedges to go with a Mexican Inspired Meal or Serve black beans on a Salad with corn and salsa and other fixings.  Another favorite is a quick, three bean soup. I found this recipe in a magazine, years ago, either Parents or Parenting but I cannot find the recipe online anywhere and the page I have ripped out only has advertisements all around and no date or publication name. So here is a link to the Three Bean Soup Your Kids Will Love. 5. Healthy Grains - Multi grain, Whole Grain Rice or Quinoa
Buy whole grain or multi grain, not instant rice. It does take longer to cook but it has a great deal more nutrients you will not get from white rice or instant rice or rice with flavorings added for you. Or a very good option is Quinoa- it cooks very quickly and is one of the healthiest foods you can make and it pairs well with lots of things. 6. Healthy Snacks, Cereals and Foods Found in the Inside Aisles
I recommend buying healthy snacks and cereals that do not add additional ingredients you do not want such as: partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweetners, or MSG (there is a current debate about whether MSG and other products with gluatamate in them are safe. The FDA has not published any evidence that has shown adverse or long-term health risks because of MSG, but I have read too many articles that, at the least, say some people do experience temporary problems when they eat foods with MSG and I have read other articles that say it does have longer term health consequences- I prefer to buy products that list the foods in them and do not add MSG or natural flavorings or other ingredients I do not know what it is. I would rather be cautious and give my family foods that are as pure as I can get them, rather than eat very processed foods. This is, of course, a choice, but I do believe the more you limit processed snacks, the healthier your kids and family will be. What to Avoid
Avoid Sodas (whether regular or diet soda) this is not something your kids should be drinking no matter how old they are. Avoid Sugary Drinks- drink mixes, lemonade mixes, boxed drinks that have sugar, and most of the other drinks that are marketed to kids- they are the equivalent of giving your kids a handful or spoonfuls of sugar. There is no benefit to serving these drinks- they are loaded with hidden calories and sugar. Do Not Buy These Drinks. Chips- Avoid Fried chips with high fat and opt for Baked Natural Chips for an ocassional treat or at a Party. Hot Dogs, Lunch Meats, Processed Meats (that contain Sodium Nitrate and other Sodium Phosphate products-most nutritional advisory groups say that pregnant women and young children should not eat these processed meats. The exception is hotdogs that are made without any artificial ingredients or the sodium phosphates. There are several brands available that do not have nitrates in them (vegetarian hotdogs and organic or natural deli meats-but make sure to check the amount of fat as well) but they can be hard to find. For an article that discusses the reasons for avoiding Hot Dogs and Other Processed Meats with Sodium Nitrate and other similar ingredients click here.
You can also check the CDC website for information about Pregnant Women, or people with a weakened immune system should avoid these foods, as it increases their risk for getting Listeriosis (a bacteria). My opinion is if it is not safe for kids and pregnant women, it is probably not great for anyone. Foods to Limit 100% Pure Fruit Juice is ok- if given in small quantities (4-6 oz a day total)
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