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Smart Shopping Tips Archives | Elizabeth Borelli

Archive for the ‘Smart Shopping Tips’ Category

5 Fast and Frugal Foods to Fill Your Fridge this Fall

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Fall is beginning to sweep in its sweet breath of transition. Whether you have an altered schedule, different hobbies or new wardrobe, change is happening.  Coincidentally, times of transition happen to be the best time for creating new habits. One new habit worth learning is how keeping a few basic foods stashed in the fridge is a cheap and easy way to go.

For many of us, moving from packaged to home-prepared food is a special challenge, both because it requires some extra energy up front to get into the habit, and because we think we may hate it. So we end up putting off getting started.  So I implore you to start small and keep it simple.

I find that having preparing just a few simple foods will take you a long way over several days’ time, you can use them as side dishes for dinner, main dishes for lunch.  And don’t forget the snack potential.  You’ll end up with more nutritious, lower calorie snack options than the pantry typically offers, but the bigger surprise is how good these foods taste.

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Here are 5 fast and frugal foods to fill your fridge this fall:

Butternut squash:  Simply cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and bake for 45-55 minutes face down at 385.  Use a glass pan for easy clean up.  Add some salt, or a dash of garlic and a tablespoon of tahini for an delicious new twist.

Sweet potatoes:  Wash them well and keep the skins on for extra texture and more nutrition.  Bake them whole or cubed in coconut oil and salt at 385 degrees, for 30 minutes – 1 hour depending on size and preparation.

Garbanzo beans:  Don’t let the dried beans scare you, the overnight soak and 1 hour boil is well worth the simple steps!  Just soak your beans overnight, drain (the following day), fill a pan with water so it covers the beans by 5-6”, and simmer for about 90 minutes (until tender).  Serve with salt and cumin, or add to your favorite salad.

Quinoa:  Similar to rice, but a more complete protein that makes an excellent salad or side dish. Add 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water and simmer, covered for 25-35 minutes. Drain any excess liquid and add ½ tsp. salt and combine with chopped veggies and fresh salsa, (purchased prepared if needed).

Cabbage salad:  Cabbage is amazing in its longevity, flavor and nutrient profile.  Why wouldn’t you keep it on hand?  It’s simple to sauté in coconut oil and Bragg’s liquid aminos or light soy sauce with a dash of salt and cumin.  Or dice it up and sprinkle with salt, rice vinegar and sesame oil for a yummy salad.

All of these foods can be stored in the fridge for 3-5 days and retain their flavor and nutrition content quite nicely.  Make it easy to snack from the fridge vs. the pantry by treating yourself to a variety of simple, healthy whole foods today, no whole paycheck required!

Shop Smart, Eat Healthy; Free Resources are Here to Help!

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

The words healthy and inexpensive often occupy opposite ends of the thought spectrum, but maybe it’s time to put that myth to rest.  You may have experienced “Whole Paycheck” sticker shock at some point, or seriously questioned why anyone would shell out twice as much for blueberries labeled “organic”, when they look just like the non-organic option one shelf over.  The good news is, healthy food doesn’t need to be fancy (or pricey) as a smart new shopping guide published by Environmental Working Group (EWG) clearly demonstrates.

If you’re not familiar with EWG, it’s the organization that creates the annual Dirty Dozen list, identifying the top 12 fresh fruits and veggies you’re better off buying organic if you want to avoid the heavy pesticide residue they retain.  This short list reminds us that not everything has to be organic to be healthy, while helping consumers to make smart choices about when paying more for the organic label most makes sense.

EWG offers lots of free, expert-research-based guides for consumers, including their cool new Food Scores app, a free online database which lets you plug in your favorite food products to and see how they score in terms of nutrition, unhealthy additives and processing concerns.  It’s a great way to check what you think you know, and identify new options in the process.

But back to Good Food on a Tight Budget, which is a big concern for many of us these days.  This handy new booklet arrived in my mailbox last week after I donated a nominal amount to help EWG to continue their important work.   I flipped through the pages, which outlined the benefits of planning ahead, shopping the bulk bins, cooking at home with foods in season, and yes, even adding more beans to your diet as a healthy, inexpensive source of protein.

I love that the healthy food shopping basics were laid out in an inviting, illustrated format that doesn’t overwhelm.  The booklet even includes a sample shopping list, easy to use meal planner and food tracker (or diary). Good Food on a Tight Budget is a great reminder that when we plan in advance and keep it simple, we can enjoy all of the benefits of a healthy, delicious diet without having to shell out a whole paycheck, or even shop at a fancy health store.

In the meantime, I invite and encourage you to check out EWG’s super-helpful web site, download some of the free guides offered, and perhaps even enjoy this engaging interview I did with EWG spokesperson Robyn O’Brien, as she shares more about why this work is so important, and what you can do to make healthy eating manageable, even when time and money are at a premium.

Interview with EWG Spokesperson Robyn O’Brien. A former food industry analyst, Robyn O’Brien is an author, strategist and mother of four, dedicated to exposing the impact that the global food system is having on our health. Click here to listen.

Shop Smart, Eat Healthy, beginning today!

10 Tips for Making Mindless Eating Work for You

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

If you’re anything like 90% of us, you think you’re doing a pretty good job with your eating choices.  Granola over cookies, juice or tea over soda, hold the mayo on that whole wheat sandwich.  But do you really know for sure?  As recent studies show, probably not.

Research shows that people make an average of 247 food related choices per day, yet are conscious of only about 5% of them.  And according to a recent Consumer Reports study, 9 out of 10 of us think our choices are good.  But by adapting your everyday environment to help you adopt new behaviors, you can turn mindless habits into healthy ones!

Brian Wansink, Ph.D and author of bestselling Mindless Eating has generated a new science from this very phenomenon.  Shifting mindless eating habits from bad to good is really doable.  And none of us, regardless of how well we know the pitfalls, is truly immune to mindless eating.  Our ever-present food environment makes sure of it.

The good news is, we can take steps to avoid having to remain constantly vigilant to the lure of temptation in the first place.  It’s called creating an environment for success, and you’d be surprised at the difference a few simple changes to your routine can make, without you even noticing never mind feeling deprived or dissatisfied.

Of course there are those times you have no choice but to eat on the go, even if you know you should sit down and enjoy every bite.  When you’re too rushed in the morning (or afternoon), to sit down for the short time it takes to spoon down some oatmeal, you’d rather not miss the boat altogether.  And then there are other times, when you might want to veg in front of a movie and snack on some popcorn, even though this falls squarely into the mindless eating category.

Then there are all the rest of the times when you don’t even know you’re doing it, hence the unmistakably descriptive term.  For most people mindless eating is a habit that could benefit from some fresh visitation, but even the best of intentions probably won’t produce a complete turnaround starting now.  It will be a transition process, a journey worth making for a personal transformation capable of affecting everything from weight loss to energy level.  These simple tips can help you along the way, and after you’re up to speed on conscious food choices, they’re good guidelines to live by.

10 Tips for Making Mindless Eating Work for you

  1. Adjust your go-to snack plan.  When you dip into the cabinet or hover in front of the fridge, you’ll often grab the first easy-to-much option, so this is not the best place to leave the cheese puffs. Keep pre-cut veggies readily available for your next mindless munch out, and you’ll benefit from the extra fiber and nutrients these healthy snacks provide.
  2. Read labels, always.  Studies show that women who read nutrition labels are an average of 8 pounds lighter than non-label readers.  And “label” doesn’t refer to the promo on the front of the package that says “low fat”, you need to turn to the fine print on the side panel.  Even if you have to squint, and don’t know what all of the numbers mean, be sure to always check the number of serving sizes, it’s often surprising!  Then move on to read the ingredients list, and if it contains items that sound like chemicals or other foreign objects, know you’re better off without it.
  3. Prioritize fiber foods  Studies show a strong association between an increased consumption of refined carbohydrates in the form of corn syrup, a decreased consumption of dietary fiber, and an increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the United States.  Despite what you commonly hear, protein is not the dietary shortfall, fiber is.  Choose whole grains instead of refined and select packaged snacks with at least 4 grams of fiber per serving.
  4. Keep serving dishes off of the table.  Most of us eat more food than we think.  You can avoid doing this by putting a single serving of food on a plate, forcing yourself to leave the table to refill instead of continuing to eat after you’re satisfied (a common problem when good food is within reach).
  5. Never nosh straight from the package.  I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but it may be time to revisit it.  Measure out a portion according to the label on the side of the package, put it on a plate, sit down and enjoy every bite!
  6. Use the power of illusion to feel satisfied, not overstuffed.  Studies show that people eat 25-30% more food off of large plates than they do off of small ones, but feel equally full.  Therefore, use smaller plates!  We’ve been doing this at my house for years, works like a charm!
  7. Skip the diet soda. New studies find artificial sweeteners actually linked to obesity.  While it makes sense to keep sugar at a minimum, Nutrasweet is not your best option.  Stevia, on the other hand, is a naturally derived herbal sweetener that has no dubious ties to medical conditions.  Give it a try!
  8. Replace, or reduce don’t deprive.  Take the time to try out healthier alternatives to what you’re currently eating until you find ones you like as much as your former go-to favorites.  In the case of the plate, just redistribute your proportions to 50% veggies, 25% starch and 25% protein (plant-based where possible).  You’ll still enjoy the same volume of food, and the additional fiber will keep you satisfied.
  9. Start with small changes, 3 goals for better food choices is the number experts recommend initially adopting, until you find yourself comfortably acclimated and ready to take on more.  This is a plan for life, so slow going is recommened.
  10. Interested in weight loss?  Keep a daily food journal and lose 2x the weight.  Just the act of writing it down produces results.  Successful food journals ask you to record everything you eat, at the time you eat it, including portion sizes and calorie counts.  The best ones ask to you record hunger levels, related emotions, cravings and food triggers.  Here is a free one from food psychology guru, Dr. Brian Wansink, or there are dozens of programs and apps to choose from.  However you do it, record your data!

Congratulations for beginning your journey to a healthy new you.  Make your mindless eating habits work as a cornerstone of your transition from our refined carb culture to real, nourishing food choices, beginning today!

Strategies for Healthy Eating When Organic Isn’t an Option

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Pesticides in produceFast fact:  nearly one half of people polled in a 2012 survey believe it’s easier to do their taxes than it is to eat healthfully.  I’m guessing there are some stellar accountants comprising the other half, because on this processed food planet, healthy eating really can be intimidating.

Truthfully, after scrutinizing enough health news to warrant a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition to keep it all straight, I’m still slightly confused by tofu.  In our information-overloaded society, the last thing we need is more nutrition nuance to sort through.

The good news is when it comes to healthy eating, you don’t need to stress over every detail.  While a perfect diet is a noteworthy goal, the mere concept is so out of reach for many of us (hello parents!), it’s tempting to tune out entirely.  But please don’t, because whether its availability, time or budget you’re challenged by, you really can keep your food rules simple and still stay healthy.  Your version may look different than organic, home-made perfection, and that’s perfectly okay.

Recently I found myself facing this very dilemma. I count myself lucky to live in Northern California, a health food nirvana by most standards.  Local, organic food prices are only slightly higher than conventional, and we’re never far from a health food store.

When I visit my parents in small town Rhode Island each year however, the reality is very different.  Organic food prices there are double or triple the cost of conventional, and they’re not necessarily even local.  Much as I wanted to, I found I just couldn’t pay up for organic when it was overpriced and over-packaged.  So inspired by the challenge, I left the organic section and scoured the grocery store for my go-to travel foods; beans, grains and the makings for fresh cabbage slaw.

As I’ve learned from my years of rural summer vacations, when organic isn’t an option, healthy eating simply requires a little extra creativity.  So don’t let a lack of access to organic or even locally grown foods stop you from enjoying a delicious, healthy diet.

Here are a few simple strategies for healthy eating when organic isn’t an option:

Know which foods don’t need to be organic:  Two-thirds of produce samples in recent government tests had pesticide residues, so it’s important to know what you’re eating.  In independent consumer group EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce lists the cleanest and dirtiest conventionally-raised fruits and vegetables to help you make informed choices, including avoiding over-paying for organic if you don’t have to.

Buy local and eat in season.  This may be a given, but also a good reminder that the more recently harvested the food, the tastier and more nutritious it is.  Visit farm stands and markets, or frequent grocers that carry local goods.  You may pay a bit more than you would for mass-produced monoculture foods, but for flavor and nutritional value, it’s worth it.

Go for Frozen.  When fresh organic fruits and vegetables are too expensive or unavailable, frozen makes a great option.  Conventional berries, especially strawberries, retain high amounts of toxic pesticides.  Frozen organic berries are loaded with antioxidants and wonderful in smoothies, oatmeal or baked goods.  Frozen organic corn is wonderful added to rice dishes and steamed green beans are a great alternative out of season.

Read the label!  Polls show that most people find it easier to do their taxes than to read nutrition labels!  Yet at the same time, studies show that women who read labels on a regular basis weigh an average of 15 pounds less than people who don’t.

Bottom line; although the print is tiny and it’s annoying to take the time to try to decipher it, you’ll probably be surprised by what you’ll find, even on products that say “healthy” or “natural”.  And you only need to do it once to know whether that product belongs in your kitchen.

Be on the lookout for high levels of sugar, more calories than you expected or chemical preservatives you’re better off avoiding.  The important thing is to weed out the bad stuff; high fructose corn syrup, transfats, food dyes, unpronounceable ingredients.

You don’t have to know what all of the numbers mean, just checking the ingredients, sugar level and calories counts should tell you all you need to know.

Can’t find Grass Fed?  Go for plant based proteins.  Most animal products sold in the US contain growth hormones, which are administered to animals to cause them to grow faster or produce more milk.  This practice frequently causes them to get sick more often and need antibiotics.

These hormones and antibiotics are passed onto us through the meat and dairy products we consume, and the results of these fairly recently introduced practices are still largely unknown.

Fortunately we have plenty of options to hormone and antibiotic-laden meats.  Beans and lentils are an excellent source of protein, with added fiber and no saturated fat.  They also contain key nutrients like zinc and iron in a nutritional profile similar to seafood and poultry.  But that’s not all, beans are an excellent sources of dietary fiber and other key nutrients such as potassium and folate, so in that way they rank among vegetables.

But the best news is, beans are simple to make, incredibly versatile and very delicious.  So start whether you jump right into bean-based cooking using the Bean Cooking Chart and Guidelines below,  or begin with programs like Meat Free Monday and work your way up to the four servings recommended per week from there.  However you decide to do it,  start today!  Your body will thank you for it!!

Cooking dried beans from scratch is easy! Refer to the handy chart below for cooking and soaking times for your favorite beans and legumes:  Click here for a handy Bean Cooking Chart

Sprout it! Sprouts abound with antioxidants; they’re full of protein, chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. And talk about good for you:  ounce for ounce they provide more nutrients than any other whole food known.  Sprouts also contain beneficial enzymes, requiring less digestive energy so they actually invigorate you while your body processes them.

Your home grown sprouts are up to the minute fresh (they grow until ready to eat) and delicious.  Grow them right in your kitchen using just seeds, jars and screens, here’s how!

Avoid processed meats  More than just the nitrates used to preserve them,”Multiple studies have found a relationship between processed meat intake and increased risk of colorectal cancer,” says Amanda Cross, an investigator at the National Institute of Health. One possible explanation: “In addition to nitrate and nitrite, it is possible that there are other components of processed meats that are responsible for the associations observed with colorectal cancer.”

What can you do?  Opt for a non-meat alternative.  Avocado, grilled eggplant or baked Portobello mushrooms make wonderful sandwich fillings.  Otherwise look for meats labeled “preservative or nitrate-free” and avoid cooking nitrate-dense foods like bacon at high heat, which can cause form carcinogenic nitrosamines to form.

In short, enjoy the season’s abundance! When you rely upon fresh, whole foods and avoid those too heavily sprayed or chemically enhanced, you can’t go wrong.

10 tips to streamline your kitchen time and improve your daily diet

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Whether you want to lose weight, stabilize your energy or improve your health, eliminating pre-packaged foods from your diet is the best place to start.  And one major factor in transforming your diet is doing more cooking at home.  For many of us, that mere idea can be scary, but with strategies for success in place, you’ll enjoy the benefits of home cooking without the aggravation.  And believe it or not, when done right, cooking can be fun and creative as well as healthy and delicious. Whether you’re a stranger to your kitchen or simply wish you were, try these helpful tips to streamline the process.  You won’t believe the difference you’ll experience when you can focus on getting your creative juices ready to whip up something fabulous, minus the headache.  Here’s how:

  1. Keep it simple.  Maintain a 1 dish breakfast and lunch, and a 2-3 dish dinner.  Cooking from scratch gives you the opportunity to whip up delicious recipes using less than 5 ingredients, but that combine important food groups.  Oatmeal with fruit and walnuts for breakfast, a quinoa salad for lunch followed by a bean and green sauté over brown rice all give you a huge nutritional hit in one satisfying dish, perfect for maintaining balanced energy all day long.
  2. Strive for satisfaction on 5 ingredients or less.  Look for a cookbook or website that features simple, whole foods cooking and find 2-3 recipes that sound good.  Mark your pages or print the recipes, highlighting what you need to purchase so you don’t have to reread anything to remember.
  3. Get organized! A pre-written grocery list, whether compiled by a healthy foods expert or one you create for yourself, is key to cooking success.  Keep your list near the fridge or on your mobile device so you can keep it current.
  4. Label bulk foods or even bagged rice and beans with listing cooking times and water-to-grain ratio so you don’t need to consult a cookbook ever time you want to prepare them.
  5. Group complementary objects.  If there are ingredients you always use together, store them together for easy access.  For example if you only use oatmeal with raisins, group them side by side even if they’re not your traditional “like-objects”.
  6. Set up to streamline.  Whether you’re working from a recipe or making a favorite you know by heart, take out everything you’ll need to use before you start to streamline the process and save time.   Place foods where they’ll be used, like on the cutting board, next to a bowl or pan.
  7. Grouping tasks saves time.  Wash your produce all together, then take a moment to check out your recipe or think through your plan.   Make sure all of the chopping, peeling and cooking happens simultaneously, store prepped food on dinner plates if you need the work space, you can simply wipe them down and reuse them to avoid more cleanup.  You’ll be amazed by the time difference this can make.
  8. Prepare ahead.   Washing your lettuce or bulk greens as soon as you get them home, then store in a covered glass bowl or green produce bag.  Cook bulk beans or grains (except for rice) that you plan to use within 3-4 days over the weekend or after dinner.  Most need to cook for an hour or more, but require little to no maintenance during cooking, so when you have a stretch of time, take advantage of it.
  9. Skip unnecessary steps.  Carrots, apples and parsnips don’t need to be peeled, nor does garlic that will be used in a press.  Use your kitchen scissors to chop fresh herbs directly into your dish- no cutting board required.  Serve cooked foods in attractive glass storage bowls to avoid unnecessary transfers and dishes.
  10. Enlist a friend.  Take turns bringing lunch to work, set up a weekly pot luck night or trade favorite recipes and cooking tips.  This helps you save to time, but the real benefits are shared experience, camaraderie and good, healthy food.

This may sound like a long list of instructions, but the idea is to adopt the ones that feel right for you, and practice them until they become routine.  Then add on from there.  Gradually adopting new habits will not only help to refine your palette to enjoy less processed foods more, you’ll find preparing them much easier too.  So choose your favorite, add it to your to-do list and take the first step towards healthy eating today!

10 Savvy Shortcuts for Streamlining Your Cooking Projects

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Whether you want to lose weight, stabilize your energy or improve your health, Your kitchen is the best place to start.  One primary factor in transforming your diet is relying less on restaurants and take out in favor of doing more cooking at home.  For many of us, that mere idea can be scary, but with strategies for success in place, you’ll enjoy the benefits of home cooking without the aggravation.  And believe it or not, when done right, meal preparation can be fun and creative as well as healthy and delicious. 

Whether you’re a stranger to your kitchen or simply wish you were, try these helpful tips to streamline the process.  You won’t believe the difference you’ll experience when you can focus on getting your creative juices ready to whip up something fabulous, minus the headache.  Here’s how:

  1. Keep it simple.  Maintain a 1 dish breakfast and lunch, and a 2-3 dish dinner.  Cooking from scratch gives you the opportunity to whip up delicious recipes using less than 5 ingredients, but that combine important food groups.  Overnight Oatmeal with fruit and walnuts for breakfast, a Quickie Quesadilla for lunch followed by a Snappy Veggie Stir Fry with Miso Goddess Sauce sauce over brown rice for dinner.  All of these give you a huge nutritional hit in one satisfying dish, perfect for maintaining balanced energy all day long.
  2. Strive for satisfaction on 5 ingredients or less.  Look for a cookbook or website that features simple, whole foods cooking and find 2-3 recipes that sound good.  Mark your pages or print the recipes, highlighting what you need to purchase so you don’t have to reread anything to remember.
  3. Get organized! A pre-written grocery list, whether compiled by a healthy foods expert or one you create for yourself, is key to cooking success.  Keep your list near the fridge or on your mobile device so you can keep it current.
  4. Label bulk foods or even bagged rice and beans by listing cooking times and water-to-grain ratio so you don’t need to consult a cookbook ever time you want to prepare them.  Black self-adhesive mailing labels work well, but I like to print out these crafty pre-designed labels and keep them in the kitchen for when I need them.
  5. Group complementary objects.  If there are ingredients you always use together, store them together for easy access.  For example if you only use oatmeal with raisins, group them side by side even if they’re not your traditional “like-objects”.
  6. Set up to streamline.  Whether you’re working to a recipe or making a favorite you know by heart, take out everything you’ll need to use before you start to streamline the process and save time.   Place foods where they’ll be used, like on the cutting board, next to a bowl or pan.
  7. Grouping tasks saves time.  Wash your produce all together, then take a moment to check out your recipe or think through your plan.   Make sure all of the chopping, peeling and cooking happens simultaneously.  Store your prepped food on dinner plates if you need the work space, you can simply wipe them down and reuse them at mealtime to avoid more cleanup.  You’ll be amazed by the time difference this can make.
  8. Prepare ahead.   Washing your lettuce or bulk greens as soon as you get them home, then store in a covered glass bowl or green produce bag.  Cook bulk beans or grains (except for rice) that you plan to use within 3-4 days over the weekend or after dinner.  Most need to cook for an hour or more, but require little to no maintenance during cooking, so when you have a stretch of time, take advantage of it.
  9. Skip unnecessary steps.  Carrots, apples and parsnips don’t need to be peeled, not does garlic that will be used in a press.  Use your kitchen scissors to chop fresh herbs directly into your dish, no cutting board required.  Serve cooked foods in attractive glass storage bowls to avoid unnecessary transfers and dishes.
  10. Enlist a friend.  Take turns bringing lunch to work, set up a weekly pot luck night or trade favorite recipes and cooking tips.  This helps you save to time, but the real benefits are shared experience, camaraderie and good, healthy food.

This may sound like a long list of instructions, but the idea is to adopt the ones that feel right for you, and practice them until they become routine.  Then add on from there.

Maximizing your time in the kitchen makes it more enjoyable, and you’ll find yourself less overwhelmed by the idea of preparing meals at home.  Taking control of your health is empowering, and the kitchen is the best place to start.   So choose your favorite tips, plug them into your calendar and take the first step towards healthier eating today!

Nutrition Label Reading for Smarties

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Step into any grocery store and you’ll see lots of products with claims like “Multi-grain,” “Healthy,” “All-natural” or “Gluten Free.”  The trouble is, many of these so-called “health foods” contain some of the worst ingredients, including excess sugar, suspect chemicals and additives banned in many other countries.

If this is surprising, consider who ultimately decides whether or not a food can be labeled as healthy in the US.   Not the FDA, as most people believe, it’s the manufacturer!  So the bottom line is, you can’t take what you read on the front label at face value—ever!”  And despite what the title of this article indicates, studies show that 84% of American shoppers are confused about their nutrition choices.  In short, these things are challenging by design.

Food labels are not only confusing, they’re tiny!  But reading them is important, because when you must eat processed (and at least some of the time, most of us must do) you don’t have to eat junk.  By making it hard to read and understand the information listed, manufacturers give themselves plenty of latitude when it comes to ingredients. So even if you can barely make out the words, take the time and do the legwork to source your goods. You’ll be able to navigate the grocery store aisles more easily once you know what to look for.

Here are some basic tips for healthier food selection:

  • For most of us, trying to avoid sugar is like avoiding sun exposure. We know we should, but it’s everywhere and it’s so much fun. But when on average we consume five times the daily recommended allowance of added sugars, limiting is a good idea. Avoid products containing sugar of any kind in the first five ingredients and you’re on the right track.  The recommended sugar intake for adult women is 5 teaspoons (20 grams) of sugar per    day, for adult men, it’s 9 teaspoons (36 grams) daily, and for children, it’s 3 teaspoons (12 grams) a day.                                                                                                                                      
  • Beware of the “natural flavoring” loophole.  Natural flavoring could be anything, and if it was anything healthy, it would be listed.
  • Sodium content should never exceed the number calories; look for a 1:1 ratio. If a serving of Pop Chips contains 100 calories, be sure it also contains less than 100 grams of sodium. Simple!
  • Shift your focus from fat grams per serving, since serving sizes are quite subjective. Fat content should be no more than 20% of the total calorie content and should contain no trans fats. How to tell? Read the Nutrition Label on the back of the package, find the total calories per serving, and divide by 5. If fat calories are more than 20% of total calories, or if it contains hydrogenated anything, it’s not a healthy choice.                                                                                                                                                                        
  • Most of us fall far short of daily fiber recommendations as the chart below indicates, so be sure you’re buying whole grains whenever possible. Claims announcing “Whole-wheat” or “Multi-grain” on the front are not the same thing. Read the Nutrition Label carefully to make sure the word “whole” precedes every grain listed, or look for the “100% whole-grain” claim. This is one term regulated by the FDA to ensure that all grains used in the product are, in fact, whole. Aim for 25-35 grams (g) of total fiber each day –or 6-8 grams per meal, and 3-4 grams per snack
  • Beware of serving sizes. Not all serving sizes are the same, nor do they necessarily make sense. That individually wrapped granola bar may proudly announce only 50 calories per serving, but you’d have to scrutinize the fine print to discover that’s really three servings there.
  • Avoid foods containing ingredients banned in other countries, even though they’re used regularly in the US in items from breakfast cereal to energy bars to Kraft Mac n Cheese. Food colorings like Blue #1, Blue #2, Yellow #5, Yellow #6 and Red #40, BHA, arsenic and more are found in the many of the vitamin fortified family foods we eat every day.   ABC News has a handy slide show with more details here.
  • Avoid products containing sodium nitrate, a preservative that’s commonly used in processed meats like bacon, jerky, and lunch meats. Studies link nitrates to diabetes and heart disease.
  • Eat more whole, plant based foods to meet you daily nutrition requirements!

Check out this chart published by the USDA Dietary Guidelines to see how most of us measure up:

AmericanDiet_vs_TargetDiet-560x342

3 Simple Tips to Enliven Your Life With Healthier Food Choices

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Even though 9 out of 10 of us are convinced that our eating habits are healthy, we’re seeing our Mother and daughter in produce sectionalready high diet-related disease rates continue to rise.  I know, I get it; a few years back I was among those 9!

And since back then I was exercising, eating low-fat, high protein foods, getting plenty of fruit and greens and steering clear of anything obviously junky, I thought I was on it.  But it wasn’t until I discovered that my many of my all-natural, fat-free and healthy favorites were full of ingredients that just didn’t belong in food, that I really caught on.

Ten years of search and discovery, trial and tribulation, and a Cornell University Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition later, I’m sharing what I’ve learned.  What you eat makes a huge difference in how you look, think and feel, and if you care about those things, you can change your diet and change your life!

Upgrade your eating habits starting today with three healthier food habits

1.    Commit to cooking and eating more plant-based whole foods.  On average, the American diet is 70% processed foods, and we’re consuming a greater number of empty calories than ever before. We’re meeting less than half of the recommended daily requirements for most essential nutrients, meanwhile doubling down on the foods linked to diet-related disease.  While I don’t agree with the US Department of Agriculture’s recommendations on dairy and seafood (and since these food categories don’t really belong in a list of nutrients per se), it’s otherwise from clear from the USDA chart that replacing refined foods and meat products with fruits, vegetables and whole grains will make a major impact in reversing disease trends.   The best place to get started is right in your own kitchen, where you know exactly what goes into the food you eat.

  2.   Learn to use a healthy whole foods shopping list, like this one!  This list contains      everything I recommend including into your diet, with room to add the things you can’t live without.  Use it to begin to replace some of the items you’re been buying that you know aren’t good for you one or two at a time.   For example, try whole grain bread and pasta instead of white flour-based, or pick up some almonds in place of potato chips to snack on.  And if the preprinted list doesn’t include items you can’t live without (yet!), just list them on the blank lines.  Please don’t list Doritos.

Here are the rules for the getting the most from the list (should you choose to follow them):

  • You must keep this list where you will see it, like on the fridge or on a drawer with your keys in the kitchen.  If not, you will forget to mark it right away when you run out of something and it won’t work.
  • You must commit to stick to the list while shopping.  It’s best to decide up front not to even look at the items you know you shouldn’t buy and won’t miss, but if you happen to notice they’re on sale 2 for 1, all bets are off.  Do yourself a favor and if you’re better off without it, avoid that section of the store.
  • You must inventory your fridge and cabinets before you leave the house to make sure you have yourself covered until the next shopping trip you have scheduled next week.  Because if you plan ahead, you’ve got it!

Keep in mind this simple equation if you get stuck:  fewer trips to the store = less impulse buying = less money spent on bad food = more money to spend on new, possibly smaller sized clothes.

3.    Always read the label.  New studies show that women who read nutrition labels are an average of 8 pounds lighter than non-label readers.  And “label” doesn’t refer to the promo on the front of the package that says “low fat”, you need to turn to the fine print on the side panel.  Even if you have to squint, and don’t know what all of the numbers mean, be sure to always check the number of serving sizes, it’s often surprising!  Then move on to read the ingredients labels, and if it contains products that sound like chemicals, know you’re better off without it.

Remember, the food you eat is inextricably tied to health, energy levels, even happiness, so it’s important to rank it the top priority it deserves to be.  Which sounds easy but it involves knowing how to plan, shop and, for most of us who live within a budget, re-discovering how to cook.   I know you don’t have time.  Neither did I.  I’m a busy, working mom, and I had to struggle through figuring out how to make all those realities fit together.  The strategies and recipes I’ve created are here to help you.

Whether it’s cutting back on prepared foods, including more veggies and fiber in your diet, or swearing off fast food forever, the point is to get started, today!  One step in the right direction will yield numerous benefits.  You’ll also discover delicious new dishes that you didn’t have to pay a lot of money for, food that’s good for you, and you’ll have the satisfaction of having prepared it yourself.  It’s easier than you think when you begin at the beginning, by making a mindful commitment to adapt healthier habits because you’re worth it.  You’re on the start of a journey that could change your life, so take the first step today!

Tools for Success, A Must-Have List of Kitchen Basics

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

portraits-headshots-rebecca-stark-photographer-0138When it comes to food preparation, I’m a minimalist.  As much as I enjoy discovering new ingredients and techniques,  my culinary tool collection remains pretty basic.  I don’t own a juicer or a fancy food processor, not even a crock pot.   I find that between a powerful blender, a few good chefs knives and a small array of decent quality pans will get you thorough most recipes without a hitch.   Basics aside, my kitchen tools list is relatively short, just enough to get the job done.  However, if gadgets are what it takes to get you going, by all means, acquire accordingly!

  • Hand grater, large stainless steel, free standing
  • Hand grater, small hand held stainless steel (for ginger) (more…)

Ready to lose 8 pounds without even trying?

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Ready to lose 8 pounds without even trying?If you’re expecting a diet pill or calorie cutting plan, you may be disappointed.  The only investment you’ll need to make for this weight loss regimen is maybe a good pair of reading glasses.

A full 70% of food we eat is processed.  True that’s a high number, but since my favorite whole grain bread ranks on that list, I’m not throwing in the towel and neither should you.  The trick is to being to make more informed choices.  Luckily no special skills are required to recognize the good from the garbage.  I’m not suggesting you no longer enjoy your treats if you can’t live without them, just know that some treats are trickier than others.  The secret to which is which lies in the small print on the side of the package.

Women who regularly read ingredients labels weigh an average of eight pounds less than the rest of us.  I know those tiny numbers are confusing, but even when you don’t know what all of them mean, you know enough to weed out (more…)

A Smarter Start: Ignore the front cover, focus on the ingredients list!

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

the-ingredients-list

I was reading one of my favorite new books, Pandora’s Lunchbox, and getting a serious education on the synthetics contained in most breakfast cereals, when the author mentioned Kellogg’s Smart Start.  It sounds so healthy, and who wouldn’t want a smart start when the box looks so appealing?   Really, what’s not to like?  To find out, I turned to my old friend, Wikipedia, which very conveniently lists ingredients for many common packaged foods.  In fact, if you hate the idea of standing in the grocery store aisle trying to make out the fine print, try Wiki first and save yourself some shopping time later.

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Top Ten Reasons to Eat Your Beans

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

Did you know, thousands of new processed food products are introduced each year, with billions of industry dollars spent encouraging us to eat them?  The US is now the most overweight industrial nation in history.  Do they really think we need more food?

Newsflash industrial ag!  You’re heading in the wrong direction.  We don’t need more additives, chemicals or GMOs, it’s time we turned back to the basics, where natural nutrition and good taste meet.  In other words, back to the beans.

Beans are so nutritious that the latest dietary guidelines recommend we triple our current intake from 1 to 3 cups per week  If nutritional punch and sheer deliciousness don’t grab you, how about the biggest bang for your buck as another great reason to get those beans boiling?

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