Supermarket survival guide for an aspiring healthy eater.
So, are all carbs basically bad?
My sister asked me, watching me finishing a huge bowl of salmon cooked in coconut oil with mushrooms, onions, herbs and spices, following that up with a can of sardines in EVOO and a pack of flax seed crackers, wondering at the same time, how I manage to not put on any weight, eating all these fats and calories!
So, are all carbs basically bad?
My sister asked me, after I told her about the logic behind my own eating principles and choices.
No, carbohydrates are not bad at all, they are just not essential, it seems from all the data we have, that’s why in my opinion, if you limit something — that might as well be carbs. Processed carbohydrates definitely contribute to getting fat and sick (although they are not the only ones that do) but then veggies, whole fruit, nuts and seeds, whole beans and grains, starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, cooked carrots and beetroots, are also carbohydrates, minimally processed, that can totally be a part of a healthy lean diet. For some people carbohydrates are proven to be more obesenogenic, for many reasons, physiological, genetic and behavioral, especially in our environment, where sugar and yes, carbs, are the cheapest most available calories, that promote overeating.
I personally eliminate all starch, sugars and carbohydrates, except for non-starchy veggies and nuts, for simplicity, it saves me tons of time — I don’t count anything and still end up eating naturally the amount of food, that allows me to stay super lean, energetic, satiated and happy.
But then I also don’t think supermarket dairy works for me and many people on a low carb high fat diet. So, it’s not all foods, that are low in carbohydrates, that work for me, my clients or most people. Fats can damage your health and make you gain weight too.
I just found what works for me.
There are lots of nuances in my approach, like not eating cooked carrots or beets but only raw, like eating only from-my-grandma type of raw dairy products, or only grass-fed butter, or making sure, that I eat a variety of healthy fats, saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, Omega-3s and Omega-6s, making sure, that I don’t consume oxidized fats, fats from poorly handled animals, or peanut and walnut butters — for me it’s automatic, but that’s because I’ve been studying nutrition for 2 decades.
When I work with my clients the biggest challenge I face — keeping the single dose of nutrition knowledge small, very practical, delivering the best results at the moment, making sure we master in practice one piece of knowledge first, before moving to the next thing — otherwise you will feel overwhelmed and decide to give it up altogether. It’s like training a beginner, when you are a pro — yeah, you know there is this hardcore workout, that is phenomenally effective, but you got to understand, if you crush your client with it today, chances are, he/she won’t be coming tomorrow, so you start with squats and crunches to keep them moving first.
The purpose of this blog today guys, is to give you basic practical knowledge to help you navigate our confusing food system the next time you shop, so at the very least, you don’t do too much damage to your health, and make EASY better choices every single time you shop. Like picking up ONLY dark-bottled oils for cooking from now on, because fats oxidize, getting pro-inflammatory, or, at the very least lose their nutrition value, exposed to constant light on a shelf of your local Whole Foods.
How to shop. The biggest health hazards in your shopping cart.
Let’s start with my favorite thing to eat — fat.
No, fat in a clear bottle should EVER end up in your shopping cart. Unless, it’s coconut oil. Unless it’s animal fat like duck fat. Why? Unless fat is saturated (different oils and butters actually have almost all fats in different proportions: saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated), unless it’s mostly saturated, under light it gets oxidized easily, light and heat are unsaturated fats killers. The same goes to nut butters. Unless that butter is a type of saturated fat, like coconut butter or pecan butter — it shouldn’t come in a clear container, sitting on a shelf for god knows how long. So, no clear bottle walnut butter or flax seed butter. I personally wouldn’t buy peanut, almond or any other butter, that wasn’t made fresh — the more processed fats sit on a shelf of a supermarket, the bigger the chance, that some of that fat will become pro-inflammatory, there are polyunsaturated fats in peanuts, almonds, cashews.
When it comes to dairy butter, get yours from New Zealand or Ireland. The only 2 countries, where ALL butter is grass fed. You got to read the labels, when it comes to other countries. Why does it matter, what the cow is fed? More pro-inflammatory fats and less antioxidants and vitamins in grain-fed butter.
So what do we buy, when it comes to fats?
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Cold-pressed avocado and coconut oil
- Grass-fed butter and ghee
- Other animal fats from pastured animals, like duck fat, lard and tallow
Fat, is where animal stores toxins. So, choose your fats carefully.
And when it comes to cold-pressed dark-bottled other fats, like sesame, rapeseed, flax seed — use them in salads and sparingly. Or in low temperature cooking.
Bonus advice: when you eat out or buy your food elsewhere, in most cases, assume all the above rules are broken. That’s one of the biggest reasons, why I rarely eat out.
No, they are not bad.
But products made with/from flour are not beneficial to your health. No matter how whole grain they are. (To tell you a secret: there’s no definition or standards for what “whole grain” actually means). For most of your food — if it’s made into a flour, if it’s made from flour — don’t eat it.
No added sugars also. Unless it’s meant to be a dessert — read labels and get rid of all added sugars. And for desserts and occasional treats use alternative, metabolism-and-health friendly sweeteners like Stevia, Monk Fruit Extract, Erythritol and Allulose.
No juices, no evaporated cane juice, no cane sugar — nothing! If it’s not meant to be a dessert, and it’s not fresh fruit (or frozen), and it’s sweet — leave it outside your house. Good, that new labels in most countries started showing added sugars in food. Sauces, dressings, canned beans and peas, canned corn, marinades — all of these might and in most cases will contain sugar.
Isn’t everything in moderation OK, some of you might ask?
Good food and eating in moderation is good — you shouldn’t stuff yourself and overeat all the time, no matter how low carb or wholesome the food is. When it comes to sugar, moderation is an occasional dessert, not added sugar in each meal and in every drink.
What about bread?
Ready this blog — “Oils. Dairy. Bread. It’s the process. Not fats. Not carbs.” — and find some artisanal bakery nearby (or order online), that makes great quality sourdough bread, and have a piece or 2 a day.
Simply put, for the reasons you can read about here — “Oils. Dairy. Bread. It’s the process. Not fats. Not carbs.”— don’t buy it, unless it comes from a farm, unless it’s raw and from a reliable source, like your grandma, or a reputable farmer, unless it’s some artisanal cheese from Europe or home-made.
Go for unsweetened plant-based milks and yogurts instead.
Calcium? Eat it from canned sardines (with bones)! You’ll also get protein, Omega-3s, phosphorus, choline and other minerals like zinc, magnesium, iodine. Add some tahini, and you’ll be on your way to get all the calcium in the best possible form!
And of course, the basic stuff, don’t buy foods with ingredients you don’t understand, go for organic veggies, pastured poultry and eggs, grass-fed meats, vegan or not, don’t buy processed food.
There are more and more products on the shelves every day. But what will make you succeed long-term, health and weight wise — eating meals prepared from whole foods of the best quality, not products with labels. You might want to find a way for someone else to cook for you — the world is pretty amazing making ANY choice convenient. But that’s the best way — eating cooked meals. Period.
I continued eating. After listening to me for some time and watching me eat, my sister summed it up,
“So, basically you just avoid processed stuff and you cook your meals and that’s your “secret”?!”
Kind of yeah. That, and eating 2–3 meals a day. No snacking. No secrets.
It’s all surprisingly simple!
When you cook yourself, knowing exactly what you put in — it’s hard to get it wrong. Because, if you start putting spoons of sugar, or pour oils by the cup in everything you cook (like they do in most packaged products), very soon it’ll become obvious, where you get it wrong and why you can’t lose weight or feel better.