Jewels Doskicz is a registered nurse, freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. Jewels is the moderator of Diabetic Connect’s weekly #DCDE Twitter chat, and she and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.
What is your definition of healthy food? It certainly can't hurt to examine what eating well looks like to you. "Healthy" varies wildly from person to person. As a rule of thumb, I always tell myself if I can't be proud of what I'm putting on that conveyor belt, perhaps it doesn't belong in my grocery order.
Waiting in line at the grocery store is always an interesting social experiment. I like to people watch, and look at the average cart to see the proportion of whole versus processed foods that will be filling customers cabinets and bellies.
It's no surprise that the standard cart is overwhelmed by processed foods — packages, plastics, and hype. The typical cart has a small portion of fresh foods on the top "seat area" and the rest is full of prepackaged items — minus the occasional watermelon.
Consumers are flocking to labels such as: vegetarian, no-fat, sugar-free, whole-grain, multi-grain, low-fat, low-sodium, natural, soy-based, gluten-free, and no high-fructose corn syrup, according to a Food Marketing Institute Survey in Usnews.com.
Here's what I think: it's all a ploy to make us feel better about eating processed foods, a psychological consumer game of sorts. Food giants play with the colors of foods and packaging, descriptions and shapes but these are ultimately not healthy choices. Pre-packaged items to grab are dried fruit, nuts, yogurt, or a bag of baby carrots — these are much better choices than a bag of chips with creative, healthy-looking labels.
Trying to create some balance in your cart from top to bottom is the key to a healthy shopping trip. Try using the small top seat for processed foods and the main part for whole foods. Shop the exterior of the grocery store, focusing on whole foods helps to avoid poor choices and label confusion. We know the best food choices are those that come in their own natural peel rather than those with a manmade label. There is no substitute for a healthy home-cooked meal, and most importantly, research shows your kids will follow in your footsteps.