I dream of the days when we could once again go to our local farmer to get produce and meats, knowing exactly how they were grown and raised. No labels to decode, no marketing gimmicks, no hidden sugars or processed/refined food imposters.
Perhaps in the summer months, you can find a local farmers market to get some delicious in-season organic produce…but other than that…many people have bleak choices and less than ideal options when it comes to high-quality foods.
Part of foundational health is understanding how to shop for nutrient-dense foods. It’s more than choosing foods labeled “organic” or “natural”. One must know how to avoid processed food imposters by understanding what’s real vs. a marketing ploy to entice a purchase. This concept of “real food” has become confusing — as marketing gimmicks and label decoding lends itself to another language altogether.
For example, a client may be excited to tell me that they’ve started drinking a popular brand of almond milk instead of cow’s milk, only for me to tell them that this particular brand is filled with questionable ingredients. You see, almond milk should be 3 ingredients at most!
- ORGANIC ALMONDS
- HIMALAYAN SEA SALT (optional)
Popular Brand Almond Milk:
- ALMOND MILK (FILTERED WATER, ALMONDS)
- CANE SUGAR
- CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF: VITAMIN & MINERAL BLEND (CALCIUM CARBONATE, VITAMIN E ACETATE, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, VITAMIN D2),
- SEA SALT
- NATURAL FLAVOR,
- SUNFLOWER LECITHIN,
- LOCUST BEAN GUM,
- GELLAN GUM,
- ASCORBIC ACID (TO PROTECT FRESHNESS).
What’s more frustrating…their label dons the following: “Non-GMO, no artificial colors, flavors or funny business”. I could easily go on a rant here, but suffice it to say that everything listed after “almond milk” is considered “funny business”.
Understanding how to read a label and decode what’s real vs. fake is what is going to make a healthy lifestyle possible. To be clear, I don’t think it’s necessary to learn what EVERY single ingredient is, instead, I want you to choose items with ingredients you already know! Going back to the almond milk example, when you see things like “sunflower lecithin” or “locust bean gum”, I want you to instinctively put that down and walk away. If you don’t know what it is, don’t put it in your body.
It is part of my mission to decode this label language and help you jump into a healthy lifestyle with clarity and ease. Thanks to the incredibly generous people over at A Greener World — they’ve allowed friends of ORA Nutrition a FREE food label dictionary download!!!! With more than 100 common food terms and claims found on packaging, it’s truly an indispensable tool for anyone interested in making better food choices.
I’m going to throw you in the back of my Delorean and gun it to 88mph. I started dating my wife in 2009 -- just after graduating college, playing ice hockey and living and eating as most guys my age did. Lots of beer, quick meals, cafeteria food, not really understanding what I was putting in my body and the negative effects it would have in the long run. I didn’t throw all caution to the wind, I would try to make some ‘healthy’ choices. You know, like, two burritos from Chipotle after a morning hockey practice.
When Ciara and I first fell head over heels in love, the idea of changing my diet was inconceivable. Why should I? I felt healthy. I looked like I was in good shape. I was on the ice 5-6 times a week, burning enough calories to counteract the tremendous load and strain I was putting on my system. Now, she wants to make me eat food that tastes like cardboard and drink awful green smoothies? I’m good.
Because I’m a skeptic and generally have a hard time believing things, I began to research and educate myself on the foods I was eating. It was crazy. I quickly learned that our bodies need specific nutrients in order to perform at optimal levels. Not only do the foods our bodies need actually taste good, they taste even better than I could imagine. Foods prepared with healthy fats and nutrient-dense ingredients are so filling that I didn’t need two burritos to satisfy my hunger. Not to mention the way animals are raised has a huge effect on the human body. For example, pasture-raised, grass-fed beef is far superior to the grain-fed beef you’re likely eating. Did you know that the majority of beef consumed today is fed with wheat and corn? Did you also know this type of diet changes the molecular structure of the beef, along with its health benefits?*
What about butter and other healthy fats? I typically start my morning with coffee blended with grass-fed butter, coconut oil and collagen protein. In my teens and 20’s, the coffee I preferred was loaded with milk and sugar, and felt the need for multiple cups a day. Any health benefits of coffee, and there are, were lost. Today, one cup gets me through the whole day. The healthy fat content of the butter keeps me full and the medium chain triglycerides of coconut oil use energy from fat and helps digest food throughout the day.* Collagen is vital for our body and is the basic building blocks of our skin, hair, nails, bones, and joints.* Instead of starting my day on a blood sugar rollercoaster, this mix provides an immediate portion of the nutrients my body craves.
I could go on and on about the health benefits of the foods I eat, but I think you should do your own research. It’s truly the best way to become more comfortable with lifestyle changes.
At 31, I feel better than I did at 21. Although I am no longer on the ice 5-6 times a week, I still maintain an active lifestyle that incorporates hockey, golf, and kettlebell routines. I will save the benefits of kettlebells for another time, but a 10 minute cardio routine has had a tremendous effect on my health. Thanks Joe Rogan and Keith Weber! The idea here is to not ‘diet’ but educate yourselves on the foods you eat. Incorporating small changes to your daily routine can greatly benefit your health.
Living and working with a Certified Nutritional Therapist changed my life for the better. I sleep better, look better, and overall feel so incredibly healthy, I couldn’t even imagine where I would be without her. As we continue to learn and grow, our lifestyle also reflects. There are such amazing resources out there to assist you with making positive changes. Working with Ciara, or another professional, couldn’t hurt either!
This isn’t only easy to make, yummy to snack on, but it’s SOOOO good for you. Here’s why:
Beets are an incredible source of folate and a really good source of manganese, potassium, copper, dietary fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C, iron, and vitamin B6
These vibrant root veggies contain valuable nutrients that may help lower your blood pressure, boost your stamina, fight cancer, protect against heart disease, and birth defects. They also support Phase 2 liver detox, which is incredibly important in this super toxic world we live in.
Beet fiber has also been a nutrient of increasing interest in health research — studies have shown that beet fiber (along with carrot fiber) are two specific types of food fiber that may provide special health benefits, particular with respect to our digestive system and cardiovascular system.
Now that we’re convinced beets are wonder-veggies, let’s quickly look at Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV).
In 400 B.C. the great Hippocrates, Father of Medicine, used ACV for its amazing health qualities.
What is ACV? Natural Apple Cider Vinegar is made from fresh, crushed, organically grown apples and allowed to mature in tanks, which boosts its natural fermentation qualities. To make sure it the most healthful ACV, you need to find it with the “mother”. The presence of the mother shows that the best part of the apple has not been destroyed! Vinegars containing the mother contain enzymes and minerals that other vinegars may not (because those vinegars were overheated and overprocessed).
The list is somewhat endless when it comes to the health-boosting benefits of ACV. It's rich in potassium (like beets!) and enzymes, promotes digestion, balances your pH, helps control weight, supports detox, and promotes overall health.
Recipe for the BEET + ACV power-salad!
- 2-3 medium, organic beets (any variety)
- 1/2 onion of your choice, diced (i prefer white or yellow)
- 1-2 tbs of ACV with the mother
- Pinch of Himalayan sea salt
Steam beets until tender, let cool. Remove skin (you can do this by rubbing the outside of the beet with a paper towel. Note, you are going to stain your skin red, embrace it, just don’t touch anything white)!
After the skin is off, cut in whatever shape/size you’d like. Add in onion, ACV, and sea salt. Mix & enjoy!
Last week, while vacationing in Vermont, I posted about the incredible benefits of natural spring water and how to find those amazing springs at home and worldwide! I also discussed how I despise bottled water for myriad of reasons, including but not limited to pollution, waste, toxicity, chemicals, etc.
This week, I want to take that conversation a bit further and discuss plastics in the kitchen.
For many, they say there is a convenience factor to using plastic. But when it comes to cooking, storing food, or even grocery shopping, how much more convenient is plastic, really?
Does bringing reusable produce bags take extra time?
Does storing food in glass containers take extra time?
Does utilizing a stainless steel ice cube tray take extra time?
No. No. No.
Also, how utterly gross it is when you find that your leftovers have stained the container it’s been sitting in? Ew.
So without the convenience factor, and now the added "ick" factor, why do so many people still rely on such a toxic product?
Today I want to share with you why it’s important to stray from plastic, while also giving you tools to create a waste-free, toxin-free, and therefore, plastic-free environment.
Plastic was created for it’s cheap production value and it’s single use convenience. However, recently we’ve begun to learn how toxic and wasteful these products are to both our bodies and the environment.
Exposure to harmful chemicals during manufacturing, leaching in the stored food items while using plastic packages or chewing of plastic teethers and toys by children are linked with severe adverse health outcomes such as cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive effects. (1) Check out the Adverse Health Effects Grid, for a list of commonly used plastics and their known health effects. (2)
Not to mention the innocent animals that are dying or growing up deformed due the affect plastic has on the environment around us.
So, in a bold effort to reclaim your health while also saving the planet we live on, what are your other options?
Here’s a list for swapped out items:
- Ice cube tray → Onyx Stainless Steel Ice Cube Tray
- Plastic wrap & sandwich bags → Bee’s Wrap
- Plastic produce bags → Reusable, Machine Washable Produce Bags or Natural Home Reusable Produce Bags
- Storage Containers → Pyrex Storage Containers, Lifefactory, or Klean Kanteen
- Kitchen utensils → Crate and Barrel Stainless Steel Kitchen Utensils or Bamboo
- Water bottle → Klean Kanteen or Lifefactory
I would absolutely LOVE to hear any suggestions you guys have on plastic-free kitchen alternatives. Let’s get the conversation going!!
Note: This list contains items I personally use in my own kitchen. I am not affiliated with nor benefit financially from recommending them. Also, the links I provided for pure convenience — you may find a better deal or similar product elsewhere.