Monday, April 23, 2012

Read your Labels! Grocery Store Tips from Fit Mama

So today I was at Target picking up some organic apples and a couple other things I needed.  I really needed some more bread and I usually buy the Whole Foods 100% whole wheat bread and last resort, I get Nature's Own bread at Walmart.  Since I was at Target, they didn't have the Nature's Own bread so I decided to start checking out other breads to see which I could buy.  I was completely disgusted by the choices, or lack there of, for good whole wheat bread without added sugar, chemicals, and preservatives!  First of all, there is not a whole lot to bread, there really should only be a couple ingredients to make a loaf of bread.

Here is the first loaf I picked up, Archer Farms 100% whole wheat bread
What is the 5th ingredient?  SUGAR.  Seriously?  I don't understand why all the bread companies add sugar and high fructose corn syrup. 
And of course, you can see how many ingredients there are, such as:
  • Azodicarbonamide - Dough conditioner banned in Europe because studies showed it could cause asthma or allergic reactions.
  • Calcium propionate - preservative which, in the 1990's, was linked to attention deficit disorder in children
Here was the 2nd loaf of bread I picked up.  Target's generic brand whole wheat bread:
I know you can't see the ingredients in this picture, but just look at the sheer length of that list!  It is 3 times longer than the ingredient list on the first loaf of bread I picked up.  What kind of "whole wheat" bread could possibly need like 100 ingredients???

So, it got me thinking.  I was completely unaware of what to look for on the back of a package of food about a year ago.  Basically, I looked at the calories per serving and that's about it.  I realized that most people just pick up things at the store without even flipping the box or bag over to see what's really in the "food" they're buying.  I really wished someone had told me a long time ago exactly what to look for and what to stay away from!  Here are a couple tips on what to look for and stay away from at the grocery store.

1.  Don't read the advertising/marketing on the front of the package!   Food companies are very tricky.  They might boast about having lots of fiber and then you flip the box over and one serving has 20 grams of sugar.  You MUST look for yourself.  I very rarely look at what is printed on the front of the package anymore.
2.  Look at the number of ingredients.   The more ingredients, the more processed the food.  When they make, say chips, they break it down and have to keep adding things to it to make it taste more like real food.  If it has a long ingredient list, IT'S NOT REAL FOOD...put down the box.
3.  Look for and avoid hidden sugars:
Corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, glucofructose, honey, molasses, maple syrup, maltose, sucrose, and artificial sweeteners (such as saccharin and aspartame)
4.  Here are some additives and preservatives to avoid 100% of the time:
  • Artificial colors (red, green, yellow, FD&C colors) - some studies have linked this to childhood behavioral issues
  • Benzoate preservatives (BHA & BHT) - known to cause hyperactivity in children and is considered a carcinogen by the US Dept of Health and Human Services
  • Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) - is banned in more than 100 countries and the FDA calls is "suspect" as a carcinogen
  • Potassium Bromate - Food additive banned in Europe, Canada, and most other countries, considered carcinogenic
  • Propylene glycol - a chemical found in personal care products, linked to cancer, reproductive issues, allergies, and endocrine issues.
  • Propyl Gallate - food additive that some studies have shown to cause cancer, skin irritability, allergic reactions which cause breathing issues, and kidney and liver problems.
  • Sodium Nitrate & Sodium Nitrite - additive in 99% of all deli meats and hot dogs, is one of the most well known carcinogens
  • Mono sodium glutamate (MSG) - flavor enhancer found to cause headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, nausea, and weakness
  • Olestra - A fat substitute, which has shown to be a carcinogen, along with causing diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup - a sweetener which has been linked to obesity, weight gain, and diabetes
Print this list and take it with you to the grocery store or put it up on your fridge.  I refer to it all the time!
5.  Breads:
  • Make sure first ingredient is whole wheat flour and there is no white or processed flour ingredients
  • Look for breads that have only a few ingredients.  The best breads have no preservatives and must be stored in your fridge because they go bad faster than other breads.
 (Here is Whole Foods 100% Whole Wheat Bread.  Only has a couple ingredients and no added sugars!)

6.  Canned Goods:
  • Watch the sodium!  Many canned soups contain 800+ mg of sodium (for 1 serving, but most soups have 2 servings in 1 can), so with 1 can of soup you're eating 50% of your daily intake of sodium!  Can we say water retention?
  • Make sure your soup doesn't have MSG or equivalents.  Most soups that say "healthy!" on the label contain this flavor enhancer.  See above list on chemicals to avoid.
  • Don't buy your fruit in a can!  They always add a thick sugary juice to the can.  Fruit has enough natural sugar as it is, you don't need any more.   
  • Try to find BPA- free cans, where available.  
7.  Cereals:
  •  Make sure your cereal is a natural color, NO ARTIFICIAL COLORS...this means you, Fruit Loops.  See above list on which chemicals, additives to avoid.
  • First thing, check the sugar content!  See the best and worst cereals list from EWG to know which cereals are better for your family. 
  • Go for the "original" version of the given cereal.  Such as Cheerios Original or Kix Original.  When you add fancy versions like "honey nut", it just ups the sugar content!
8.  Snacks:
  • Check sugar amount
  • Check and make sure there are no artificial colors
  •  Make sure there is no added high fructose corn syrup (I think you will find 90% of all kids snacks have this in it).
  • Chips are not at all healthy, but if you do buy them, check for fewer ingredients, no saturated fat, and organic corn chips, if available.
  • Nuts - raw, unsalted only! 
With just these couple rules, I basically don't buy kids snacks anymore.  I do like to make my own trail mix, or I use the dry cereal I buy as an easy snack.  When we're home, we try to eat more fruit and real foods as snacks instead of the boxed kind.

Anyway, when was the last time your child was hungry for a snack and a little bag of "fruit snacks" actually satiated their hunger?  I'll answer that for you, NEVER.  We need real food for "snacks" if we're truly hungry and NEED a snack.  If we're just eating out of sheer boredom,  the boxed snacks may help, but we really shouldn't be doing that anyway.  Here is a blog I wrote on Healthy Snack Options.

9.  Frozen Foods:
I only buy a couple things frozen, some veggies and berries (for smoothies/yogurt/pancakes)

  • Make sure the veggies you buy have no added sauce or cheese, just the veggies as the only ingredient.  
  • Make sure there are no preservatives or chemicals.
  • Frozen berries I try to find organic just because many of them are on the "dirty dozen" list for high pesticides. 
10. Dairy

  • I buy organic dairy 100%.  Why?  No hormones or antibiotics!  
  • Check for rennet-free cheese
  • Make sure cheese comes from rBGH-free cows (no hormones)
  • Yogurt - check the sugar.  Some Yoplait yogurts have as much sugar as a Snickers bar.  I buy only organic plain non-fat greek yogurt.  If I need it sweeter, I put a little agave on top.  SO DELISH!
  • Cheddar cheese should not be orange.  If it is, it's because they add a chemical, annato, for color.  
  • Buy your cheese in the block form and shred or grate it yourself.  When it's already shredded or grated, they have to add lots of preservatives so that it won't go bad.  
  • I don't buy cottage cheese anymore.  I haven't found a "clean" version without added chemicals and preservatives
  • DO NOT BUY's not real food!  If you buy butter, go for REAL butter or I buy Earth Balance Soy Butter and it's very good.
  • Organic grass-fed beef
  • Organic hormone/antibiotic free chicken
  • Look for deli meats with no nitrites or nitrates on the ingredient list, such as Applegate brand
  • "Uncured" hot dogs, nitrite/nitrate free

I hope these tips help some of you!  I sure wish I had this list a year ago when I started on this "real food" journey.  If you have any question about any of the foods I listed, see My FB Page, under Photos: Kitchen Staples.

Thanks for reading!!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mommy Daughter Time, More Organized Home Day 4, & Healthy Beef Stroganoff!

Today was the 2nd Annual Mother Daughter Tea at our church and Addy was SO excited and has been looking forward to it all year.  It is some of the only one on one special time we get!  So we got dressed up in our finest and had a great time!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Day 1 Organized Home, More Half-Marathon Training, and Yummy Chicken & Rice Dinner Recipe!!

Last week, I saw that Money Saving Mom was doing a "4 Weeks to a More Organized Home" project.  Every day starts the with the same things:
  • Get dressed in something that makes you feel great.  There’s something about dressing in clothes that make you feel great that just gives you more energy and zest for life!
  • Sit down with a cup of coffee or tea, refer to your list of weekly goals, and make a list of no more than 5-7 things you want to accomplish today.
  • Complete your morning routine

After you complete your morning routine, you are to set the kitchen timer and complete the listed task for that day.  Here is what today's was:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fit n Busy Mama's 6 Tips for a Healthier Cookout!

If you're like us, you have lots of cookouts during the Spring and Summer months.  As a matter of fact, we had one today for my brother's birthday!  Cookouts are usually notorious for junk food: chips, dips, potato salad, etc.  But, with a little planning, it can be a lot healthier!  Here is a couple ways to make your next cookout a success without the processed foods. 

1.  Make your own dips. 
Have you ever read the ingredient list of that canned dip?  It is LOADED with calories, fat, added chemicals, salt and preservatives.  It is SUPER EASY to make your own and tastes better!  Here are a couple examples:
  • Guacamole (3 ripe avocados mashed, 1 t garlic powder, juice of 2 lemon wedges, 1/2 t sea salt)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Produce Score, New Awesome Gym, and "Sausage" Arrabiata Recipe

So yesterday I got tired of going to Walmart or Target every 2 days to buy more fruit for the household. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad the kids are eating tons of fruit, but it can get pretty pricey!  We have an Aldi's near our house that always has the best prices on produce.  I don't ever think about it because it's just one more stop when I already have to make 3 stops to get my weekly groceries.  But, I decided to run by there and see what kind of deals I could find on produce.  Here is what I scored:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Busy Referee Mama, Cleaning Closets, and Shepard's Pie Recipe

Well I hope everyone had an awesome Easter.  We sure did!  I have been so incredibly busy lately.  So busy that I feel like I don't even have time to eat or drink.  My babies (Chris 15 months, Sophie 27 months) are at an age where they basically fight over all the toys and me.  I play referee all day between the babies & Elijah. 
 (Eli squirting sister with the hose in typical big brother fashion...)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

New Busy Mama Kitchen Gadgets, Yummy kid friendly cheesy zucchini, plus more!

So today I had to run to Target to get some meat & such for the Easter cookout we're having...  Like many trips to Target, I found myself on aisles I didn't belong.  All of the cookware, dishes, and kitchen gadgets were so colorful and new I just had to get a couple things.  80-90% of the gadgets, cookware, and even plates in my kitchen are hand-me-downs from my mom or mom-in-law.  They're likely 2-3 decades old and many convenience items, I just don't have.  Here are a couple of things I picked up today while I was there:
  • An olive oil mister

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Half-Marathon Training Update, Make Your Own Kids Cereal, AWESOME Veggie Panini Recipe!

Well my half-marathon training has been going swimmingly....or runningly, shall I say?  Sorry that was cheesy.  My pace has been at a steady 10 min/mile even on my long runs!  Just to compare, my first half-marathon I finished about 11:10 min/mile, so that is shaving off over a minute a mile!  Of course, I am about 10 pounds lighter now than I was and I am eating a lot better now since I have converted to a "clean/organic" diet.  On Wednesday, I ran 12 miles and I felt AWESOME!!
(view from a spot on my long run)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Recipes: Strawberry Spinach Salad, Red Beans & Rice, Healthy Chk Nuggets, +More!!

Well, I realized I've gotten behind with posting some of my dinner & lunch recipes, so I am dedicating this whole blog to all my recent recipes. 

The other night, I made red beans & rice with organic greek yogurt & chopped avocado.  It was pretty easy and VERY delicious.  The kids really liked it, Chris had 2 servings!  Here are some pics and the recipe:

Red Beans & Rice (adapted from Skinnytaste)