Rocket Science

Sometimes healthy eating feels like rocket science.

Eat 100% whole wheat.  No, don’t eat wheat; it’s been changed too many times from its original form.  Don’t eat eggs; they are high in cholesterol.  Wait do eat eggs.  They are a whole food and a good source of protein.    Make sure to eat low- fat products so you have less fat in your diet.  Hold up. Actually don’t eat low fat products; they are full of chemicals to make up for the fat that was taken out.

All of the mixed messages can be confusing.

So today I want to share with you the simplest, most intuitive health change I made to help simplify the rocket science of nutrition.  There is a whole other level to nutrition if you want to go organic or completely non-processed, but this is a great place for us beginners to start.

Forget the nutrition facts.

Rather read ingredients and then buy foods with less ingredients.

Doesn’t this just make sense? Do I want my kids to eat applesauce with high fructose corn syrup in it or do I want them to eat applesauce made up of just apples and water?  Do I want to eat foods where I can’ t even recognize or pronounce the ingredients or do I want to eat foods made from ingredients that I would use in my own kitchen?  Do I want foods with 20+ ingredients or do I want foods with as few ingredients as possible?

For me, these questions were not rocket science.

Once I realized how important it was to read the ingredients on foods, I spent 2 hours in the grocery just reading ingredients.  I was shocked, upset, and discouraged about what I found in our food, but I was happy that I know knew better and could make better choices.

The first change I made was sour cream.

As I read ingredients on the different brands, I realized I could either buy sour cream with these ingredients:

Or I could buy sour cream that just contained cream.

The choice was not rocket science.  DAISY was my new go-to sour cream.

With one simple change, I was already making nutritional progress!  I became obsessed with reading ingredients and spent many hours in grocery stores combing the shelves.

I was amazed by what I found. Let’s look at some common foods and compare ingredients.

WHEAT BREAD

You may think that you are making a healthy choice by buying wheat bread, but not necessarily.  Look at these ingredients in a common wheat bread that I see everybody putting in their carts at Costco.  What the heck is all this stuff anyway?

Rocket Science:

If you were to make bread in your kitchen, you would only need flour, yeast, honey, salt, and water.  So I found a bread at Costco (Aspen Mills: Honey Whole Wheat) that only has those 5 ingredients.   That just feels better to me and my family thinks the bread tastes great.  Even my husband raved about it.

Not Rocket Science:

YOGURT

Look at the differences in these two yogurts:

Rocket Science:

Dannon Light and Fit Vanilla Yogurt– Nonfat yogurt (cultured grade A non fat milk, modified food starch, fructose, kosher gelatin, vitamin A palmitate, Vitamin D3), water, fructose, contains less than 1% of modified corn starch, natural and artificial flavors, citric acid, aspartame, sodium citrate, potassium sorbate (to maintain freshness), caramel color, acesulfame potassium, annato extract (for color).

Not Rocket Science:

Dannon All Natural Plain Nonfat Yogurt– Cultured Grade A nonfat milk, pectin.

Even if you were to sweeten the plain yogurt with your own sweetener like honey, maple syrup, agave or all-fruit jam, at least you wouldn’t be getting all the other crap they are putting in the vanilla yogurt.

CHIPS

Now I am not advocating eating chips, but there is even a healthier choice within the world of chips.  Look at the ingredients on Doritos.

Rocket Science:

Did you see all those dyes, partially hydrogenated oils, sugars, preservatives and chemicals in there?

Now look at the ingredients in Fritos.

Not Rocket Science:

Doritos has 20+ ingredients most of which I can’t pronounce while Fritos has 3 ingredients that we can all pronounce. So if you must eat chips, Fritos are a better choice than Doritos.

CRACKERS

Let’s take a look at crackers: Ritz vs Triscuits vs Wheat Thins

If you read the ingredients on these boxes you might be surprised. Ritz crackers have enriched white flour, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil in them just to name a few of the unhealthy stuff.  (My husband is eating Ritz next to me right now while I type this.) While Triscuits only have 3 ingredients: whole grain soft white winter wheat, soybean oil, salt.  Wheat Thins aren’t quite as bad as Ritz but they aren’t great.   Wheat Thins are made from 100% whole grain, but they still  have about 9 other ingredients.

To summarize: Ritz=Rocket Science.  Wheat Thins=Advance Chemistry II.  Triscuits=Fifth grade science.

WHEAT TORTILLAS

I have been staying with my good old uncooked Costco tortillas because they only have 5 ingredients in them and I couldn’t find a whole wheat tortilla version that had few ingredients. When I would search for whole wheat tortillas, brand after brand would be rocket science:

But just last week I found one brand, La Favorita, that had less ingredients.  I think the words in the parenthesis are telling me what baking powder is made of? So these wheat tortillas only have 6 ingredients in them which is better than anything else I’ve found.  We have been enjoying sandwich wraps this week with these whole wheat tortillas.

So to simplify your nutrition experience– read ingredients not nutrition labels.   Check the ingredients on everything you buy and when possible, go with the option that has the least amount of ingredients.  If you don’t,  you can inadvertently make unhealthy choices.  But if you do, you will be getting a lot less junk in your body.

This part of nutrition isn’t rocket science.

 

11 Comments
  1. Thanks for doing the leg work for us…that’s helpful. 🙂 It makes total sense, just time to check it out. I would probably be scared what’s in our cupboards.

    Out of curiosity has your food bill gone up? Does most the better stuff cost a little more?

    1. You will be surprised Stac! I tried to find a can of green enchilada sauce without a bunch of junk in it and I couldn’t. Try to avoid high fructose corn syrup, any hydrogenated oil, and any enriched flour. If it is enriched that means they had to strip everything out first and then put stuff back in to enrich it.

      As far as the food bill, yes it has gone up. 🙁 The bread with 5 ingredients is $1 more than the bread with all the crap. And you can’t shop sales as much. Most coupons and sales are for highly processed foods. Plus lots of fresh produce can be expensive especially in the winter. On the other hand, the more food you make at home and less processed food you buy the less money you spend. For example, Eggos are more expensive than a homemade waffle or a box of macaroni costs more than boiling some noodles at home. I tried to freeze a lot of fresh fruit when it was cheap in the summer to save some money. There is a bit of a trade off, but in the end the food bill is higher. Here is a link to real food on a budget.
      http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/01/26/budget-day-100-victory/

  2. I have been doing this for a while now. I have about 4 brands of bread I will actually buy. All with about 4-5 ingredients that I can pronounce and recognize. I love this method of trying to buy healthier food and snacks for my kids. It’s simple! I just don’t understand why they need to put all that crap in things when it is possible to make it so simply and in my opinion usually tastes just as good.

  3. Thank you for this! Our local grocery store has bread they make right in the bakery that is SO good and only contains, wheat flour, yeast, honey, salt and water! Hallelujah!

    The yogurt thing is making me crazy. My kids don’t like the plain or greek but love yogurt, so I’m trying to find something they will eat and isn’t too infested with crap.

    Snacks for kids is my nemesis. My kids love pretzels and crackers, but most are “rocket science”. I’m trying to find some that are healthier.

    1. Cheryl, I have read ingredients of every yogurt on the shelf and it is frustrating. There is just not a good option. I’ve considered making my own for that reason but haven’t tackled that project yet. The best yogurt I have found so far (that my kids will eat) is Dannon:All Natural Yogurt. It has milk, sugar, natural vanilla flavoring and pectin. I don’t love that sugar is the 2nd ingredient, but I do like that there are only 4 ingredients. I mix this with plain yogurt so they are getting less sugar. Triscuits are the only cracker I have found with few ingredients, including supposedly healthy or organic versions. Let me know if you find anything!

  4. This post came at the perfect time. I am slowly integrating healthy, organic/unprocessed foods into my family’s diet and kicking out the bad stuff. Thanks for the great article, it’s great advice and I will not forget to do this! Thanks

  5. Fry’s in Arizona carries an all natural sour cream. I always buy it unless the Daisy is on sale for the same price. Ingredients on the Fry’s All Natural Sour Cream: Cultured Cream, Skim Milk and Enzymes

  6. i just ran across your blog and spent a good hour reading some of your posts! so much of what you blog about i can relate to. i appreciate you sharing things you’ve implemented with your kids, and i for sure plan to use a bunch of your ideas i’ve just read through. i just added you to my google reader and i’m really picky about that because it can be time consuming to get sucked into someone else’s life through their blog. i really think yours can benefit the life of my family. thank you!

  7. Hmm, interesting idea and a smart way to think. I used to have to go with what was cheapest because of our budget, but recently my 4 year old twins started smelling awful. When I finally googled it, I found lots of people saying they switched to organic milk because the hormones were triggering signs of early puberty! Now I’m realizing I need to be much more conscious about what I’m putting in my babies mouths!