Bizarro Food Fairytales

One thing that makes me absolutely mad is the abundance of bizzaro information out there, much of which is flat out wrong. Thanks to Dr. Oz and Food Babe on the INSANE end of the spectrum, and with shared misinformation through the interweb’s game of telephone on the other, it can be confusing to separate the nonsense from the useful health information.

This can be especially daunting if you are on a budget. Many organic items are more expensive, but a whole, well-rounded diet is not. See my most skin-crawling, blood boiling list of MYTH, WTF & TIPS below.

I am not a nutritionist or a doctor, but I read and research on a daily basis and pay attention to the tips from my doctor and nutritionist friends. I am simply sharing with you the tips that help me plan and be in control of my health, as well as help you separate out fact from fiction.

1) MYTH: Eating healthy is more expensive.
Certain items are, yes, more expensive. But when you look at price per ounce and number of servings, it is the crap packaged food (snack, box cereals, frozen “meals”) that are incredibly expensive per ounce and per serving. Packaged foods also contain SO much sugar and sodium – simply not worth it when you can eat mounds of healthy, tasty food for cheap. Where you will find the most cost difference, is learning to cook. No one is saying you have to morph into Julia Child… Just master basic meals – a protein, rice, a vegetable. It is worth it in the long run, no matter how many dollar menu items you think can add up to more meals than shopping smart, cooking and pre-preparing healthy basics. Rice cookers can be purchased for $10-20 and work for both rice and quinoa (as well as many other uses). Proteins and veggies can be broiled, grilled, sauteed, baked or panfried. You can make 2 weeks of 2-person meals for about $15. I promise.

Snacks, sodas etc simply aren’t worth it so I don’t purchase them. By not having them around, I do not consume them. My dentist was actually the first person to notice, about 7 years ago, that I stopped drinking soda. But talk about willpower – I will eat anything if it’s here in front of me. But, I won’t put pants on to get in my car and go to the grocery store. Problem solved, money saved. My one vice is Tollhouse Cookie dough, and I make a point to only buy when on sale, once a month or so. Yes, it’s full of weird chemicals. Everything in moderation.

When you see  Gwenyth Paltrow showing her “food stamp budget” purchases, it’s easy to succumb to her cluelessness when in fact, you can purchase a LOT of food for $30. She’s just completely delusional.

2) MYTH: Shop the perimeter only for healthy food.
This is total BS. In most grocery store layouts, many of your key staples are on inner aisles: whole grains, rice/quinoa, beans. Your Dairy, Eggs and Produce will, of course, usually come from the outer perimeter. It all depends on the floor plan of your specific grocery store and where the refrigerator electrical is wired. So the “perimeter” rule is BS. I have seen large Pavillions markets with the produce in the dead center of the market. Common sense, people. Shop the part of the grocery store that has what you need.

3) WTF: This Food or Tea Will Detoxify Your Body
Your kidneys and liver detoxify your body. No food, tea, supplement or unicorn magic will do this for you. Any product claiming that is ridiculous. If you have serious concerns about “toxins” in your body – see a doctor ASAP. If you are just feeling overall sluggish, make sure you are eating healthfully and drinking plenty of water. Dehydration is the #1 cause of mild fatigue.

Healthy juices, smoothies and teas should be used to get whole foods and antioxidants into your body so your organs can do what they’re born to do!

4) MYTH: It is too expensive to eat Organic, but required to be healthy
You can find organic produce at many large market chains these days, varying in price. You are not required to buy Organic to be healthy. I repeat: You are not required to buy Organic to be healthy. This can vary with your needs, location, or ethical beliefs. One benefit of buying organic is the item (usually) is local and therefore travels less distance and will be fresher or closer to ideal ripeness when it reaches you. It also stimulates local economy. However, not all organic is local.

Many so-called “organic” farms are cropped on as mass of a scale as other farms or have skirted around the USDA organic guidelines. So, organic foods aren’t any more or less clean or have better or worse labor conditions. There is some evidence that some disease outbreaks have been traced back to organic farming. Example: there is mixed research on the safety of organic crops, where manure and other “natural” pesticide contaminants are evident – be sure you adequately scrub all fruits and veggies before eating as a rinse will not remove most contaminants. Some sources recommend scrubbing in Apple Cider Vinegar. If there is a recall/outbreak of salmonella, E.coli, etc just throw it out.

Mass farming can be done safely and ethically, and GMO-ing has existed for years. Many of the foods we eat were modified from their origins, migrated with explorers and settlers, and were grown to withstand geographic weather conditions to become the fruits and veggies we love today – it has nothing to do with big bad Monsanto. If you were, for example, against GMO foods and only sourced “local,” you would have never tasted pepper and several other fruits, vegetables, olives, flax, quinoa, nuts and spices in North America. And no beer! That’s right, barley and hops originate from Asia and Europe. In fact, in the Pacific Northwest US, your only food sources would be a few odd kinds of fish, clams, acorns, several berries, and a couple herbs. So, literally everything you eat has migrated and been modified to adapt to your location in the world and to be farmed in abundance.

The conditions, labor practices and pesticides used are more important to analyze than whether or not something is mass farmed or “GMO.” Here are some foods that I do recommend you eat organic whenever possible: Chicken, Beef, Pork, Eggs, Dairy, and some fruits and veggies. See PBS’s list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15.

5) WTF: It’s totally legit and healthy to eat Paleo/Atkins/Shakeology/Medifast/Whatever the mess
Unless you are migrating daily and eating only seeds and nuts (and ones that are not toxic raw), catching squirrel or occasional large game, I guarantee you are not Paleo. SORRY! Get over it. I hear this so much in LA and it’s so annoying. Don’t get me started on gluten.

Unless you have a DOCTOR provided eating plan for diabetes/low-GI, PCOS, fasting for surgery, PKU or other health-related regimen, eating weird fad diets, packaged foods no matter the claims, or all fats or all carbs, or no carbs, or all meat, is not healthy. This should be common sense. Eat a well-rounded diet with a combination of food sources to maintain health. Free apps such as MyFitnessPal and SparkPeople will show you the macros on your nutrients, protein, fats and carb intake so you can set goals and see what nutrition is actually coming from your daily meals. Then, add in a multi vitamin if needed.

Shakeology, Herbalife and other MLM meal plans are purchasing programs, no more no less. Representatives selling these supplements are not nutritionists or dieticians, so it should be obvious they are pushing to sell you the products or meal subscriptions. Many representatives aren’t trainers, either, they are simply coaching you to use a fitness regimen developed by trainers. It is tremendously expensive compared to home-cooked comparable meals. This is how the companies make their money; several health coach plans and corporations are built on this model (not just Shakeology or Herbalife).

If you don’t know how to spot this, figure out if the meal plan/coach requires you to join a team or sign up for auto delivery or an introduction plan. Also, if you Google the product and all the blogs come up with pro-product reviews, these are your flags that the nutrition program is a commission-based sales pitch. It’s incredibly difficult to find genuine consumer and scientific evaluations. If Kidney, Heart, Diabetes, or Cancer associations don’t evaluate studies on it, Mayo Clinic or Stanford Medicine hasn’t published any research on it – or any Peer Reviewed Scientific Journal for that matter – you can safely assume it is a product pitch.

There is nothing inherently wrong with these programs in the sense of peer coaching and education, many people need the social support to lose weight and curb their snacking, or have found their strong desire to help others through health coaching. As long as the education is sound nutritional guidance, this coaching can be tremendously beneficial. Just know what you’re getting into and that these plans are more expensive and not any more medically or physically sound than eating a balanced diet and working with a trainer or actual fitness coach. Be ready to understand your legitimate health needs, be prepared to make a total lifestyle change (as with any healthy eating overhaul), consult a doctor, and be prepared for the cost.

As far as supplements go… For me personally, my BMR allows me to eat just about 1,200 calories per day, so I do often need a supplement because I simply do not eat that much in a 24 hour day. I recommend “Whole” or “Raw” food multivitamins as your body can digest more of the nutrients than in synthetic supplements. These can often be found on sale at Sprouts Market (or not on sale at hell-on-earth Whole Foods). I like to find one I enjoy and order it from Amazon Prime. Currently, I can’t find my favorite multivitamin but this one is very close:  Garden of Life liquid multi*** with a Turmeric supplement. This one works for me, it is a mildly flavored liquid that can be added to food, water or juice. My favorite “Green” whole meal replacement (no more than 1 meal per day in emergencies!) is Garden of Life Perfect Food Green Superfood and “Chocolate” is Garden of Life Raw Meal. Another meal replacement focused on protein is Nature’s Bounty in Decadent Chocolate.

Read up on the benefits of Turmeric here; this was recommended to me by a doctor to deal with the adrenal fatigue and depression symptoms I mention.

Garden of Life is a better quality, more complete meal but it is gritty and many consumers do not like the taste without mixing it in very thick smoothies or sweetened juices. My favorite protein-only powder for  smoothies is Solgar Whey Protein. As with any supplement, ask a doctor if you are unsure of your needs or allergies/interactions with any medications you may take!

*** I am not paid by Garden of Life. I am just a compulsive comparison-shopper and spent a lot of time and energy narrowing down prices vs nutrient content and these are the products I like that don’t make me gag.

6) Pro Tip: Plan Ahead!
Even when I am not on my “Broke Girl” budget, I maintain the same basic buying plan. I re-stock rice, oats and quinoa once or twice a month. Butter and Olive Oil can be expensive, but they LAST a long time so I purchase when on sale and store (olive oil) or freeze (butter) until needed. The rest: meats/proteins, veggies, dairy and fruit are purchased weekly to be fresh and used up fast. I can feed two people for dirt cheap, and I save the extra money for eating out with friends or splurging on a fun BBQ cookout or bottle(s) of wine when the girls and I have book club or girls night parties. This sounds lame, but TRUST me, it adds up and saves fast. That’s valuable beer/fun money.

I know what I eat roughly each week, so I cook on Sunday nights for my whole work week of lunches to avoid the cost of eating where I work (West Side LA! – Everything here is insane). I bought a 5-pack of portion size Tupperware which has been a life saver – this was honestly my #1 mental road block to meal prepping and it was solved in a snap.

Another favorite plan-ahead tactic is to make a large batch of lasagne or other similar baked all-in-one meal. This can either feed a huge party for $40, or it can last for 1-2 months of meals by freezing a portion (depending how many household members you have). I have been thinking of writing up my recipe, let me know and I can pass it along!

7) Pro Tip: Coffee May Be Making You Sleepy
Here’s one that bums me out because I LOVE coffee. But… Coffee may be making you tired! I was born a coffee drinker, and will die a coffee drinker! Unfortunately after a few years of abusing caffeine (1-2 Redbulls & 3 coffees a day) – I couldn’t figure out why I was exhausted, fuzzy and SO bloated. It turns out a combination of my overall health, caffeine, several years of intense stress and antidepressants had completely blown out my adrenal system. In this case, the caffeine in coffee was doing more harm than the potential antioxidant good and I had to quit immediately. If you have long-term fatigue that is not attributed to simple dehydration or thyroid problems, ask your doctor about adrenal fatigue.

I now maintain drinking green and white teas, and have worked my way back up over about 8 months to allowing one coffee per week. I stick to quality coffee (Blue Bottle, Four Barrel, Starbucks/Peets plain drip coffee) and – this should be common sense – no sugary Starbucks or anything that ends in –appé or –achino. I would suggest you go eat a full-fat real sugar ice cream if that’s what you’re craving, it will be 10x better and tastier than the dairy base those coffee chains use.

8 ) WTF: Non-Fat and Sugar-Free/Diet is Healthy
I honestly cannot believe this is still a thing!!! Fats are necessary. Carbs are necessary. Whole, real, healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts, coconut oils, clean dairy and meats, etc) and whole, complex carbs are the building blocks of your body. Fake sugars are toxic. Many would advise drinking a REAL sugar Coke any day over a diet soda. And definitely not every day.

It’s mind blowing that non-fat and diet-food (soda and candy/snacks particularly) items are still so popular and their advertising is so effective. I shed a tear! I know some people use diet sodas to enjoy a soda while maintaining diabetic insulin levels, so thankfully new sugar substitutes are coming out that are safer than Xylitol and Aspartame.

More tips will be coming soon… If you have a bizarre food myth or tip, post in the comments!

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