Monday, August 27, 2012

Perimeter Shopping for Eating Clean

The majority of health-conscious people say that you can't lose weight and get healthy if you are not eating clean.  What is eating clean?  Very simply, eating clean means your menu consists of whole, natural products...foods that do not have any man-made components to them...and avoiding the things that make up the Standard American Diet (SAD).  The SAD diet has all the elements one would eat to increase heart disease, stroke, cancer, and intestinal disorders among other things.  Those elements are:  high in animal fats, high in unhealthy fats, low in fiber, low in complex carbohydrates, low in plant-based foods and high in processed foods.

People who eat clean eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fresh lean meat, fish and poultry and complex carbohydrates.  They are eliminating things like processed foods, foods with chemicals in them (usually the ones in the ingredient list that you can't pronounce), additives, preservatives, dyes, etc.

One of the problems for people converting to clean eating is that they are addicted to the sugars in processed foods, fast food, and things like white bread.  It does take some time and effort, but if you can stick with it your tastes WILL change and you will become not only accustomed to whole foods, but you will PREFER whole foods.

Remember, though, my advice from the very beginning of this blog:  Make changes gradually for a better chance of making them long-term changes.  Maybe try not to go clean all at one shot, but start by switching things out a little at a time.  One good place to start, in my opinion, is to start eating whole grains instead of white flour in all your products.  Switching to healthier breads and pastas, for me, was an easy change.  Then start incorporating one or two new fruits and vegetables at a time.  Sometimes I have to get creative.  At this point I am not a big fan of squash, but if I cook it and then puree a couple cups of butternut squash to the base of the vegetable soup I make it gives it more body and depth of flavor without being overpowering.  A lot of people get more fruits or vegetables by blending them into other foods, such as smoothies or spaghetti sauce.

This takes me to my personal strategy for buying groceries:  shopping the perimeter.  What does that mean?  Well, have you ever noticed that the fresh and natural foods are mostly around the outer edges of the store?  The processed foods in boxes and bags are usually all in the aisles in the  middle of the store.  I shop the perimeter as much as possible, and rarely do I go into the aisles.  Notice I didn't save "never".  I said "rarely".  I still buy canned vegetables sometimes for the convenience, although they do have added sodium (I try to get low sodium).  When I buy canned vegetables it's always either green beans, peas or corn.  All other vegetables I buy from the produce section or frozen fresh with no additives.  My oatmeal and my husband's tea are in the cereal aisle.  It's not that you have to completely avoid the aisles at all costs, but avoid them as much as you personally possibly can.  Some people are die-hard clean eaters and would not ever even consider buying something processed or canned or whatever.  But, for the majority of us that extremism isn't going to work for the long-term.  And if you read my blog, you know I am all about "what works for the long-term".

Do you know why they put the milk along the very back wall?  It's an item that people need frequently, but you have to go through all the processed and impulse foods before you get there.  When you go to buy milk you almost always leave with something else in hand.  But, because it's on the back wall and it's a natural product, it fits right in with the "perimeter shopping" rule. Just be careful getting there...the grocery store is a treacherous place! :)  Breads, produce, meats, fish, eggs, milk, other dairy like cheese and yogurt are all found around the edges of the store.  Stay around the edges as much as you can when shopping.

And, here's another idea.  Try your local farmer's market like a Sprout's or Whole Foods or something.  Their produce is usually much fresher and better quality, and it's usually cheaper, too.  Then, at the same time, you can go to their bulk bins and buy all kinds of clean foods like dried peas and beans, seeds, nuts, whole wheat flour, quinoa (MUCH cheaper in bulk than in a little box), brown rice, flax seed and more.  I find that buying from the bulk bins is much more economical than buying things pre-packaged.  You can find some interesting things there, too.  Yes, it's an extra trip to another store, but it really is worth it.  I shop three stores a week...Super Wal-Mart, Fry's and Sprouts.  And I've gotten to the point that I enjoy going to Sprouts.  I made the mistake last week of buying eggplant at Fry's in the produce section.  Both of them were rotten when I cut them open the next day.  I went to Sprouts and they were perfectly fresh and cheaper.  I should have gone there to begin with and would have actually saved time and headache in the process.

It does take some time, effort and a change of habitual patterns, but it possible to change your tastes and preferences in types of foods.  Eat clean for a cleaner, healthier body.  And one trick to doing this is to shop the perimeter.

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Happy Shopping!
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