Navigating your diet requires attention and a commitment to making better choices

A trip to the grocery store is a real decision-making stew. Broccoli or beans for dinner. Fresh or frozen fruit. Wheat, white or rye bread. Beef or chicken. Sirloin or lining. Fruity pebbles or lucky charms. (There shouldn’t be the answer either.)

And there are many variables behind the decisions we make. Personal preference. Costs. Brand loyalty. Environmental awareness. And we have to assume that it is health.

Even within the healthy choice category, there are a variety of issues to be considered. Added sugar. Saturated fat. Sodium content. Fiber. Lactose. Gluten. And who could forget the multitude of ingredients that are unrecognizable or whose words are too long to pronounce? It’s enough to get a stunned shopper to grab a frozen pizza and run. But that wouldn’t be a good choice for a number of reasons.

For help, we reached out to two local experts, Janet Seiber, clinical nutritionist at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, and Lee Murphy, registered nutritionist and lecturer at the University of Tennessee, to take us on a tour of the grocery store and to discuss the choices we face. Pay close attention to it; There is a lot to digest.

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It’s hard to go wrong when we buy products, both Seiber and Murphy agree. In fact, we’d do well to shop this area more often and thoroughly, as most Americans don’t consume the five USDA-recommended fruits and vegetables per day. Shopping for a variety of colors makes for a good selection of vitamins and minerals, and fresh produce also provides the fiber needed for a healthy digestive tract.

Some nutritionists recommend that customers consider organic products, especially if they are skin-free or non-exfoliating products. And remember, if an item is labeled organic it meets the necessary criteria for pesticide use.

Bread and bakery

The name of the game for a good selection of breads and cereals is more fiber and less sugar. Added sugar is one of the biggest nutrients health professionals are targeting today. They lead to serious health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, and obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Added sugars are those that are added to foods during their processing. (Naturally occurring sugars, such as in fruit and milk, are not added.) As of this year, added sugars must be listed on food labels immediately below the total sugar line.

A rose by any other name would smell so sweet, but sugar with any number of names is still best avoided. These names include corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, malt syrup, maltose, sucrose, honey, and molasses. Cookies and cakes and other such desserts are usually loaded with added sugars and shouldn’t be part of a daily diet.

In terms of bread, seber should aim for at least two grams of fiber per serving and little or no added sugar. Whole grain or whole wheat should be one of the first items on the ingredient list. What about multigrain? Doesn’t mean anything, she says. Regarding gluten, the only important thing to avoid is if you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity. There is no need to avoid it for general health reasons.

Fiber is also why nutritionists prefer brown rice, whole wheat pasta, steel oats, and other whole grains over their processed, whiter counterparts. In addition to keeping your digestion going well, fiber slows the rate at which sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream. This will prevent your blood sugar levels from rising too quickly, e.g. B. if you ate a sugary treat on an empty stomach and felt a little unwell afterwards.

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Saturated fat – the kind that solidifies as it cools, like bacon fat or the ingredients in a large, juicy rib – is the culprit in the meat department. However, with intelligent decisions this can easily be avoided or at least minimized. Choose leaner cuts – loins and lobes – instead of the heavily marbled or greasy chucks and shoulders. When it comes to ground beef, aim for something around 90 percent lean, says Seiber. And remember, one serving size of protein is only about three or four ounces.

Seafood is also an important element of a healthy diet. Two servings per week are recommended. The fat found in fish is omega 3, says Seiber, and that’s anti-inflammatory. Since Tennessee is not a coastal state, Seiber recommends using fresh fish within a day or two of buying or purchasing frozen fish.

Other protein concerns include raising the animals or fish, and two chiropractors from Knoxville, who are incorporating dietary advice into their practice, warn about the chemicals found in grain-fed meat and farmed fish.

“There are hundreds of studies linking commercial meat to cancer and heart disease,” said Dr. Jack Parrish of the Victory Health Center of a group of adults gathered for his nutrition class. “They feed animals with grain that was created to eat grass. This changes the fatty acid ratio and denatures good fats, which leads to modern diseases. “

Dr. Pete Sulack of Exodus Chiropractic shares similar views. “When you eat fish,” he says, “the omega-3 fatty acids are what causes it. Fish in the wild eat algae, but farmed fish do not, and these algae are important for the production of omega-3 fatty acids. “

Eggs and dairy products

We’re back to the dangers of saturated fats in the dairy department – those fats that solidify when solid, on a bowl or in our arteries. Butter and cheese are bad guys for saturated fat, so use them sparingly, suggests Seiber. Margarine has its own problems; Stick margarine usually contains hydrogenated oils and trans fats, which are no better.

Low-fat or fat-free milk is the smart choice – or unsweetened non-dairy milk like almond or coconut. Yogurt is good for digestive health; Greek yogurt has drained more fluids and is more protein and less carbohydrate. Many yogurts have added sugar or sugar substitutes, be aware of this.

Eggs are a good source of protein; Sulack prefers cage-free organic eggs, which are more expensive but contain more amino acids and proteins, he says.

Processed foods

We’ve all probably heard that the healthiest way to shop is to stick to the outside of the grocery store – especially the produce, bread, meat, and dairy areas. But most of us venture into the aisles where the processed food is. Here are the culprits to watch out for:

Sodium: Increases blood pressure. Try to limit the sodium content to 350 milligrams in a serving, says Seiber. The total daily intake should not exceed 2,300 milligrams.

Calories per serving size: Calories per serving size are very important to consider. Moderately active women should eat around 2,000 calories a day. Men should eat around 2,600. To lose weight, subtract roughly 500 calories a day.

Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners: We have already discussed the need to limit the amount of sugar added. The same applies to artificial sweeteners. A few servings a day is okay, says Seiber, but be careful if you consume excessive amounts.

Chemicals: Processed foods contain many additives that flavor, preserve, thicken, mix and color foods. The FDA examines, regulates, and monitors them for safety before they are admitted. Still, many of them may not be particularly good to consume in large quantities. Good rule of thumb for the most cautious consumer: if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.

Murphy points out that the ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. So if sugar is at the top, put that potential purchase back on the shelf. “There are some ingredients that most people generally want to look out for,” she says, “like high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils, but in my opinion the bigger problem is limiting sugar and less desirable ingredients as a number or two ingredients on the list. “

The bottom line

Diet can be confusing, and sometimes the expert advice seems to change by the minute. Murphy disagrees. “It’s like coffee,” she says. “Some studies say you will live 1000 years. others say coffee will kill you. People believe the study whether they like coffee. “

The bottom line, she says, is America’s big problem with food is eating too much of it – or too much of the wrong stuff. Weight gain and obesity are the issues that we need to address most urgently.

“Look at the portion size first,” she says of studying food labels. “If you eat three servings, the rest of the information on the label is irrelevant.”

Then look at the fiber content – the more the better – and limit the sugar content. And don’t forget to exercise every day.

“Of course we want people to eat right,” she says. “But when we’re overwhelmed, the main focus should be on serving size, calories and fiber, and exercise.”

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