Monday, April 11, 2011

Buying pre-packaged foods

A lot of people tell me: "I don't cook, but I eat healthy! I buy my food from (pick one: Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, etc)" Where you buy your food does not signify healthy. WHAT you buy is what is healthy. You can get organic lettuce at the 99 cent store, and you can get a gluten-free high-sugar snack from Whole Foods. Which is healthier for you?

It's really hard to eat enough fruits and veggies if you don't cook. Minimally, you must wash, chop and/or peel sometimes. You really don't need to be a gourmet cook, or spend hours in the kitchen. Most of my meals take 5-20 minutes to prepare. I call it "making food" so that you know it is different than when I really hunker down to cook.

So, I have given myself the task of buying pre-packaged foods to see what my weight-loss/nutrition students really eat. Here is one example of my analysis:

---Prepackaged Rice Noodle Bowl, Mushroom Flavor, Ready-to-Eat in 3 minutes---
Flavor= good, has garlic mushroom taste from the flavor packets
Sodium= 29% RDA per serving. Here is the sneaky thing, the label says there is 2 servings per package. That means you are getting almost 60% of your RDA for sodium in one bowl of noodles! EEK! No more salty food for today!
Fiber= ZERO = Simple Carbs (bad for low-glycemic index eating)
Vitamins= 2% Vitamin C & Calcium X 2 (because I'm eating the whole bowl) = 4% Vitamin C & Calcium
Calories= 140 X 2 = 280

In all, this bowl of noodles is filling 280 calories of simple carbs.
How to make this a decent food item?
1) Get some lean protein like chicken or wild salmon
2) Cook a side of leafy green veggies and put on top
3) Treat this noodle bowl as a "side" and not an entree--the entree is the lean protein and veggies.

If you're opting for pre-packaged food, look in the deli section for more "fresh" sandwiches, hummus, sushi. If you're opting for canned or dry foods, look for veggie-based dishes like the vacuum-packed Indian eggplant dish or a carton of butternut squash soup. Ultimately, you want to put together your pre-packaged food with fresh veggies or fruit or other food (like lean protein) so that you can have a well-rounded nutrient-dense, and healthy low-glycemic meal.