Eating low carb is an easy way to lose weight, and losing weight may be why you’ve come to this meal plan for guidance. But we’re willing to bet that along with being leaner, you also want to be as healthy as you possibly can be. Your food choices can make an enormous difference in your health, beyond just the number of calories and carbohydrates you’re consuming. Here’s a guide to help you buy the healthiest foods you possibly can.
Organic vs. Non-organic
When you buy non-organic foods, it usually means those foods have residues of synthetic pesticides and herbicides on them, and many of those substances have been shown to be incredibly toxic to humans. Besides that, though, when a food is grown using those synthetic chemicals, it usually means the land hasn’t been well cared for, and that can mean fewer vitamins and minerals in the soil, and therefore in your food. When you buy organic fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds (and the oils that are made from them), you won’t be consuming any harmful toxins or GMO’s, and you’ll be getting more nutrient value from your food. The same goes for meats. When an animal consumes toxins, they’re often stored in the fat of that animal, which is then consumed by us.
So try as often as you can to buy organic foods. If that’s too expensive, here’s the Environmental Working Group’s list of non-organic foods with the highest and lowest amounts of chemical residues on them.
Meat labels can be confusing. In order from best option to worst option, here are the guidelines:
- Pasture raised/grass-fed, organic
- Pasture raised/grass-fed, non-organic
- All-natural, anti-biotic and hormone free
- No label discerning quality
Basically, pasture-raised or grass-fed meats are going to have the highest amount of nutrients in them and the highest quality fatty acids, including some inflammation-fighting omega 3’s. That’s because when animals eat nutrient-rich grasses and other foods they’re meant to eat (instead of partially digested grains and other inferior products), they retain those nutrients in their bodies and we then eat them. The more natural an animal’s environment (grass instead of a feed lot), the healthier that animal is, and the healthier it is for us. You can find pasture-raised and grass-fed meats at health food stores and at local ranches in your area by checking out www.eatwild.com.
If you can’t find grass-fed or pasture raised meats, go for organic meats if you can. Organic means the animals never received any hormones or antibiotics and never ate GMO’s or pesticides or herbicides. At the very least, opt for “antibiotic and hormone free” meats. You don’t need any extra hormones or antibiotics in your body. “All Natural” just means they didn’t use any chemicals like preservatives on the meat after it was processed. It says nothing about the quality of the meat itself.
Seafood and Fish
Whenever possible, opt for wild caught fish and seafood. “Farmed” fish often contain large amounts of pollutants from the water they were kept in, and some even contain harmful mercury. Here is a guide to the mercury levels in fish and seafood so you can choose wisely.
Dairy is anything that comes from an animal’s teat, so that includes milk from any animal and any product that’s made from that milk (cheese, butter, buttermilk, yogurt, sour cream, etc.). Dairy consumption comes with similar guidelines to meat because it, too, comes from an animal, and what that animal ate determines the quality of the milk. Here are the guidelines in order from best option to worst option:
- Whole fat, pastured, organic, raw (unhomogenized, unpasteurized)
- Whole fat, pastured, organic
- Whole fat, organic
- Low fat, organic
- Non-fat, organic
You’ll find the terms organic and “Pastured” on the highest quality milk and butter, which means that it came from cows that ate organic grass in a pasture. The milk and butter from pastured cows contains an abundance of conjugated linoleic acid, which is a cancer-fighting nutrient. Compared with factory farmed milk, it also has quite a bit more vitamin A, which is evident in its yellow-orange color. All of that goodness is in the fat of the milk.
That’s why when you’re buying dairy products, you want to buy the whole fat variety. Whole fat dairy is also going to be much more satiating, which means you’ll be able to eat less of it than non-fat dairy and feel more satisfied. If you can’t find whole fat products, opt for some fat, instead of non-fat. And if you want to find a local source of milk, you can do so here.
If you want truly nutritious dairy the old fashioned way, you’ll want to look into raw milk (unpasteurized, un-homogenized), which you can only get from a local dairy farmer, unless you live in California. You can learn more about that and find a source for it at www.realmilk.com/where.
Egg labels are equally as confusing as meat labels. Here they are in order from best options to worst options.
- Pastured, organic, omega 3
- Organic, omega 3
- Cage free
Cage free doesn’t mean the hens were frolicking in the out of doors eating bugs. It actually almost always means the hens were given hormones to get too big for their skeletal frame and stuffed into a poorly ventilated warehouse with thousands of other hens and given antibiotics to withstand all the bacteria they were exposed to by standing in their own feces. Sorry to get graphic, but that’s the truth of it. Cage free just means they weren’t in small cages.
Organic eggs are laid by hens that have more stringent regulations on their treatment and food supply, so there’s some comfort in that. They aren’t given hormones or antibiotics, and their food is all organic.
Pastured eggs come from hens that live outside and eat bugs and supplemental food (grains, veggies, soy). No antibiotics, no hormones, usually organic food. These are the best.
Where to Buy Uncommon Products
You might see new foods like coconut flour, almond flour, tamari, and raw nuts in the meal plan and not know where to purchase these things. Start with Google, as there’s always a source for everything there. Amazon.com is also a very good source for natural foods, believe it or not. You can usually find them cheaper there than in stores, especially if you have the free shipping option set up.