The following is a blog post written by Katie Brown of ReaI Food with Gratitude.
In recent years people are looking for enhanced transparency. Consumers are seeking honesty from the food and beverage world. As a result, brands have started simplifying their products and using higher quality ingredients. Entire companies have formed, because of this era of ingredient transparency. Grocery stores are also beginning to follow suit. Five to ten years ago, you we’re almost forced to shop exclusively at your local natural health food store to get anything that was, organic, non-GMO or gluten free! Of course, those stores are still great and it’s easy to spend hours there, geeking out on all the healthy food options, but these boutique health food stores are notorious for breaking the bank and the high cost often deters people from eating healthy foods.
Just as we’re seeing food brands take hold of this concept, something exciting has happened in recent years… the bigger chain/big box stores are beginning to respond to the trend! The stores I’m talking about are ones that typically carry 1-3 different products of the “popular” brands or the industries biggest players. Choosing healthy options at these stores has been difficult in the past, but it seems as if we’re turning a corner toward making health foods, not only more affordable, but also accessible!
One of the main places I’ve started to notice this shift in recent years is Costco! Growing up Costco was one of my favorite places to shop and I remember that I would go every Sunday with my dad as he stocked up for the house and his dental office for the week. From what I remember, we bought mostly, fruit, cheese, veggies, bread, alcohol and household cleaning items. So, that’s what I went to Costco for when I had my own house and needed those things. Over the past year, I’ve noticed Costco seriously stepping up its game! I would see a brand here and there that I would buy somewhere like Whole Foods and think, “OMG, they have xxx and look at the price!”. Recently, I’ve even begun to grocery shop at Costco! Five years ago that is something I never would have even imagined! I’ve seen the same shift at everyone’s FAVE place for the essentials (or not so essentials)… YOU GUESSED IT, TARGET! Target has started to carry SO many more amazing health food options than they used to!
Beginning to shop at these larger stores, you have to make sure you’re navigating through the products the correct way and utilizing the nutritional panel in order to find the healthy food options! For example, JUST because a box of crackers is labeled “Organic Flax and Chia Whole Grain Crackers” does not mean its good for you! It’s a common mistake to see the words “healthy” and pull the trigger, but pause; pick it up, turn it around, look at what’s inside…. And no, I’m not referring to the calories and carbs.
When you look at the ingredients list, here is a quick list of what to avoid:
Enriched wheat flour or sugar being listed as one of the first ingredients. High Fructose Corn Syrup, corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, fructose, shortening, artificial sweeteners, canola oil, soy (soy flour, soybean oil, soy protein isolate, etc), BHT, glycerin, vegetable oil, dextrose, vegetable glycerin, rice starch, shortening, monosodium glutamate, sodium nitrate, carrageenan, sulfites, paraben, sucraclose, any food coloring (red #5, caramel coloring), sodium benzoate.
People can tell you all day to avoid those above, but WHY?
For example, artificial sweeteners tend to have, no sugar and no calories, so to most people thats perfect. However, the main reason is that artificial sweeteners are just chemicals and can typically raise your blood pressure which then has you actually crave sweets (and who wants that?!)
You see canola oil used in lots of products and baked goods too. Why avoid that? Some people think canola oil is healthy due to his high omega 3 properties but that's just surface level. Canola oil is a genetically modified product and is refined aka. it's partially hydrogenated, which forms its negative health effects.
Nitrates are added to foods as a preservative; to prevent bacteria from growing. There many studies that say consuming too much of this type of preservative can increase the cause of pancreatic cancer, in more ways than one. And if you've been following me for a while, you probably know, pancreatic cancer is extremely close to my heart. Anything to avoid increasing that demon of a disease is enough for me.
What to look for: Quality, REAL FOOD, with minimal ingredients. Avoid preservatives as much as possible. This is to feel good and feel your best, feel confident and fuel your body with what it deserves (for now and for the long term)
One of the key things I’ve realized about living a healthy lifestyle is that you don’t have to give up your favorite foods. It’s about finding a healthier version of that food! The options exist and are becoming easier to find i.e. Target, Costco, etc.
A few weeks ago I found out that Rise Bar, is now being carried at BOTH of these stores, which signifies a huge turning point in my opinion! I had searched for granola and protein bars at these stores in the past, but it was impossible to find anything that didn’t have “agave” or “brown rice syrup” or was filled with sugary things to hold the bar together, etc. I mean, most of us were given “granola bars” and “protein bars” growing up and it was considered to be a “healthy snack, but if you haven’t already, I encourage you to go check out what’s in some of those bars you used to eat as a child. It will blow your mind! The industry was driven off of convenience and sustained by a lack of knowledge. Seeing that these big players, Target and Costco are beginning to carry a product like Rise Bar, Gluten Free, Soy Free, Peanut Free, No Sugar Alcohols, No Preservatives, Non-GMO and Nothing Artificial is HUGE! Also, these bars have only about 5 ingredients in them. In my opinion, they are CHANGING THE GAME when it comes to packaged foods and bars. They have plant-based options and whey protein options, something for everyone! I think as we continue to show retailers that we favor these kinds of products they will respond and we will all be better, healthier and happier because of it!