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Simple but powerful: How to shop for healthful food

What’s easier, pulling a train uphill or navigating the aisles of a grocery store to find food that’s not only delicious but healthful?

Many might take their chances with the train because at least that task is more straightforward.

One of the problems is that you have a billion-dollar marketing industry selling you “health food” filled with refined sugar, refined flour, canola oil and hydrogenated oils. You need degrees in chemistry, nutrition and marketing to sift through and decipher your healthful options in the grocery store these days.

Don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom. A new trend is gaining traction by being totally transparent and listing the ingredients to healthy and clean food on the front of the package (ever seen an RX bar?) instead of small type on the back. This is a game changer that makes it easier for you to make better choices navigating the grocery store aisles.

To be clear, it doesn’t matter what the front of the package says. It’s all marketing and a huge distraction from the real information you need to know. If you are buying based on “fat-free,” “whole-grain,” “no added sugar” or “sugar-free” labels, you are probably not buying the healthiest food in the store. Instead, turn the package over and make sure you can read it and know what it is – or put it back on the shelf and move on.

Another success strategy is to shop the perimeter of the store. I know you’ve heard this before. It’s not new advice, but there are foods you should focus on in the sections on the perimeter of the store.

Meat and seafood section

Foods to pick up: Grass-fed meat; pasture-raised pork; hormone-free, antibiotic free chicken; and fatty fish such as wild-caught salmon, tuna or halibut. Quality proteins such as these aid in stabilizing blood sugar, help you feel full longer and feed your muscles.

Produce section

Eating the daily recommendation of fruits and vegetables is a challenge for many. All vegetables are fair game as they are loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals to keep your body working properly.

Foods to pick up: Sprouts, dark-leafy greens, leafy greens (such as spinach and romaine lettuce), herbs, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, radishes, mushrooms and peppers of all varieties.

Your shopping cart should look like a rainbow after leaving the produce section. Every color gives you a different nutrient. It’s these phytonutrients that really feed your cells and allow you to thrive.

Dairy section

Foods to pick up: Grass-fed dairy products – meaning the cow has been out on pasture. Skip low-fat options and go for full fat. Yes, you read that correctly: Full-fat dairy is healthier than its low-fat option.

However, be careful how much dairy you are eating each day. Dairy typically comes with the milk sugar lactose, which can increase your blood sugar and body inflammation if your immune system is already compromised.

By taking advantage of new “transparent” labeling trends and shopping more on the perimeter of the store, you can leave with clean, whole food loaded with nutrients. Remember, the more you feed your body something, the more it wants it. This week, fill your shopping cart with more fresh food and less packaged food.

Fran Sutherlin is a local registered dietitian, health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition, which has offices in Durango and Bayfield and offers virtual-coaching options. She can be reached at 444-2122 or fran@fransutherlin.com.