Part IV: Ingredients – You get out what you put in…

Weight Loss Unmasked: A five part series looking deeper at why we struggle with losing weight

By Briana Boehmer

I’m amazed at how little we pay attention to the content of the food we eat.  As I walked through the grocery story this evening I took a moment to grab items I NEVER entertain buying.  I wanted to remind myself of WHY I don’t buy them.  First ingredient SUGAR…okay, don’t need that.  Yellow lake 5…mmmm, what food group is that?  Hydrogenated…what?  If you read a label and you have to think about what you are reading, put the item BACK!

My point is simple – what VALUE does the food you are eating have to your body?  What will it DO FOR YOU?  Just like when you got to a financial advisor to help you build your portfolio, go to food to help build a strong, healthy body.  Just liking saving money for retirement, what you eat now has a huge impact on quality of life down the road.

I know the question you are now asking…”What do I eat then?!”  I do believe that is a very personal question sometimes, however there are GREAT tools you can use to help guide your food choices.   I was fortunate to listen to a brilliant man by the name of Dr. David Katz speak last year at a state wellness conference.  He is the brains behind an innovative nutrition labeling system called NuVal.  The system is VERY SIMPLE.  The NuVal System scores food on a scale of 1-100. The higher the NuVal Score, the better the nutrition.  Check it out here:

What I LOVE about NuVal is that it takes into account the true nutritional value of the food you eat.  Medical and nutrition experts lead by Dr. Katz and the Yale Prevention Research Center spent two years to develop the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI™), a complex and advanced algorithm which converts complex nutritional information into a single, easy-to-use score – The NuVal Score.  The score goes beyond the basic nutrition label to really determine what value the food has. It considers 30-plus nutrients and nutrition factors – the good (protein, calcium, vitamins) and the not-so-good (sugar, sodium, cholesterol).  In a nutshell it weighs the good with the bad to produce a number you can trust to make better decisions about nutrition in just a few seconds.

First things first, I’m not saying you need to memorize the NuVal score for every food you eat.  What I am saying is that you should take the time to understand what the foods you eat are providing your body.  For example, a cereal I have always loved, Kashi Strawberry Fields, has a NuVal score of 10!  Compare that to blueberries…they have a score of 100!  For examples of NuVal scores follow this link:

The biggest drawback right now with NuVal is that you can only find them posted in certain grocery stores across the nation.  Check out if a store near you displays them:  If you do not have a store near you that supports NuVal, suggest that your local market start to!  Also take time to search through the NuVal website.  There are some great educational resources to take advantage of – Like suggestions on how to replace foods you eat with better choices (they call “trading up”) and an interactive “nutrition by the numbers” game where you can test your knowledge on the foods you eat!

Understanding what you are putting in your body is one of the fundamental components of successful behavior change and weight loss.  NuVal is one tool I feel has significant merit.  Knowledge truly is power…when you know what you are buying you are more apt to think twice.

Read the other blogs in this weight loss series:

  1. Part 1: You Have to EAT to Lose Weight
  2. Part 2: Food Journaling Matters A LOT
  3. Part 3: All Calories Were NOT Created Equal

Healthy Nutrition and Food Stocking Basics for Beginners

c/o: US Department of Agriculture

“Healthy” is a tricky term because most everything these days seems to be tilted that direction in some way. If you’re not a nutritionist, or a fitness fanatic, it’s hard to know where to begin and what to buy. Keeping your kitchen healthy doesn’t have to be so hard. Start with some simple basics from the lists we’ve put together for you below. Having these items in your food pantry will help tremendously towards well balanced meals and well balanced health.

Fat, oil and sweets, when chosen well, can lead to a healthy heart. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered good fats. Saturated and trans fats are considered bad fats. Watch for those terms on labels. Keep limitations on things like butter, cheese and ice cream. Replace butter with vegetable oils and red meat with fish or white meat poultry. Utilize this category sparingly in your diet. In other words: don’t overindulge. For more in depth information on which fats are good and which are bad, click here.

  • Avocado
  • Peanut butter
  • Honey
  • Olive, sunflower, soy oil
  • Flaxseed
  • Hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds
  • Olives

Protein fills you up without filling up your whole plate. keep your energy high throughout the day by adding protein sources to your snacks and meals. These are some easy things you can stock up on. To learn more about how protein affects your diet, click here.

  • Seafood – tuna and especially salmon, which provides heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
  • White-meat poultry
  • Eggs
  • Kidney, white, black beans, chickpeas – great to add to salads, rice or as a side dish. They contain fiber as well, so they’ll keep you full!
  • Meal replacement drinks/energy bars – get your protein in on a tight timeline
  • Yogurt/Milk/Cheese – keep small amounts of these handy to add to meals and recipes to get your calcium intake and add some flavor!

Fruits and vegetables provide a good punch of vitamins and minerals throughout your day. When you’re picking what to stock up on, think whole, raw and dark. Canned, syrupy options are filled with sugars and contain very little health benefit. Picking up whole fruits and veggies give you the best nutrients. Dark, leafy vegetables should be a staple in your diet a few times a week. If you’re a vegetarian, these can be substituted for meat as well. And, be careful how much oil, butter or dressings you use on them. For more about fruits and veggies, or some yummy recipes, click here.

  • Pomegranate
  • Legumes
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Asparagus
  • Bell peppers
  • Sweet potato
  • Broccoli
  • Mango
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Carrots
  • Berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, goji berries)

Carbs can be beneficial if eaten in the right amount. They provide your body with fuel to burn through throughout the day. You will want to have a good stock of whole grains to choose from. Keep bread to a minimum and use fruits, vegetables and proteins to add flavor versus sauces, toppings and dips. For more information about what carbs can do for your body, click here.

  • Quinoa
  • Steel cut oats
  • Whole grain bread
  • Whole wheat couscous
  • Brown rice
  • Wild rice

Next time you hit the grocery store, think whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Stick to the outside aisles except for beans, peanut butter and meal replacements like protein drinks or bars. Stay away from fruit juices, canned fruits and vegetables and packaged items. When you hit the kitchen, fill up your belly on more protein than carbs. Use seeds, nuts, bean salads and fruits/veggies for snacks.

What fills your kitchen now? If you threw out all that wasn’t on this list – what would be left?