Unlearn to shop within the aisles of a supermarket and learn to stick to its perimeters. Why? Because that’s where all the fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables are located. This is where 80% of your diet should be coming from.
Some food for thought
The reason why fruits and vegetables aren’t packaged with eye catching funky labels is because they sell themselves. Think about it. If our packaged processed goods didn’t have their fun names, slogans, and were in plain boxes, chances are you wouldn’t buy them, nor think it were a good idea to consume them for nourishment and energy. Moreover, if these foods were named accordingly, you’d be very hesitant to purchase and consume them. Can you imagine if fruit loops were named “combined artificial flavours and sugar”? Chances are you’d stop thinking that they’re adequate food choices. Imagine if sour patch kids were labelled “ground up animal bones and remains with sugar and colours”
Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables
Just because frozen fruits and vegetables are cheaper and aren't fresh doesn't mean they are not full of nutrients. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often filled with the same, if not more nutrients than fresh fruits and vegetables. Melanie McGrice, a spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia on the ABC show, the war on waste stated that:
"Picking vegies from your own vegie garden out the back has to be the optimal situation. [But] in Australia, vegies often have to travel a very long distance to get to us. This can take several days. We know that the longer it takes to get fresh food to us from the farm, the more the nutrients [in the food] slowly decrease. On the other hand, the nutrients in frozen produce are sealed into the veg during the freezing process. I'm not saying fresh fruit and veg is not a good choice. We are very privileged to have the variety of fruits and vegies that we grow in Australia. But frozen vegetables are certainly a valid option." So not only are frozen whole foods good, if you have to leave the perimeter of the supermarket aisles then make sure you are sticking to whole foods with minimal processing.
Familiarise yourself with your supermarket
Nuts, seeds, nut milks, tofu, whole grains, bread, canned vegetables and other staples belong in the supermarket perimeters as well as down certain aisles. It is important to familiarise yourself with the supermarket you shop at and know how to avoid the catchy marketing techniques of fast, processed, junk foods.
It is important to have a 5-ingredient rule when it comes to anything in a packet. Why? Because if something contains more than 5 ingredients it starts becoming more and more removed from what the food originally was. With this comes a severe lack of nutrients and malnourishment for the food source. For example, once you start getting E numbers, preservatives and multiple sugars you know you have come too far and are venturing into junk or convenient food territory. Combined, these should make up 20% of your diet if you want them to. By all means if you never want to eat junk then simply don’t.
There are very few exceptions to this rule. For example, Kez’s Kitchen, Bodyscience, and Macro all have products include more than five ingredients, however, these ingredients are all whole foods blended together without preservatives, alcohol sugars, emulsifiers and artificial ingredients. I view this as okay. I’m definitely not telling you to eat everything out of a packet if it’s still healthy however, I’m just telling you to be aware of healthier processed options.
Health food aisles
More and more supermarkets have health food sections which are important to familiarise yourself with. Here is where you can find those harder to source essential vegan diets ingredients like buckwheat flour, quinoa, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and other healthy snacks. I do however recommend buying these specific ingredients in bulk to save on packaging and to save money!
Eat a full spectrum everyday
Variety is key in a healthy diet. Why? Because every plant interacts with different parts of our bodies. Eating varied whole food snacks and meals supports a diet diverse in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. The term "eat the rainbow" explains, in a simplified way, that the colour of your food can tell you a lot about its nutritional value and eating a variety of colours is one sure method to get as many of those vitamins and minerals as possible. It's not challenging to get the vitamins and nutrients you need from a solid, balanced diet, but it can be difficult if you're a fussy eater, tend to eat out a lot and have little understanding of the importance diet plays in our overall health. Also, consuming the same over-processed, undernourishing foods day in and day out limits nutrients available to the body, meaning you could be on your way to developing health issues, both mentally and physically.
Whole foods, recovery and performance
Do you train or exercise and need to recover more effectively? Do you value your athletic and body performance? If so, nutrition and diet is critically important for your athletic functioning. Quickly consuming fast or processed foods will enable your body to replenish its carbohydrate stores and promote muscle recovery however, long term it will inhibit individuals from the benefits of plant-based eating on recovery and performance. Neil Barnard’s “Six reasons athletes are running toward a vegan diet” (listed below) explains the performance enhancing power of a plant-based diet. https://www.pcrm.org/news/blog/six-reasons-athletes-are-running-toward-vegan-diet
- Even athletes are at risk for heart disease: In one study, 44 percent of endurance cyclists and runners had coronary plaques. A plant-based diet keeps athletes’ hearts strong by reversing plaque, bringing down blood pressure and cholesterol, and reducing weight.
- Meat consumption and high cholesterol levels exacerbate inflammation, which can result in pain and impair athletic performance and recovery. Studies show that a plant-based diet may have an anti-inflammatory effect.
- A plant-based diet, which is low in saturated fat and free of cholesterol, helps improve blood viscosity, or thickness. That helps more oxygen reach the muscles, which improves athletic performance.
- Plant-based diets improve arterial flexibility and diameter, leading to better blood flow. One study found that even a single high-fat meal, including sausage and egg McMuffins, impaired arterial function for several hours.
- Compared with meat-eaters, people eating a plant-based diet get more antioxidants, which help neutralize free radicals. Free radicals lead to muscle fatigue, reduced athletic performance, and impaired recovery.
- Plant-based diets, which are typically low in fat and high in fibre, can reduce body fat. Reduced body fat is associated with increased aerobic capacity—or the ability to use oxygen to fuel exercise. Studies show that athletes on a plant-based diet increase their VO2 max—the maximum amount of oxygen they can use during intense exercise—leading to better endurance.
Choosing less processed whole foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes that are good sources of carbohydrate as well as containing several important vitamins and minerals supporting recovery is important as our muscle glycogen stores need to be appropriately replenished. Instead of just grabbing an energy bar or sports drink, choose nutrient-dense, whole foods for optimum nutritional absorption and recovery. What I mean by this is choosing a banana, and fresh berries for you glycogen instead of an artificial sports bar. Similarly opt for a whole food smoothie instead of a fast food option. Don’t just think a supplement is enough. Supplements are called supplements for a reason, they're meant to supplement your healthy diet, not make up your whole diet.
80% of your diet should be from plant-based, whole, natural and unprocessed foods. In this way you will capitalise on your body’s ability to convert food into energy as well a providing it with adequate nourishment allowing you to feel and function more optimally.
- Staff Writers (14 May 2017), retrieved 2 September 2019 from ABC health & wellbeing: War on Waste: Are Fresh Veggies Always Healthier Than Frozen: https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2017-05-14/fresh-vs-frozen-vegies/8443310
- Barnard, N. (10 January 2019), retrieved 15 September from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: Six Reasons Athletes are Running Towards a Vegan Diet.
- Henry, A. (27 June 2014) What it Means to eat the Rainbow, retrieved 14 August 2019 from Life Hacker: https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2014/06/what-it-means-to-eat-the-rainbow/