In this post, we are going to developing some real world, resume building skills. No, it’s not tips for becoming a successful cat owner, but there is probably a blog for that. We’re obviously talking about reading nutrition labels and choosing foods. What I look for, and what makes me put whatever I had in my hand- back on the shelf.
Start with your macros.
Okay. I’m going to try and make this as simple as possible. Macronutrients are the energy giving components in the food. They are what contain all of these calories people keep talking about. Carbs and proteins contain 4 calories per gram, fats contain 9 calories per gram, and alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. The question here becomes, do I need to worry about the amount of calories on the label? If you have fat loss or muscle gain goals, yes. Don’t go crazy over it, but be aware of the amount of food you consume on a day to day basis. I try to have a calorie range and make sure I hit my protein requirement for the day.
Secondly, for that specific food, are the amounts of macronutrients listed on the label reasonable, given what it it. Let me give you an example. Say I wanted to spoil Meg this past Valentine’s day, and I go out looking to pick up a nice Ribeye (chicks dig Ribeyes, right?). You can expect that, it will be mostly protein and have some amount of saturated fat. Cool, I knew that going into it, and that’s what I expected. If there were a bunch of carbohydrates, I might think otherwise about buying it. This seems like a simple concept, but one that should be applied almost subconsciously. Is the food you are buying what you actually want to buy?
Then look at your micros.
With that said, when you have selected your options, you can look at the micronutrients it provides- vitamins and minerals. These are important for daily function, and the idea behind choosing foods that have a high nutrient density. Pick foods that give you a lot of value in this regard. Keep in mind, many foods these days- especially processed ones that come in boxes or bags- are often fortified with nutrients to improve nutrient density. So, it takes a little more detective work to uncover where your nutrients are actually coming from.
Almond milk is a good example of this. Sure, it is labeled as a “healthy” food, and for the most part, it is. But, looking at the label you’ll see that a lot of those nutrients are added to replicate the normal profile of almonds as well as compete with traditional dairy. I’m not saying either is better than the other, it just comes down to personal preference, food allergies, etc. What I am saying, is look at the ingredients and determine which ones help give you that high nutrient density, and which ones don’t.
Cut through the BS.
As I said above, there’s a lot of crap in our food. I wanted to insert that “pile of crap” emoji, but that’s tough to do on a computer. Between processing to increase shelf life, different binding agents, synthetic chemicals, colorants, fake sweeteners- many of our foods are straight up awful for us. It’s not real food. It’s made in a lab. I’m a firm believer that it’s one of the reasons we as a nation continue to get sicker, larger, and more sedentary. When I look at a label, I try to limit the amount of extra “stuff” that is on the ingredient list.
People want to blame carbs- and gluten- and trans fats- and whatever else can be sold as a book to consumers. This is the reason for fad diets and all of the subsequent confusion that goes along with it. In reality, it’s simple. Care about what you put in your body, and you’ll make better decisions. When you cut out all of the junk that is put in your food, all you are left with is cleaner, healthier options. You’ll see a vast difference in the quality of your food as well as the way you feel.
Does this support my goal?
Why are you buying the food? Nutrient density, carb source, protein source? Is it in a recipe that you are prepping? Whatever the reason, that should be what drives you to buy it. So if you have specific goals that you are tailoring your diet to, then you want to look at whether it supports the goal. This is why having a shopping list can be important. If not, you end up buying things that don’t really fit into your plan.
The major example of this is going to the store hungry. It’s crazy how the brain works.
Brain- ”I’m freakin’ dying over here.”
Unconscious action- “Buy ALL of the foods.”
I’m guilty of this, too. You buy stuff that just for whatever reason that day you want. But always ask, “does this fit?” It keeps you grounded.
Let's Bag it Up
Again, it’s important to note the simplicity that I’m trying to keep with this. Buying your food should not be complicated, but there are so many choices and layers to the equation. Focus your efforts on three things: Are these the the right amounts for the food? Does this food have nutrients that will help enhance my body? Is there “stuff” and ingredients I don’t need? Then, ask the big one:
Does this support my goal? Circle that 5 or 6 times.