When you go grocery shopping, take a quick scan of what most people have in their shopping carts. You can tell at a glance if the person pushing the cart will have issues maintaining a healthy body fat percentage or not. I did this during my last visit to the grocery store, and I took some photos to share.
Let’s take a look at what people buy, shall we?
The Health Conscious Shopper
I have no doubt that the gentleman pushing this cart thinks he is making healthy food choices. He has some fruit, whole grain bagels, and vegetables in the lower part of the cart. Additionally, he just put on the checkout belt a gallon of low-fat milk. He is eating “healthy” according the dietary recommendations of the American Dietetic Association. The American Dietetic Association switched the format from the food pyramid that they really pushed back in the 1980’s and 1990’s to what is now called the MyPlate. The MyPlate plan divides the food plate into four equal parts of fruits, vegetables, grains and protein, and they add a finishing touch (I suppose) of a glass of dairy (low-fat, of course). Moreover, they recommend that the grain portion to be at least 50% whole grains. Personally, I don’t see why it is any different from the food pyramid back in the day. Both plans highly emphasize a very high carbohydrate intake with very low-fat, especially low saturated fats. The basic advice has not changed.
Moving on, you will notice upon close inspection that he also has frozen waffles and what looks like a bag of pure cane sugar crystals, and on the farther side of the cart it looks like a big bag of specialty baked bread.
Once again, I do believe this guy thinks he is making healthy food choices. I am afraid that he is not. First of all, it is very carbohydrate intense, and he has very few vegetables. There is also no good quality protein, and he has no fat at all! I will admit that maybe he is making a small food run and that he may have plenty of good protein items at home already. Even so, it would most likely be lean cuts of meat or chicken breasts, and he would quite likely have vegetable oils that he uses for cooking.
The high carbohydrate intake will tend to keep his insulin levels high, and the lack of both protein and good fats does not give his body the nutrition it needs for proper growth and repair. He is lean now, but it will be more of a struggle to stay in a healthy body fat range…and healthy overall as he gets older.
The Traditional Shopper
This one was interesting. The couple that this cart belonged to was an older hispanic couple. Take a close look at what they have. You will see eggs, beef, pork, cheese, lots of vegetables and some fruit, and they finish it with salsa. No doubt they plan on making many traditional mexican dishes. Notice what they do not have: any processed foods such as potato chips, soft drinks, bottled juice, pasta and the like. They did buy tortillas, for that is what they put on the food belt while I was taking this photo.
Clearly the contents of this food cart had a mexican slant to it, but the food choices are similar to what was common before the high fat diet was considered unhealthy: meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, butter, and hardly any processed foods, if at all. In other words, whole, natural foods. A tip of the hat to this couple. I hope they keep eating this way.
The Modern Diet
This is pervasive, especially when I go shopping over the weekend. You can see that she has an abundance of soft drinks, chips, frozen waffles, and fruit juice. I believe that there is a bottle of salsa on top. She has no meats, vegetables, or healthy fats in her cart. The majority of the shoppers I see have similar food choices. They will have some meat, eggs, vegetables and the like, but the carts are loaded with the items pictured here.
Somebody who shops like this on a consistent basis will always struggle with maintaining a healthy body weight/ body fat percentage, even if he or she tries to manage portion sizes or daily calories (say, by trying to eat 1300 calories a day). There is so very little nutritional value in all of theses items that the person eating this way will always be hungry, and he or she will most likely feel lethargic. Indeed, a chronic diet of these food items can lead to obesity, diabetes, and other degenerative diseases.
Our Grocery Cart
Here is a typical grocery run for us. On the top shelf I have all of our vegetables, usually onions, bell peppers, garlic, spinach, kale, cucumbers, avocados and so forth. On the bottom shelf I have the meats, cheese, butter or coconut oil if I need to stock up (today I have avocado oil), various vinegars and other spices, and for our indulgence, I buy a couple of dark chocolate bars (at least 85% cacao). That’s about it. On this day the grocery store had a sale on chuck roast so I really stocked up. That is about one months worth of meat, so we are good to go for a while. You’ll notice that there are no breads, pasta, potato chips or any other such processed food items. This would last Sharon and I about a week or so, and the bill for all of theses items was just north of $100.00.
It seems that people in general believe that healthy eating is way too hard to do, or too expensive to follow. I disagree. First and foremost, we simply need to get back to eating more whole foods and stay away from the processed foods that have no nutritional value, like the older couple I showed earlier. It is no more expensive to choose whole foods over processed foods, nor is it too difficult to prepare healthy meals. Just keep it simple.