I’ve been asked how to define/find good food. We must navigate through a minefield of cheap and dangerous fakes.
Three simple guidelines:
- If it is a single-ingredient, unprocessed item (whole melon, not already sliced) – go for it!
- If it claims health benefits/vitamins on the packaging – be skeptical!
- If grandma wouldn’t recognize the ingredients (long chemical names) – avoid!
- Anything from the fruit/veggie section is generally good (but those in EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list are full of pesticides and should be avoided unless organic).
- Bread from “healthy whole grains fortified with vitamins” – sounds good, but synthetic vitamins are often counterproductive and downright harmful. Berries and green vegetables don’t need a marketing department because everyone agrees they are good!
- Dried mango is fine (though high sugar), but “sodium [meta]bisulfite” isn’t. It’s important to avoid preservatives/artificial coloring/taste ‘enhancers’.
- Fruit: organic! berries/apples/oranges; kiwi/passionfruit/banana; occasional pineapple/watermelon.
- Nuts/seeds: walnut/pecan/cashew/almond; sunflower seed/pistachio/pine nut (all need soaking)
- Beans: Lentil/chickpea (all need soaking)
- Non-starchy vegetables: almost anything! Celery/capsicum should be organic. Try to maximize colors!
- Starch: sweet potatoes should replace potatoes; cooking bananas (plantains) also OK.
- Meat: antibiotic and hormone-free, e.g. from The Barbie Girls. Cannot do beef; lamb is generally better raised than chicken/pork.
- Sugar: avoid, replace with honey/maple syrup.
- Grains: avoid gluten (wheat and others); some oats OK.
- Rice occasionally OK; brown rice (with hulls) has more nutrients but also more arsenic; white rice pretty much ’empty calories’ without benefit.
- Meat: farmed salmon and cheap chicken/pork very bad. Better to eat 5x more expensive meat 1/5th as often.
- Dairy: quite bad _as currently produced_. Goat milk is better, cheese+yogurt sometimes OK.
- Oil: cheapo vegetable oil very bad, but used in almost all commercial food.
In short, 99.9% of ready-made food violates these guidelines, hence we make everything from scratch. Vegetables and sweet potatoes always have a place, though!