Grocery shopping for me is like going to Disneyland.

I get all giddy and excited. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we never bought groceries when I was a child and our fridge was always empty. For me a trip to the grocery store was like a trip to a magical land where nobody was ever hungry. It still makes me happy.

Grocery stores have become increasingly confusing. They seem bigger, and yet there is less variety. The very first time I ever bought my own groceries I was so confused that I bought a few cases of pizza pockets and ate those for days. I’ve come a long way since then!

Today there are a few habits I try to stick to when grocery shopping. Some have been derived from experience, and others I have studied. This is the first time I have sat down to write everything down.

GROCERY SHOPPING TIPS

1. Read everything. The more the better. Read labels even if you don’t always understand them. This will take time, but will pay off as you eventually learn which products to avoid and which ones you can embrace. Every single detail that is printed on food packaging means something.

For example, if you pick up any plastic container at a grocery store you will find a number printed at the bottom in the middle of a triangle. It’s tiny so you’ll have to look hard. A number will appear from 1-7. The number 7 means that the container is made out of a hard plastic known as polycarbonate. The most common type of polycarbonate plastic is made from bisphenol A (or BPA).

In April 2008, Health Canada announced that some studies suggest that BPA at low levels of exposure can affect neural development and behaviour in animals that have been exposed early in life. Another 2008 Health Canada testing found that plastic baby bottles leach BPA into our baby food.

Everything means something.

2. Shop around the perimeter of the grocery store first. The outer edges of the store are always where the best food is found: fresh fruits and vegetables, organic produce, fresh meats and fish. In the middle you’ve got all the prepackaged and processed foods. Fill up on the fresh stuff first.

The best foods have no labels. They’re just simply food. An apple. A stalk of celery. A carrot. If you’re curious about the nutritional breakdown of these raw fruits and vegetables, there is a great site called Calorie Connect. You just type in something like “apple” and out pops a nutrition label for it. It gives you the number of calories and the vitamin and mineral breakdown of that food.

If you prefer something you can hold, you can buy the Nutrition Almanac. This is like a Bible among nutritionists. It breaks down almost any food you can imagine. They sell copies at some health food stores like Noah’s, but you get it cheaper at Amazon.

SPECIAL PHRASES AND WHAT THEY MEAN

1. “Hydrogenated”

This means that hydrogen has been added, which makes something that was previously a fluid into a solid. Margarine is made this way. Margarine is a plant fat, whereas butter is animal fat. We know that plant fat is better for us, but plant fats are oils so we can’t spread them the way we do with butter. Our solution was adding hydrogen molecules to plant fat, thus stabilizing it into a solid (and presumably healthier), spreadable form.

The problem with hydrogenation is that it results in extra hydrogen molecules floating around in our systems. Hydrogen naturally seeks to mate with oxygen. So the extra hydrogen will steal oxygen molecules from otherwise healthy cells, resulting in the death of those cells. Hydrogenated products are man-made. I opt for something natural whenever possible. I don’t gorge on butter, so I normally buy that instead and use it in moderation.

2. “Zero Calorie”

This is one of those things that my gut initially told me not to trust, and then I did some further research. The calorie claims are true, but the ingredients are always full of chemicals. For example, our bodies have been found to break down the ingredients of Coke Zero into formaldehyde, which is poisonous to human beings. Coke Zero has been banned in Venezuela and some health care practitioners will suggest that you drink regular Coke over Diet for this reason.

3. “Natural”

The world natural is not moderated. So just because a product claims to be natural doesn’t mean that it is. Always read the label.

THE MAIN POINT

I’m always learning something new at the grocery store. However, there are three main things I have learned:

Don’t be afraid. Don’t feel overwhelmed. And do the best that you can.

Your body is an insanely complicated and marvelous organism. Its resilience against all the toxins we expose it to is nothing short of miraculous. Respect it and help it along, but there is no need to live in fear. Life was meant to be enjoyed. Food was meant to be eaten. People are more important than animals and life is more important than food.

If you can’t go cold turkey on bad habits, don’t. Start slowly. Mix some of your white rice with brown rice. Water down your juice. Mix your salted nuts in with unsalted ones. Then slowly start training your body and your taste buds to adapt. Small changes go a long way.

As far as your digestion goes, your liver is extremely important. It’s the central unit responsible for cleaning up our nutritional disasters. Essentially it functions like a filter by getting the nutrients in and the toxins out. When this natural filter becomes clogged, it affects our state of health. Here is a very simple, very natural liver cleanse.  It is safe enough to do every day or once in a while. Your liver will thank you for it.

NATURAL LIVER CLEANSE

1. Drink one cup of warm water mixed with ½ teaspoon of pure lemon juice (not the bottled stuff).

2. Don’t eat 20 minutes before you drink this (immediately after waking up is the best time since your liver works overnight while you sleep), and don’t eat for 20 minutes afterwards. Try to eventually work up to a full lemon.

You may experience a headache at first. This is because the toxins from your liver are being released into your blood stream. If this happens, reduce the amount of lemon juice.

Be warned: This also works as a diuretic. You will likely need to go to the bathroom about 20 minutes after drinking this.

Don’t take this with any medications, as it could weaken them. It may weaken birth control pills.

And now…

THE WINNER OF THE NIKON GIVEAWAY HAS BEEN CHOSEN!!!!

I held a random draw and the winner was…..

BRAD!! Congratulations!

Brad said: “I would get some great shots of all the races I plan to enter this summer. Also of the family at the pool!”

Thanks so much to everyone who entered! You guys have some amazing and very inspiring summer plans. Let me know how they go! Check back for another giveaway in May.

Have a great weekend everyone! My next post goes live on Sunday at 11pm.

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