How to Choose Foods Wisely?

I don’t have the answer; I’m just askin’ the question.

I’m not much for food rules. I’m not much for rules in general (ask my mother). Still, I feel an obligation to provide some guidance that counterbalances the Government-Approved Information on Nutrition (code name: “GAIN”) that screams at us from every shelf in the supermarket.

There are a lot of “how to” guides on choosing foods wisely, from Michael Pollan’s 7 rules to the How to Find Real Food at the Supermarket from Darya Pino to a grass-fed, organic approach from Healthy Eating Politics to a more academic approach from Carlos Monteiro (scroll down to his discussion on meat and bread).

I like all of these.  At the same time, I want something I could give to patients and clients that will help them make reasonable choices—yes, even if they are buying food at a gas station. Most importantly, I want to make this something everyone can do regardless of income level. We have to acknowledge that, at least for now, many “cleanly produced” foods (grassfed beef, farmers’ market eggs, organically-raised produce, etc.) are WAY more expensive than their grocery store counterparts.  Still, I think I would recommend grocery store pork chops over organic “convenience” foods like this

even though all 25 ingredients are “organic”!! even the tofu!

Here’s my initial stab at a “choose wisely” approach. However, I think my own brain capacity is quite limited (especially when I’m trying to wrap it around biostatistics). I’d love some feedback and suggestions for improvement from the community of folks who are doing their best to “choose wisely” on a daily basis. This is not geared toward any particular “dietary approach,” although—as it happens—reducing processing tends to reduce unnecessary carbohydrates. Hmmm. How truly convenient.

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4 thoughts on “How to Choose Foods Wisely?

  1. You know what is a really fun conversation with a grocery manager? Asking why my local Pacific Beach (San Diego) Trader Joe’s is importing farmed shrimp from VIETNAM when there is a highly regarded, sustainable, seafood farming operation in Carlsbad, which is located about 15 minutes north up the freeway. The verbal gymnastics used to justify this purchasing decision was pretty spectacular.

    1. Did any of the verbal gymnastics involve the final cost to the consumer–or maybe profit margin to the company? I would truly like to know the logistics of creating smaller circles of production/consumption–but it’s hard to get at that information.

  2. The problem with these recommendations is that widespread adoption would result in a serious decline in revenue for industrial food processors and pharmaceutical companies.

    Oh, wait…nevermind.

    1. Ah yes, there’s that. But imagine if the giant food processors downsized and decentralized and diversified (ok, you have to have a really GOOD imagination), to help small/medium sized farmers keep local foods local (after all, some level of processing can be acceptable). Could we work towards that at least?

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