The Novice Foodie

Just eating real foods, lifting heavy things and learning about it along the way


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Just because your food is from a health food store doesn’t mean your food is healthy

Stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are great resources for healthy eating. Many products are truly organic, free from artificial ingredients, minimally processed and better for you, unlike many foods found in traditional grocery stores. But simply shopping at a “healthy store” does not mean it’s a free for all. A processed food is a processed food, whether you buy it at Whole Foods or you buy it at Kroger.

This post from Food Babe highlights some specific products at Trader Joe’s that are examples of some unhealthy foods found at a health food store. Like the front of a product’s package, the promises of a store like Trader Joe’s and Whole foods are not necessarily followed through in every product. The best and only way to know for sure if what you’re buying is indeed as healthy as it claims to be is to read the ingredients list.

Don’t get me wrong- Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are some of my favorite places to shop. They have some hard-to-find products that certain recipes call for (often at cheaper prices than a regular supermarket,) and they carry good brands of meats and certified organic produce. But for certain foods (frozen vegetables, for instance) you may be able to purchase an equivalent product at a regular grocery store for less money.

Some good rules to follow when navigating any store:

  • Look for products with the official logos for non-GMO/organic/gluten free. Companies can pretty much claim anything they want out front to get you to pick it up in the store, but they can’t put a certified logo on their product unless it’s true.foodlogos
  • Look for products with the least amount of ingredients. You think those “mixed frozen veggies tossed in olive oil and seasonings” is just that? Think again. Lots of other chemicals and ingredients are included that the front label says nothing about.
  • Shop towards the perimeters of the store. Avoid the aisles with boxes and bags and opt for the fresh fruits, vegetables and meats–items that don’t have nutrition labels at all. A bag of chips at Trader Joe’s isn’t necessarily that much better than a bag of chips from Walmart, so focus on the foods that are worth the trip.


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MEAL PREP: Quick, easy chicken marinade

One of the quickest, easiest, tastiest way to make chicken is to marinade it. The only catch is that you need to allow time for the chicken to absorb the juicy goodness, so meal planning is key.

I buy individually wrapped chicken breasts and keep them frozen.

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Every once in awhile I take one out and throw it in the fridge to defrost.

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Once it’s defrosted, I rinse it, throw it in a ziplock bag and add some olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, balsamic vinegar and salt/pepper/whatever spices I’m feelin that day and stick it back in the fridge. Some good options are rosemary, garlic powder, basil, cilantro or other herbs that strike your fancy. I usually leave it at least overnight but I bet a few hours would still do the trick.

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Makes for a juicy, flavorful chicken breast that I throw on the grill for a quick meal later in the week.


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REBLOG: “Just give me some truth”

There are hundreds of niche health and fitness blogs, websites, and books out there spouting nutritional and exercise advice; some with the factual basis to back their claims but without the popularity to reach a wider audience, and many others with little to no credentials or with an ulterior motive of making money. At the same time, established mainstream publications post content from trusted sources like doctors but without solid backing of their claims.

So for someone looking for guidance on how or what or when to eat, it can be excessively frustrating to find both a reliable source and reliable information. There are a lot of myths that have been repeated so many times that they have fooled even the most careful consumer (i.e. the egg debate). So when I see a myth-busting article based off of findings from a scientific study like this come along in the New York Times, I as both a health-conscious person and a journalist get excited. Finally making its way into the mainstream is something with real research behind its dietary claims, even and most especially ones that have been generally regarded as good advice (such as the benefits of eating breakfast.)

But then you run into this problem: restricted information access. This could be in the form of paywalls, omissions or study abstracts available to but not written for the everyday reader and consumer. In this case, The New England Journal of Medicine and the specific content relevant to readers of this article is only available to subscribers. Plenty of publications don’t give their content away for free online, and understandably so, but the point is that the information remains available only to that target audience. So scientists, doctors and scholars may get that information, but the average person who needs it (arguably more so than those already invested in the material) does not.

It’s a personal interest of mine to actively seek out nutritional information from those small, under-the-radar publications, but not everyone has the time, energy or interest to do so. Many of those publications/organizations/websites have great information, but are either largely unknown (I am still discovering new ones daily) or exclude segments of the population because they don’t identify with weightlifters or vegans (to name a few). Convenience will win every time when it comes to food. That’s why I believe it’s so important to make that elusive, factual information convenient for the everyday consumer. In time, I think these tidbits of truth will make their way into the mainstream media.  But for now, I think the most important thing a person can do is be a critical reader and see where your information is coming from. Evaluate the source of the material and check who is paying for the study before you make any drastic conclusions.

And, take everything in stride. Only you will know what works for you. Everyone has different dietary needs based on medical conditions, daily activities, allergies, religion, moral beliefs and simple likes and dislikes. I’ve quoted him before and I’ll quote him again because so much of what The Institute for the Psychology of Eating is about aligns with what I believe in:

“There’s no “one size fits all” in the diet business…. every nutritional system or expert has at least one nugget of wisdom to offer us. In other words, what’s good for the Okinawans, the French, the Mediterraneans, the Hunzas, the Paleolithics, or the bikini-clad inhabitants of South Beach isn’t necessarily what’s good for us. Just take the nugget of truth that works for you, and that works for the people you love and serve.” – Marc David


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REBLOG: The Imaginary Perfect Diet via Competitor magazine

Sometimes you read something and you just say YES.

“While science has come up with all kinds of correlations between particular dietary patterns and risk levels for particular diseases, it has not even come close to definitively defining the perfect diet.”

This is a great read highlighting precisely what I’ve come to find about nutrition and diets–that there’s more than one right way, but pretty much all of them involve real food.


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REBLOG: Defining healthy eating

Before I begin, I want to say that I’m not advocating that Paleo is the correct diet for everyone. I totally agree that there’s not one “right” way to eat. In fact, my goal really isn’t to be perfectly Paleo. It’s ultimately to eat healthier– to eat clean. My goal is to cut out processed foods, avoid grains, and eat more protein, fruits and vegetables, which sounds a whole lot like the Paleo diet. Following “rules” personally helps me stay on track. So yeah, I’ll have some lemonade with my green tea and there’s corn in my bag of mixed veggies. But the point is I’m drinking green tea lemonade instead of diet soda or a mocha, and I’m eating vegetables. Those are better choices than I might have made otherwise.

Earlier this week, U.S. News and World Report released their rankings of the best and worst diets for the year. (Paleo being one of the worst.) This has spurred many blogs and news sites to offer their own takes on which diets work and which don’t. What I like most is U.S. News’s further breakdown of diets by goal and special needs, (food sensitivities, specific medical conditions) because the best diet for a person depends on a lot of  factors. But when the “best weight-loss diets” includes things like Slim-Fast, you have to question how much the nutritional value and sustainability of the diet was taken into account.

My basic response to this overall discussion point is summed up by the following sources better than I do believe I ever could:

1. “One of the most important success-promoting factors in a diet is a belief in the diet and a belief in the belief system behind the diet.” – Psychology of Eating (Marc David)

I think there’s this attitude in the wellness/health industry that what works for one person is the ONLY way, and everyone else is just dumb for thinking otherwise. This organization addresses that everyone has different needs, and that diets can and should be specified. Diets are much bigger than a monthly slim-down effort, and tied to social interactions and our own willpower and drive. While I am searching for the pieces of a one-size-fits all diet, we may all be better off with one tailored to our own tastes.

2. This post: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/01/04/healthy-eating-defined/And this too: http://www.unlockbetterhealth.com/blog/2012/12/what-is-clean-eating

If there is a general truth for nutrition, I think that eating real food would have to be it (“real food” being defined above). I can’t think of anyone who’s gonna argue that Kale is bad for you (except maybe some people’s taste buds.) This post essentially summarizes everything I have come to believe about nutrition. Adapting these “rules” and being balanced about it seems to be a universally sound way of eating and living.


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Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive

Here’s a quick tip for those of us on a budget. I buy frozen green peppers (Kroger brand) and shake a few into the pan with my eggs in the morning. As for eggs, I use one cage free natural fed egg and a splash of liquid egg whites. It surprised me how many big name brands of liquid egg whites had so many fake ingredients in them. As long as you check the ingredients list and see only what you’re looking for, you’ve just saved time and cash, both on the initial purchase and the race against fresh food rotting. Of course, fresh is always better, but I keep these in my freezer for days I don’t have fresh in the fridge.

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Adventures in Paleo

About a month ago, I completed the 9-week Lurong Living Paleo Challenge. What is Paleo, you ask? It is most simply this: eat real food. More specifically, I think it is most concisely explained in this pyramid.paleo food pyramid

For me, the most challenging thing about going Paleo was that it banned pretty much everything that is convenient. And I’m not just talking about takeout or frozen dinners– something as simple as bread for my egg and sausage breakfast sandwich I typically ate on the way to work every morning. And if I ate out, things got pretty complicated, deciphering menus and finding substitutions. But overall, I simply felt better. I did notice at first that I had a little less energy when I went to workout, likely due to my body adjusting to the new diet. By the end of the challenge, it was no longer an issue.

9 weeks later,  I went back to eating normally and fulfilled all my cravings. And I can honestly say it wasn’t worth it. I thought I could use what I’d learned and just be a little more liberal with my food choices– not worrying about the specifics, using ketchup or Italian dressing once in awhile, eating green beans and other things that one would consider healthy but don’t meet the Paleo criteria. But the truth was I overindulged, and I definitely felt the effects of that.

Through this challenge, I discovered I need rules and structure to be able to stick to a diet. But I also need to let myself cheat once in awhile, or I’ll binge later. For the new year, I’m resolving to get back to the primal life. As the saying goes, my goal is to be 100% paleo, 80% of the time.

Other things I learned from going Paleo:

1. To eat healthy, you MUST cook.

I spent tons of time online scouring for Paleo recipes. I highly recommend Pinterest as a source. In fact, all of the recipes I’ve tried can be found on my board “pinned there, done that” with ratings. It also doubles as my own virtual recipe book. #awesome. (See more Paleo recipes on my “Paleo things” board)

2. You also should plan your meals.

Get that convenience factor back by spending Sunday night preparing meals for the week. When you buy fruit at the grocery store, wash it and divide it into little Ziploc baggies as soon as you get home. It will make it that much easier to throw in the lunch bag.

3. There is a healthier substitute for just about everything you crave.

Mashed potatoes? Try mashed cauliflower. Pasta? try spaghetti squash. French Fries? Try cut up zucchini or turnips “breaded”  with almond meal. spaghetti squash

4. Less is more, always.

I’ve counted calories, I’ve detoxed, I’ve done Weight Watchers, I’ve lived with two vegetarian roommates and one gluten-intolerant roommate. I’d like to think I’ve been exposed to a few diets. And the one thing I’ve noticed that they ALL have in common– real food is always the best choice. If you’re gonna eat butter, eat butter, not margarine or some other imitation product made in a lab. The less ingredients, the better. And if there’s no ingredient list, that’s the best (i.e, fruits and vegetables.) And it’s the idea behind almost every diet plan out there. (Fruits and vegetables are zero points on WW, for example.) It just makes sense.

5. Lastly, and most importantly, bacon makes everything better. That is all.

Here’s some more of my creations and experiments. I began making up my own recipes and having a lot of fun making cooking a hobby!

And some favorite Paleo products for my sweet tooth

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Couldn’t be happier to get back on track in the new year!