HEALTHY LIVING — Spend time reading those nutrition labels

Published 12:02 am Thursday, March 7, 2024

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I recently spent more than an hour in the Golden Triangle’s premier health food store, reading labels. A lot of labels.

Finally, I gave up and approached one of the super friendly and helpful workers and asked him to point me in the direction of the low salt/no salt, sugar free foods. He kind of laughed and told me to go to the fresh produce section.

He was right, and that is always my advice, shop the perimeter of the store.

Today’s column is inspired by my husband. He is a heart patient whose doctor has told him, “if it tastes good, spit it out” and “eat nothing but cardboard and greens.”

He is also a Type 2 Diabetic. Grocery shopping is an excruciating adventure each week. A dear friend told me her shopping takes twice as long now as she spends so much time reading those labels.

I have been doing this for a long time, more than 20 years of varying degrees of low fat. Only in recent years have we added the no sugar and very recently the no salt.

There are no products that are quick and easy. Nothing prepackaged. And coming up with something flavorful with the limited options available has become my mission.

Why the perimeter of the store?

That is where the fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish and eggs are found. Also, good to buy are cold press extra virgin olive oil, REAL butter and frozen vegetables without sauces or additives.

There are a few pasta and rice alternatives, made from chick peas, lentils and cauliflower that are actually pretty good. And, if you look carefully, there is 1 and 2 sugar grams bread in the keto section.

Let’s start at the beginning. Go to your spice drawer/rack/shelf, look at everything on there, read every label carefully and remove everything that lists salt anywhere except the very end in the ingredient list.

Amazing how many seasonings are primarily salt. Lemon pepper? Look again, mostly salt.

The good news is, there are many varieties of spice blends and seasonings that are no salt. I even found a couple of well-known brands of Cajun seasoning that now comes salt free. I have gotten them through online shopping, some are readily available in the larger grocery stores and in that premier health food store I mentioned earlier.

Also, there are all kinds of dried and fresh herbs and spices out there. Use them, experiment till you find a combination you like.

Love greens and not sure what to do to cook them healthy?

Add onion, a little dash of salt free all-purpose seasoning, red pepper flakes, and some good extra virgin-cold press olive oil, sauté in a medium heat skillet. YUM!

Oven roasted veggies, splashed with a little EVOO and herbs, delicious!

Sautéed fish fillets with a little lime or lemon salt free seasoning and a shake of smoked paprika, served over buttered riced cauliflower, tasty!

Did you know that deviled eggs are good for you and delicious, when you do a little substitution?

Replace mayonnaise with avocado for creaminess. Excellent source of protein and the good fat.

The point is, cooking for special needs is time consuming, requires some imagination and a lot of label reading, and more trips to the grocery store to get the freshest vegetables and fruits.

But it is also completely possible to provide healthy, flavorful meals that don’t taste like cardboard. Daunting at first, but it will soon become second nature to you.

You are only limited by your imagination. Be open to trying new flavors. Go out there, read some labels, experiment and stir something up.

Stay healthy, my friends.

Jody Holton writes about health for Orange Newsmedia. She can be reached at