Eat your fruits and veggies. As a kid, that’s what I thought it meant to eat healthy. While there’s still absolute truth to that statement, it doesn’t always feel that simple. I walk into a grocery store and I’m overwhelmed with aisles of snacks and food, everything claiming to be a better choice than the next. There’s buzzy words like "organic" and "GMO," and "gluten-free" to navigate, all while making sure you are eating a balance of nutrients the body needs to operate well, and staying within a caloric range. It can be a lot.
Turns out, my complaints and concerns are quite common because that’s exactly what inspired Integrative Nutrition Health Coach Maria Marlowe to publish her new book, The Real Food Grocery Guide.
"This book was inspired by my clients, and one in particular who called me up after a frustrating two hours spent at a Whole Foods trying to figure out what to eat and asked, 'Can you just tell me exactly what to buy?!' I started giving grocery store tours, and surprisingly, they became one of my most popular offerings," explains Marlowe. "It's a two-hour tour of your local grocer, explaining the health benefits (and concerns) as well as how to choose everything. Once one person would go on it, I'd often get a call or email from 1-2 of their friends soon after asking to sign up for it. Once I realized how many people wanted this information, I knew I had to turn it into a book!"
She starts off the book by breaking down her philosophy that food affects everything, beyond just the numbers on the scale. She gives a brief overview of her own experience of altering her diet and how it changed her skin, and even goes into how nutrition can impact and cause serious health conditions. In one of the first chapters, she creates a dictionary of sorts, defining commonly used health phrases, or the ones you see written all over packaging in the snack aisle. "Many people feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices, plus they don't fully understand all the words on packages—for example, free range, cage-free, pasture-raised, organic, etc.—let alone know which is the healthiest choice," she explains. "Additionally, many of us, myself included, grew up eating everything out of a package, so getting used to shopping for 'real foods,' for example, in the produce aisles for vegetables or the bulk section for dried lentils, beans, grains, and nuts, is actually a whole new experience for a lot of people!"
Marlowe actually thinks people are most confused at understanding the buzzy words, but finds that it truly impacts their shopping decisions. "A lot of times people see one of those words on there, and they think it's automatically healthy, without looking further or truly understanding the definition. There is a lot of 'green-washing' or products that market themselves as healthier than they actually are, so you really have to read labels, ingredients lists. And for fresh foods, especially animal products, know where they are coming from and how the animal was raised and treated to ensure you are getting the healthiest version."
After dissecting the best health food stores to visit across the country, Marlowe dives into produce, legumes, meat, seafood, and more, explaining their nutritional value and how to prepare them. While shopping the peripheral of the grocery store is always your best bet in terms of health, she even dedicates an entire chapter to shopping for packaged goods and how to read a nutrition label.
"I also think a lot of people don't realize that food affects everything beyond just weight—from our mood and memory to how quickly our skin wrinkles or breaks out to our immunity and risk for disease, and practically everything in between," she adds. "With this book, I hope to help people draw the connection between what they eat and how they look and feel, and make shopping for healthy groceries easier!"
Marlowe's book launches June 1, 2017 for $13 on amazon.com.