Food Shopping Hacks: Maya Feller Nutrition Tips

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We all know the fastest way to a man's heart is through the belly -- and cardiac disease is one of those preventable chronic illnesses that affect nearly half of America (women and youth, too).

Diabetes, respiratory disease, cancer, and stroke are among the other diseases prompting doctors to recommend diet changes, and teachers to share the four basic food groups with grade school students.

Food consciousness, however, is not simply about properly proportioning dairy (zilch if you're vegan) with fruits and vegetables. It starts with how food is processed.

"I like to remind my patients that developing a health-forward way of eating starts with preparation," Registered Dietitian, Maya Feller told UWM.

"I also encourage my patients to get to know all areas of the grocery store so they can choose the shopping route that is right for them and learn how to read a nutrition facts label."

 

 

"Be wary of buzz words and health trends that purport miracle cures," she added. "[For patients] looking to reduce years of chronic inflammation, I suggested leaning into a diet that is based in foods that are recognizable as food. Foods that don't have expiration dates or wild health claims. Food that is just that, food."

Feller says shopping for nutrients and minerals is better than shopping for "food," and each food item should have five ingredients or less.

 

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In addition to regular appearances as the nutrition expert on Good Morning America (see video above), The Dr. Oz Show, and The Chew (see video below), Feller has worked at soup kitchens and neighborhood CSAs (community-supported agriculture) handing out the prescription of quality, organic food. She's also an adjunct professor at New York University, where she received her masters of science in nutrition.

She slid us a few more of her Cliff Notes for grocery shopping, like what to do about the Non-GMO debate:

 

Buzz Words, Beware.

There are so many, and usually they are found on the front of labels.

  • Natural 
  • All natural 
  • Sugar-free
  • Fat-free 
  • Superfood
  • [Anything]-friendly (insert trendy diet here)
  • Gluten-free

 

Label Reading 101.

Read your labels carefully so you can make intentional choices. The nutrition facts label is the conscious consumers key to understanding the packaged product. Ingredients are listed in order of abundance, the first ingredient is the most abundant.

Let's say you intend to purchase a loaf of whole wheat bread and the first ingredient is wheat, then you know that wheat is the most abundant ingredient in that loaf of bread.

 

Non-GMO?

GMO is the acronym for Genetically Modified Organisms. Non-GMO is meant to identify products that are free from genetically modified organisms.

There is a short list of foods that have been approved for genetic modification. From the perspective of the consumer it’s important to understand this. So highlighting [on the label] that a non-approved food has not been genetically modified can create consumer confusion. 

Currently these are the only crops in the U.S. that are approved to be grown with genetic modification:

  • Corn
  • Soybeans
  • Cotton
  • Canola
  • Sugar betts
  • Alfalfa
  • Papaya
  • Yellow “crook neck” squash
  • Zucchini
  • “Artic” apple
  • “Innate” potato 

 

Concentrate vs. non-concentrated.

Juices -- from concentrate or not -- are generally not something that I recommend to my patients. I try to explain it this way: What is the likelihood that you would sit down and eat four watermelons? Not so likely, yet you may have 1 or 2 glasses of juice in a sitting.

I prefer that my patients eat their fruits, and depending on their health status consider pairing the fruit with a serving of plant-based fat or protein of their choice. The whole fruit will provide energy, fiber and nutrients in an appropriate portion size. 

 

plants, plants and more plants.

Even if you are not a vegetarian, aim to make the basis of your weekly grocery shopping plants. You can shop the perimeter [of the grocery store] for fresh produce.

Don't be afraid of the frozen veggies and fruits, but be sure to read the nutrition facts label on the back of the package. If you are looking for frozen cauliflower the label should say "cauliflower" and cauliflower alone.

Folks often wonder about frozen vs. fresh. Frozen produce is usually harvested at the height of the season and therefore full of nutrients. It is, however, important to eat the frozen produce in a timely manner, don't leave them sitting in your fridge for years, as the nutrients can degrade over time. And yes, fresh produce does have a shorter shelf life. But that's absolutely ok as we should be eating food that expires.

 

refined vs. unrefined coconut oil.

Coconut oil can add wonderful flavor to dishes. It's worth noting, however, that when consumed on a regular and consistent basis coconut oil does add saturated fat to the diet.

There is some research that suggested that unrefined coconut oil may be a better choice because in addition to raising the LDL cholesterol it also increases the HDL "good" cholesterol. I would recommend steering clear of refined coconut oil and using unrefined coconut oil in moderation. 

Refined or virgin coconut oil has not undergone the chemical treatments of bleaching and deoderizing. This is usually done to improve the safety and sanitation of the product.

 

For more: check out what Maya Feller has to say about canned foods in a visit at The Chew:

 

 

Photos by Chan, and mayafellernutrition.com

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Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN, CLC of Maya Feller Nutrition is a registered dietitian nutritionist who works with patients who need weight management and those looking for nutritional management of diet related chronic illnesses with medical nutrition therapy. She runs a private practice in Brooklyn, New York and is a regular contributor on Good Morning America.