Three-Step Shopping Plan: Step 2, When You Shop












Last week, we blogged about someone who’s reading our book Eat to Save Your Life; he’s discovered that his family isn’t eating quite as healthfully as they thought. Like so many, they’ve really worked at living a healthy lifestyle, but they’ve fallen prey to all the misinformation out there. He wished we could go shopping together. Since he’s in California and we’re in Canada, shopping together might be a little out of the question, so we decided to offer up a Three-Step Shopping Plan to help him and everyone else save their lives at the grocery store.

Last week, we blogged about Step 1: Before you Shop (looking at foods in your cupboards and making a plan before hitting the grocery store). This week, if you’ve done the little bit of homework required in the first step, we’re ready to actually go grocery shopping.

We call it Step 2: When you shop

Now that you’ve done a little review of the foods in your fridge and pantry and discovered a few key principles, here are a few things to do when you actually go to the grocery store:

  • Give yourself time to read labels and make decisions as you make the switch to foods that may be a little unfamiliar to you. You can’t just rush in and rush out and hope to successfully find some new and exciting things to eat. Give yourself about an hour and a half (maybe leave the kids with a babysitter), so you have enough time to think, read labels, and make decisions. Don’t fret. You’ll soon become familiar with your new choices so you can pick them off the shelf with ease and shorten your shopping time to the usual. For the first few shopping trips, though, take your time.
  • Replace those rancid oils that you discarded last week with healthy oils. Think:
    • flaxseed oil (cold pressed, sold in dark bottles, and kept cold in the store)
    • coconut oil (Jerre’s favorite)
    • extra-virgin olive oil (not virgin or pure olive oil—they’re too inferior)
    • maybe some slightly more exotic oils such as macadamia nut oil or grape seed oil

You may have to visit your local health food store to get oils that are sold in dark bottles and that have been kept cold. When you get them home, store your oils (except heat-stable coconut oil and olive oil) in the fridge. Not sure why? Read more in Chapters 6 and 7 of Eat to Save Your Life.

  • As much as possible, avoid processed foods. (Cellophane is a good tip-off that something should be left on the shelf.) Focus on fresh food, instead. If you stick mostly to the outside perimeter of the store, you’ll find fresh food there and avoid the processed stuff. If you venture into the center aisles of the store, zip in for things like bath tissue, but don’t linger in the packaged foods aisles in case the junk food gremlins grab your ankles.
  • Except as a very rare treat, absolutely avoid: fried anything (including potato chips), refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, white flour, white rice, sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate (frequently used in processed meats and meat products), artificial colors and flavors, and too much salt. What’s the problem? Well, these foods and food additives create an inflammatory response in the body and are proven links to degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, and many more.
  • Don’t let the bread aisle get you down. Once you start reading labels and eliminating enriched flour, sugars, and additives, you’ll soon discover many grocery store breads (including those sold as “healthy”) just aren’t worth eating. In fact, you might be better off eating the bag. After reading one disappointing label after another (sometimes accosting surprised fellow-shoppers with a frustrated “Do you believe it?” and an on-the-spot and completely unsolicited lesson on label-reading), we abandoned the bread aisle at our local grocery store long ago. Instead, we found a wonderful certified organic bakery that uses stoneground (not refined), certified organic, whole grains to make its dense, nutrient-rich, and delicious breads. You may have to do the same—or take up bread making.
  • Buy certified organic produce whenever you can. If you can’t find or can’t afford certified organic everything, at least buy any fruits or veggies on your Dirty Dozen list in the certified organic section. This will help cut down on the amounts of pesticides and herbicides you’re ingesting. Not sure what the Dirty Dozen list is? See last week’s blog.
  • Buy locally-g
    rown food whenever you can because long periods of transit and storage deplete nutrients (which manifests as lost flavor). The typical apple is trucked 1500 miles from orchard to grocery store, but we all know that an apple picked fresh from the tree has a much higher yummy factor—and that yum equals better nutrition.
  • In the wintertime, if fresh local produce isn’t available, consider frozen before canned. Also consider the benefits of fresh vs. frozen.  If produce is travelling a long, nutrient-depleting distance to your grocery store, frozen produce may offer a better nutritional bang for your buck. For certified organic frozen produce, you may have to visit your local health food store or certified organic market.
  • Look for certified organic free range (not free run) eggs and poultry, sustainably caught fresh fish from deep ocean waters (not from lakes and streams due to toxins in shallower waters), and certified organic meat and dairy products. If you eat red meat, don’t just eat beef; consider lamb and goat as well as game such as elk, venison, and bison. If you eat dairy products, look for milk, yogurt, and cheese from sheep or goats.
  • Approach certified organic products in cans and packages with caution. Many of them contain even more salt than their conventional counterparts and should be used sparingly, if at all. You might consider making your own soups and broths at home. Here’s a grocery list for tasty chicken broth:
    • 500 gm (1 pound) chicken necks and backs
    • three or four large carrots
    • two or three stalks of celery
    • one large onion
    • bay leaves

Next week, we’ll include a complete recipe in our blog, so you can Wow! your family with homemade chicken noodle soup or any soup that requires a yummy chicken broth as a base.

As much as you can, avoid foods containing the mystery ingredients you researched last week. We realize it will take some time to get rid of them all, but choose a couple of the real bad actors, and leave them behind.

This probably sounds like a lot, and it will be at first. You’ll get onto, it though, and shopping for healthier foods will become familiar and easy.

And here’s one more tip—perhaps the most important of them all: Treat your shopping trip as a little adventure (because it is). There are new things to discover and new tastes to try. Do it! Embrace it! With the right attitude, you can have a little adventure-vacation right in the grocery aisle.

Here’s to your next grocery adventure,

Gloria and Jerre


Three-Step Shopping Plan: Step 1, Nutritional Planning

Last week, someone who’s in the middle of reading our book Eat to Save Your Life remarked that he thought his family eats pretty well, but the book has revealed they’ve been buying things that everyone thought were nutritious, but weren’t. As he reads our book, his family is making some changes in their grocery shopping habits.

Yay! That’s what we love to hear: Our book is exploding myths and prompting positive change.

Now that he’s learning more and making some changes, our reader remarked that he’d like to take us grocery shopping with him. No, not so we can pay the bill (although he might find that nice, too), but so he can chat with us about the various purchases he makes. He’d like to double-check that he’s not still falling victim to confusing information, media hype, or misleading advertising.

Oops! Did someone say shopping? Well, Gloria’s out the door on that one. Squirrel!

When Gloria returns, she’ll be quick to say that shopping together with our reader is going to be a little awkward.  You see, he’s in California and we’re in Canada. Obviously, distance prevents us from meeting at the local grocer’s anytime soon, but maybe our Three-Step Grocery Shopping Plan will help.

Let’s look at Step 1 this week, and save Steps 2 and 3 for subsequent blogs. Ready? Here goes.

Step 1: Before you go shopping

Before you go shopping, go through your fridge, cupboards, and pantry, and:

    • Discard any vegetable oils that have not been refrigerated. Fats and oils, except coconut oil, and Olive Oil in glass container stored at room temperature oxidize (go rancid) really rather quickly. Rancid oils will introduce excessive amounts of harmful free radicals into your body.
    • Read the labels on the canned and packaged foods you already have—even the certified organic ones. In many cases, you’ll discover shocking levels of salt (salt content should never be over 15% DV–daily value), sugar, and mystery ingredients.
    • Research the mystery ingredients on these labels. What the heck is guar gum? Why is there carrageenan in my certified organic almond milk? (See last week’s blog for a hint.) Who knew that MSG (and other things) may be listed as “natural flavoring”? Yup, sad but true.
    • Go easy on yourself with the research. Don’t make it a PhD project that has to be finished over the weekend. Learning about one or two ingredients every week or every other week is great. If you do more than that, the whole thing may become daunting.
    • Write down a list of The Dirty Dozen discussed in Chapter 2 of our book. Tuck the list into your wallet and take it with you when you shop. The Environmental Working Group has identified The Dirty Dozen as those commercially-grown fruits and vegetables that are the most heavily contaminated with pesticides and herbicides. You’ll want to know what they are when you hit the grocery store.

Okay, now that we’ve done a little planning, you’re ready to make some changes in your shopping habits. Next week, we’ll look at the next of Eat to Save Your Life’s three steps.

Here’s to happy nutritional planning,

Jerre and Gloria


The Devil’s in the Dietitian’s Details

Recently, we heard an interview with a registered dietician who was advising people on healthy snacks. She recommended three snacks, and we nearly blew a gasket by the time the interview ended. Here’s what she recommended:

  1. Homemade trail mix: roasted nuts, roasted seeds, boxed breakfast cereal, dried fruit
  2. Yogurt parfait: Low fat yogurt (either plain or flavored), boxed granola, and fresh berries layered in a small jar—with a wafer of dark chocolate for garnish
  3. Chocolate milk: Chocolate milk which (she advised) has all the same essential nutrients as plain milk

If you’ve read our book Eat to Save Your Life or if you’ve been reading our blogs, you probably have a pretty good idea why our blood pressure started rising. Can you spot the problems?

Well—let’s start with the homemade trail mix. We’ll be the first to say that making homemade trail mix is a really good idea because you can control what goes into it, and snacking on a little trail mix is healthier than say . . . donuts. But here’s where things went wrong: The dietician’s ingredients included roasted nuts and seeds plus two kinds of boxed breakfast cereal. The oils in the nuts and seeds would have oxidized (gone rancid) due to roasting, and the grains in the cereal would have been processed within an inch of their nutritional lives. Plus, most boxed cereal contains more salt per serving than a serving of potato chips. This from a so-called healthcare professional whose life’s work it is to advise people on nutrition? Sheesh!

When the dietician moved on to the yogurt parfait and advised that either plain or fruit-flavored yogurt is great and touted the benefits of probiotics in the yogurt, Gloria nearly burned a hole in the ceiling. Fruit in the yogurt? You gotta be kidding. As Gloria has been pointing out for decades, the fruit in the bottom is essentially jam. Then, to make things worse, this so-called healthy parfait was topped off with salty, starchy, sugary boxed granola. Argh! The whole thing contained way too much sugar—which actually impedes the healthy balance of bacteria in the gut. So much for the probiotics in the yogurt!

But let’s at least try to be a little positive here and peel Gloria off the ceiling: Thank heaven for the antioxidant-rich fresh berries. At least, there was something in this parfait that may have been healthy. Were they certified organic? And, if the cocoa level was high (at least 75%) and the sugar level was low, the wafer of dark chocolate also may have been a fun way to add more antioxidants to the parfait. After all, plain cocoa is off-the-chart when it comes to high levels of anti-oxidants.

Oh! And we love, love, love the idea of layering the parfait in a glass jar. It was attractive, fun, and a little funky—and easy to serve to kids after school or seal and pop into a lunch bag. Full marks for presentation.

Chocolate milk was the third snack recommended. We don’t even know where to begin when it comes to a dietician recommending chocolate milk as a healthy snack. Has she ever read the ingredients label on chocolate milk?

Well, to be frank, we hadn’t read the ingredients list on chocolate milk in a long time, either, because we just don’t buy it. So, off we went to the store to find some chocolate milk. First, you have to sort through all the chocolate beverages (scary ingredients lists there) to find actual chocolate milk. Milk, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, must be milk straight from the cow or other animal, so chocolate milk is actually milk. Not necessarily so in the confusingly-labeled “dairy beverage”.

Okay, so we shelled out $3.19 for a two-liter jug of chocolate milk, brought it home, and started examining the label. Here’s what our chocolate milk contains:

  • Milk: Okay (although we should, perhaps, discuss milk in another blog to help you determine if you should be drinking milk, at all, and if so, what kind).
  • Cocoa: This could be good. As we’ve said, cocoa can be high in antioxidants.
  • Sugar: Hm-m. Let’s see. This would be sugar added to the milk sugar (lactose) naturally occurring in the milk. One eight-ounce serving of our chocolate milk contains 26 grams of sugar—double the amount in ordinary milk and the equivalent of nearly seven teaspoons of sugar per glass. Can anyone say “overweight” or “diabetes”?
  • Carageenan: In chocolate milk, carrageenan is commonly used as a thickener and stabilizer that increases the viscosity of the milk and helps to suspend the cocoa particles in it. Although it’s been used as a food additive for about 50 years, credible research links carrageenan to an inflammatory response in the gut and throughout the body. Our book Eat to Save Your Life details the enormous dangers of chronic inflammation in the body—including its role in diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, heart disease, and cancer.
  • Colour, Salt, and Artificial Flavoring also are listed on the label of our jug of chocolate milk. How much and what are they? Well, these aren’t explained, but we’d bet the (dairy) farm that they’re not exactly healthy.

And those are just the ingredients for chocolate milk; let’s not even consider the confusingly-labeled “dairy beverages” or “chocolate drinks” that are fast replacing chocolate milk on grocery shelves. Thing is, even savvy shoppers haven’t necessarily noticed the scary difference between chocolate milk, dairy beverage, and chocolate drink. Ah-h! Those tricky labels.

At their core, the snack ideas introduced by the dietician could be good. The nutritional devil, however, is in the details. Here are our (much improved) variations:

1. Homemade trail mix: Raw nuts and seeds, no breakfast cereal, sulfite-free dried fruit.

Purchase the nuts in a health food store that keeps nuts refrigerated, refrigerate them at home, and use them relatively quickly. Keeping the nuts cold prevents the oils in the nuts from oxidizing (turning rancid) and introducing unnecessary amounts of harmful free radicals into your body.

Remember: A serving of nuts is a small handful (about ¼ cup), and the natural sugars in fruit get really concentrated when the fruit is dried, so a handful or two of trail mix is enough. Don’t overindulge.

2. Yogurt parfait: Plain goat yogurt or sheep yogurt, ground flaxseed, slivered or chopped raw nuts, and fresh berries—all certified organic, of course, and with a wafer of fair trade certified organic dark chocolate for garnish.

Because it digests more easily and generally isn’t subjected to the fat-free hype of the modern dairy industry, we prefer goat yogurt and sheep yogurt over cow yogurt. Never tried it? When it comes to flavor, goat yogurt is hard to discern from cow yogurt; sheep yogurt has a remarkably silky texture and fresh flavor that will have you reaching for more.

Of course, we have to give the dietician kudos for recommending antioxidant-rich berries and dark chocolate. We heartily concur—although we prefer certified organic, of course, because several kinds of berries find their way onto the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen ( a list of the most contaminated produce) every year. For more info on the Dirty Dozen, see Chapter 2 of our book Eat to Save Your Life.

3. Chocolate milk: Certified organic goat milk or sheep milk, cocoa powder, real maple syrup or honey or agave nectar, cinnamon, cayenne (optional).

If you make your own chocolate milk, you can avoid the additives in commercial chocolate milk. Here’s how:

Make a paste by mixing together:

  • 1 heaping Tablespoon of certified organic fair trade cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon of maple syrup, honey, or agave nectar (use more or less, as you prefer).
  • Pinch of *cinnamon (or to taste)
  • Scant pinch of *cayenne (optional)

 Adding a little at a time, slowly blend in:

  • 1 cup of milk

Continue blending until the cocoa paste and milk are fully combined and smooth. If you blend the mixture with ice, too, you can make a chocolate shake.

Note: *Cinnamon and cayenne both are known to help reduce inflammation in the body.

So, there you have it: Our take on healthy snacks that we think are a huge improvement over the recommendations made by the registered dietician.

We hope you’ve noticed a little word to the wise, here: Don’t blithely turn over your nutritional health to a so-called expert. Get informed, ask questions, and make your own decisions. After all, some registered dieticians (although certainly not all) work for the milk board or other food companies, so you have to query what they may be recommending. Not sure if we’re right, either? Well—send a note, and ask some questions. In the end, it’s your body.

In the meantime, we’re going to discard that container of chocolate milk and find a healthier snack.

Here’s to your nutritional health,

Jerre and Gloria





Alert to Students of All Ages: Your Brain Needs Sleep!

Shhhhh–He’s Trying to Learn!

Gloria is travelling this week—delivering seminars in Canada and the United States—so I’m going to take a little detour from our usual focus on nutrition and talk a little bit about something that, to me, is another important “nutrient”:  Sleep.

It took me years of studying to realize I needed to sleep more than I needed to cram all night. I was emboldened to burn the midnight oil by the long-standing promise that such dedication and determination would yield higher grades–or at least a passing grade on tough exams.

Alas! I’ve learned I got it all wrong back then. You see, I didn’t know my brain kept working throughout the night on the materials I had studied during the day. At my own peril, I put all my trust in my conscious self, wresting control from a brain designed to function optimally whenever I gave it what it needed: brain food and respite from the task of keeping me in motion.

Had I known more about my brain and the nature of sleep, I would have had access to unbelievable power. And my grades would have increased anywhere from 10-20%, even more.

Here are some important things I know now that I wish I’d known when I was a student:

  • My brain, and yours, is made of systems designed to communicate with one another during sleep. In particular, the hippocampus works with other parts of the brain to turn short-term memory (what a person recently studied, for example) into more permanent or enhanced forms of memory. Yes, my brain will learn overnight without any interference or help from “me” (am I my brain?) if I just get some z-z-z-z’s
  •  The system works full tilt when I get the amount of sleep my body naturally wants. It works even better if I’ve been eating well over an extended period of time (days, weeks, months, years, decades!)
  •  I can optimize my sleep-learning if I treat myself to a little snack before bed. I’m not talking about a lot of food here—it’s just a snack not a feast—and it has to feature protein and complex carbs. Why? Well, the body needs protein to repair itself during sleep, and the brain needs glucose (from the complex carbs) for energy

Let’s be clear about the glucose in those complex carbs: It’s the natural sugar present in foods such as grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables and it’s the only sugar that feeds the brain; therefore it’s necessary for proper brain function.

You see, the brain is an energy-intensive organ, and studying takes energy—a lot of energy. In fact, brain cells need two to five times more fuel than other cells in your body, and activities such as learning, thinking, and memorizing literally drain glucose from the brain at a higher rate than any other brain functions. Inadequate sleep and inadequate fuel (nutritious food) results in significant diminishment in productivity; that is, learning, problem solving, memory, thinking, exam writing.

So, here’s the bottom line for anyone doing a lot of studying:

  • Know that, while you’re asleep, your brain keeps right on learning and making sense of what you’ve studied, but only if your sleep is sound and long enough.
  • The combination of sleeping eight (or so) hours at night and eating the right nutrients throughout the day (including prior to bedtime) yields optimum brain power.

Visit our website at for more information about proteins and complex carbohydrates, and read Chapters 4 and 5 of Eat to Save Your Life for even more depth and detail.

I’ll test you on all this in the morning, right after breakfast.

Good night.

Dr. Jerre


Colors that Will Save Your Life


Phytonutrients on Display

Autumn has splashed its colors across the northern hemisphere, and those of us in Canada are about to celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend. We have so much to be thankful for:  Gloria is spending the weekend with Jerre’s family, the harvest here in Western Canada has been bountiful this year, gardens and farmers’ markets are bursting with colorful produce, and Jerre’s sister-in-law has made jelly from her very own grapes grown in her very own garden. (We all eagerly anticipate a taste.)

Outside, the leaves are turning shades of yellow, gold, orange, crimson, and plum, and the landscape is beginning to resemble a jewel box. It’s a time to pull on a cozy sweater, break out the camera, and take a stroll in the countryside to admire the fall colors and click a few photographs.

What’s happening here? Well—in the summer, the leaves are green due to chlorophyll. Chlorophyll turns sunlight into food for the tree (and, ultimately, for animals and humans, too). With the arrival of autumn, however, the shorter days and cooler temperatures signal the trees to stop photosynthesing. In preparation for the winter, the tree gets rid of moisture in the leaves so it doesn’t freeze over the winter and kill the tree. Essentially, the top of the tree dries out, and the nutrients go down into the roots to help the tree survive over the winter.

As the chlorophyll in the leaves goes away, all the colors of fall become visible. Yes, the colors were always there; you just can’t see them in the summertime due to the green chlorophyll in the leaves. In the autumn, though, those colors become visible as the chlorophyll recedes.

When you look at an autumn scene, you’re actually seeing colorful plant nutrients (called phytonutrients) that are present all year long. Scientists know that phytonutrients protect plants—and the humans who eat plants—against disease, insects, viruses, bacteria, and environmental stressors. Let’s see if you can find some phytonutrients in your Thanksgiving feast:

  • ELLAGIC ACID is found in red fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, and pomegranates and may serve as an effective anti-viral and also can help reduce the effects of free-radicals.
  • QUERCITIN in apples, onions, and red wine improves capillaries and connective tissue, can help reduce inflammation, and has been shown to have a significant effect in the treatment of chronic prostatitis (painful inflammation of the prostate gland). When we lift our glasses o’ wine this weekend and toast our good friends and good fortune, we’ll be toasting with quercitin.
  • HESPERIDIN in citrus fruits (especially the pulp of lemons and oranges) combines with other phytonutrients to aid in absorption of vitamin C. Hesperidin deficiency may show up as leaky capillaries, pain, weakness, and night leg cramps.
  • RUTIN is found in grapes, cherries, apples, and a range of other fruits. It has been shown to strengthen the walls of blood vessels (including capillaries) and can be helpful in correcting high blood pressure and varicose veins. We’ll be enjoying some rutin in that homemade grape jelly my sister-in-law made. Do you have some rutin coming to your Thanksgiving feast?
  • BETA-CAROTENE is found in carrots and other orange foods such as peaches, apricots, and cantaloupe, and it’s found in green foods such as spinach. When you eat these foods, your body converts the beta-carotene they contain to vitamin A—an important nutrient known to effectively reduce various cancers.
  • LYCOPENE is found in tomatoes and is thought to be the single most effective anti-oxidant in the human body.
  • LUTEIN and ZEAXANTHIN are responsible for yellows and reds, and they are most striking as autumn leaves reveal their colors. Working together and with other nutrients, these two phytonutrients help to reduce the onset of age-related macular degeneration.

Of course, these are just a few examples of the 25,000 phytonutrients that scientists know exist, but here’s the point: As you gather the harvest this fall, spend some time admiring the colors and realizing that each one plays an important part in human nutritional status and health.

And, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend, at the end of November in the United States, or next May in Australia, make sure your feast is colorful because the plant nutrients responsible for those colors also are responsible for your good nutritional status and related good health.

Here’s to a happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving and all the colors of fall,

Jerre and Gloria

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