Today millions of our youth are grossly overweight or obese. The fact that it has reached these epidemic proportions points to the changes in our diet and life style over the past 30 years or so. One fundamental change has been the move away from real whole foods to processed foods, including so called health foods. With all the claims to the nutritional value of various foods aside, you do not get the same benefit eating all this processed food than you would eating the whole foods that they have replaced. Considering the huge array of products on the supermarket shelves proclaiming all their health benefits, what are some shopping tips to a better diet that will help fight obesity?

Whole foods are more than the sum of their individual parts. The combination of different chemicals, nutrients and fibers all provide greater benefit than if each were taken separately. Many processed foods base their health claims on finding the silver bullet ingredient that will solve our dietary problems and provide good health. Sometimes it is eliminating fat, calories, sugar or carbohydrates. Or food processors look to add the one ingredient we need most like fiber, omega-3 fatty acids or an array of vitamin supplements. These processed foods cannot duplicate the benefits of eating real whole foods.
When shopping, follow these tips:

1. Avoid processed foods. If a product has more than say five or six ingredients and some of them you do not know how to pronounce leave it on the shelf. If a product contains any high fructose corn syrup like many sodas, cereals and juices pass it by. High fructose corn syrup is a common substitute to sugar in processed foods. The high fructose corn syrup goes directly to the liver during the digestive process, bypassing the pancreas and the insulin response that controls the level of sugar in the blood. The liver will convert excess fructose to fat without providing the full feeling you get with increased insulin levels produced by the pancreas.

2. Shop the perimeter of the supermarket. If you shop in a supermarket shop the perimeter. Most of the processed foods are normally shelved down the aisles. The fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry and baked goods are normally on the outer walls. But even if you do this, you should still check your ingredients. Processed foods are creeping into the dairy and baked goods sections all the time. Just look at what you think is a loaf of bread and see if you can identify all the ingredients.

3. When possible shop in a farmers market. Foods that are grown on small local are typically are richer in the nutrients that our bodies need. They are not modified for shipment across the country or overseas. The growing process that keeps food from rotting also deprives it of much of its food value.

4. Don’t be afraid to spend a little more on your food. If you buy higher quality food that nourishes your body you will need to eat less of it to feel satisfied. Many processed foods will not satisfy your hunger while still packing on the excess fat, leaving you wanting more and more. Eating less but better quality food will save you money in the long run. Not only will you consume less, feel better and probably see a decline in medical bills as chance of developing diabetes, heart disease and other ailments associated with obesity decline.

Since the end of World War II and particularly the last 30 years the American diet has shifted away from natural foods to processed foods. As our diets have filled up with all the low fat, low calorie foods the incidence of obesity particularly among children has exploded. Changing your diet and the diet of your child will take work and can take time but the benefits will be well worth it.