Americans have always been consumed with quantity “super sized” foods. But with high obesity rates and a desire to take charge of their own health, more consumers put quality high on their shopping lists.

Consumers find when they opt for healthier foods, they reduce risks of certain diseases, enjoy tastier flavors and even feel satiated — avoiding the need to snack. And contrary to conventional wisdom, eating better doesn’t mean digging deeper into the pocketbook.

Healthier choices

“You don’t have to be a movie star to have a quality diet,” says Ashley Koff, an internationally known registered dietitian on a mission to improve Americans’ health. The self-described “qualitarian” advocates eating the better choices of foods now so readily available.

Consumers find when they opt for healthier foods, they reduce risks of certain diseases, enjoy tastier flavors and even feel satiated -- avoiding the need to snack.

Quality starts at the root of the food cycle – with the soil. Renowned soil microbiologist and chief scientist at the Rodale Institute Elaine Ingham, Ph.D. says that when nature is in proper balance, Mother Nature’s magic takes over. “If we just get the proper microbial life back into our soil, then there is no need to apply inorganic fertilizers.”

The proof is in the taste. “You should bite broccoli and say ‘wow’ or really enjoy a nice juicy tomato or piece of asparagus that tastes the way it should,” she adds.

The wealth of quality food choices continues to expand everything from heirloom fruits and vegetables to quinoa and wakame.

“There’s a connection being made between good health and what people can do to improve their quality of life,” suggests Margaret M. Wittenberg, a globally recognized authority on natural and organic foods and author of The Essential Good Food Guide. Using her more than 35-years of experience in the industry – she was an original team member with Whole Foods -- Wittenberg encourages consumers to “know your producer and know about how the food you are buying is grown or produced.”

Read between the lines

While buying local organic is preferred, most national chain supermarkets offer large organic departments to tap into the $30 billion organic food and beverages market. Buying items with the USDA Organic Seal verifies no pesticides or GMO’s. Beware the term natural, experts caution, which doesn’t equate to organic.

The non profit Environmental Working Group identifies what it calls the “dirty dozen plus” of foods with the highest pesticides as a guide to when to select organic and Koff has the Ashley Koff Approved list (AKA) of everything from packaged foods to restaurant options that she has researched and meet with her non-biased approval.

Even with quality food, Americans should discuss their diets with health professionals to determine if they require supplements, suggests Cara Welch, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Natural Products Association. “Be proactive instead of reactive,” advises Welch who also urges consumers to read labels and click on company websites to learn about nutritional information. “Companies want to be as transparent as they can. For example, there might be reasons why a product isn’t certified organic or Non-GMO.” The expansion of natural product departments in major chains has made it easier to buy quality supplements, but there are also the one-on-one relationships that are valued in mom and pop health stores. No matter where purchased, “natural products bring quality to your life,” Welch concludes.

 

THE DIRTY DOZEN

 

Apples

 

Cherry Tomatoes

 

Cucumbers

 

Grapes

 

Hot Peppers

 

Nectarines

 

Peaches

 

Potatoes

 

Spinach

 

Strawberries

 

Summer Squash

 

Red Bell Peppers

THE TRIM TWELVE

 

Asparagus

 

Avocados

 

Cantalope

 

Eggplant

 

Grapefruit

 

Kiwi

 

Mangos

 

Onions

 

Papayas

 

Pineapples

 

Sweet Peas

 

Sweet Potatoes