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Rich Food Poor Food: The Ultimate Grocery Purchasing System (GPS) Paperback – February 26, 2013
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About the Author
Mira Calton, CN, FAAIM, DCCN, CPFC, BCIH is a Licensed Certified Nutritionist, a Fellow of the American Association of Integrative Medicine, a Diplomate of the College of Clinical Nutrition, a Certified Personal Fitness Chef and is Board Certified in Integrative Health. She holds a Diploma in Comprehensive Nutrition from Huntington College of Health Sciences, has completed the Yale University School of Medicine's OWCH (Online Weight Management Counseling for Healthcare Providers) program, and currently sits on the American Board of Integrative Health. Mira's interest in nutrition came after having been diagnosed at the age of thirty with advanced osteoporosis. Working with her husband Dr. Jayson Calton to become micronutrient sufficient Mira reversed her condition, they now work together to inspire others to do the same.
Jayson B. Calton, PhD, FAAIM, DCCN, CISSN, BCIH, ROHP is a Fellow of the American Association of Integrative Medicine, a Diplomate of the College of Clinical Nutrition, and is Board Certified in Integrative Health and Sports Nutrition. He has worked with thousands of international clients over the last 20 years to improve their health through his unique nutritional and lifestyle therapies. Dr. Calton majored in Molecular and Microbiology (pre-med), at the Burnett Honors College, School of Biomedical Sciences and holds a Masters of Science degree and a Ph.D. in Nutrition. He has completed post-doctoral continuing medical education at Harvard Medical School, Cornell University, and Yale University School of Medicine, and sits on the Board of Directors for the American Holistic Health Association (AHHA) and the American Board of Integrative Health (ABIH).
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After reading the reviews, I decided it would be the right tool to help my kids decide for themselves. On day one, my oldest flipped through to see if the brands we buy are okay. On day two, my youngest was quizzing her big sister on grass-fed butter. By day three they were fighting over whose turn it was to read it at breakfast. Believe it or not, this is just what I'd hoped for. They've taken it upon themselves to see who can figure out the "right" thing to buy when we shop.
The book is simple enough to pick up and put down, or flip from section to section and spot-check a food choice. When they stay with Grandma they'll need to know which brand of yogurt to pick out at the grocery store (and why). One day they'll be standing in the grocery store deciding which vegetables they can afford to skip buying organic while their friends are stocking up on ramen noodles. These are the important life skills even my adult friends can't figure out yet. (I'm looking at you, Fat Free Cream Cheese!)
I especially appreciate the depth of information the authors cover. You can't just walk into Whole Foods or the local co-op and assume that it must be healthy if the store sells it. Just because it says "Free Range" or "Organic" doesn't mean you're buying a healthy food.
The formatting is easy to follow. The lists are specific, both in the What AND in the Why. I could never get my family to read all the blogs and articles and research out there, but this book has compiled the information into a fantastic family resource!
The Caltons begin with this disclaimer: "If you're reading this book, you are likely quite far ahead of the pack when it comes to knowledge and interest about healthy eating. You're likely familiar with the popular adages to avoid foods with stuff you can't pronounce on the label or to shop the perimeter aisles of the grocery store, where the fresh foods are typically located. You may have even embraced the Primal/Paleo/evolutionary health movement and optimized your diet to be free of naked calories and centered upon the micronutrient rich planet and animal foods that our ancestors evolved on."
So good, so far. They continue: "One things for sure, whoever you are and whatever your current level of knowledge and commitment is, there is always room for improvement."
The question is: How much improvement? The answer: Very little.
Honestly, the previous paragraph sums up the main message of the book: Shop the perimeter, and don't buy foods with ingredients you can't pronounce. Rich Food, Poor Food never truly delves any deeper than that, except to give you specific details on the deleterious effects of said ingredients.
What I found more discrediting, however, was that the Caltons engage in the same sort of (what Michael Pollan termed) 'nutrititionism' they seem to denounce. There are pages filled with the specific health benefits of assorted fruits, vegetables and herbs:
"Feeling sluggish in the mid-afternoon? A handful of blueberries should do the trick for a quick energy kick."
On bananas: "They may be yellow on the outside, but these white-fleshed fruits are packed with powerful potassium."
On cayenne: "Capsaicin, found in cayenne, has thermogenic properties that increase your blood flow and metabolism."
Sure, the book IS focused on micronutrients, but the syntax and tone espousing each and every benefit reads like so much of the poor advice you find on Yahoo! Health or your local news channel. There's not a lot of thought given to simply eating a well-rounded diet. If I didn't know much about nutrition, I'd come away thinking that I'd have to eat 20 coconuts, 10 cayenne peppers and chew on cardamom seeds after each meal in order to lose weight and have healthy digestion.
Perhaps most distracting, however, is simply the corny tone. It works if you want simple mantras for repeating to yourself: Sage: Memory Minder, Coconut: Weight-Loss Wonder, Onions: The Bone Builder. And puns like these gems: "Our Ancestor's Favorite Meat Was Offal!" and "Make No Bones About It-Bone Broth is the Original SOUPerfood."
Lastly, they end each section with a comparison of products to avoid and to buy (Steer Clear, Steer Here). It's useful in one or two sections (condiments, especially), but frequently the products in comparison shouldn't be compared, ex. "Steer Here: Cascadian Farms Organic Vegetables" vs. "Steer Clear: Jolly Green Giant Cheese Broccoli." For readers truly invested in nutrition, etc. this is already a no brainer - how about whether or not my local Market Basket Organic is as healthy as Cascadian Farms? You can't really compare plain brussels sprouts with fake-cheese smothered broccoli.
All in all, an interesting enough read, but if you are a regular reader of any nutrition blogs (MDA, Robb Wolf, etc.), it's not worth your money. Works fine as an introductory guide to healthier shopping, but I'd still recommend steering clear of this one.
Clean and local eating is great, but not very feasible for most. I don't know anyone willing to make the sacrifice of avoiding processed food all together, and let's face it - is not very likely that I will make all the meals from scratch any time soon. What made this book such an eye opener for me was that it explains which additives to avoid and why. I don't have to avoid processed food although that probably would be the healthier option, but I can choose more wisely.
Before purchasing a product I have started to look at more than just calories, fat, carbs, and amount of sugar. Most processed products have ingredients I can't pronounce and should avoid, but now I know which ingredients I want to avoid completely and which I think is acceptable for my family. I have started to take trips to Wholefoods more often because it is easier to find a "cleaner" alternative to some of our food there, but my local grocery store is still the one we use daily. I still buy grated cheese from time to time, even though I now know that it contains an extra additive to prevent clumping (never thought about looking at the ingredients).