BY NICK JOLY
What does the word “healthy” actually mean?
Health. It’s always talked about, written about, and everywhere you turn, curated ads depict images of what they deem to be “healthy” but what does the word “healthy” actually mean? The biggest disconnects that I’ve found regarding health are the many conflicting messages, and the lack of knowledge around diet and disease. More specifically, preventing disease through diet.
In a personal weight loss journey article I shared on Inspired by Nick a while ago, you may recall that my health journey began when I was 17 years, 250+ lbs, uncomfortable in my own skin, and the most self-conscious I had ever felt. I had twisted/broken my ankle, was in a cast, on crutches, and couch-bound for weeks, when I was hit with a tsunami of depression. Being heavily overweight, and ultimately immobile, left me feeling sad about what I had let my life become, and feeling defined by the number on the scale.
While there are so many ad campaigns with self-loving messages that promote loving our bodies and ourselves as we are, there’s a BIG difference I want to highlight: the difference between loving yourself, and loving your unhealthy self. Based on my height and genetic makeup, I should have never weighed 250+ lbs, this weight was obese for me. And the health concerns that came with being obese were always at the forefront of my mind.
The lack of mobility I experienced when injured, combined with a profound unhappiness with the size I had let myself become, was my impetus for turning my life around through advanced knowledge on all things health, starting with diet. (By diet, I simply mean the foods I was putting into my body). I did all the research I could on all things health in the following order (notice the learning journey here, too).
- How to lose weight fast?
- How to get abs?
- How to lose your gut?
- What burns fat quickly?
- What foods promote weight loss?
Moving on to:
- What is a healthy gut?
- What foods fight cancer?
- How to balance your hormones and sugar levels through food?
- Are natural sugars healthy?
- How many calories from fat should I be consuming?
- What are the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables?
- Can diet promote longevity?
My learning journey with health started with an obsession to lose weight quickly, without any real knowledge of a sustainable, healthy diet. The more I learned on healthy living and eating, the more I saw the relation between diet and diseases.
Eating healthy wasn’t just about being thin or losing weight. It was a form of creating the best possible life I could for myself.
“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates
I love this quote. And the one thing I had to keep reminding myself of during this journey (which I am still on, by the way), was that none of us were born with the knowledge, we ALL learn things along the way. No one intrinsically knows how to do anything at birth, aside from breathing and other bodily functions. It’s only through learning that we acquire the skills needed to accomplish something, in this case; losing weight and eating healthy.
But, how do we actually practice and live a healthy life?
How to see past greenwashing & buy healthy food
I shared a blog post recently on The Difference Between Buying Organic and Non-GMO Products. In that article I talk a lot about using the information that’s given to us on food packaging and labels as guidance. Trust me though, I also know that navigating food labels and product packaging can sometimes feel like a full time! Can’t companies or regulatory bodies just make things easy for us?! The thing is, they have. Slightly.
Have you ever seen the following labels: non-GMO certified, USDA Organic, Canadian Certified Organic, Made with 97% organic… etc. etc. ? Think of these labels as your friends. And, as with any group setting, you’ll always have one or two who are closest to you:
- USDA Organic / Canadian Certified Organic
- Non-GMO certified
These are my go-to’s, and I ALWAYS look for BOTH to be present on the same food items where possible. If something states it is non-GMO, it can still be inorganic, and vice versa. They need to both be front and centre.
(Unfortunately) Worth noting, is that synthetics and chemicals can still find their way into our foods, even if labeled USDA Organic and non-GMO. That’s why the third most important thing to look for on product packaging and labels is “Chemical-Free”.
How to be Discerning in the Greenwashing Game
Let me start with a quick rundown of terms that are often overused, and positioned on product packaging to make us think what we’re buying is healthy, when in fact, it’s often not. This is where I like to believe my marketing background plays a key role in keeping an eye on deceptive wording.
- Whole Foods
- Made with Avocado Oil
None of these words are governed, and so many brands toss them around in big bold lettering to convince us what they’re selling is good for us.
That’s not to say that every brand using these words is lying to you, you just can’t base your knowledge solely on these words – due to the lack of governing. Best to go to the ingredients, first.Whatever the front or the side of the packaging says, start with the ingredients label. That’s what matters MOST because it contains the cold hard facts.
In a world full of marketing and advertising ploys, it’s so important to do your own research and read the fine print and ingredient labels on product packaging.
Here’s a great example I saw recently; a brand had the word RAW (yes, in caps) labelled on their green-coloured bottle, in at least four different sections. Naturally, you would think this means they use raw ingredients, which wasn’t the case. RAW, was just an acronym for Real, Authentic, and Whole. Which is all just fluff. The ingredient label revealed the truth, that their ingredients contained a number of synthetics and chemicals.
“Made with Avocado Oil” is another one. I saw a bag of “healthy” kettle cooked chips recently; it had this written across the front, and a cartoon caricature of an avocado, smiling nonetheless. After reading the ingredient label and the fine print, turns out that is was made with only 2% avocado oil, and the rest was a blend of canola and palm oil, both of which lead to the deforestation of the rainforest, by the way.
These marketing tactics are used purely to sell health, when in fact, the products are not at all healthy. These products are often high in calories and low in nutrition. And the point is, that certain companies will go to great lengths, and spend large amounts, to convince us otherwise. Their bottom lines come first, not our health.
Whether it’s fruits and/or veggies, or fresh nuts and seeds, any and all produce should be organic.
- You want to talk cost?
- Yes it’s more expensive, but the health benefits are priceless. By not buying organic, you risk (re: almost certify) putting toxins and chemicals into your body. And the costs in the long-term of reversing these effects (if possible) are far costlier.
If your logic for not buying organic is the that it costs more, than when buying foods you should ALWAYS default to buying the cheaper alternative, right? And often, the cheapest options cost less BECAUSE they are less nutritious, mass-produced, and contain added preservatives, chemicals, waste & toxins.
Many foods have a long shelf life these days, it almost seems inevitable. Even the foods that are “good for you” do too. And as a rule of thumb, I like to think:
If foods were designed to live a LONG time on a shelf, then they are likely designed to live a LONG time in your body.
Foods with the shortest shelf-life, often have the fewest preservatives. And that’s a great thing! If you’re going to go the packaged route (sometimes it feels like the only route), then at least do your body a favour and pick up the options with USDA Certified Organic, non-GMO, and chemical-free labels. Your body will thank you in the long run.
Meats, eggs & dairy are a whole other ball game, and what I’ve come to learn, a VERY touchy subject. I personally choose to not put them into my body. I can share that since going plant-based, I have NEVER felt this good before in my life. And trust me, I’ve come a VERY, very long way.
The supplement aisle: enter if you dare
I can attest to the fact that trying to find a quality supplement is T-O-U-G-H. It’s kind of like trying to find an organic avocado at the perfect stage of ripeness; not impossible, but definitely time consuming.
My experience with supplements is a bit of a rocky road. I jumped from brand to brand in search of a good one with quality ingredients, but ultimately stopped searching after not being able to find what I’d been looking for. Many supplements were filled with fortified nutrients, sugar and other red flag ingredients.
My homegirl and vegan babe; Jordan, of Bruce’s Roots introduced me to Pranin Organic.
Jordan shared Pranin Organic’s Smoothie Boosters with me and highlighted the health benefits. She knew my food ethos well; selecting quality foods and products, and made the ultimate recommendation. I’ve been using Pranin Organic in my smoothies ever since.
The key ingredients I look for in my morning smoothies are:
- Greens, in any form, but usually cruciferous (kale, broccoli, cauliflower – not technically green, I know!)
- Plant-Based Protein, usually in powder form, or even if just a little from nuts.
- Iron, my main source now is through Pranin Organic’s PureFood A-Z.
- Healthy fats, usually peanut butter
My 5-minute Green Hulk Smoothie has everything you need to start your day off right
- 1 organic ripe banana
- ½ cup of unsweetened almond milk
- 1 cup of organic baby spinach
- ¼ tsp of cinnamon
- 1 tbsp of organic peanut butter (almond/cashew butters work great also!)
- Vegan protein powder is optional
- 1 tsp Pranin Organic PureFood A-Z or one sachet of their Berry Banana or Raw Cacao Smoothie Booster.
- 1 scoop each of Pranin Organic’s PureFood B, C, and optional Iron (if you’re iron deficient)
Toss all your ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. I like to get crafty and creative with my toppings when I make a smoothie bowl, so I used:
- Sliced fresh grapefruit
- Large flake rolled oats
- Organic pumpkin seeds
- Crushed almonds
- Hemp seeds
- Black and white chia seeds
The benefits of using Pranin Organic PureFood A-Z
Firstly, it’s good to know that PureFood A-Z contains all 25 essential vitamins and minerals, and the health benefits of this
smoothie really lie within the PureFood. Normally, I like to add ingredients like Chlorella or Spirulina for Vitamin B12 + Iron, but the PureFood covers that, which is great.
The Pranin Organic PureFood A-Z is high in Vitamins A-Z, B + C. What I really appreciate most about it is that the formulator, Dr. David Wang (a Naturopathic Doctor of 26+ years) crafted it in a way that would support all body types for the following benefits:
- Improved adrenal function
- Better thyroid health
- Manage stress
- Provide energy needed for the day
- Supporting metabolism
- Energy production levels
- Better brain health
I think I’ve mentioned in prior smoothie recipes that I love adding vegan protein powder. And while this still holds true, more often than not, protein powders focus on just that, protein. But our bodies need so much more than just protein. And that’s what I love about these PureFood products; you toss them into your morning smoothies and you’re set for the day. No worries about making sure you get enough of this or that, or measuring the amounts of chlorella and spirulina and turmeric to the T. One PureFood A-Z scoop, and you’re good to go.
Nick Joly is a freelance food-photographer & blogger based out of Toronto, Canada. By day Nick works as a digital marketing specialist and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Marketing.
He created Inspired by Nick in December of 2015, and after the he quickly found his passions in health, wellness, food photography and of course, inspiring people.