Michael Podolsky
CEO and Co-Founder of PissedConsumer.com

One of the main concerns of customers is saving money on groceries and buying food at as low a price as possible. On the other hand, we need to eat healthy food of high quality. How to buy quality food at a good price?

We need to look at what different cultures are eating and pick out the parts that make the most sense to us…

PissedConsumer spoke with the nutrition and food safety expert Lisa Andrews, who runs the Sound Bites Nutrition website. In the video interview, she educates consumers about how to choose good quality products, understand food safety standards, and healthy diet.

Here are the points discussed with our food expert:

Why Should We Choose the Quality of Food?

Michael: Today we are going to talk with Lisa Andrews, who runs Sound Bites Nutrition. Lisa, please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.

Lisa: Sure. I'm a registered dietician. I've been a dietician for about 30 years. I have switched my practice focus from illness to wellness. So I focus on consumer education. I do freelance writing, food demonstrations, and presentations for companies, and I sell food pun merchandise that goes back to food insecurity.

Michael: Why is it important for consumers to choose the quality of food that they eat?

Lisa: When I talk about the quality of food, I think of nutrient density. For example, I want people to buy seasonal fruit versus fruit snacks or fruit roll-ups or those types of things. Less processing in food, less added sugar, less added fat, and less added sodium is better for people's health in the long term.

Because, at least in the US, we're worried about things like heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes, which are all diet related. I want people to choose nutrient-dense foods that are culturally appropriate, and that they can afford.

How to Eat Healthier?

Michael: If you travel to Europe, you see people that are much slimmer than in the United States in general. Why?

Lisa: I would say they're probably more active, for one. They may walk to the market or ride their bikes. They get around probably a little bit more frequently on their legs than we do. I also think that they eat less processed foods or less packaged foods, and they may not snack as frequently as people in the US.

We're a country of feeding our feelings…

…so people seem to be constantly snacking and eating when they may not even be hungry.

Michael: That's interesting. I've heard that it's much healthier to eat little, but very often versus eating a lot and only several times a day. As a dietician, what can you tell about it?

Lisa: Well, it depends on the time of the day, and on what you're eating as a snack. For example, if you're snacking on fruits and vegetables or maybe Greek yogurt or something that's nutrient-dense, that's great. But if you're grabbing a candy bar, a protein bar, a Pop Tart, or a bag of chips in between your meals, then you're really not giving your body any nutrients.

You're just getting a lot of calories and fat. As far as the quantity of food, I think we've shifted the focus away from grazing frequently to making your meals really count. I do a lot of counseling on weight management, and I typically suggest that people eat the majority of their calories earlier in the day. If they're not hungry, don't keep snacking.

Then, set a time in the evening, at least three or four hours before you go to bed where you just stop eating because you want to give your body a rest to digest your food, but also to tap into fat stores to use for calories in between meals so that you don't gain weight.

What Is the Psychology of Dieting?

Michael: It's very difficult to stay on a diet when you have already reduced your body weight. Several months later, you gain all that weight back.

Can you help me not to get into that eating binge after the diet? What is the secret?

Lisa: Yeah. This situation is constant and frequent. I call it this bummer cycle of “diet, cheat, repent, repeat”, and people are constantly in this cycle of losing and gaining. To me, you can lose weight very quickly on a fat diet, whether that's a ketogenic diet or giving up a certain food group, giving up all carbs, or going on a low-fat diet.

The problem with that is that it's not sustainable. I try to work with people on sustainable habits that are going to last and will help them maintain their weight loss.

Whatever you did to lose the weight, unless it's sustainable, and you go back to your old eating habits, you're just going to gain the weight back.

For example, if you're consuming a lot of calories from liquids, whether that's sports drinks, sodas, or alcohol, reducing the consumption of those or giving them up completely and switching to seltzer water or something that's lower in calories and just sticking with it is probably going to help.

Unlike going on a whole 30 diet and giving everything up, and then 30 days later going right back to whatever you were doing before. You're going to gain the weight back. It's difficult.

Michael: We all go to the supermarket and we see a lot of nice marketing packaging. You want to grab the food. Yet, at the same time, there is no store to keep your diet.

Do the stores where there is only healthy food exist?

Lisa: I would say maybe a "health food store" that's selling supplements maybe, but even places like Whole Foods that have this reputation of being natural or organic, non-GMO, non-bioengineered, and everything, they still have cake, desserts, cookies, ice cream, and brownies.

It's a matter of managing your mindset when you go shopping.

Don't go hungry, bring a list with you. If you have coupons for things, make sure that it's things that you would actually use and not buy them just because, well, I have a dollar off of these frozen dairy-free popsicles. What part of the diet do they really play? Are they just more processed food in your diet, or is it something that you're actually going to eat?

We do have quite a bit of food waste in this country because part of it is that we have so much food compared to what we had. When I was growing up, things were in season. In the summer you had strawberries and melon and peaches, and in the winter you had apples and citrus fruit.

Now we have all of those things all of the time, which is lovely. I also think it leads to a lot of overconsumption, waste, and confusion about what to buy and what's appropriate to buy when.

Michael: Completely understood. Another business idea of yours. I think you should open up a health store where there is only healthy food. You can sell cake, but next to it, there is got to be a treadmill. Until the person finishes running and burns all the calories in that cake, the cake is not given to the person.

Lisa: Well, what's interesting, in the US a lot of our strip malls will have a Dunkin' Donuts right next to a Jenny Craig weight loss center or a Weight Watchers. I think to myself, "Who set that up? It's just failure." It's like you're in one door and then you're coming next door because you've gained too much weight from the ice cream.

We have this society of “I want to eat my cake, but I don't want it to show up on my hips.”

I love food, I embrace food, and I don't want people to be super militant about it, but I do think we need to reel ourselves in and be more moderate about our consumption of calories that are not doing us any good.

What Are the Types of Diets?

Michael: What is the most popular diet for different body types that you think works?

Lisa: From a popular diet perspective and what's healthiest for us, there's lots of great research on the Mediterranean diet. At the same time, I don't want to dismiss other cultures that aren't the Mediterranean.

For example, in Mediterranean cuisine, we have lots of fruits, vegetables, fish, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and beans, but there are also great qualities to Asian food. We have lots of vegetables, lean meats, more tofu, and things like that.

We need to look at what different cultures are eating and pick out the parts that make the most sense to us and that are culturally appropriate for us. I don't want to tell somebody never to eat a certain food that they've grown up with and love. Maybe they reduce the portion or alter the cooking method so it's not as high in calories, but we find a way to make peace with our food.

Maybe we've lost that sense of enjoyment with our food and we're just feeding ourselves.

I've noticed with COVID that most referrals I've gotten for counseling have been either for weight gain or gastrointestinal issues, which are directly related to stress eating or stressful conditions. So it's tricky.

Michael: In the Weight Watchers program they have points, but it's very similar to counting calories. What I've done is I've counted calories. My wife was going crazy on me when I was weighing a bowl of soup, but I actually was able to stick to it and I was able to lose weight while eating all the different types of food.

You have to weigh every single apple that you could consume during the day. It worked for me for a period of time, and then I just dropped it and I went back to eating abnormal portions. That's my experience.

Lisa: The thing with dieting is that no one size fits everybody and it's just like medication. We have medications for blood sugar and multiple medications for high blood pressure. We have multiple diets that work for different people.

Weight Watchers has been a very successful program. However, I feel like I've seen them shift towards whatever the latest trend is. For example, for a while, they were telling people that fruit was free. Well, what if I was a binge eater and decided to eat an entire watermelon? I'm not going to lose any weight that way.

You have to put some parameters that make sense to people. I usually tell or advise people to look more at the serving sizes and also just pay attention to hunger cues, and think about what they're missing from their diet in addition to what they are overeating. I look at the quality of a person's diet in addition to the quantity of food that they're consuming when it comes to weight loss.

Should We Read Food Labels?

Michael: Do you advise consumers to pay attention to the labels on products in the supermarket? Are they important?

Lisa: Yeah, they're definitely important. To be honest, they're changing, although they take a long time to change because it's expensive to change the nutrition facts label. It's expensive to do all the research in order to add health claims to foods.

If people are trying to focus on a particular nutrient, for example, their physician or dietician tells them they need more fiber in their diet, an easy way to look at whether something is high or low is to look at the percent daily value on the label.

For fiber, you want something to have 20% or more of your daily value, for it to be a good source of fiber or high-end fiber. If they're trying to cut back on sodium, it should be 5% or less of the daily value. That's one way to look at it.

There is this movement towards clean labels where we don't want as many ingredients in the food. The issue with that is some of those ingredients are vitamin fortification or they're preservatives that need to be in the food in order to prevent spoiling or foodborne illness or to extend the shelf life.

While I don't want a whole lot of additives in my food, I recognize that some of the words that we can't pronounce are appropriate. Things like cyanocobalamin sound like a really scary word. In reality, it's just vitamin B12, but the consumer doesn't know that. They see that and they go, "Oh, I don't know. I can't pronounce that. I guess I shouldn't eat it." Well, to me, that's bad advice.

Michael: To summarize, you are suggesting consumers do a little bit of research upon reading the food label, not make assumptions based on the length of the words.

Lisa: The things that we really want to increase in our foods or in our diets are foods that help to prevent disease. Calcium is related to osteoporosis and blood pressure, potassium is related to stroke and blood pressure, and fiber.

We want to reduce things like added sugars, saturated fat, trans fat, too much sodium, and cholesterol. Then also the calorie load because sometimes we think of things like protein bars as being healthy because clearly we need more protein, but we get plenty of protein. That's not an issue unless you're completely vegan or vegetarian, and do not include plant-based sources.

We've got plenty of protein in our diets, but we get focused on certain nutrients and think that we need them, when in reality, we probably don't.

Where to Complain About the Food Quality?

Michael: Where can consumers complain about the food quality that they're buying at the store?

Lisa: If they're not happy with a particular quality of food, or if the food is spoiled in some way, maybe they brought some milk home and it's moldy or it smells bad or something, they can certainly bring it back to the store and get a refund. If they become sick from that particular product, the product will have a label.

If it's a processed product, it'll have a label on the back with the company's address and a phone number for you to contact to complain about it. Fruits and vegetables are more difficult because they're not labeled unless you buy a bulk bag of apples or a bulk bag of something and there's a contact on there. Otherwise, I would take it back to the grocery store that you purchased it from.

How to Keep Track of Recalled Food?

Michael: From time to time, food gets recalled due to salmonella or other spoils that happened at the factory. How can consumers find out or keep track of what's going on for which stores besides mass media?

Lisa: The CDC typically will keep track of outbreaks of foodborne illness. When we say outbreak, it doesn't have to be hundreds and hundreds of people. It only needs to be two people that are impacted by a foodborne illness to be considered an outbreak.

If you don't know the exact website, I would just Google CDC food recall, and it will pull up the most recent ones. It will tell you what to look for on the package and what stores it might have been sold to or under which brand names. What's interesting about food is that, for example, Dole salads might sell only Dole salads, but underneath that umbrella of Dole salads, they might sell salads to Aldi under a different name.

You might hear, "Oh, well I didn't buy Dole salads." Well, you probably did. It's just been marketed differently. It's just been repackaged and repurposed under a different brand name.

That gets back to even a question about food quality and the cost of food. I shop at some of the lower-cost markets. I'm a big fan of Aldi for a few reasons. One it's much smaller so I can get in and out very quickly. Two, the prices are lower. And three, they have pretty much everything that I'm looking for, where I'm not going to be so overwhelmed that I'm going to be staring at 50 different types of yogurt when I really only need two.

We've gotten to the point where there's too much choice and people are buying scats of stuff, and then it increases a lot of food waste.

What Are the Best Food Stores for Healthy Eating?

Michael: Aldi and Lidl are European chains that are coming into the US market. In the past two years, they started popping up. Where are you located? I'm in New York.

Lisa: I'm in Cincinnati, so I'm in the Midwest. We don’t have Lidl here.

Michael: Got it. We have Aldi and Lidl. They're coming in places of key foods, and shop rights. Different types of products are being sold there, and prices are less expensive than what US stores would be selling them for. We'll see how it changes our consumption long term.

Lisa: Even prices in those lower-cost stores have gone up, and not by much, but if a can of beans was normally 59 cents, which is still lower than most chains, and now it's 72 cents, it's still an increase. It's still less than what I would pay at another big box store, but it is definitely still an increase. We've seen an increase in food costs for sure over the pandemic.

Michael: I totally agree with you. It's not only a pandemic. It has to do with the world and the US economy right now. We are in the inflation market, and food prices will continue to grow.

Lisa: As the price of oil goes up, as we have changes in climate, and all of those things impact the cost of food. So we have to figure out a way to make it sustainable.

Michael: Lisa, thank you very much. Is there anything you would like to add for our consumers?

Lisa: Final word to most people is to eat more plants and fewer cows. I'm not a vegetarian. I love dairy, but part of keeping our world and carbon footprints a little smaller and our health a little better is probably eating a little bit less meat, particularly processed meat. Add more beans, vegetables, and fruit to our diet.

I'm at soundbitesnutrition.com. My Instagram is @nutrigirl66. I do a few reels here and there. I like to prepare simple recipes. My whole philosophy is that food should taste good. If you have to plug your nose to eat it, then you're eating the wrong food.

Michael: Lisa, thank you very much!

What diet do you prefer? Please share your experience in the comments. Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel to follow updates on experts’ videos and consumer video reviews.

Michael Podolsky
CEO and Co-Founder of PissedConsumer.com

Michael is a Co-founder and CEO of PissedConsumer, an entrepreneur, expert in customer service and leadership, proactive advocate of consumer rights and freedom of speech.

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