Does what’s inside our pantries determine how we look and feel on the outside?
HUM’s Director of Education, Sarah Greenfield, RD, CSSD, thinks yes. So much so, that she wants to hold a grocery intervention for one lucky (and willing) volunteer. Enter Matt, an analyst at a tech startup and self-professed cereal addict. Watch the video above or read on to see what Sarah finds in his refrigerator and pantry that may be holding him back from looking and feeling his absolute best.
Matt’s Nutrition Goals
To start our grocery intervention, Sarah asks about Matt’s health and wellness goals.
“I don’t sleep great. I would like to have some more energy, and you know, you always want to be in better shape,” he says. In our little grocery intervention experiment, he’s hoping to get more knowledge and understanding of nutrition. “I’m not good at being bad at things. With nutrition, it’s always just been like I don’t know what I’m doing – so I don’t try. Whereas, if I had a clear sense of what I should be doing, I think I could make it happen.”
What’s In his kitchen
Sarah starts in the fridge and finds some eggs and arugula. A good start! Although, sadly, the arugula is a little more yellow than green. “But the intention is there!” she exclaims. However, Sarah is less thrilled about the sugary energy drinks and also the lack of fresh ingredients in general. “Ideally, we want to see the majority of what you’re eating coming out of your fridge because those are fresh ingredients.”
Moving on to the pantry, she finds much more to be concerned about. First up? Instant ramen. “There is 830 milligrams of sodium on the nutrition label – and that’s only for half the package!” Incidentally, the American Heart Association recommends an ideal limit of 1,500 milligrams per day for most adults. That makes the single package of ramen with a total of 1,660 milligrams of sodium ill-advised.
Sarah is much more supportive of the plain dried pasta she finds in Matt’s pantry. “Pasta isn’t bad! It’s just good to look for options with more fiber and protein. I always try to add as many vegetables as possible to round out my meal.” Again though, she’s less crazy about the instant macaroni and cheese.
But the real scare comes when she gets to Matt’s breakfast stores. It’s a downright impressive stockpile of chocolate milk mix, sugary toaster pastries, and every beloved breakfast cereal you can think of. “I’ll go through a box of cereal a day,” Matt shares. But with nine grams of sugar per serving and eleven servings per box, that adds up to 99 grams of sugar per day. According to the American Heart Association, men should aim for no more than 36 grams of sugar per day and women should limit to a mere 25 grams.
“No human needs this much cereal!” Sarah yelps, pulling out box after box. Her diagnosis is this: “You are living on sugar. This might be why you have no energy. Because this stuff will spike your blood sugar and then crash your energy.” The remedy she proposes? “We have to get balance, more fiber, colors, and protein.”
The Grocery Intervention Replacements
Sarah’s strategy isn’t to overhaul Matt’s lifestyle completely. She simply wants to find healthier options to seamlessly integrate into his existing routine. So, she begins with a few breakfast swaps beginning with – you guessed it – cereal.
“I picked out some new cereals that have a little bit more nutrient density to them,” she says. “A lot of the cereals you had before listed ingredients like maltodextrin and corn syrup. These do not have those types of ingredients. They’re much lower in added sugar and a bit higher in fiber.” She also replaces cereal marshmallows with fresh blueberries. “These just add some extra fiber and phytonutrients,” she explains.
Lunch & Dinner
Matt’s typical lunch or dinner consists of sandwiches, chicken nuggets, frozen pizza, and yes, lots of ramen. Sarah’s replacement selections are just as convenient – but more nutrient-dense.
“Since you eat a lot of sandwiches, I got you some sprouted-grain bread. It has a little bit more protein and fiber. Then, I got you some veggie burgers. Again, another easy way to get more fiber and vegetables into your diet. We also got you some frozen meals. So instead of making ramen, you can just heat these up and they have really clean ingredients. There’s no added sugar or ingredients you can’t pronounce.”
“Awesome, because I’m very lazy,” Matt admits.
To stick with a lazy-friendly theme, Sarah also includes some pre-cut vegetables and chicken breasts to cook on Matt’s George Foreman Grill for easy, beginner-friendly meal prep. These ingredients can also pair nicely with pasta.
“I’m going to challenge you to try this mung bean pasta. It has more protein and fiber per serving.” But she also provides a whole wheat option and a jar of pasta sauce that is free of added sugars. “We also got you some Primal Kitchen unsweetened ketchup, to reduce sugar intake where you don’t need it,” Sarah explains.
Because most of Matt’s cereal intake came down to snacking between meals, Sarah wanted to provide plenty of healthy snacking options as an alternative. “I want to make sure you have things that are crunchy but aren’t just straight carbs and sugar,” she says. Instead, she offers roasted and salted cashews, pre-made popcorn, grain-free tortilla chips, chickpea puffs, and jerky.
As for Matt’s sweet tooth, even a registered dietitian can understand the need for some sweets. “I got chocolate chips with 60% cacao for you. The darker chocolate means you get more of the actual cacao versus all the added sugar and milk,” she says. “I also like the chocolate chip format because you feel like you’re having a lot, but it’s easy to have a smaller serving than when you buy a big chocolate bar.”
On top of the grocery haul makeover, Sarah also provides some HUM supplements to support Matt in his health and wellness goals.
“First, I have some Raw Beauty for you. This is great to try in place of chocolate milk in the mornings. You can just add a scoop to regular milk, shake it up, and you’ll get some probiotics, enzymes, and adaptogens.”
Next, to address Matt’s sleep and energy concerns, she offers Beauty zzZz and Uber Energy. “The Beauty zzZz really helps you get into that natural rhythm of sleep and Uber Energy helps regulate the way your body responds to stress.
Finally, for any muscle Matt wants to build, Sarah gives him some Ripped Rooster. “This is a thermogenic product so it just helps your body more effectively burn fat,” she explains.
“My biggest takeaway from this grocery intervention is that it’s not that hard to change,” Matt tells Sarah. “I knew that I had bad habits, and I knew my diet wasn’t the best, and you’ve just given me a bunch of small tweaks that I can definitely stick to and improve my health. I think once I start doing that, just everything else will be easier. It’s making that first step that it’s the hard part.”
“I think it’s really important to understand that you don’t have to go from your habits now to a 100% perfect healthy diet,” Sarah agrees. “Whatever you can do to make slow steps to get there is really, really important. So I’m really excited that we’re able to take the habits that you have and just slightly tweak them so that you can keep building on that and create something that really supports you.”