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Know What’s Lurking in Your Groceries

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My son has taken to fist pumping the air and shouting Yes! He is three. And I only have myself to blame. And Karin G. Reiter from Nutritious and Delicious, I blame her too.

It was Karin, after all, who gave me the recipe for a No-Knead Wheat-Free Ezekiel Bread. Yes, you read that right: there’s no need for kneading and no wheat either so this bread is very low in gluten, plus you don’t even need a bread maker. Sounds too good to be true right? Believe me I’ve tried my fair share of bread baking with largely thumbs down results. So when I pulled my loaf out of the oven after a ridiculously easy toddler-assisted bread making session, I wasn’t exactly holding my breath. And then I cracked open the crusty nutty bread and bit into the seedy dense loaf and, OK, I admit it, I did a little kitchen victory dance. And that is how the whole fist pump debacle started.

I first met Karin on her Supermarket Tour, a highly recommended, eye-opening tour around Tanglin Market Place that involves lots of ingredient reading, label decoding, and myth busting for anyone who has an interest in food and eating healthier.

supermarket tour_1

If you’ve ever questioned whether it was worth buying organic (and if so, how far do you switch), whether your kids actually need milk at all and if so is it worth splurging on the $16 US organic stuff, then read on…

Some of these questions can’t be answered in a single sentence, let alone a 2-hour tour. But Karin gives you a starting point. She runs one-on-one consultations too if you have specific health concerns, along with interesting workshops from “Heal Your Gut Fermentation”, to “Beautiful Babies: Introducing Solids” to “Detox and Weight Loss”.

After your grand tour of the supermarket, you’ll never reach for that bottle of ready-made pasta sauce without scanning the ingredients to track the sodium content and to sniff out whether there’s any MSG, hidden sugars and other nasties. Just to make sure you’ve understood the reams of information that comes with Karin’s tour, you’re set little tests: “Find me the Healthiest Peanut Butter and the Least Healthy”. We march down the bread aisle to weed out the offending breads, track down the worst and best cereals and then it’s off to the refrigerated section.

supermarket tour_2

Takeaway Tips:

  1. Buy Organic if you can. If you can’t buy all organic – focus on the “Dirty Dozen” (a list of the most pesticide contaminated fruit and veg) and buy those organic. You can find better priced organic at NTUC FairPrice Finest, at the Pasir Panjang market and online at To be devil’s advocate I will add that not many people know that “organic” doesn’t mean NO pesticides – it just means natural pesticides vs. synthetic pesticides – and from my research, the jury is still out on the pros and cons of ‘natural’ pesticides.
  2. Fresh is best – produce starts to lose nutritional value the minute it’s picked, so try to buy as locally grown as possible, rather than produce that has come half way across the globe.
  3. Read those ingredient labels! Food Labels list in order of most to least.
  4. Lower your exposure to synthetic hormones and antibiotics. Find a butcher offering grass-fed organic red meats and hormone-free, antibiotic-free poultry.
  5. Reduce your sugar content. Know the different guises of sugar (fructose, honey, concentrated apple juice, agave syrup). “Good” sugars are really only fresh fruits.
  6. Brown (rice, bread, pasta) is healthier than white; try avoiding all-white foods like white flour, white bread, sugar and salt.
  7. Karin is not a big dairy fan and recommends almond milk instead (ideally made by you: recipe on Karin’s free e-book from her website). A huge surprise to me was that the American brand Horizon Organic – though always in the refrigerated section – has apparently been pasteurized and heat treated so much to qualify for entry into Singapore that is it basically UHT milk! Of which the nutritional value is negligent, says Karin. She recommends going for single pasteurized organic grass-fed milk, ideally from Australia (anything further afield is likely to have become UHT milk).

supermarket tour_3

There is a lot of information to take in – and plenty more that I haven’t touched on above. A lot of my questions have been answered, though many answers lead me to more questions. I personally feel the global food industry is not as transparent as it should be. I’m not satisfied with the deceptive marketing of many of the foods out there – is there really a need for a hundred different guises for sugar, let alone MSG? Why is there no definitive study on the organic vs non-organic debate? Is there a Dirty Dozen list for Asia? And don’t even get me started on eggs!

Overall, thanks to Karin I’m armed with lots of information and some great healthy ideas to keep me on track. I’ll be buying even less pre-made food than I already do and making more of my own so I know exactly what’s in it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a small matter of warm bread to be sliced and buttered.

Lead image sourced via Pinterest, Image #1 sourced via Pinterest, Image #2 sourced via Pinterest, Image #3 sourced via Pinterest

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