“4-Leaf” eating, Part 4 — shopping for groceries


If it goes in your cart, it is almost certain to end up in your stomach.

Spend most of your time in the produce aisle shopping for healthy items with no labels.

Since most of us eat so many of our calories outside the home, we must take special care to make sure that our home meals are simply the healthiest that they can possibly be. How do we do that?

If you are really committed to the 4-Leaf Program, then you need to start by physically removing ALL of the bad stuff from your kitchen. See rule above. Here are the things that must go:

  • salt
  • sugar
  • all meat & dairy (this includes all cheese and milk)
  • oil
  • salad dressings with oil
  • cereals with sugar
  • frozen dinners
  • all processed foods
  • white flour, white pasta

You get the picture, if it’s a product that will make it difficult for you to make it to the 4-Leaf level, then get rid of it. You will have plenty of temptations when you’re eating outside the house; so just get rid of the ones that you have at home. My recommendation is to give them to charity.

Now you’re ready to go shopping for groceries. Three simple rules.

Rule #1. Buy over 80% of your calories in the fresh produce aisle – with one exception — the whole grains, oatmeal and legumes that are packaged in plastic bags or cartons.

Rule #2. Follow the advice of nutrition guru Jeff Novick, “Don’t believe anything on the front of the package.” That information is there for the sole purpose of selling the product. An example of the trickery you will find in this game — an analysis of 2% Milk ingredients reveals that 37.5% of the calories are derived from fat. Do the math yourself the next time you’re in the store…just check out the numbers on the Nutrition Facts label.

Rule #3. When buying packaged goods like cereal, look at the Nutrition Facts label and check out the following:

The BK Whopper — Like most foods in the typical western diet — a recipe for disaster

  • Percent of calories from fat. If you want to eat 4-Leaf and average less than 20% of your total calories from fat, then try not to ever purchase anything with over 25 or 30% fat. (See example below)
  • Sodium. Make sure that the milligrams of sodium is less than the calories per serving. The Whopper at right fails by a score of 1500 to 1070.
  • Avoid any cholesterol, saturated fat and added sugars. The example here fails miserably on all of these deadly items.
  • List of ingredients. These will be listed in ranked order of quantity, so if fructose is listed first, don’t buy it. You’re looking for the word “whole” near the top of this list. And, as a general rule, don’t buy anything that’s got more than five ingredients — usually a long list of items you can’t pronounce.

More on the above “Nutrition Facts” Example

We chose the BK Whopper to illustrate how to use the Nutrition Facts label found on all packaged foods in your grocery store. No, you can’t buy the Whopper in your grocery store, but you need to know what’s in it — so you won’t ever buy fast foods ever again for yourself or your family.

Buying only “4-Leaf” foods ensures that you’ll be eating mostly “4-Leaf” meals, like this one — my favorite Sailors Daily Oatmeal

Percent of fat. You can easily see that the 630 calories from fat is well over half the 1070 total calories…in fact it’s 59%. It also fails the sodium rule with a “whopping” 1500 milligrams — 430 more than the # of caloires. It’s also loaded with saturated fat, cholesterol and added sugar. But it does have tomato, lettuce, pickle, onion and seeds — a total of 14 calories…less than 2% of the meal. It also has a measly 4 grams of fiber — from a half-day’s worth of calories.

What about the good things like fiber and protein? Not a problem. If you’re buying over 80% of your calories in the fresh produce aisle, you will soon be consuming over 60 grams of fiber per day and you will always get just the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat — without even trying. Still worried about protein, click here for a recent post on that topic. For more background on our 4-Leaf Program, click here.

For amusement, I like to casually observe the contents of the carts of other shoppers. Not surprisingly, there is a definite correlation between those contents and the body types of the shopper. More importantly, there is also the crucial matter of vibrant health to consider.

Click here to visit the final “eating outside the home” segment of this 5-part series on 4-Leaf eating.

If you like what you see here, you may wish to join our periodic mailing list. Also, for help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4-Leaf page. From the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

If you’d like to order our book on Amazon,  visit our BookStore now.

—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at HealthyEatingHealthyWorld.com

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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2 Responses to “4-Leaf” eating, Part 4 — shopping for groceries

  1. Bosaina says:

    Do you have a list of all “unlimited” and “limited” foods to have in a 4 leaf diet?
    I have a feeling there are lots of nutritionly dense items in the market that the average person doesn’t even know they existed, let alone know that he/she is allowed to have on a plant-based diet.

    • J. Morris Hicks says:

      Sorry, we don’t have a list. That’s because we wanted to keep 4Leaf as simple and as flexible as possible. The whole idea is to eat more whole plants—still in nature’s package. Any whole plant is nutritious but too much of some would not be good. For example, if you ate nothing but olives, avocado and nuts, you’d be getting over 70% of your calories from fat and that wouldn’t be a good idea. So, we just try to keep it simple and encourage people to eat more whole plants. Some people eat primarily fruit, some primarily starch, and some primarily vegetables. We recommend that you experiment with all of the many options available and choose a routine that works for you. The Tarahumara eat nothing but beans, corn and squash and are incredibly healthy people. I hope this was helpful.

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