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Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Ladder of Healthy Eating

How healthy do you think you are?  This isn’t about how trim you are, how much you exercise, or how many fat grams or calories you eat.  The food that we eat affects us on a cellular level and we will reap what we sow.  Sometimes the reaping doesn’t come for many years.  If it’s garbage going in, it will be garbage coming out.  This is for every one of us to take a moment and assess where we are at and then form goals to shoot for.  This is purely for evaluation purposes; there is no condemnation here.


We can’t take our babysteps unless we know where we are headed.  This list will help you see where you are at and help you make both short-term and long-term goals.  If you are near the bottom of the ladder, DON’T make a short-term goal of making it to the top of the ladder!  Set your sights on a step above.  Choose one thing at a time to cut out or substitute or change.


I’m sure that none of us fit neatly into one of these categories, we are all a mixture, but it’s good to identify which area you most fit into.  I would suggest printing this out and circling or highlighting the items that you buy/eat to see which category you most fit into.  Now this is a little different, but I’m going to ask that you read the next portions upside down.  By this I mean, start at the bottom of the ladder and read each section, going up the page.  If you print it out, start at the bottom level and read each level, moving up the page.  If you read it online, right now you can scroll all the way to the bottom and read each section moving up the page.



Whole Foods Plus - not only do you want only foods that God created and man hasn’t adulterated, but that are also ALIVE and FULL of nutrients!  These include local organic fruit and veggies, local grass-fed meat and local free-range poultry, local true free-range eggs, soaked or sprouted whole organic grains and grain products, such as sourdough bread, sprouted grain bread, tortillas, hamburger buns, etc.; raw dairy products from grass-fed cows and goats, fermented dairy products, such as yogurt, kefir and raw cheese; butter, cream, lard, animal fat, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil; soaked beans/legumes, nuts and seeds, homemade bone broths, unrefined sea salt, raw vinegar, fish from deep sea waters, lacto-fermented beverages, kombucha, naturally fermented vegetables, like pickles and sauerkraut, you make your own ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressings, dips and ice cream; and use only whole sweeteners like raw honey, Rapadura, Sucanat, maple syrup, and date sugar.  Way to go, you are truly a nourished person!



Whole Foods – at this point you are looking only for foods that are unadulterated.  You buy organic fruit and veggies, fresh and frozen; grass-fed meat, free-range chicken, wild fish, all whole grains, you make your own bread, buy organic, hormone-free, pasteurized milk, pasteurized cheeses, commercial yogurt, butter, cream, organic, dried beans; sea salt, and you make your own broths.  Excellent, keep reading!



Mildly Processed – if you fit into this category, you care about your health and that of your family and are trying to make the best choices you can.  Now you just need a bit more education, way to go!  You are making most of you meals and buying these type of foods – Fresh and frozen fruit and veggies from the local grocery; canned tomato products, dried fruit, wheat bran, oat bran, wheat germ, whole grains, like brown rice, wheat, rye, etc.; whole grain products, like pasta, hamburger buns, and sandwich bread; unbleached white flour, organic, hormone-free, pasteurized milk, pasteurized cheeses, commercial yogurt, fats that have been processed by man, but are fairly stable, like peanut oil; butter, commercial meat from local grocery store, additive-free sausage and bacon; regular or cage-free eggs from local grocery, canned legumes/beans, farina, rolled oats, grits, commercial salt, pasteurized vinegar, commercial condiments, like ketchup and mayonnaise; pasteurized pickles and sauerkraut; seasoning packets.



Processed Ingredients – this is a step up, at least you are preparing most of your meals and hopefully eating whole fruit and veggies.  You buy commercial meat from the grocery store along with deli meat, bacon, and sausage; highly processed fats, such as vegetable oils, margarine, spreads, shortening, and fat substitutes; pasteurized, homogenized milk and milk products; bleached and fortified white flour products – hamburger buns, tortillas, bread, pasta, etc.; all kinds of refined sugar, including white sugar and brown sugar; canned fruit and veggies, fruit juice, rice milk, chips and crackers (even whole grain), canned broth, prepared sauces, like marinara, alfredo, and pesto; soy milk, tofu, veggie burgers, soy cheese, soy hot dogs, and Miracle Whip.



Prepared foods – ready to eat; requires only opening a package and/or heating it up, sometimes adding an ingredient or two.  These items are totally adulterated by man, stripped of nutrition, loaded with toxins, artificial flavors, additives, colors, artificial sweeteners, damaged oils, hydrolyzed protein and protein isolates, etc.  Frozen pizzas, fish sticks, tater tots, chicken strips and nuggets; frozen burritos, French fries, pizza rolls, lasagnas, pot pies, frozen pies, cookie dough, canned biscuits, canned rolls, cinnamon rolls, snack cakes, breakfast cereals (even whole grain), breakfast bars, granola bars, frozen meals – Lean Cuisines meals, Healthy Choice meals, etc.; TV dinners, boxed macaroni and cheese, Hamburger Helper, Cheetos, flavored chips, like Doritos, snack mixes, pretzels, flavored yogurts, processed cheese, Cool Whip, ice cream, soda pop, energy drinks, vitamin waters, protein bars, protein powder drink mixes, canned soup, fruit snacks, fruit rollups, instant oatmeal, boxed cake, brownie, muffin, and cookie mixes; canned frosting, canned pie filled, prepared pie crusts, pudding mixes (instant and non),  and Jell-O.  I’m sure there are more, but you get the idea.  Some of these seem healthy, some are bought at the health food store, but if they require little to no preparation then they have been very, VERY processed and offer very little health value.



FAST FOOD – no health value hereL

See also the book


  1. [...] Here is a prime example of something that WAS natural, but was destroyed by man and therefore isn’t healthy for us.  Vegetable oils are in most packaged foods, especially frozen meals, chips, cookies, crackers, and snack cakes, which is one of the reasons why I have placed them near the bottom of The Ladder of Healthy Eating. [...]

  2. [...] I am planning on spending some time in the next few days pondering what implication these have on what/how we eat and I am excited to see what God teaches me.  I am so thankful that He promises to give us wisdom when we are truly seeking it.  I would encourage you to check out this post Shannon wrote months ago that helps you evaluate where you are in your food journey and where you can go next: http://allthingshealth.wordpress.com/2008/04/12/the-ladder-of-healthy-eating/ [...]

  3. [...] of all that and rob your body of those things as they’re digested.  If we’re going to chart things on a Great-Good-Bad-Worse chart, sugar would be bad, but HFCS is worse.  You can’t make this stuff in your home kitchen. [...]