When your WHY is Clear the How Easy!

It’s all just so overwhelming. You workout a few times a week and most days you do your best to eat healthy, sort of. Oh yeah, then you work, volunteer at school, taxi kids to soccer + swimming, walk the dog, make your kids’ school lunches AND most nights you KNOW you should cook a homemade, healthy meal that everyone in your family will like and you’d really like that meal to produce leftovers that you or your spouse can eat for lunch during the week. Whoa. Yikes. How’s all that going for you? Grabbing fast food and ordering pizza can absolutely save you time, but we all know deep down, it’s not what you want. You dream about your kids eating salad and sweet potatoes or a bowl of vegetable soup with avocado on top. You dream about one of those organic meal delivery situations, but then remember that you still have to cook it when it arrives at the door. And then, like you did the day before, you wake up from your dream and find yourself throwing chicken fingers in the oven and boiling up some plain pasta because your kid doesn’t like sauce. Sound familiar? Yep, I knew it.

Well, I am not here to tell you that it’s all gonna be OK and you’re kids will be fine and who cares about sauce anyway and other families eat far worse than yours. I am also not going to tell you that you MUST chef -it-up every night either. I am here to tell you that you CAN make it happen. Every night?  Hell no. But on the regular? Yes, yes, yes you CAN! And I know you’re hoping that this post is going to end with a perfect system and for $9.99 it will change your life in 24 hours and those sweet potatoes will appear on your dinner table tonight and your kids will love them. But, that’s not what this is about. Before you find a system (which we need to call a lifestyle) that works for you, you MUST MUST MUST map out your WHY. Let me help.

Why you ask? Well let’s start here: Food is fuel. It is our source of energy, vitality, sustainability and longevity. It is the gas to our car the wind to our sails. No gas, no ride. No wind, no sail. When I started really looking at food from this perspective, everything changed for me. And before I go on, I must confess that I take the easy route more often than I’d like and my kids sometimes eat bags and boxes of crap too (There is no perfect score in this deal. It’s not a competition. We are all in this together.). But when you truly shift the way you look at food, like really shift, the magic begins to happen. Like any new hobby or commitment, it’s hard to fit it in at first – you want to fall back into your old ways because you were comfortable there. And your kids are acting like they have the shakes from their fast food detox and maybe you are sneaking Diet Coke when no one is watching. You’re walking around the  grocery store not sure how to pull this off and you may even cry and swear because it’s not easy. Good. This is your low. Welcome to the amazing world outside of your comfort zone. It totally sucks. At first. But this is the only place that true change and healthy growth can happen.

We all need to experience our own version of hard before we understand how to move forward. Like a new exercise routine, lifestyle change, addition to the family, change in family, new pet, blah blah blah, give yourself an adjustment period and don’t give up. Your WHY must really speak to you and you must go back to it when you start running out of gas. Why WHY? Well, maybe because you don’t want to keep gaining weight. Maybe because your husband’s cholesterol has been slowly creeping up. Maybe because your kids are either exhausted and moody or super wound up and crazy and you have your suspicions that the red dye and the sugar and the lack of vegetables really is affecting them. Maybe because you watched a documentary about food that made you throw up in your mouth and you know that you and your family deserve better. Maybe because you’ve had 2 aunts and 1 uncle die from cancer and it scares the complete and total sh#@ out of you. Or, maybe because you know that Hipocrates was right all along when he said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Ok, maybe you didn’t know he said that, but now you do ;).

Now you hate me, and that’s ok. I’ve been known to start conversations that no one wants to have but everyone needs to hear (me included).  My why? That’s easy. It’s my mantra and my motivator and I hope this post helps you draft yours too. My why is that I believe food can either cause disease or cure it. I believe that when properly nourished our bodies are stronger, happier and they become the safest, warmest and kindest place for us to live. You see, we only get one body and we only get one shot. What’s your why?

Jayna Crittenden lives in Wilmington, NC with her surfing husband Joel, her kids Carmela (10), Nina (8) and Franco (8) and their dogs Butchie + Bruno.  She is the blogger behind Beauty and the Feast  and is a consultant with Beautycounter. Jayna has spent the last decade helping people make safer, healthier choices with food, household and personal care products. She enjoys working out so she can enjoy Acai Bowls from SurfBerry (the Nutty Bowl to be exact), tons of avocados and Meomi. She’s also pretty sure there is Sriracha in her bloodstream more often than not. You can find her on Instagram @beauty.and.the.feast

Don’t get duped: what those “health” claims on packaged foods really (don’t) mean



First of all, I want to be clear that I strive to eat a lot of actual foods that don’t require fancy packaging and nutrition and ingredients labeling, like real vegetables, fruits, locally and responsibly raised eggs and meats. If it doesn’t require a nutrition label or ingredients list, it’s likely to be a healthier choice. But it’s simply not realistic for my family–or most of you, I’m guessing–to avoid buying products that require actual packaging. And that’s what this post is about: not getting duped by the health hype plastered across the front of food product packaging.

I have a habit of which I’m quite proud, but drives my husband bonkers at times (like when we are in a bit of a hurry). When grocery shopping, I automatically flip a product over to read the BACK of the label and check out the actual ingredients. What often follows this act is an immediate eye roll and placement of the product back on the shelf. It’s become so automatic for me. I absolutely disregard the front of the label because I know these are the marketing claims conjured up by some advertising agency to help their client sell a specific brand to their target audience. I know this, because in my past life I helped do similar work for the pharma / biotech industry. Emphasis on “past life” part of that statement.

Here are a few common claims that often sound great to us, but are really just marketing gimmicks that are way more hype than health.

  • “All natural”, as in “all natural” chicken, beef, whatever animal protein you’re thinking of purchasing. This term means absolutely NOTHING. Manufacturers can slap this claim on whatever they want, and it can mean whatever they want it to mean. When talking about animal proteins, like poultry, pork, and beef, the vast majority of animals raised in the United States are factory-farmed in the most UNnatural conditions imaginable. For example, factory-farmed chickens share a battery cage (about the size of an iPad) with 3 to 11 other chickens, and don’t see the light of day. Not exactly how Nature intended.


  • “No added sugar”. This claim sounds pretty straight-forward and healthy, right? But it’s sneaky. Next time you think about buying a pre-bottled, manufactured green drink, turn that bad boy over and look at the ingredients, the number of servings, and the actual grams of sugar in each serving. It doesn’t take a lot of “green” to make the product LOOK healthy. You’ll find that many pre-packaged green drinks on the market contain mostly apple juice or fruit puree, and then maybe the 9th or 10th ingredient is an actual green vegetable, but not a very meaningful amount. As of right now, the FDA doesn’t consider fruit juices or purees as “added sugar”, even though these ingredients cause a serious spike in your blood sugar. But maybe the product really does have “no added sugar”, but guess what? It may have artificial sweeteners to replace the sugar. In many low-sugar products, Splenda (aka sucralose) is added. Artificial sweeteners remain controversial among health experts, but there’s enough evidence there to convince me that they are NOT a good idea. Potentially neurotoxic, and also tend to magnify a sweet tooth rather than help people reduce sugar intake


  • “Multigrain”: this means that the product contains more than one type of grain, and none of them may actually be whole grains. Flip the product over, and you’ll likely see that the first (key) ingredients are refined flour (ie, straight to sugar in the body), and other highly processed, unnatural ingredients. In other words, not a health-food by any stretch of the imagination. In a similar vein, “made with whole grains” means just that. There may be some whole grains in there, but they may or may not be the main ingredients. Again, you’ll likely see lots of processed stuff in there, NOT a real food with real nutrients.


  • “Low-fat” or “Non-fat”. Geez, I can’t believe these things are still dominating the shelves. It seems that the message is FINALLY getting out that fat is not enemy #1. But I still have to look really hard for normal yogurt because it’s buried among 48,000 different types of no-fat, non-fat, 0% formulations. Very often, when you look at the back of that non-fat yogurt label, you’ll see lots of sugar! This is true for other food products that would naturally contain fat, but have had the fat removed to make it “healthier”. They have to add SOMETHING in to make it palatable with less fat, and often that means sugar or other undesirable additives. This being said, there are certain TYPES of fat (mostly man-made, of course), that are not healthy. And guess what? they are exactly the types of fat found in most packaged, processed foods!!!

Bottom-line: you have to be your own food detective. Sad but true. If it requires a wrapper or container, if it has a “brand”, turn it over and scan the nutrition label and ingredients. For the next post, I’ll give you some easy tips for how to quickly determine if a product is worth your health and money.