La Tela di Carlotta
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The supermarket is the gym of the will power

May 20, 2016

After telling you about how we Paleo (yes, I just used it as a verb), I promised I would tell you about how we choose and buy products at the supermarket, because that’s where we really try to be Paleo. Our number one rule is to buy only good, healthy products that are as natural and fresh as possible. That’s how we don’t have any temptation at home and we manage to live 90% Paleo.

Let me be clear, though: it’s not easy! When we pass by the chocolate bar section, shelves lined with cakes, the quadruple-chocolate cookies, the fridges full of Ben&Jerry’s ice-cream… well, it’s hard not to give in. Especially because yummy products are always in strategic places: they either welcome you at the door, or say bye-bye to you at the register. There’s no way around them.

That’s why I like to think of supermarkets as the gym for your will power: when it comes to eating healthy, that’s where you train your mind to rule your stomach—and not the other way around.

Now, play a little game with me. Picture yourself at the supermarket. Imagine you managed to walk past the naughty foods, look at all of them and resist the temptation of sticking them in your cart. I bet you feel awesome, empowered. Now give yourself a pat on the shoulder and promise yourself you’ll do the same thing next time you go buy your groceries. And congrats, you’ve just trained your will power!

Unfortunately, the common naughty foods are not all the bad foods you can buy. Healthy eating has an even worse enemy: the ingredients on the label of ”healthy” foods.

Always read the ingredients!

In an ideal world, we’d avoid all processed foods and buy all organic from a small farm, where they pick veggies and fruit straight from the garden and butcher their own meat. That’s not only difficult to find, it’s also very costly.

Let’s be realistic here: it’s likely you’ll have to compromise and buy processed foods. Tomato sauce, tuna, mayo, cheese, minced meat…

But when buying processed foods, looking at the ingredients can make a huge difference.

I started reading the ingredients of the products I buy when I first heard the story of this mom and her daughter. It really hit me: food companies feed us cr** in the shape of healthy foods! Sugar is in everything. Vegetable oil is in almost everything.

Pretty much all the artificial foods we buy in stores are full of MSG, which is related to many disorders and mental diseases. You can read more about it here, if you like.

You may argue that worrying about what food companies put in our foods is like worrying because the air we breathe is polluted. Yes, in a way you’re right. But unlike breathing polluted air—which is something you can’t avoid if you choose to live in the city—reading the ingredients of the products you buy is a way to empower ourselves, to choose what to eat in a conscious, mindful way.

The fewer, the better

When it comes to processed foods, the fewer ingredients, the better. And among those few products with few ingredients, the more natural, the better. Avoid margarine, vegetable oil, sugar.

If you have the option to choose between a vegetable oil based mayo and an olive oil based one, pick the olive oil one: it’s more natural and has healthy fats. Pick a minced meat that doesn’t contain corn, wheat flour or soy (yes, they often do!).

Let me give you a simple example: I often buy a carton of carrot soup by Knorr, which I like to have in emergencies (aka. when Oliver wouldn’t eat anything else). Knorr has many different soup combinations, but I only buy the carrot one because it’s the only one that doesn’t have sugar in it (for real!) and it also has very few ingredients. When I want a pumpkin soup, I’ll make it myself. Without sugar, please.

The earlier an ingredient is listed, the more of it there is

Ingredients are listed by quantity, so if the first ingredient in your chocolate bar is sugar, it means that sugar is the main ingredient—that there’s more sugar than cocoa, or anything else.

It might sound silly, but the position where an unhealthy ingredient is listed can make a big difference in the quality of the product and in its nutritional values.

Easier than it seems

It might sound difficult, but it’s really not. It just takes practice and a bit of extra time at the beginning to read and compare ingredients, but once you know which products are good and which are not, it’s actually even faster to shop, because options are limited.

I invite you to try using the supermarket as a gym for a month, to choose and buy mindfully: you might not notice a big change in your health (or maybe you will!), but I promise you you’ll feel much better about yourself and your healthier way of eating.

Tell me what you think

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The blog

I write mainly about Montessori, parenthood, and multilingualism. Here are some recent posts.

Montessori
One day a few years ago my husband came home and said, "Why don't we put a mattress on the floor in the baby room? It'd be much more natural". "Never" was my reply. That's how our Montessori journey started. Since then we've been living, breathing and applying the philosophy at home day in and day out, starting from ourselves. Because educating children starts from the parents.
Bean and seed mosaic
I'm not perfect. I'm aware
DIY yoga cards for kids
Children at the restaurant: let's recalibrate expectations
Don't ask your children to share their toys
Those "good job" that erode our children's confidence
Our Montessori birthday
Two alternatives to screens that my kids love
Using fear and threats to control children is never right!
"Stop crying!" doesn't work
Living sustainably
Living sustainably for me doesn’t only mean to have a more eco-friendly lifestyle. It means to make decisions that are sustainable for our planet, the people on it, but also for our life, our lifestyle, and our happiness. It means to take any daily chance to evolve and be happier, healthier, kinder, more responsible and more caring human beings—the only sustainable way for a meaningful future.
Face yoga is an act of self love
Why you should wear the same outfit twice on Instagram
The power of creating habits (and why you should do it, even if you then break them!)
Responsible eating is the diet of the future (Would you like to teach it to your kids?)
The power of NOT complaining: can you do it for a whole month?
Clean up your planet, please!
Infographic: 8 steps to switch to cloth nappies (a guide for reluctant parents)
A personal note on happiness
A personal note on social media
A change of life always widens your horizons
New to La Tela?
I’ve prepared collections on various topics that I’ve written over the years. Perhaps you’ll find one that interests you.

Travel

We sold everything to travel the world for two years. We're currently in New Zealand.

Books

In 2020 I wrote 4 books for the Italian collection “Gioca and Impara con il metodo Montessori” curated by Grazia Honegger Fresco. The collection is a project by Il Corriere della Sera and La Gazzetta dello Sport.

We also implemented the workshops of the last 15 volumes of the collection with Oliver and Emily.

Podcast

On my podcast, “Educare con calma”, I talk about various topics, from Montessori to sustainability. Only in Italian!

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Why La Tela di Carlotta?
I dreamed of the name La Tela di Carlotta. One morning I woke up and in my dreams I had created a blog named just like the American novel (Charlotte's Web). Many years and endless ups and downs later, this web of thoughts and stories is my work. It took me a long time to understand what kind of online presence I wanted and today I know: I'm transparent, I show real life, I don't advertise, I only recommend sustainable brands (and not only because they pay me) and I believe in the value of my blog and my courses—because if we don't believe in the value of our work, no one will believe in it for us.
Carlotta
Carlotta dreaming of La Tela
I know! I don't want it to be over yet either.