As adults, we look back at our schoolhood days and realize that there were so many practical things that our education should have taught us about the world. Rather than being taught about how to formulate a quadratic equation or an obscure battle in history fueled by the male ego, we should’ve also been taught about budgeting, the loan process, and I dont know, maybe how to properly nourish ourselves.
Once upon a time during my personal journey learning about nutrition, I came across an article about how to shop at a grocery store. It threw me off guard for a moment. I mean, you just go in and buy food right? How hard is that? But there is actually a strategy to it. Its been said that you should only utilize the outer aisles of the grocery store because that’s where the freshest food is. Think about it. The foods on the outside are dairy, meat, and produce. Everything that is highly processed lies in the inner aisles. When you think about it, it makes sense.
That information is still mostly true today, but as health and wellness are on the rise in America, there are loads more healthy options in the mix making shopping throughout all aisles more available, but a bit more tedious. Products practically scream at you from the shelves. “Hey you, yeah you! I’M FAT FREE!” “Don’t listen to him, I am ZERO SUGAR! Yeah, you like that, huh?” “Buy me! I’m ALL NATURAL! Who really knows what that means, but its the mystery and assumption that make it all the more fun!While these things may be true about a product, the target audience is the misinformed.
- Fat Free: You need fat to fuel your body. Eating fat doesn’t make you fat.
- Zero Sugar: Even though there is no white sugar, there tends to be sugar alternatives and alcohols.
- All Natural: This itself is a vague and enigmatic term. A CNN article called “What are natural flavors, really?” states that a product may list “blueberry flavoring”, but that doesn’t mean it comes from actual blueberries. It’s most probable origin is a chemical found in a laboratory.
That is just a sampling of how ingredients may read on any given item and with a grocery store having thousands and thousands of products, the process of eating healthier and cleaner is a bit overwhelming.
But alas, not all hope is lost! There are couple key things to keep in mind that will make the experience less daunting.
#1 – FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, YOU NEED TO READ THE INGREDIENTS. I have wrote about this in the past so I wont reiterate much of it, but you can view the full post here. Here is an example: wasabi peas. Yes, it is a processed snack which shouldn’t be a prominent food source in your diet, but I would like to note marketing at its finest. At first glance, they don’t look that bad. Note the disclaimers on the front, their name, and also the coloring of the packaging. It seems like a healthy snack. They’re peas. They’re green, and they’re vegan!
Nowadays, almost everything makes sure that things like “vegan”, “gluten free”, “zero fat”, etc. are front and center. Companies know that these are food concerns for the general public, so they take the thinking out of it for you. They choose words and packaging colors that ALLUDE to health, but you need to read the ingredients.
The ingredients for this item lists: soy bean oil, two types of corn startch, sugar, glucose and artificial colors among other things. In summary, soybean oil is processed with chemicals, bleachers and deodorizers. Corn starch is linked to weight gain, high blood pressure, pregnancy complications, and more. It is also where glucose and fructose come from. The source of sugar is unlisted and it most likely bleached white sugar. For the last ingredient, I present to you this:
Artificial colors are made from petroleum and kids tend to be the most sensitive. They are mostly found in candy and commercial cereals so they are targeted more exclusively. Also, if you grow up eating these sweet treats, you are more likely to continue buying them as an adult. A customer for life. More information can be found here and here.
#2 – Mostly shop the Perimeter. Referring back to the map I posted earlier, sticking to the perimeter of a store is where you’ll find predominantly whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, land and sea meats. Just beware of the processed/cross merchandised items. Also, while things like rice, quinoa, beans, oats, etc. are found in the “land of the forbidden”, by reading the ingredients list, you can easily avoid consuming things that take turn a healthy food not-so-healthy. A side note: buying frozen fruits and veggies are a great alternative if your produce has already rotted by the time you typically get to it.
Below is an off-handed list of things I buy when I’m shopping (I still have to read the ingredients before they go in my cart, they’re sneaky bastards):
- Ice cream alternative: frozen bananas with cinnamon, flax/chia seeds and honey sprinkled over it
- Pasta brand: Ancient Harvest or Barilla lentil pasta
- Snack option: Pita, hummus, and olive/sautéed veggie mix
- Frozen brussel sprouts or broccoli with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Also peas with grass fed butter and Frank’s hot sauce
- Mini carrots with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
- Butter – Kate’s butter or any grass-fed butter
- Eggs – look for FREE RANGE -if you have the brand, choose Nellie’s.
- Snack option: Vermont Village apple sauce. Mott’s is packed with high fructose corn syrup whereas Vermont Village brand has no additives.
When you eat whole, nutritious foods, you don’t really have to worry about how much you’re eating. There is less stress. Of course, if you overeat and stuff your face every-day-all-day in general, you’ll still gain weight. The cool thing about eating this way it that, as you fuel your body with legitimately healthy things, cravings for crap food fall to the wayside. The chemicals and such in a lot of our food are the culprits of triggering cravings and also, malnourishment. Processed foods leech the nutrients FROM us instead of giving them TO us which causes us to crave even more of said items. It’s a vicious cycle.
Recently, I have seen more of a change to my body and mood as I have cut out foods that have more than one ingredient to them. I mean, I’ll mix foods together such as rice, beans, veggies, etc, but I’ve stopped getting food from the hot bar at work that is prepared with a paragraph of ingredients. Most importantly for me, I have switched my end-of-the-meal sweet treat to fruit- fresh or dried, it doesn’t matter if the fruit is free of additives.
Shopping healthy doesn’t just involve eating good foods, it also involves the house hold products we use, but we will save this for another time. Just remember products are designed to be the loudest, most colorful, and attention grabbing out there so we buy THEIR PRODUCT. The grocery store is a low-key battle ground- Hunger Games style.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Be mindful when grocery shopping. Be a detective of the ingredients that make up our food and “food”. In a day and age where we have unlimited information at our fingertips, it’s only right that we dig a little deeper to find out what is fueling our bodies and minds.
Love and light,
**Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any links that I post. Any programs, products, sites, etc. I mention are for sharing purposes only. All images are obtained from Google search engine.**