A healthy eater’s guide to the grocery store.

Okay so I stole this from someones blog. I think it was vegan blog… shoot, I may have it saved so I will link it back.. But here it is guy’s.. a guide to how you should grocery shop.. so LISTEN UP! IT IS NOT THAT HARD PEOPLE!

*THIS IS A LIFESTYLE (yes my competition diet is getting a little bit crazy, but I eat WHOLE ALL NATURAL foods..)*

Produce

You know you’re doing well if you spend about two thirds of your shopping time and money in the fresh produce section. You almost can’t go wrong here, as long as most of what you’re getting isn’t in packages.

  • Should you go organic? If you’ve got the budget for it, sure, but you can stretch your dollar by just getting organic varieties of the “dirty dozen.”
  • Greens are good. While I think the currently-fashionable slamming of iceberg lettuce is a little unfair, it’s good to mix it up with some darker, more vitamin-rich leafy greens like arugula, spinach, kale, collards, or even simply romaine.
  • When you can, get produce that’s local. (A farmers market is a better bet for this than the store.) This way you’ll be less likely to get mass-produced, pale, vitamin- and nutrient-devoid stand-ins for the real thing.  Fruits and vegetables lose a lot of their nutritional goodness within a few days of being picked, so the closer to the source and the less time your food spends in the back of a truck, the better.
  • Get a mix of fruits that you’ll enjoy snacking on, or even eating after a meal for dessert.

Grains

Recently there’s been a strong anti-grain (and especially anti-wheat) vibe in the health community, due probably to the popularity of the Paleo diet. I’m still on board the grain train; but I agree with my friend and vegan dietitian Matt Ruscigno that while they’re good, we eat too many of them.

If you’re not careful, it’s easy to eat some form of wheat in every single one of your meals — bagels, cereal, pasta, bread, snacks, desserts.  Don’t do that.  As long as you don’t have a wheat allergy or Celiac’s, it’s fine to eat wheat (or ideally a good mix of grains), just not all the time.

  • Get whole-, brown, or sprouted-grain versions of any grain-based foods you buy, rather than refined whites which have been stripped of their nutrients and the fiber that serves to tell you that you’re full.
  • Most any grain can stand in for any other in a basic recipe.  Don’t be afraid to try alternatives like quinoa (technically a seed), bulgur, spelt, barley, millet, and many others.  Same goes for flours made from these.

Oils

There’s a lot of argument over what the best oil to use in your cooking is.  One thing I’ve noticed with this blog is that no matter what oil I include in a recipe, someone will ask why I used that particular one, since it’s unhealthy.  (Some people, like Dr. John McDougall, advocate eating no oil, since after all, it’s not a whole food.)

Personally, I use olive oil for salads and low-temperature cooking, and coconut or grapeseed oil for higher temperatures.  Watch out for highly processed and heated oils, like most nondescript “vegetable oil.”

Whichever oil you choose, go easy on it.  It’s not a whole food, it packs a lot of calories into a very small space, and it loses a lot of its nutritional value when heated.

Condiments and snacks

As long as you’re consuming condiments in relatively small quantities, I see no problem with continuing to eat most of the ones you enjoy.

The big thing here is to check out the ingredients list, and make sure you recognize them all and that as many as possible are whole foods.  Look out for high-fructose corn syrup, which is anything but whole, and appears in countless condiments. And since many will contain oils, look for those like what I’ve mentioned above.

Check the sodium content too, since prepared foods can be the source of a huge amount of salt.  Preparing condiments yourself will help tremendously, so find recipes for salsa, hummus, baba ganoush, barbecue sauce, and others, and make them yourself.

And while we’re on the topic of salt, opt for sea salt over processed table salt, since it delivers many nutritious minerals other than sodium, and less sodium as a result. Vegan ultraman Rich Roll, in his excellent cookbook Jai Seed, helped me feel much better about loving salt and using so much in my food.

For snacks, the same principles apply: Look at the ingredients and make sure they’re whole foods, and watch out for salt and processed oils.  Whole, raw or roasted nuts are the best thing you’ll find in the snack aisle.

Meat and dairy

Since I don’t eat meat and dairy, I’m not the one to tell you much about how to choose them.  I believe you can be healthy and consume small amounts of them, but not the amounts and factory-farmed types that most Americans eat every day. (The idea of meat, especially fish, as a side dish at a few meals a week is one that would appeal to me if not for the ethical considerations.)

****** I LOVE RED MEAT! ANY kind of cut, lean ground turkey, fish (any kind, Idk because I hate fish), tuna, and don’t forget a whey protein, and eggs.

For dairy, keep in mind that skim or low-fat products are not whole foods.  As Michael Pollan points out in his In Defense of Food, when the fat is removed from dairy products, your body’s ability to absorb the vitamins and nutrients in them decreases. In addition, when you take away the fat, you increase the relative portion of the food that contains casein, the protein that’s primarily blamed for dairy’s link to cancer in The China Study.

So if you’re going to eat dairy and you’re on a major calorie restriction, I’d recommend whole-fat versions over those that have the fat removed.

Drinks

There’s almost nothing good in the drink aisle of the grocery store.  (Coconut water and some natural sports drinks have their place, perhaps.)

Drink water. If that’s boring, add some lemon or lime juice. You’ll eventually get used to it.

A few more guiding principles…

For the newcomer or born-again healthy eater, I know of no better source of guidance than the aforementioned Michael Pollan. Pollan is not a vegetarian, and his whole-food-based, local, sustainable approach to eating is adaptable to a variety of ethical and health viewpoints.

What I find most appealing about Michael Pollan is the simplicity of his approach, and the resulting ease of applying his rules.  Start with Food Rules for a quick understanding of all that he teaches, then move on to In Defense of Food for the “why’s.”  A few of his most useful rules-of-thumb:

  • Buy foods that are made with five ingredients or fewer.

  • Don’t eat anything your grandmother or great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. (Go-gurt?)

  • Eat only foods that will eventually rot.

  • Eat all the junk food you want, as long as you cook it yourself.

^^ Annoying?  DON’T CARE.  MEMORIZE THIS SHIT!

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4 thoughts on “A healthy eater’s guide to the grocery store.

  1. Thanks for the shoutout Marissa

  2. fairyhealthylife says:

    Awesome. I love how straightforward and blunt you are! Some people don’t understand that its not difficult at all to live healthy.

  3. Absolutely love this post. Over at yourhealthychicks.com we strive to be as healthy as we can be and that includes smart shopping! Thanks for the extra tips!

  4. Megan says:

    This is great, thank you! I especially love Pollan’s rules – doesn’t get more simple than that!

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