I went grocery shopping today in my hometown in Georgia. It still amazes me how massive grocery stores have gotten. I lived in a small town in Colorado for college and NYC ever since, so I often forget what most of America experiences in terms of a grocery store. There are aisles upon aisles of “food” and products. It’s amazing. There are more choices of potato chips than TV channels, and there are more TV channels than anyone could ever need. It’s overwhelming, and unnecessary. The food our body needs is food that comes from the earth, not from the food processing plant. Ok, yes, I eat cupcakes too. As they say, everything in moderation. I’ll get off my soapbox.
I realized as I was shopping that this experience probably does not strike many people as odd. Watching package food after packaged food (they’re even packaging veggies now! Please do not microwave your veggies in plastic!) get scanned at checkout counters is incredibly normal, but it really affects me. It inspired me to make a short “grocery list” of the best way to shop healthy without an actual foods list.
1. Stick to the perimeter. For the most part, the aisles are not your friend. They are full of packaged and processed food. There are some exceptions discussed below. The periphery usually has produce, dairy, fresh meats, and frozen goods.
2. All aisles are not created equal. If you are easily tempted, make a list before you go to the store. Do not walk down an aisle unless it has something on your list. A few foods that pass the aisle test are grains, most condiments/spices, some canned goods, dry beans, and certain bread/pasta/crackers.
3. Pick frozen. When trying to decide between frozen and canned, chose frozen. Fruits and vegetables are frozen very soon after they’re picked and plucked, so you get more bang for your buck in terms of nutrition. Also, there are more preservatives, etc. involved with canning foods.
4. READ THE LABELS! When buying packaged foods (which should be less frequent than produce), please read the labels. More specifically, read the ingredients list. There should be very few ingredients listed, and you should be able to pronounce them all! When in doubt, cook it yourself.
The next time you are checking out at the grocery store, look around and observe how your cart compares with others’. I’m guessing your cart will look quite different.