Going grocery shopping can be an overwhelming experience, and even more so if you are trying to stay healthy.
There are so many things labeled with words like “natural,” “fortified,” “healthy,” and “whole,” that it is easy to be deceived into thinking that many things are healthy when they aren’t.
Here are some easy guidelines to help you make healthy choices at the supermarket:
1. Make a List
Research some recipes you’d like to try out and make a list before you go to the supermarket. If you come prepared you will be less likely to be swayed by less healthy options.
2. If You Can’t Pronounce It, Don’t Eat It.
A good place to start is by looking at labels. If you do feel overwhelmed by what you read on the label, it’s a good sign you shouldn’t buy it, let alone eat it. Ingredients should be simple and real, like “milk, butter, eggs, vanilla”. Also, if a label lists “natural flavors” you might want to stay away. “Natural flavors” doesn’t mean the flavors come from good places, it means there are chemicals in the product that impersonate flavors found in nature.
3. Eat Real Food
Try to stick to pure ingredients as often as possible. These are the foods along the outside edges of the supermarket, foods like fruits, vegetables, meat, milk, eggs, and whole, unrefined grains (brown rice, oats, quinoa, barley, kamut, etc.) If you do wander down the center isles, be sure you know exactly what you are looking for and check the labels as described above.
4. Eat Organic
Try to eat organic whenever possible, but beware of labels that claim they are “all natural”. Just like natural flavors, this label doesn’t guarantee purity. Simply put, organic means the food was not sprayed with chemicals which can add up to a huge toxic burden for your body, eventually leading to all sorts of diseases. Moreover, organic foods have been shown to be richer in nutrients and don’t deplete the soil. Look for USDA Certified Organic foods, or produce that has a sticker with a number 9 at the front.
Side note: Some foods are organic but are not certified, but it is best to buy these products when you have the opportunity to talk to the farmers directly and stay away from them at supermarkets.
5. Eat Only Free-Range, Grass-Fed, and/or Pasture-Raised, Hormone-Free, or (Best of All) Wild Caught Meat Products.
These animals not only live happier lives, but they are more likely to be fed what they evolved to eat, and consequently digest better so they have more nutrients for your body to absorb as well.
6. Eat Mostly Fresh Food
Fresh ingredients like ripe fruits, vegetables, and meat tend to have more vitamins and minerals readily available for your body to absorb, and because they are fresh they have more life-force to fortify you. If you have to eat a few freezer meals every week, or incorporate some dried or canned ingredients into some recipes, it won’t be the end of the world, but eat fresh whenever possible.
7. Skip the Supermarket and Visit the Farmer’s Market
Farmer’s markets are springing up everywhere nowadays, and they are the best way to get the freshest seasonal food. At the farmer’s market you can talk directly with the people who have grown the food to make sure they use the best practices. And you’re supporting the people who really care about what and how you eat, so they can keep providing you with the best possible ingredients. Everybody wins!