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Navigating the Grocery Store



One of the biggest hurdles I see people face when trying to be more healthy is navigating the grocery store. They're confused from the moment they walk through the doors. Grocery stores are full of things in boxes with health claims. It's no wonder people are confused. See the example below.



In the past, this specific cereal has tested high for glyphosate - a common herbicide used to kill weeds, regulate plant growth and ripen specific crops. Glyphosate has been linked to numerous negative health effects such as cancer. It is commonly found in cereal grains. This specific cereal also contains 9 grams of added sugar per serving (3/4 cup). So to say this food can help to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease is a little far-fetched. There are quite a few packaged foods (*ahem* canola oil) that make this claim, even if they don't actually do this.


So how can you navigate the grocery aisles without getting hoodwinked?


Grocery shopping is one of my favorite things to do. In fact, I spent eight years of my life working in a small grocery store (Trader Joe's for those of you who are curious). People often ask me for help when it comes to purchasing groceries. I'm no expert, but there are some steps I take to make sure that I'm buying the best foods for my body. I try to shop the perimeter of the store as much as possible, and I make sure to hit up these sections:


Produce


The produce section happens to be my favorite. It's full of colorful fruits and vegetables, of which I try to buy a wide variety. Spend some time here and choose foods without labels. Real foods don't have labels, so stock up on those. But make sure to not buy too much at once. Produce can rot in your fridge if it stays in there for too long. Only buy what you like and what you know you're going to eat. I always consider several things: (1) what's in season, (2) what's on sale, and (3) whether or not I should buy a specific produce item organic or not. The Environmental Working Group's list of Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen produce items can help you to determine this.


Meat


This is probably my second favorite section. Especially when steak is on sale. I'm a firm believer in the fact that nearly everyone is healthier with animal protein in their diet. Some people will argue me on this, but I speak from personal experience. I love a good steak! But I also love to get a variety of protein in my diet from ruminants to poultry to seafood. I opt for organic, sustainable and high quality protein if I can find it. If I can't find it, I skip protein on that shopping trip altogether. Recently it's been easier to find high quality protein sources because grocery stores know that there's more of a demand for it as people awaken to the fact that feed-lot animals are not sustainable.


Eggs and Dairy


I personally don't eat a lot of eggs or consume a lot of dairy. But when I do, I look for quality sources. Again, quality sources are becoming easier to find as the demand for them grows. Always buy pastured eggs. They contain far more nutrients than eggs that come from massive farms where chickens are cooped up in cages. By the way, chickens are not vegetarian animals. They love eating bugs. You'll often find free-range eggs that say "vegetarian fed". These chickens probably had access to the outdoors and were allowed to find their own bugs to eat. But do your research if you're curious. As for dairy, I love grass-fed butter and ghee. I also buy half and half that comes from grass-fed cows. Sometimes I buy raw milk if I can find it. And sometimes I buy raw cheese from grass-fed cows or goats as well. Full-fat is better since low-fat dairy tends to be ultra processed and higher in inflammatory sugars. You can also find some decent non-dairy alternatives in this section.


Bulk


This is the section where I find nuts, seeds, and spices. I like to stock up on these things in bulk because 1) it's better for the environment, and 2) it saves me money. Again, I try to purchase organic in this section as well. It's easy to do in health food stores, but a little more challenging in big-box grocery stores. Some stores may not have a bulk section. If that's the case, and you're wanting nuts, seeds, and spices, you'll have to venture down the aisle in which they're at. In my experience though, most stores (except Trader Joe's) have a bulk section, and it's almost always located around the store's perimeter.


If you stay along the perimeter of the store, you're likely to hit all these departments. Remember to keep it simple. There's no need to overcomplicate grocery shopping by getting too fancy. I follow this same principle in the kitchen. So I often just buy a bunch of proteins and vegetables to mix and match for my meals. I don't follow complicated recipes. And that's why you rarely see recipes on my site.


Another rule is to only buy what you'll eat. Food waste is a big problem in America. Plus real food is more expensive since it's often not subsidized by our government (a heated topic for another day!).


Sometimes I'll go down the aisles for specific things that are on my list. I've been known to purchase some pre-made dressings and condiments (I love Primal Kitchen brand). Most of the time, I make my own using oil, vinegar and specific spices though. I've also been known to scope out high quality dark chocolate. This stuff hides in the candy or baking aisles. So definitely don't shop hungry or you might be tempted to buy other things. If I'm following a recipe (which is rare), I may need to go down an aisle for a specific ingredient. I always make a list and I try to stick to it.


Again, grocery shopping doesn't have to be complicated. Stock up on vegetables and some low sugar fruits, purchase good quality proteins, and only buy what you know you can eat before it goes bad.


I love doing grocery store tours. The majority of the work I do is in a virtual setting. However, if you ever want a grocery store tour or have more questions regarding this topic, please reach out. I'd be more than happy to help you out.

Meet Stephanie

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Hey there! I'm Stephanie, a functional nutritional therapy practitioner, restorative wellness practitioner, certified holistic health coach, and educator. I teach individuals how to take back their health with real food so they can finally get to the root cause of dysfunction and restore wellness within themselves. I reside in Boise, Idaho where I enjoy spending lots of time outdoors, drinking copious amounts of tea, cuddling with cats and reading good books.