Remember This on Your Next Grocery Store Trip
While shopping at the grocery store with my sister in law on our recent vacation, I thought of a few specific questions that I get asked all the time from clients and friends. She was asking about the differences between certain labels (is organic bullshit?), what to look for when buying some packaged items and how I choose between the different brands of eggs, butter, etc. Here are a few quick thoughts I have about making healthy choices at the supermarket that you may or may not have already considered when you're aiming for "healthier" options or you often feel overwhelmed by all the marketing we are bombarded with when it comes to buying food for our families.
Always opt for organic whenever you can. I realize that it's hard to tell the difference between an organic cookie and a non-organic cookie, and why on earth would an organic olive oil be worth $3 more than a conventional olive oil, yes, I get it, but it all adds up. Usually what matters is what you aren't getting. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, you're choosing to buy produce that doesn't have pesticides and chemicals or waxes applied (or as many) as you would with conventional produce. With eggs, dairy and meat, you are selecting food that is coming from a source without certain antibiotics and hormones that are added that can cause harm to the health of those who consume the foods. For boxed and packaged foods, you're buying a product that contains no or fewer preservatives, additives, fillers, chemicals, high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and less bad ingredients that our bodies just don't need or want. Yes, it's worth it. If it comes down to cost, consider replacing two less healthy items in your cart that you can do without for a healthier version of something that may cost a little more (like can you buy organic chips and salsa and get rid of the Doritos and Cheetos?)
Choose the healthiest option.
Is there a healthier version of mac n cheese or lemonade? Sure there is. Is it something we need to eat every day? No. But even my child eats Annie's Organic Mac n Cheese on occasion, and I'm really ok with that. We were planning for a cookout that weekend and her girls wanted lemonade. So I broke it down for her and shared that you can get some things in boxes like granola bars or crackers, but go for a brand with organic ingredients and don't go crazy on how much you eat. Lemonade? Go for organic or 100% pure juice in the refrigerated section. What did I look for on the label? On a conventional lemonade, the main ingredient was high fructose corn syrup and Yellow 5. I completely avoid foods with any numbered colors or HFCS. But the organic variety's ingredients were mainly lemon juice, sugar, water...so that one was less harmful in my eyes.
Pay attention to labels (like for eggs).
So this one's a little tougher. All of these marketing terms are really about that, marketing. Although cage-free sounds like a great thing, the actual rules about labeling something cage-free are not so strict, and it could mean that the chickens you're consuming eggs from may be fed total crap, and allowed a very limited amount of time outside, rather than free roaming like on their cute little picture on the label. One of the best ways to get eggs is to support a local farmer, confirming that they have pasture-raised chickens that are treated humanely and fed what chickens are supposed to eat. Organic is still best here, and local is even better. Brown or white doesn't matter other than personal preference for taste.
Draw the line with fake foods.
I draw the line when it comes to candy and junk food for my family. There's just no room for juice boxes, soda, candy or cheesy poofs for us. That's our choice. However, that doesn't mean we've never eaten ice cream, pizza or dark chocolate. We have our own "treats" that we enjoy, they're just made with better ingredients. We make our own burgers, buy organic buns when we can (or our favorite, pretzel rolls) and homemade potatoes whenever we are craving a burger and fries. We eat chocolate occasionally that is organic and honestly, I feel like I eat even less of it to feel just as satisfied. My sister in law picked up the Justin's (who makes a great peanut butter or almond butter with fewer additives and sugars) dark chocolate peanut butter cup and later said she couldn't believe it tasted better than a Reese's! I responded with, "Do you even know what's in a Reese's?" Consider making these kinds of swaps, and hopefully, you'll never go back.