The other hard part of grocery shopping is the food choices. It can be so hard to pick out the right things to eat and we get confused easily about what is healthy and what isn't. Butter or margarine? Sugar-free yogurt or flavoured? Whole wheat bread or brown bread? White pasta, multi-grain pasta or rice pasta? These are some of the questions that I get asked often from my clients (I'm a nutritionist/herbalist).
I thought today's post could be about clarifying some of the healthier things at the grocery store and how to know if you're feeding your family the best possible food.
Let's start with the fruit and vegetables. There is no fruit or vegetable that is better than the other. Each one has a unique health benefit and it's better to get a wide variety than to have broccoli every single night or only eat apples as your fruit. When you're shopping, try to get fruit and vegetables in as many shades of colour as possible. Or, try introducing a new fruit or vegetable to your family every week. (Make sure you find a recipe to use it in first or it will end up rotting in your fridge. Trust me, I've been there!)
The next section is the bakery section. Here's where people have the most problems. There is not usually any nutritional value in the breads in this section. Most have been highly process and are packed with preservatives so that they won't go mouldy. If you make your own bread at home or get bread from a real bakery, they will mould within a few days. This is supposed to happen. The healthiest breads to buy are either rye, sourdough, or spelt breads. If you can't find them at the grocery store, try a specialty bakery. They may be more expensive on the shelf but they fill you up faster, have more fibre and you end up using less. Try it!
The meat section can also be a little tricky to maneuver around and it's not just because that's where everyone parks their carts and wanders away. What is healthy and what isn't? I try as much as possible to get my meat from local sources so that it is free-range but I'll be honest. It is often expensive and in the winter we don't have as much money. So here are some tips:
- try getting the meat as fresh as possible (check when it was packaged)
- don't get anything that has been pre-seasoned (it has loads of unhealthy salt and preservatives and has probably been sitting there for a long time.
- if you're buying fish, buy wild fish wherever possible and don't buy it in a box
Moving on to the dairy section (I hope you're not asleep!). Butter is much better for you than margarine. Please don't buy margarine. It is one chemical molecule away from being a plastic. It also doesn't taste so great. If you're worried about the fat content in butter, don't use as much. The fat in butter is a good fat that helps your brain work better.
Another myth is that eggs are not good for you. Eggs are actually one of the healthier forms of protein that we can get. My family goes through two dozen eggs a week and there are only three of us that eat them. I buy the Omega 3 or free-range eggs whenever I can. In the summer, I get my eggs from a farm just down the road from us.
Yogurt is one of those things that can be so good for you, but can be confusing because of all the different types and choices. The number one thing to remember is not to buy it with any artificial sweeteners. They are terrible for your brain. If you prefer your yogurt with fruit already in it, vanilla has less sugar in it than the other choices. Or you can just make your own at home.
The worst place in the grocery store can be the inside aisles. You can find pre-made dinners there, sugar, cookies, candies, chips, pop, juice and other things that are not only expensive, but really not that good for you. You have to sift through to find the things that are actually good for you and your family.
Oatmeal and granola are actually good breakfast choices as opposed to sugar-laden cereals.
Multi-grain pasta or wild or brown rice pasta are healthier than regular white pasta and there are some great choices out there.
Canned food choices like tomatoes and kidney beans are great for meals like chilli. Just check to see how much salt they have and rinse them off well before you use them.
I hope that helps clarify a few things and that you can feel a little more confident knowing you're feeding your family healthy foods! If you have any questions, just let me know in the comments section and I'll do my best to answer them.
How confident are you in the grocery store? Do you have any good tips that you want to pass along? Let us know!