For the person who wants to improve their diet, the grocery store can be a very scary place. The purpose of this entry is to give you a simple guide for navigating the grocery store. This is all about “what” and not about “why.” We’ll save that for another time.
Before I get started, I want to say that I believe we should buy as much of our food as possible from the farm, especially meat, dairy and vegetables. But for some people this just isn’t possible. There are also some food items we just can’t get from a farm. Thus, here is “Grocery Shopping 101.”
First, here is the bottom line: eat only what God created to be eaten, and make sure it is as close to its natural state as possible. For example: eat raw cheese, don’t eat American cheese; drink whole milk, not skim milk.
Second, at the grocery store you will find that a majority of the items in the above category will be located around the perimeter of the grocery store rather than in between the aisles. There are a few exceptions but not too many.
And now for the specifics:
Produce … Fresh vegetables, in season, grown as locally as possible and preferably organic … Fruits are good but only in moderation.
Meat … Look for organic meat from animals that have lived and eaten on the pasture as opposed to confined and grain-fed. These meats will be much higher in nutrients.
Dairy … Avoid processed dairy products, including yogurt that lists sugar, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and other chemicals and processed items in its ingredients. Look for whole milk, unprocessed cheese, full fat sour cream, real butter. Avoid dairy that has been “ultrapasteurized”, that does not require refrigeration, or is reduced fat or fat free. Look for whole milk that comes from pastured cows, preferably non-homogenized. Locally, that would be Hatcher Family Dairy milk.
Oils … Look for Extra Virgin Olive Oil, unrefined coconut oil, palm oil, cold pressed sesame oil and peanut oil and high oleic safflower oil. Avoid soybean oil, cotton seed oil, corn oil, canola oil and any oil that is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.
Salt … Unrefined Sea Salt is the best and it may not be available at a regular grocery store. Two excellent brands are Celtic Sea Salt and RealSalt. You want salt that has not been refined, bleached, or had chemicals added to make it flow smoothly. Real salt will be gray or speckled and coarser than traditional table salt.
Sweeteners … Always avoid white sugar, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Look for unpasteurized honey, molasses, organic maple syrup, or unrefined sugar such as Sucanat.
Always, always avoid “new-fangled modern convenience foods.” This is when you really have to think. Ask yourself, “Is this really a food?” “Was this food item available 75 years ago? 100? If not, why?”
All of the above guidelines can be applied to the many products in the grocery aisles. For example, if you were to buy spaghetti sauce, simply read the label and avoid those brands that list high fructose corn syrup on the label. Keep in mind that when you bake from scratch at home you would never use ingredients such as “autolyzed yeast extract” therefore don’t purchase products that include this on the label. Often you will find that the most simple of products will have the longest ingredient list. This is a big warning sign.
Grocery shopping in this manner will be overwhelming at first but it can be done! Your first few trips will be long as you scan the shelves and read the labels. You may be very discouraged to find that many of the items you are used to buying are now “off limits.” Take heart! Talk to your grocery manager and ask him to supply more brands and choices. He is often willing to special order. Or, learn to make some things from scratch at home – you will be surprised at how many convenience foods you can actually make yourself for very little trouble (for example, spaghetti sauce!).
Remember, don’t make all of your diet changes at one time. Take baby steps. Decide what is your biggest priority and start there. The other things will fall in line.