How do you shop for food and where do you shop for food are questions I am asked often. There is a really long answer (and if you ever want to get into details feel free to ask), but I’ll try to keep it simple.
Here’s what I recommend, in priority order:
1. Farmer’s Markets, CSA Food Shares, or direct from the farm for local, organically grown produce and livestock
Local, organic produce is the healthiest, most micro-nutrient dense food on the planet and should be the bulk of our diet. It may be more expensive and harder to find, but well worth the money and effort. You do get to choose how you are going to pay for it, out of your wallet now or by your health later.
Red Fire Farm in Granby, MA makes weekly deliveries to Worcester & Boston with food that is grown organically, harvested at peak ripeness, and delivered locally for a fair price.
Locally raised, grass-fed, hormone & antibiotic free livestock is so much better for you and usually priced right. Remember the serving size for steak is the size of a deck of cards!
2. Local Markets and Supermarkets: “Keep to the edges”
Lots of local markets and supermarkets offer an organic produce selection, just be careful of how you choose the processed organic foods. Organic does not equal healthy.
When purchasing any processed food (which should be kept to a minimum), look at the nutritional information label. When I am label browsing I am looking for 4 things:
- The serving size
- The amount of saturated fat
- The amount of sugar
- The ingredients
The “Serving Size Con” is a travesty and loophole that many food companies exploit. The serving size for many drinks is 8 oz. and the amount of sugar in the 8 oz. can be pretty scary. An 8 oz. serving size means a 20 oz. bottle of soda or juice should last about 3 meals. When was the last time that happened?!?
Saturated fat is not your enemy (ask anyone on the Paleo Diet), but when dealing with fat in processed foods, the benefits of saturated fat go out the window. Keep it to below 1g per serving
Sugar in processed foods is your enemy. Keep it below 5g per serving.
The ingredients list is just as important as the label. Many people say, “if it contains more than 4 ingredients, it’s not food!” Try to avoid foods with lots of ingredients that sound like they came out of a lab and not the ground.
When you are heading to checkout look at your shopping cart and ask:
Is it mostly fresh produce or boxes and plastic containers?
Be cautious of foods that with remain edible after a week. Chances are the nutrient value is low and whatever is inside that is keeping that food from spoiling is going to be pretty bad for you.
Ask lots of questions. The more informed the staff is usually means better options for healthy, quality foods.
Avoid most foods with coupons or discounts. Rarely are truly healthy foods discounted, unless the are getting too ripe. Don’t let a “good deal” alter your shopping, unless it’s on toilet paper.
Photos by Robert Couse-Baker, japes18, and Nic McPhee