Virtual Grocery Store Tour Part One: Produce and Bulk

Are you confused about what to buy when you go grocery shopping?  Most people are.  I’m here to boost your confidence in you being able to decide for yourself which items to choose and which to avoid.

The general consensus in dietetics is that there are no right/wrong, good/bad foods.  I would argue that there are some, like: carrots= good and soda= bad.  Or apples= right and bakery case jumbo chocolate chip muffin= very wrong.  There is the potential for all foods to fit into a healthy diet; it’s simply up to you how often you wish to include those low nutrient options– that’s not something I or anybody can tell you.  But for obvious reasons, you should want to limit foods consisting of refined grains, sugars, oils and artificial ingredients as much as possible.  Often there are gray areas so remember… variety, balance and moderation!

There is a lot of bad advice out there in magazines, advertisements and even from so-called “experts” so don’t be afraid to rely on your own personal good judgement.  Certain foods may be right for some people but not others.  Like I always say, “You are your own best nutritionist.”  You know more than you think you do– what makes you feel as if you don’t is all the controversial information about food that has accumulated in your head over the years.  Much of it is mainly other people’s theories or ploys to sell  you something.  A lot of what we think is the “right” way to eat is based on questionable science and research that never seems to actually prove anything other than reenforce the fact that nobody really has the answers.  You know– eggs are good/eggs are bad, milk is healthy/milk should be avoided, etc.   For every study that tries to conclude something there is another that shows the opposite.  Let’s clear all that away and keep it simple.  We need to lighten up a bit and get back to basics.  Food shopping should be fun and not feel like a challenge!

I am breaking the grocery store down into departments, beginning with Produce and Bulk and working our way through the rest of the store in future posts…

Produce:

THE Most Important Department in the store!

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  • This is the usually where you start once you get in the front door.  Do you grab your bananas and bagged lettuce and then head for the aisles?  Spend a little more time in the produce section.  Most of the items in your cart should be coming from here!  Think of the MyPlate meal picture– half your plate fruits and veggies.  That means at least half your cart fruits and veggies, right?
  • But there are so many kinds of fruits and veggies here….which are good and which not so good?  Great news.  They are ALL healthy!  There are no bad fruits or vegetables.  Seriously.  Whoever started the rumor that grapes are fattening ought to be ashamed– no one ever became fat from eating too many grapes.  If fruit made you fat I would be morbidly obese.
  • The idea is to get a variety of colors– and definitely include dark leafy greens like kale, collards or spinach.  Maybe make a point of tying a new produce item each week.  Spaghetti squash?  A fresh pineapple?  Celery?  Mushrooms?  Bok choy?
  • If you don’t want to make time for food preparation you can always buy pre-cut fruits and vegetables– however be ready to pay more.   It’s actually kind of fun and therapeutic to play in the kitchen and cut up your own produce so consider making some time in your life for this.
  • Not sure whether you should go organic or conventional?  It’s up to you.  Check out the Dirty Dozen list of produce items most highly contaminated with pesticide residues and perhaps try to buy these organic when you can.  But it is better to buy conventional than none at all.
  • Look for in-season local produce.  Food that hasn’t had to travel halfway around the world to get here is fresher and more flavorful.  Plus it’s better for the environment and you are supporting your area farmers.
  • Shop smart and check your sales flyer for weekly specials!

 

Bulk:

Bag Your Own Whole Grains, Legumes, Nuts and Seeds Here

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  • Not available in most stores other than Whole Foods Market and smaller health food stores.  I’m not sure why.  I grew up in Rochester, New York where we had Wegmans and Tops, both of which had huge bulk food departments. My part-time job in high school was weighing customers bags of bulk food at Tops.  Of course I loved it because when I had to fill the candy bins I would have to sample for freshness.   🙂
  • Definitely not everything here is a healthy choice.  Stick to whole grains like oats, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, brown rice, popcorn, etc.  Raw nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, etc are great to buy here as well.  These are healthier than roasted and salted nuts and seeds. Typically bulk foods are cheaper than prepackaged but be sure to compare unit prices.
  • The nice thing about bulk is you can buy as little or as much as you need.  If you want to try a new trail mix or a whole grain, just get a small amount.  Try something new or treat yourself to a small portion of a delicacy like dark chocolate covered ginger or honey roasted cashews.
  • I like to use old glass jars for storage and I keep my oats, nuts and seeds in the fridge.  Beans and lentils are fine in your pantry.

Pretty straightforward so far, right?

Coming next in Part Two:  Seafood, Meat and Dairy

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