Healthy grocery shopping takes some work, but there are certainly ways you can buy organic and all natural products without a big budget. An important part in learning how to do this is knowing what is most important. Below are some of the fundamentals that can help you.
Healthy Grocery Shopping – Meats and Dairy:
First of all, avoid as much as possible any meats, pork, chicken and turkey, (as well as eggs and milk products) that have been raised with the use of antibiotics and hormones.
Chicken and Turkey meats in particular (more so than beef or pork) are much more readily available to buy in most supermarkets without antibiotics or hormones.
Many dishes that are made with ground beef can be made with ground turkey meat instead. Spaghetti, meatloaf, chili and even tacos can be made with ground turkey and are quite tasty.
I have generally tried to eat red meat only once per week and when I do it is only grass fed, without hormones or antibiotics. Since such meats tend to be more expensive, I have opted for chicken and turkey much more often.
Canned Foods and Plastic Bottles:
Nearly all canned foods of any kind (vegetables, fruits, soups, sauces, tuna, etc.) have a lining inside the can that contains BPA-containing resin.
Plastic Water Bottles should also be checked to make sure they do not contain BPA. Once you check your brand, you can usually just stick to that brand.
BPA has been linked to various health issues including thyroid malfunctions, obesity, cancer and reproductive problems. There is a lot of controversy on the subject and various investigations underway. So I recommend avoiding as much BPA as possible. This is particularly important for infants or young children as well as pregnant women.
In short, for healthy grocery shopping avoid use of canned foods where possible. Sauces are often available in glass containers. Never cook or microwave in plastic or styrofoam containers.
Healthy Grocery Shopping – How to Buy Produce:
Healthy grocery shopping for fruits and vegetables has its own set of issues, particularly pesticides that have been used to protect them from bugs. Ideally you would just buy everything organic. But if for any reason – financial or proximity or whatever – at least know that there are certain fruits and veggies that are more important to buy organic than others. There are certain fruits and vegetables that tend to absorb more of these pesticides than others.
There’s what’s called the “clean 15” (fruits and veggies that tend to have low levels of pesticides found in them) and the dirty dozen (those that usually absorb much higher amounts of pesticides). If you learn these it will make it easier to follow. These are listed below.
Generally those fruits or veggies with thick skins that are peeled before eating usually have less dangers involved if not organic. Examples include melons, citrus fruits, bananas, avocados, squash, etc.
Fruits and veggies that you eat with the skin, such as apples, berries, peaches, zucchini, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, etc. you are going to expose yourself to a higher content of pesticides. The worst of these are the rough surface ones such as broccoli, cauliflower, peaches and strawberries, as they generally absorb a much higher amount of pesticides.
The clean 15 – those not so crucial to get organic:
1. Sweet corn
5. Sweet peas – frozen
11. Honeydew Melon
The dirty dozen – those most important to get organic:
3. Nectarines Grapes
11. Sweet bell peppers
Fish can be very healthy and are very good to include in your diet. However, it’s very important to not eat a lot of fish that is high in mercury content and to avoid consumption of farm-raised seafood. Once and a while is okay, but not a lot.
I use to eat a ton of tuna. I loved tuna. Later I found out that tuna is very high in mercury. So now I have tuna maybe once or twice a month at the most. There are plenty of fish that have very low levels of mercury and these you can eat plenty of.
Here are the types of fish that are highest in mercury content: Mackerel, Marlin, Orange Roughy, Shark, Swordfish, Tilefish, Tuna (Bigeye, Ahi, Canned Albacore, Yellowfin), Bluefish, Grouper and Sea Bass (Chilean).
Low in mercury and good to buy are:
Anchovies, Butterfish, Catfish, Clam, Crab, Crawfish/Crayfish, Flounder, Haddock (Atlantic), Herring, Mullet, Oysters, Perch, Salmon, Sardines, Scallops, Shrimp, Sole (Pacific), Squid (Calamari), Tilapia, Trout (Freshwater) Whitefish, and Whiting.
Farm-raised fish are often fed fish pellets that are contaminated or genetically modified corn and soy and are raised in non-optimum conditions. It’s best if you can eat wild-caught seafood such as Alaskan salmon or sockeye salmon or other wild-caught fish, particularly if it is from Alaska
Nuts, Seeds, Beans
Raw nuts and seeds are a great source of fiber and protein. Buying roasted nuts and seeds is not recommended as they are roasted in oils that are not healthy and can easily go rancid. If you must have roasted, then you can roast them yourself in your oven using no extra oil.
Seeds such as sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia and hemp seeds are all great sources of protein, fiber and other nutrients.
Nut and seed butters are also very healthy as long as they have no added ingredients. Most nut butters have added sugar and other ingredients, but you can often find natural or organic nut butters that only have the nut and maybe some sea salt as ingredients. Or you can make nut butters at home in a blender or food processor very easily using raw nuts of your choice.
Beans are high in protein and fiber and they are great to work into dishes and salads.
Some of the best and healthiest oils to use are:
- Coconut oil – Has a slight coconut flavor, so not always the best to use with delicately flavored things such as frying eggs (unless you like the flavor). But it is fabulous for baking and great for frying as it doesn’t burn at high heats and remains stable.
- Butter is the second best for frying or cooking at high heats. If you can’t use coconut oil, use butter.
- Olive Oil – Has a savory flavor and great for salad dressings and dribbling over veggies or other dishes. I don’t recommend using this at high temperatures such as for frying.
- Avocado Oil – This is not as well known, but is a fabulous oil and very healthy. This oil is similar to olive oil so don’t use at higher temps.
- Flax Oil – Great for salads. I also include some in my green smoothies and/or protein drinks as a good source of Omega-3.
- Walnut Oil – slight walnut taste, also excellent. Great for salad dressings too.
- Hummus (made with Tahini), guacamole and nut butters can all be used as excellent veggie dips. They are sources of good fats.
It is super important to stay clear of trans fats as they can be very damaging. You need to watch for trans fats that are added into other foods such as crackers, chips and tons of other things. Anything that says “shortening”, “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “hydrogenated vegetable oil” contains trans fat. Most margarins contain trans fats.
I also do not recommend using Canola Oil. It is not a naturally occurring oil and is not healthy despite promotions to the contrary.
Breads, Flours, Pastas and Whole Grains:
Whole Grains, in the main, are very healthy. Quinoa (which is actually a seed and is itself a complete protein) is one of the ancient grains that has become one of my favorites.
Millet, amaranth, oats and many other whole grains, when eaten in moderation, are a great source of fiber and other nutrients.
For bread, I recommend Ezekiel brand bread that is flourless. It is made from whole sprouted grains and comes in several different versions including cinnamon raisin and 7 grain. They also make an English muffin version that’s excellent too. These have a low-glycemic index and are very high in fiber – and they actually taste great.
For Pasta, I pretty much exclusively use veggies that I put through a spiralizer to make long strings that look like spaghetti pasta, using zucchini, squash, beets or eggplant. You can also use a potato peeler to make long strips of zucchini for dishes like lasagna.
Another good option is using a wheat and gluten free pasta that is made from Quinoa. Quinoa seeds contain essential amino acids like lysine and acceptable quantities of calcium, phosphorus, and iron. Relatively high in protein and fiber, it is a good replacement for wheat. You can get spaghetti, linguini, macaroni and lasagna types pastas made from Quinoa. And it tastes just as good as regular pasta.
For chips, try Beanito’s brand bean chips. They may not have the most appealing name, but the taste and nutrition are right on the money. Made from whole beans – rather than bean flour – and rice, Beanitos have at least 5 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein per serving. The line includes chips made from white, black, and pinto beans, with a total of six flavors.
I’ve found and tested some really incredible flours that are all gluten free. I have been using these for baking and cooking very successfully. Here are my favorites:
- Garbanzo Bean Flour – great for baking. It’s tasteless, bakes very well and is lower in carbs and higher in protein than wheat flour.
- Almond Flour – an excellent flour to use for anything. It is low in carbs and high in protein.
- Coconut Flour – great for desserts and everything frankly. Coconut flour is very, very dry, so you will need to use less of it than normal flour. To compensate for the dryness, use more eggs and a bit more oil.
- Quinoa Flour – this one can be slightly bitter, so I don’t recommend using this for anything sweet. It’s great for lightly breading fish, making gravy or other savory uses.
- Milled Flaxseed – great for almost anything and high in omega-3.