Shop Smart: How to navigate the grocery store
For many, visiting a large supermarket can be an incredibly overwhelming experience. Around every corner, there are thousands of products perfectly packaged to lure you in, despite your healthiest intentions. As you shop for groceries, be a food detective – really investigate what your store has to offer and always check out the ingredients in the products you’re buying. Remember, just because a product made it onto the shelf doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for you!
We’ve put together our favorite tips and tricks for navigating each section of the supermarket. We hope this guide will help you approach your supermarket with a newfound confidence that will improve your shopping experience and, ultimately, your health.
Read on to learn our top tips for navigating the aisles.
Did you know that the key element missing in most diets today is fresh fruits and vegetables? Eating plenty of produce guarantees your body is getting all the phytochemicals, nutrients, and vitamins
Choose local, seasonal, organic produce as often as possible.
- The less time there is between the produce being harvested and going into your mouth, the more nutrients you’ll get.
Eat a rainbow to make sure you’re getting the full spectrum of vitamins and nutrients your body needs.
- Fruits and vegetables that are red support heart and brain function, especially memory.
- Orange fruits and vegetables are full of beta-carotene and vitamin C, great for improving eye health and immunity.
- Yellow fruits and vegetables improve circulation.
- Deep green fruits and vegetables are great for purifying the blood, strengthening the immune system, nourishing the nervous system, and warding off depression and anxiety.
- Blue and purple foods are rich in antioxidants and can prevent early signs of aging and heart disease.
- White fruits and vegetables reduce blood pressure and LDL cholesterol.
Keep healthy flavor enhancers on hand.
- Keep fresh herbs, garlic, onions, and ginger in your kitchen year-round. In addition to offering a wide variety of nutritional benefits, these staples can take a healthy dish from bland to bravo. Garlic, onions, and ginger are known for their antiviral and antibacterial properties and are often used as natural antibiotics.
Load up on sweet vegetables.
- Eating sweet vegetables may reduce sweet cravings. Cookies, cakes, and ice cream can be crowded out by naturally sweet cooked vegetables, such as delicata squash, butternut squash, carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, and onions.
Here at BC2, we don’t advocate one specific diet or lifestyle; we promote bio-individuality – each person is a unique individual with specific diet and lifestyle needs. Whether it comes from animal or plant sources, everybody needs protein in their diet. Protein is key for building cells, maintaining tissue integrity, and producing critical enzymes, hormones, and other chemicals the body needs to function.
Be sure to check the dates when buying fresh animal products and look for the terms “organic,” “free-range” or “cage-free,” and “certified humane” on labels.
Animal products and byproducts that are certified organic come from animals raised on organic feed without antibiotics or hormones.
Free-Range or Cage-Free:
This usually means the animals are allowed to roam free. It doesn’t necessarily mean they have access to the outdoors.
This typically means the animals are free to behave naturally and have sufficient access to the outdoors. Slaughterers are also held to higher standards, minimizing the animals’ pain.
It’s easy to resort to highly processed imitation meat products when cutting down on animal protein. These products may be helpful for someone transitioning from a meat-heavy diet, but it’s important to focus on natural, whole products. If you’re looking to decrease the amount of animal protein in your diet, soy might be a good option for you.
- Tofu is soybean curd. It’s one of the most popular vegan meat substitutes and is like a chameleon in your kitchen as it takes on the flavor of any seasoning you add to it.
- Tempeh is made of whole soybeans fermented into a block. It has a toasted, nutty flavor – perfect for grilling or stir-frying.
- Beans and legumes are some of the most cost-effective protein sources available. Not only are they a great source of protein, they’re also a great source of fiber, magnesium, and iron.
- Seitan is a vegan protein made of wheat gluten, the main protein found in wheat. If you’re allergic to soy but not wheat, seitan may be a good option for you.
Seafood is another good source of protein. It’s a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which keep the heart and brain healthy. You might want to experiment with fresh fish and seafood, like salmon, cod, sardines, and mackerel.
- Smaller fish tend to swim closer to the surface and typically carry less mercury.
- When buying whole fish, take a good look at the eyes and gills; the eyes should be clear, not glazed over, and the gills should be red. Fish should also have tight skin and a clean smell.
- Fish fillets and steaks should be bright and clean in color – not murky.
- Always ask when the fish came in – if it’s been sitting on display for more than a day, you might want to consider other options.
Eggs boast a great balance of nutrients and are a complete protein, meaning they provide all the essential dietary amino acids the body needs. They also contain healthy amounts of vitamin D. Eggs are a great, quick, and easy way to add protein to a meal of grains and vegetables, especially if you’re on a budget!
- Look for the terms “certified organic,” “free-range,” “certified humane,” and “Grade A” on the label.
- The quality and nutritional value are the same between different colored eggs, so pick the one you like.
The topic of dairy provokes a lot of conversation. Many argue that dairy can lead to digestive issues, allergies, and/or mucus, while others enjoy dairy symptom-free.
Experiment with dairy to see how it affects you, then check out these tips for choosing dairy (or dairy-free alternatives) at your supermarket.
- Choose high-quality products labeled “free-range,” “organic,” or “grass-fed.” Keep in mind that cows that graze in the sunlight absorb vitamin D.
- Ghee is clarified butter. It can provide a delicious nutty flavor to vegetables and can be added to grains after they’ve been cooked. Ghee can help balance excess stomach acid and is popular in Indian cultures
- If dairy doesn’t work for you, there are still plenty of options. You can enjoy soy, rice, oat, coconut, hemp, and a number of nut milks, including almond milk and hazelnut.
- When looking for non-dairy milk, choose one that has the fewest number of ingredients. Reach for unsweetened options – sweeteners can add up to 25 grams of sugar per cup!
Most supermarkets carry a variety of grain options, including gluten-free and wheat-free items. The tricky part comes from marketing. Many products boast that they’re chock-full of whole grains, but a quick glance at the label reveals that very minimal grains were included in the food product. This is where your detective skills come into play! The key is finding products made from whole grains – that is, all parts of the grain are left intact.
- Check the ingredient list on a product claiming to be whole grain. A whole grain should be listed first – not “wheat” or “enriched wheat” or “enriched flour.”
- Wheat grains include bulgur, cracked wheat, spelt, and wheat berries.
- Wheat-free and gluten-free grains include amaranth, buckwheat, corn,
millet, rice, and quinoa (which is technically a seed).
- Oats are inherently gluten-free, but cross-contamination during growing and processing is common – look for “certified gluten-free” if needed.
Healthy fats are essential to good health. Fats are needed for everything from brain function to vitamin absorption. You can get great healthy fats from oils, nuts, seeds, coconuts, and avocados.
- Avoid hydrogenated and bleached oils.
- Look for brands that are cold-pressed and unrefined.
- Don’t be afraid to switch it up! Olive oil is delicious drizzled directly onto salads and grains. Sesame oil lends a unique, nutty flavor – hot sesame oil and toasted sesame oil are also options. Coconut oil lends a smooth coconut taste. There’s also almond oil, avocado oil, hazelnut oil, and high- oleic sunflower oil. Keep in mind that not all oils are suitable for high-heat cooking, though. Do your research when trying new oils.
- Heat and light speed up the rancidity of oils, so don’t keep them near a window or hot stove. Store oils in a cupboard that stays cool and doesn’t get light. Also, look for oils in dark bottles when possible.
- Oils are great natural body moisturizers. Use coconut oil to prevent stretch marks and smooth the skin; avocado oil to revive dry, brittle hair; and sesame oil for a healthy massage
The condiment aisle contains everything you need to make your food taste just how you like it. If you’re cooking meals for a lot of people, allow them to personalize their plate by adding different flavors.
Condiments keep well in the refrigerator, so you don’t have to worry about them going bad anytime soon. Pick one up each time you go to the store and, before you know it, you’ll have a whole collection.
- Tamari is a gluten-free, fermented soy sauce that can be used on grains, soups, vegetables, and almost any recipe that calls for salt. Seaweed flakes are also a great salt alternative.
- Try apple cider vinegar for a sour, tangy flavor or balsamic vinegar, if you want something a little sweeter.
- For spicy flavors, try hot pepper sesame oil, cayenne pepper, or hot sauce.
- If you’re looking for a nutty flavor, try sesame salt, tahini, or nut butters.
- Nutritional yeast is a great condiment that adds a cheesy flavor to foods and contains a lot of protein and B vitamins.
HERBS AND SPICES
Herbs and spices taste great and have lots of powerful health benefits. Many spices are irradiated or have non-caking additives or preservatives. Even when purchasing spices, it’s important to read labels. Experiment with herbs and spices to determine which ones you prefer.
- Herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, and bay leaves complement everything from lighter fish and chicken to meats like steak and lamb. They’re also great on whole grain bread with garlic and olive oil.
- Coriander, cumin, and ginger help reduce gas caused by beans.
- Cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg enhance the flavors of sweet vegetables and make them more digestible. They can also improve the digestion of dairy, fruit dishes, and desserts.
When shopping for salt, look for naturally harvested sea salt, which has a grayish tint and looks almost damp. This is because it hasn’t been bleached and therefore retains many of its important natural qualities.
We recommend that you include whole, naturally sweet foods in your diet – this way, you can satisfy a sweet tooth without deprivation. There are also tons of all-natural sweeteners that can add a sweet, nutritious touch without all the chemicals.
- Honey is delicious and may help combat seasonal allergies, especially if you buy the local, raw, unrefined type.
- Maple syrup contains trace amounts of minerals and can add a unique flavor to more than just pancakes and waffles. Many people enjoy baking with maple syrup.
- Stevia is a calorie-free option and is 200 times sweeter than actual sugar, gram for gram.
EXPLORE AND EXPERIMENT
As you investigate the products your grocery store has to offer, keep an open mind as you experiment with them. Each time you visit the supermarket, try something new. Check out what other people have in their carts. If it looks interesting, ask them about it – what it is, what it tastes like, and how to prepare it. Enjoy experimenting with new foods!