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Defensive Supermarket Shopping 101 March 24, 2012

Posted by starshipexercise in Recipes and Food.

Food is confusing.  So many foods are touted as healthful, but aren’t.  So many are believed to be bad for you, but are actually good to eat.  I have been religiously reading all of those “25 Superfoods You Should Eat Everday” and “Eat This, Not That” articles for years, and here’s the accumulated wisdom that I’ve collected along the way.  Please note, I’m not a nutritionist, medical professional, dietician, or research scientist.  I’m just repeating what I’ve seen over and over again from various sources.

  • Nut butters (including peanut butter) are good for you.  Just not too much.
  • Bread is good for you. Just choose the whole grain variety, and not too much.
  • Potatoes are good for you.  Just not fried, and not too much.
  • Red meat is good for you.  Just choose lean cuts, and not too much.
  • Eggs are good for you.  Just not too much.
  • Eat foods you enjoy.  Just not too much.

Are we seeing a theme, here?  Most whole foods are not inherently bad for us, it’s how we process them and the quantities we consume that are problematic.

Even the so-called healthy options are often just as bad as regular products, in their own way.  In this day and age, you’ve got to be a label-reader, because the claims on the front of the package can be very misleading.  Just because a food product claims to be healthy, doesn’t mean it is.  The US government has approved thousands of food additives that are used as fillers and enhancers in all kinds of processed foods.  We don’t know what they are.  If you don’t want to know, don’t read this article about the five grossest foods in the supermarket.  The scary thing?  These are not the only gross things, just the most gross.  Ew.  What else is out there?  Anyone heard about meat glue?

Alas, all is not lost.  You can have your cake and eat it too, and without dying of toxic poisoning.  Here are some shopping habits I have developed over the years to avoid the worst stuff:

  • Never buy foods with high-fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogentated oils, tropical oils such as palm or coconut, natural flavors (could be anything!) or artificial sweeteners. 
  • “Multigrain” sounds deceptively healthy.  Don’t be fooled, look for “whole grain” products with whole wheat, whole oats, or brown rice as the first ingredient.
  • Be suspicious of prepared foods.  Read labels, and choose prepared foods with the fewest number of ingredients possible.  Avoid foods with ingredient names that you don’t understand.
  • When you can, choose organic produce, free range poultry and eggs, and grass-fed lean meat.
  • Farmed fish and seafood is gross.  Atlantic salmon is gross.  Sustainably caught, wild fish and seafood is good.  Buy the wild stuff frozen if you have to, it’s better than fresh fish from a farm.
  • Get dietary fats from healthy sources such as salmon, eggs, nuts, canola or olive oil, and avocados.
  • Less white food, more brown food:  whole wheat instead of white bread or pasta, brown rice instead of white rice, sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes.
  • When possible, choose fresh or frozen produce over canned or jarred produce.
  • Meal replacement bars and shakes are crap.  Even granola bars.  Crap crap crap.

Do you have any tips or tricks for the supermarket?  Any gross-out stories you want to share?  Leave a comment!




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