Sunday, April 05, 2009

About a Grocery Shopping Trip

So I joined this on-line writing sit called and yesterday morning, instead of doing schoolwork I sat down at my computer and decided to write on one of the subjects that Helium was looking for articles to be written on. There were already 24 other submissions on the topic at hand and this was 'rated' category, so I'll get to see if my piece is 25/25 or rises in the ranks. As of this afternoon (24 hours later) it's risen to 3/25 and I've had two members send me compliments on the article! I'm pleased to have found an outlet for my writing that is somewhat structured and also rewarding because in lieu of creative writing class I have been finding myself lacking the motivation to write lately ( as evidenced by my lack of blogging...). Anyways, here's what I wrote, or you can go directly to the site by clicking on this link:

How to Shop for Healthy Food at the Grocery Store

Finding healthier foods at the grocery store is not as difficult as most people think it is. Yes, label reading can tell you how much sodium, trans fats, and sugars are in a given product, but there's an even easier trick to finding healthy foods at your grocery store - look for the ones with minimal packaging. No one needs to read a label to know that a head of lettuce, a bunch of bananas or a fillet of fresh salmon is good, healthy food. A rule of thumb to keep in mind as you peruse the grocery store: buy as close to the source as possible. This means instead of buying frozen french fries, buy a bag of potatoes. Instead of buying sugar cereal, buy oatmeal. To make your shopping trip as package-less, healthy and quick as possible you should try to stick to the perimeter of the grocery store.

Virtually all grocery stores are laid out in a typical fashion, with fresh fruits and vegetables to greet you when you enter the front doors. Stick to the periphery and you'll also encounter the bakery, the fresh seafood section, the meat and meat alternatives (tofu, soyburgers, etc.) section, and the dairy section. The frozen food section is also located on the perimeter and if you want to be healthy on a budget, this is a good place to stock up on frozen vegetables and fruits - just steer clear of the frozen entrees and desserts! They may seem like a cheap and relatively healthy option, but ask yourself how likely it is that a small, rectangular box of frozen, microwaveable food-like substances is truly a healthy option.

Generally, then, filling your shopping cart with unpackaged food products is one way to make sure you're going home with healthy items for yourself and your family. Of course, you are likely going to have to buy some packaged foods and venture down some of the middle aisles of the grocery store. When shopping the aisles, the same general rule of thumb applies: buy closer to the source. The easiest way to ascertain how close a canned, boxed or bagged good is to the source is to glance at the ingredients list. The fewer ingredients, the closer it's likely to be to the source. So a can of diced tomatoes and a bag of whole-grain pasta is a better bet for your health than a can of pasta-os. Common sense is also a useful tool when you are shopping the aisles of the grocery store. Something that contains ingredients you don't recognize or can't pronounce is likely to be less good for you. In general, most canned goods that are pantry staples (i.e. beans,
tomato sauce, etc.) are healthy enough to go in your shopping basket, although you might want to check the sodium content on such items. Be more cautious of items in boxes and bags. Crackers, cookies, chips, macaroni and cheese dinners, frozen pizzas, microwave meals, sugar cereals and other such items should stay out of your cart for the most part. On the other hand, staples such as whole-wheat flour, oats, high fiber cereals, frozen vegetables and rice are green light items. Truly, it comes down to common sense and, sometimes, a bit of sleuthing because the healthier items aren't always the ones at eye level.

Finally, if you want to eat a healthy diet, two of the best things you can do for yourself is avoid products that carry health claims and shop beyond your grocery store. It may seem counter-intuitive to turn away from food products that carry health claims but almost without exception these health claims are marketing gimmicks to mask the fact that the product has been heavily processed and contains many artificial ingredients and additives. In fact, many of the foods you find at the grocery store are more products of a food laboratory than they are of fertile soils, water and sunshine, and your body was not designed for laboratory foods, it was designed for nature's foods. So, if you truly want to eat healthy, you might also consider bypassing the grocery store for other places where nature's food can be found. Farmer's markets, natural food stores, local grocery stores, butchers, local bakeries, ethnic food markets and specialty food shops all offer an excellent array of foods that are more likely to have come from nature and much less likely to be full of artificial flavours, bad fats and added sugars. If you really want to try something out of the ordinary find out if there are any community supported agriculture (CSA) options or weekly vegetable box schemes in your area. These relatively new ways of getting your weekly vegetables guarantee you'll get the healthiest, freshest, and most flavorful produce possible while also supporting a local farmer.

Shopping for healthy food doesn't require you get a nutrition degree or become an expert in label reading, it simply calls for you to seek out the vibrant colors of nature, search for food that is closer to the source and use your common sense when it comes to putting items in your cart. It's just that simple.

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