The daughter of a friend of mine recently graduated from college, moved to a big city and has discovered holistic eating through a colleague of hers.
She emailed me with some questions, one of them being: What should my grocery list look like?
I thought if she wondered what should be in her shopping cart, maybe there are others out there with the same question.
I’d like to give you some ideas.
Vegetables: I think the majority of your cart should be filled with produce, especially vegetables.
- dark green leafy (spring mix, spinach, baby lettuces, arugula, etc), root vegetables (beets, parsnips, onions, turnips, carrots, potatoes), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts), nightshade (tomatoes, peppers) and others
- berries, melons, apples, peaches and grapes are among the best; also bananas, pineapple, mango, citrus, kiwi
Be adventurous and try new things from the produce department.
Nuts and Seeds:
- walnuts, almonds and pecans are the best because of their Omega-3 oils, but other nuts are great as well; pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax seed
- quinoa (technically a seed, but considered a grain), black or brown rice, steel-cut oatmeal, millet, buckwheat, rye, barley
Be careful! Even though a box may say “whole grain” does not mean it is. Cereal, commercial bread and pasta go through so much processing by the time it makes it into the mixing bowl at the factory it’s no longer a true whole grain.
- legumes (lentils, kidney/pinto/black beans, chick peas), eggs, organic animal protein (chicken, beef), wild caught fish (salmon, tuna, sardines)
Dairy: In limited quantities
- If you like milk, raw is best if you can get your hands on it, otherwise I don’t recommend it. Almond and rice milks are great replacements. I use almond milk in mashed potatoes and nobody knows the difference. Coconut milk can also be used, but don’t over-do it, it can be high in fat. Good fat, but still fat.
(I do not recommend soy unless used in fermented form: tempeh, miso and natto. Otherwise, any processed soy product should be avoided.)
- Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses are the best, plain Greek yogurt (try to get organic), real butter
Things NOT to put in your cart:
- Anything that has high-fructose corn syrup, partially-hydrogenated oil, MSG, natural or artificial flavors, food coloring, aspartame, items you can’t pronounce, anything that has a list as long as a paragraph!
Be careful when shopping at the health food store. Even though there are many items on the shelf that are organic or natural, they are still a processed item. It is best to eat whole foods, made at home so you know what, and how much, is in them.
There’s nothing wrong with buying some of the health food store “junk” food for a treat on occasion, just be careful not to make it a regular part of your diet.
What about dressings and sauces?
Read labels. Most dressings and sauces have high-fructose corn syrup, flavorings and other unnatural ingredients. There are items on the shelf that are acceptable, although you will have to take some time to read labels and will likely have to pay a little more.
I highly believe it is worth the little extra cost for the product than to have to pay later with my health in the form of forgetfulness, sluggishness, crabbiness, headaches, and just general not feeling well. Or worse, cancer, diabetes, gout, etc.
Almost no commercial dressing or sauce will be perfect, but find the least offensive item that’s right for you.
- Newman’s Own brand is pretty decent in most areas
- Of BBQ sauces, there are only 2 or 3 brands (out of a couple of dozen at my store) that don’t have high-fructose corn syrup (We bought Guy Fieri yesterday for son’s BBQ Chicken Pizza) [Update: Guy Fieri Bourbon Brown Sugar sauce is a winner! Son's new fave.]
- Dressings are loaded with MSG and flavorings, read labels carefully
- Spaghetti sauces have flavorings and added sugar
I hope this basic overview helps you know how to create a healthier grocery list. This list is representative of what you would see (or not see) in my shopping cart. Everybody is different so do what works for you. Some people thrive on meat while others cannot tolerate it. Some need butter to feel good while others feel sick if they have any. Experiment on yourself, then don't feel guilty if you love butter or a steak on occasion.
(If you'd like help discovering what works for you, let me know.)
Please ask any questions you may have. I’d love to answer them or even do a post to dig a little deeper to help us learn more.
Do you think this post will help someone you know? Please pass it along! Thank you!