Shopping Tips

Originally posted on November 23, 2014

Navigating grocery stores shouldn't be a terrifying ordeal, but for those of us with food allergies or intolerances, it can be!  Especially with all of the confusing dietary recommendations bombarding us every day!

Here are a few tips to get you through the store, with minimal damage to your psyche and your wallet.

Any healthy "diet" is going to be heavy on the Real Foods, and not so much the manufactured industrialized food like products.  So, stick to the outside aisles only when looking for Food.  (no, potato chips and "smart" popcorn are not food!).

Fruits and Vegetables 

Start in the fresh produce section, and when possible, look for organic, especially for the "Dirty Dozen" fruits and vegetables that are most likely to be contaminated with chemical pesticides and fertilizers than can be harmful to your health.

The Dirty Dozen (in order of contamination)

Apples
Celery
Sweet bell peppers
Peaches
Strawberries
Nectarines
Grapes
Spinach
Lettuce
Cucumbers
Blueberries
Potatoes

Then there's The Clean 15 that you don't have to look for organic, they will naturally be less likely to have chemicals used on them, or will have rinds/skins that you do not eat.
 
Onions
Sweet Corn
Pineapples
Avocado
Cabbage
Sweet peas
Asparagus
Mangoes
Eggplant
Kiwi
Cantaloupe
Sweet potatoes
Grapefruit
Watermelon
Mushrooms

If you can't afford organic, that's perfectly ok too!  Even "traditionally" farmed fruits and vegetables will be better for you than manufactured packaged foods.  Do what you can, when you can.  If that means you can only afford 2 organic apples, and everything else in your cart is not organic, perfect!  Feel good about your decisions and keep shopping.

Meats, eggs, dairy and fish.

Whenever possible for meat, poultry, and dairy look for "pasture raised" or "grass fed".  This means that the animals were raised humanely and fed a biologically appropriate diet.  Most livestock are not meant to eat grains or soya.  Meat and dairy cows who are fed grain and soya live daily in pain, it causes their stomachs to bloat because they can't properly digest it.  Pigs can, and will, eat just about anything.  They also should be pasture raised and allowed to forage as much as possible.  "Grain fed" is not the best option, but again, grain fed meat is better for you than manufactured, packaged, or fast food any day!

For eggs, look for "pasture raised".  Chickens are not vegetarian, they are omnivores and will eat just about anything, including small rodents!  They should be raised outdoors (weather permitting) and allowed to forage and peck the ground for bugs.  Eggs that are labeled "cage free" or "free run"  or "organic" means that they are raised in a closed barn, probably overcrowded, and fed inappropriate grain feed.  Whenever possible, get pasture raised.

For fish, look for "wild caught".  Farmed fish are often fed inappropriate grain based meals, and are often diseased because of tank overcrowding.  

Make a list, and plan your weekly meals to speed up your shopping excursions, and to reduce waste.  Every year North Americans throw out about 30% of what they buy, because they don't plan properly and it spoils.  You might as well just take 30% of your pay cheque and toss it out the window while you're driving down the highway!

I hope you find these tips to be helpful, and not intimidating.  Whether you choose "traditionally" (when did chemically based become "traditional" anyway?) farmed, or organic foods, remember that a diet of whole, real foods, is better for you than packaged foods any day!

Here are some resources:

David Suzuki and the Queen of Green blogs about sustainable farming, healthy foods, healthy planet

Canada Food Inspection Agency organic food rules in Canada

USDA Certified Organic program Organic agriculture rules in the USA

Eat Wild listing organic and pasture farms in the US and Canada

Local Harvest find a CSA near you, Canada and US listing.  Not complete however, the CSA that I am a member of is not listed!  I should tell them!

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