Knowing how to shop, where to shop and understanding health food jargon are some of the most common questions people are looking to have answered. So if you find yourself left scratching your head at the supermarket, know you are not alone. .
1. Where you shop counts
Overall, the highest quality, freshest and least expensive produce generally comes from your local Farmer’s market. But a wider variety of products is offered at a health food store and is probably more convenient to most. Here are the best places to shop for certain produce/products:
- Farmers market – all my vegetables/fruit, honey, organic meats (please read this post for more information on how to know if something is truly organic at a market or not)
- Health food store – all organic, dairy products, breads, nuts, seeds, grains, teas and nut milks if I haven’t had time to make my own at home. Frozen berries are always best to buy from here too for smoothies.
- Supermarket – Clean 15 vegetables if I can’t find them at the market (see below); organic/ chemical-free household goods like environmentally friendly rubbish bags/ washing detergents etc (Ecostore is a good brand now available at most supermarkets). Avoid the ‘health food’ aisle at normal supermarkets, they are usually loaded with highly processed foods trying to pass themselves off as “healthy”.
2. Everything you buy doesn’t need to be organic (but it would be better if it was)
Those on a budget should always prioritise going organic with animals products before going organic with vegetables (which can be washed fairly efficiently). Wild fish also comes without antibiotics but can be harder to source than other organic meats (get friendly with your fish monger). Commercially raised chickens in particular should be avoided as they are riddled with antibiotics and hormones.
Always go organic with Dirty Dozen produce that can be potentially loaded with harmful pesticides.
Clean Fifteen produce items are fine (and less expensive) when bought at your local fruit shop or supermarket and washed properly. In particular, avocados and lemons are good to buy from this list as they often go off quickly when bought from the farmers market and are three times the price at a health food store. For the full list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen please read here.
3. Consider frozen vegetables
You would be surprised at the healthy options in the frozen section of your local health food store. Frozen vegetables maintain nutrients far more efficiently than their fresh counterparts as they are snap frozen the moment they are pulled from the ground. Many scientific studies have shown fresh vegetables lose a substantial amount of their nutrition in the picking, transport and cooking process. High quality frozen meals (from health food stores and green grocers) are also good options as they often don’t include additives (although always check the label first).
4. Always go Lite/full fat when it comes to Dairy foods
Fat does not make you fat. We need it for nourishment, to taste things and to help us feel full for longer. It makes our skin glow, our brains work and our energy last longer.
Most people opt for skim or lite products with their weight in mind, and are always shocked to find out that no fat could be actually what is making them fat. This works in three different ways:
- Without fat to transport fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D and K, the body becomes nutritionally starved. When a body thinks it’s going into famine, it starts to store fat.
- When the fat is removed from skim products, sugar is sometimes added back in for taste – sky rocketing your blood sugar and giving you more unnecessary calories to burn off at the gym.
- The heating process that removes the fat creates rancid fats that are potentially carcinogenic.
If you truly are watching your weight or just can’t stand the taste of full-cream products, opt for anything that is at least 4% fat instead.
5. Health food in disguise and other jargon
There are a lot of product descriptions at health food stores you need to be aware of:
- “Natural” products are not always ALL natural in ingredients, so make sure to check the label.
- Gluten-free products may be without gluten (which is inflammatory for everyone) but they are often filled with other highly processed, high sugar and high starch ingredients.
- “Sugar-free” products often replace sugar with Agave Syrup, a sweetener rich in fructose that makes more work for your liver and may cause greater weight gain than sugar. Preferred sweeteners to look on labels for are stevia and rice malt.
- “Vegan desserts” are usually loaded with agave syrup and high sugar, histamine inducing dates, and sometimes high amounts of vegetable oil and other sugars (such as dried fruit) as well.
- Dried fruit and anything sweetened with it.They are high GI, can induce a histamine response and if not organic laiden in chemicals. If you’re going to treat yourself, have a piece of high quality chocolate instead, as the chocolate at least contains some fat which offsets blood sugar spikes that leave you feeling more tired and hungry later on.
- Prepackaged smoothies contain concentrated amounts of fructose and are contain small amounts of nutrients.
- Prepackaged bottled teas (black and herbal) are also generally loaded with added sugars.