Grocery Store 101: Learning from a Registered Dietitian
Have you ever wanted to tour a grocery store with a registered dietitian? Hear their advice, maybe find out if you are making good choices? I thought I was a pretty good navigator of the grocery isles until I walked them with a registered dietitian. Little did I know that I was falling prey to creative marketing and flashy labels.
Earlier in the month I had the opportunity to spend a morning with Indiana Dairy and Martha Rardin, MSM, RD, CD, FAND- all that means that she really knows food. She not only really knows food but she understands academically what food does for and to our bodies and the health benefits of eating well. Martha has helped hundreds of people learn how to shop smart and heal themselves from the inside out.
One item I should make note of here: I am adept at grocery shopping and typically I don’t fall for flashy ads or convenience foods. I shop the perimeter, do my research and read labels. But I also tend to buy the same things week after week (I am speaking of the shopping for my family only- not blogging or client shopping). We go through a LOT of food here with one adventurous eater and another who eats carbohydrate, protein and calorie packed meals 6-7 times a day. I have to be a savvy shopper!
Through this grocery store learning experience I discovered that for the average consumer it is very easy to be swayed by marketing. Colorful labels boasting their super food abilities, food you can eat FAST and cheap, and so on. I mean, have you ever noticed exactly how many frozen pizzas your local grocery carries? Typically, 4 times more than veggies and fruits.
Recently, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) shared that 13% of those polled eat the recommended amount of fruit and 9% eat the recommended amount of vegetables. Is it availability, is it price, is it knowledge of what to do with it- that keeps people from buying? I would like to know. What I do know is that the grocery industry really banks on convenience foods. Fast foods in a pretty package.
I am not perfect but one thing I do, without fail, is to buy fruits and veggies that are in season and on sale to freeze for later. Whether it is berries, peaches, grapes or green beans- wash them, trim them and flash freeze for later! It’s easy and a great way to capitalize on a sale. I mean- when corn is cheap cheap it would be silly not to make a few bags of this super simple freezer corn!
Another trap for parents is granola or nutrition bars. You will find that these bars do not carry the health punch that they say they do. Typically, with more sugar and empty calories and more like a dessert than anything else. You might find many of these bars in single portions near the checkout isles. A worse culprit, in my opinion, is fruit juices. From concentrate or blends of many fruits are often just over hyped sugar water. You know the best juices for the money? Any of the V8 blends.
A good rule of thumb is to look for foods that have 5 or less ingredients. Sometimes that is hard to do but it is a good think to keep in mind when shopping and trying to avoid overly processed foods. Look for breads that have at least 3 grams of fiber and 100% whole wheat as the first ingredient- if you are looking to boost your fiber intake. You might notice that many bread “bags” are labeled in a very brown/orange/tan color scheme and that is due to companies wanting to look more wholesome. Be better than that. Read the labels.
Another trap, at least for me, is pre-pattied meats. I really had NO idea that some pre-pattied or frozen meat patties would have added artificial flavorings, sodium and fillers. I am not generalizing here- read the labels.Not to mention you pay more for pre-pattied meat. Check out the ingredients for a pound of ground turkey vs 4 uncooked frozen turkey patties. These are the details that I gloss over when I am in a hurry to get the shopping done.
I think the lesson here is to shop from a whole food perspective. Real dairy, real vegetables/fruits, real meats and very little in between. With tools and handy recipes that help speed up the cooking process, along with the knowledge on how to feed ourselves well and within our budgets, we can create a healthy diet that starts in the grocery store. Want to avoid sodium rich, processed foods? Avoid nitrates? Want to avoid artificial colors and flavors? Then avoid heavily processed cereals, cookies and chips and some processed meats.
There is moderation and there is modification. I believe a balance of both schools of thought is possible when feeding your family without breaking the bank. Stick with foods that are not there for your entertainment. Meaning, in their whole state and not laden with fake ingredients, sodium, sugar and fillers.
The bottom line is to shop how your finances dictate. I do not personally believe that there is a health benefit to buying organic produce, fruit and foods. But if you do and you can afford it- then have at it! Your budget needs to come from your own personal place. That is for you to decide.
In the coming months, I will be sharing healthy substitutions in recipes I love as well as family favorites. No judgement, just great ways to lighten up our favorite foods from dips to soups.
If you live in the Midwest, you may be familiar with Kroger. Check out their website for tips and money saving ideas. Their future looks bright with talk of online grocery shopping and increased deals through a smartphone app. Learn more HERE.
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Kroger has an amazing selection (right now) of local meats, produce and products. When local, farmers market shopping is out of reach for many financially, Kroger is filling that gap with everything they can locally. From milk to beef, you can shop local AND shop at your favorite grocery stores!
Did you know that you can find out where your milk came from at WhereIsMyMilkFrom.com?