Food shopping, anyone?

Although the mere thought of shopping for clothes or gifts or just about anything is enough to make me break out in hives, I love food shopping! (Okay, I also love browsing cookware stores and bookstores.)

News reports indicate that Americans are indeed trying to eat out less and eat in more – is it helping us pinch pennies and improve our diets, though? Is cooking and eating at home really working?

There are numerous ways we can “shop healthy” – my favorite tips for eating well are found in Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, and I summarize the ones that pertain specifically to shopping here (my comments are in parentheses):

  • Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. (Goodbye, Twinkies!)
  • Avoid food products containing ingredients that are unfamiliar, unpronounceable, more than 5 in number, or contain high fructose corn syrup.
  • Avoid food products that make health claims.
  • Shop the peripheries of the supermarket (where all the whole, close to the source foods are) and stay out of the middle (where all the highly processed foods are).
  • Get out of the supermarket whenever possible (i.e. get to the farmers’ market and “shake the hand that feeds you” – you’re not likely to find highly processed, additive-laden food there!)
  • Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does (that is, don’t grocery shop at the local gas station-cum-convenience store – there’s probably more HFCS and transfats per square inch in there than anywhere else in America.)

Of course, there are the old standby tips as well:

  • Don’t shop when hungry.
  • Make a list and stick to it – if you see something you want but it’s not on the list, add it to next week’s list – chances are you won’t want it so much then (or if you’re like me and think you’ll write it down when you get home – forget  it – it’s forgotten!)

And perhaps a new suggestion, from Ne w York Times op-ed contributor Kate Stein: Shop Faster.

For those who firmly believe in the “5 ingredients or less” rule and still shop at conventional grocery stores – take heart – apparently some major manufacturers have read Pollan, too – Haagen Dasz and Frito-Lay are among those coming out with “5 ingredients or less” lines. (See SparkPeople’s “Healthy Lifestyle Blog” for more details.) I’m not likely to fall for that – it’s really a marketing gimmick to keep us buying junk food or get us to buy it in the first place – but I’m happy to see that they’re taking note. And I have to wonder whether these foods will actually cost more than their additive-packed counterparts – what’s that all about? Fewer ingredients should cost less…in the ideal world I wish we lived in!


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