Your food matters, so when you shop for it, be it at the farmers’ market or the supermarket – or even if you’re more of a meal kit kind of person – put your chef’s hat on. The idea is to cook what you buy with care, whether you’re a culinary newbie or a kitchen ninja. Instead of racing through the market like your cart’s on fire, take your time and approach food shopping as a kind of mindfulness exercise rather than a chore. Here’s how to simplify it and get the job done as enjoyably and healthfully as possible:
Streamline your shopping.
To eat healthy and well, table the persnickety tracking apps and complicated dietary plans and make simple your default. All you really need to do to keep blood pressure, blood sugar, weight and everything else in a good place is to junk the junk and make a beeline for nutritious ingredients that deliver maximum nutritional bang for your buck, with only positive side-effects.
As you put items in your cart, be mindful. Take a moment to look your choices and consider each item through the lens of, ‘will this enhance my health or erode it?’ That will streamline the shopping experience considerably! Skip lab-made, processed or manufactured, and just fill your cart with real, live, whole foods — no more debating about health-washed boxes of mega-grain cereals or ‘trans-fat-free’ crackers. Add some healthy fats, some high-quality protein, non-starchy veggies (we’re crazy about leafy greens) and strip sugars and starches to the bone, and you’re good to go.
The good stuff is on the outer aisles.
When you hit the market, spend most of your time shopping the fresh food that lives on the supermarket’s outer aisles. Forget the interior aisles, there’s nothing to see there, except manufactured Frankenfoods and processed crap with seemingly endless shelf-lives – profitable for the manufacturers, lousy for your health.
As I often say, shopping the perimeter is your key to feeling good and looking younger than your years. Think of the outer aisles as the fountain-of-youth aisles and the interior ones as the rapid-aging aisles if that helps keep you honest. All those fresh, organic, low or non-starchy veggies, will fill you up while being almost impossible to over-do. (When’s the last time too many greens gave you a bellyache?)
Where your meat’s been, and who it’s been with matters.
If you’re a carnivore, buy animal proteins from the healthiest sources possible – happy, well-cared-for animals produce healthier meat, versus the sickening stuff that comes from stressed-out, industrial feedlot animals living in horribly overcrowded, filthy conditions. (Hardly the recipe for a healthy meal!)
When buying, ask questions, and if the butcher at your market can’t answer the questions, consider buying elsewhere, for example, through a small artisanal producer online, or from the farmers’ market. You’ll need to do a little homework to get to know your sources better, but it’s worth it to feed your body the best, highest quality protein possible. Yes, it will likely cost a bit more, but buy in smaller amounts to help balance the ledger. Keep in mind too that reducing meat consumption overall is great for the planet.
Take a look at specialty providers like grasslandbeef.com, and butcherbox.com for high-quality grass-fed meat, and vitalchoice.com and sea2table.com for fish. And, to help you locate local sources of grass-fed meat, eggs, and dairy try eatwild.com.
Keep your convenience foods clean too.
Bagged, washed greens, preferably organic, are great time-savers, so grab some whenever you know you’re going to have a week where time will be short. Frozen, organic, non-starchy veggies are always great instant nutrition-boosters to keep on hand. Canned beans can save time in a pinch too, but go easy on them, as they tend to be loaded with extra salt (be sure to rinse them thoroughly), can be a bit too much for the carb-sensitive, and not all cans are BPA-free – but make sure yours are.
Other items to go easy on? “Health-washed” foods. Much as some of us may love our Trader Joe/Target/Whole Foods runs, the frozen food aisles are lined with convenience foods that don’t do your body any favors. Even if they do have plant-based, dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan stamped all over them, they’re still at their core, processed crap in sheep’s clothing.
Another popular not-so-clean item? Plant-based burgers. Granted, they can be helpful to fill out plant-based diets, and as an occasional treat when you’re craving a burger? But those patties aren’t without their downsides. They’re heavily processed; are fairly high in sodium and carbs; may contain non-GMO soy, and don’t deliver several of the key nutrients that real meat, sourced from healthy animals, provides.
Cauliflower crusts are another convenient, health-washed food that many people have embraced as an alternative to crusts, and, in theory, they’re not a terrible idea. Trouble is thought, most store-bought versions contain grains, cheese, refined flours (be they white, wheat, bean or nut) and a lot of carbs-per-slice, anywhere from 10 -30 grams. Even if cauliflower is the first ingredient listed, your slice may also be packing stuff like sugar, cornstarch and other less-than-optimal ingredients. Convenient? Yes. Good for you? Not so much. Bottom line: keep your convenience foods clean and whole, and keep the health-washed stuff to an absolute minimum.
Hack your subscription meal kit meals.
OK, let’s say you’re really pressed for time and a few nights a week you cook up the ingredients provided by your favorite meal kit service (like Hello Fresh, Home Chef, Sunbasket, Blue Apron and so on). If it gets you cooking at home that’s certainly a plus, but how about super-charging those meals with some added nutrition? Toss in an extra fistful or two of fresh or frozen spinach. Top your meal with extra broccoli and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Add in sauteed zucchini, garlic or brussels sprouts. Any way you can work in a few more veggies will help add volume and nutrition to your meal, so don’t hold back.
Phone it in (metaphorically speaking).
When you can’t physically make it to the store, shop online grocery delivery services like instacart.com, shipt.com, or AmazonFresh, or local organic shopping services like the Bay Area’s goodeggs.com. Membership-based health-food retailer thrivemarket.com can help you stock your pantry affordably (its app can keep you stocked in basics, and its products are 100 percent GMO-free).
Shop like a chef – and a yogi.
If you’re going in person, instead of viewing the process as a chore, re-think your approach, and view it as a simple pleasure, an accomplishment to strike off the to-do list, or even a form of entertainment. Better yet, take your food shopping a step further and ‘practice’ it as a kind of mindfulness exercise – one that engages the senses of smell, touch and sight.
At the supermarket or farmer’s market, take it slow, savor and enjoy. Sniff the proteins, squeeze the produce, notice the depth and variety of their colors. Check the condition your potential ingredients are in, and buy the items that look, smell and feel healthy and vibrant. As you shop the outer aisles – the land where unprocessed foods tend to live – pay attention to the sources, and look for the foods – and the healthy fats – that will make you glow inside and out.
So, beyond the a colorful rainbow of fresh veggies, what should your shopping list include? A few of these chef-inspired essentials, many of which are also rich in good, satiating fats:
Cooking Oils & Fats
Among the animal fats are ghee and butter, duck fat, pork fat, chicken fat and tallow (for searing proteins). And tasty plant oils for cooking include coconut oil, sustainably sourced palm oil, avocado oil, and quality extra virgin olive oils.
Satiating Plant Fats
- Dark chocolate, preferably at least 75% cacao or higher
- Coconut – in oil, butter, milk and/or cream form
- Nuts and nut butters, in moderation, ideally raw/unroasted, unsalted
- Olives and olive oil
- Seeds – like pumpkin, chia, sesame, flax, hemp
- Chicken, preferably organic, with skin (dark meat)
- Dairy products, preferably organic (goat and sheep cheese, cow cheese if tolerated, grass-fed butter, yogurt/kefir)
- Eggs, ideally pasture-raised and preferably organic
- Fatty cold-water fish like sardines, mackerel, herring and wild salmon
- Red meat and lamb, grass-fed and finished; pastured pork, all organic whenever possible
- Bone broth made with healthy animals
Pouring & Spreading
Straight-from-the-jar, tasty items to drizzle, spread, or spoon onto food, or into smoothies and coffee, including: extra virgin olive oil, flax oil, hemp oil, nut oils, nut butters, MCT oil (liquid coconut), cacao butter, dairy butter, and ghee.