There are so many thoughts running through my head when I enter the grocery market. Where do I start? Is this “healthy” enough? How much does this cost? I think I saw this product on Instagram? Can I enter the snack aisle without buying every snack insight? The thoughts are endless! And they are mainly stemmed from wanting to purchase clean, organic foods, but not really knowing where to start.
One automatically assumes that shopping clean means a high checkout total. I’ve been there, but it’s not necessarily true! First, it’s important to remember you are only one human, trying to feed at least one, two, or maybe even more humans, so you are doing the best you can! I am just here to help you navigate the clean and nontoxic world.
First, produce. When I first started out, I stuck only to the organic section, and have you seen some of the prices for organic produce? Pricey! And buying organic is not accessible for everyone for countless reasons. Which is why I was ecstatic when I came across the Dirty Dozen Clean Fifty concept. Essentially, the ‘Dirty Dozen’ are fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides, according to EWG. While the ‘Clean Fifteen’ fruit and vegetables have the least amount of pesticides. So, it’s a good basis to start shopping organic, while navigating what you want your budget to stick to at the moment. Commit to buying organic for the items under the ‘Dirty Dozen’, and feel okay with buying the nonorganic fruit and vegetables under the ‘Clean Fifteen’ list. Another way to navigate the produce aisle is shopping for produce in season.
Buying produce in season can help you keep your cart clean, and this is due to location! If you are buying food in season, there has been less transportation under the produce’s belt, which is essentially better for you. All in all, if you can buy all organic, locally sourced produce, I highly recommend doing so. However, do what works best for you and your family.
Next, the snack aisle. I know, I know, there is the concept of “only sticking to the outside aisles” out there and that may work for you and your plan. However, there are a lot of great, clean options in those middle aisles that you are missing such as snacks, dried fruit, beans, nut butters, milks and more. The first thing to note is that grocery markets tend to keep the more appealing, but not necessarily healthier items, at eye level; hoping it will be the first thing we grab. Just keep that in mind! With all products within these middle aisles, I recommend purchasing Certified Organic products first and foremost. If you are wanting to try gluten and dairy-free options, turn the package over and look at the ingredients. Avoid any products that include wheat and milk. When also looking at the ingredient list, also try to avoid high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and artificial flavors and colors. The healthiest ingredients should be listed in the top five in the overall ingredient list. For one extra step, also check out the amount of sugar per serving. It’s important to know! Hormone and skin health are deeply impacted by sugar. As far as the other information on the Nutritional Label, don’t look! Unless, of course, on doctor’s orders.
The frozen section is tricky! Some frozen products contain ingredients to help keep their frozen form that I would want to avoid. However, frozen fruits and vegetables have the same nutritional value as they do fresh, which is great for smoothie making. According to Nutritious Life, she mentions that often the frozen produce has more nutritional value than fresh, or just about the same, it really just depends. It is all about timing. As mentioned in her article, when the item is picked, sold, and cooked all in the same day, fresh is the best option. However, if the item is picked and frozen right away, the nutrients are locked into the produce. Now in regards to other frozen meals, I rather cook them myself! Just remember to read the ingredient list, and at least purchase Certified Organic.
Finally, the refrigerator section: milks, butters, and eggs! For milk, I highly recommend purchasing almond, oat, coconut, or other plant-based milk available. Again, watch out for the amount of sugar per serving. A lot of nut or plant-based milks contain a good amount of sugar, but there are many options with no added sugar. Brands such as Unsweetened Califia Farms Almond Milk, Califia Farms Gluten-Free Oat Milk, and MALK Pure Almond Milk, are personal favorites, and they taste amazing. If you’re not dairy-free and drink cow’s milk, that is up to you. However, check out this graphic from Ethique. It shows the environmental impacts of drinking cow’s milk and just something to keep in mind. For eggs, I always recommend the brown, free-range, no added hormones, eggs. Vital Farms is great, but there are many other great brands out there.
Your experience at the grocery market is your own. Something to really note is, this takes time and weirdly enough, it takes practice! Also, make sure to keep a balance. If you want to get your favorite snack or try something new that isn’t “clean”, you do what you want. This post is to act as a guide, and offer advice on navigating the world of clean shopping.
Written by Brigit See