If you want to choose healthy food at the grocery store, there are a couple of tips to keep in mind. First, stay on the outer edges of the store. As Michael Pollan points out in his most recent book on the subject of food, “In Defense of Food, most grocery stores are arranged such that the fresh produce, dairy and meat counters are located around the outside edge, while the inner aisles mostly contain food and foodstuff in packages. And when I say foodstuff, I mean stuff that’s passed off as food.
Which brings us to the second tip, read labels. If you cannot pronounce something in the ingredient list on a foodstuff package, guess what? It’s most likely not food. In fact many of the ingredients that make the list are wholly undigestible by our bodies, and some of them even mimic things like hormones when we eat or drink them. Whole foods are your best choice for eating well, and as it turns out they are also the most economical foods, so you’re doing your body and your purse a favor by staying away from processed, packaged foodstuff.
Which brings us to the third tip. Eat less food that comes in packages, and then you won’t have to worry about remembering the second tip. Fresh, organic, food in season, as locally produced as possible is the highest in nutrient and feel-good values. You get more nutritional input for your financial output, and you’re helping to reduce the CO2 load in the atmosphere when your food isn’t trucked or shipped in from the far reaches of the planet. Of course, we can’t only eat fresh, organic food in season most of the time or we’d end up with scurvy or some other nutritional deficiency disease. By the way, turns out “old” diseases that we thought had been cured in modern times with our advances in nutrition science are showing up again and you’ll never guess where. In American children. So much of what we are offered to eat turns out not to be nourishing to our bodies at all, but is actually making us sick and fat. The bulk of those foodstuffs causing this “national eating disorder” (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan) are found there in the aisles in the center of the grocery stores across the country. Still, even though you’ll be compromising on the transportation issue of your food, eating fresh food from wherever it’s produced is likely to be higher in nutrition than food that’s been processed from here to there and back again.
When it comes to processed food, as sometimes for all of us it does, frozen versus canned is the better choice. Freezing breaks down fewer of the elements that make food good for us than canning does. Canned food does still retain nutritional value, but here again choose whole canned foods like fruit and vegetables, not processed and canned foods like fruit filling and vegetable soup. It’s hard enough on the nutritional components of food to survive being canned in a processing facility and then cooked in our homes; but cooked into filling, soup or sauce, canned and cooked again leaves very little that resembles nutrition in the can, much less on your plate. Unless of course you consider additives. And you should consider additives, even when looking at frozen and canned foods. Again, if you can’t pronounce it, it’s not food, even if it is meant to be a nutritional additive like vitamins and minerals.
Finally, when considering healthy food, keep in mind quantity, attitude and atmosphere. Don’t over eat. Appreciate and enjoy your food. Share your meals with family, friends around a table not in the car; celebrate your good fortune to have food. This all adds to how nourishing and healthy your food is for you.