Let’s face it. Living in the Midwest we don’t have the luxury of year long outdoor markets. We certainly can’t go in our backyard to get a lemon or avocado off our own trees. Although we’re fairly dependent on our grocery stores, we don’t have to fall into processed food slumps…better known as the “Western Diet.” It’s no secret that this “Western Diet” (highly processed foods, refined sugars & grains, limited fruits & vegetables) is making people sicker, not healthier.
“…Wherever in the world people gave up their traditional way of eating and adopted the Western diet, there soon followed a predictable series of Western diseases, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.”
-Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food
It is possible, however, to make healthier choices without spending your whole paycheck on groceries. In most cases, deciding to eat healthier doesn’t mean tossing everything in your pantry and fridge and starting from scratch. It’s about making a better choice on your next purchase.
I’m a strong believer in moderation. I don’t believe in “guilt” or attaching “I was bad today…” over food choices. Healthier eating doesn’t mean giving up all of your favorites. We can walk off calories, we can’t walk off chemicals.
Whether you’re taking your first baby steps into greener living or you’ve been at it for years, doing what works for you & your family today is what’s important. Sometimes those steps include becoming less brand loyal and more ingredient loyal.
So, where do we start? If you’re taking those first steps, begin with eliminating a single ingredient: high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil, or red dye #40. You’ll find these ingredients in everything from soda, to bread, to cereal, to ketchup, to yogurt. The good news is it’s fairly easy to find a different brand that doesn’t include these chemicals.
Ready for the next step?
Ease into organics. Yes, things can get a little pricier in this category, so it’s best to save your organic dollars for foods typically found with high amounts of pesticides…”the dirty dozen.” Save money by skipping organic for those fruits and vegetables conventionally grown without pesticides- “the Clean 15.”
Lucky enough to live near fresh markets? Talk to the farmers. Buying local means your items didn’t have to travel far which equals fewer preservatives. Remember, the certified organic label is expensive- often too expensive for small farmers. Talk to them about pesticides- they may utilize organic methods but can’t yet afford the label.
What happens when those Cheetos and junk food cravings kick in? Pick up the smallest bag available. Bake your own desserts so you’re in control of the ingredients. Don’t be fooled by a “lite” or “sugar-free” subsititute; they’re laden with synthetic ingredients and won’t satisfy your sweet tooth.
Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about GMO’s. They have their own post coming later this week.
Check out more tips for saving money at the grocery store here.