Have you ever scrolled through your Instagram account, noting all of the carts full of mystical junk food and wished that you too, had a Trader Joe’s next door to shop at? Maybe then you could be the real foodie you dream about?
I am here to tell you that you don’t have to be a Whole Foods frequent flyer to eat healthy. In fact, the first time I stepped foot in Trader Joe’s was a few weeks ago, and I have to admit that I was disappointed. Sure, I loved all the fresh food and the jicama sticks that were nicely cut for me to munch on. But as far as the rest of it, their packaged foods left me wondering why all the hype?
Have you looked at the ingredients in some of that stuff? Just because it comes from a “health/real food” store, DOES NOT make it healthy. I repeat, DOES NOT make it healthy. Case in point, the beloved Cookie Butter. It sounds sinful, but I admit that I wanted to try it and was fully prepared to buy a jar. Until I flipped it around. MARGARINE. There was MARGARINE in the ingredient list. I openly scoffed when I saw it (I am a self-proclaimed food snob, no need to point it out), and quickly put the jar back as if it were going to bite me. I even looked around to see if any of the other hippies realized they were being tricked. No one seemed to notice. If you are unaware of my feelings about margarine, check out this post where I explain in more detail.
I get passionate about food. This we all know. But what really gets me going is the fact that there are millions of people out there who believe they are making the right choices, but are being led astray by tricky marketing. Processed food is still processed food, even if it’s sold in a “real food store.” Yes, there are better options, but you have to be aware of the ingredients and know how to read labels in order to find them. This is particularly true with the Gluten Free fad — there is more crap in some of the Gluten Free mixes and boxed foods than those with gluten! Pick your poison.
To be fair, I did find some great treats at Trader Joe’s to take home to my kids. They had naturally colored (a HUGE requirement for me) salt water taffy — which was a really out-of-the-ordinary fun treat for my kids when I got home. If I had one close by I would go there just to occasionally buy treats that don’t contain Red40. I found plenty of other things that left me head-shaking, though.
Exhibit A (the only exhibit I took a picture of):
It may be the cool thing to do to shop in these stores, but real, healthy food can be found anywhere. You may not find high-quality meats and packaged foods with more natural ingredients at Wal-Mart, but you can find a lot of great choices. I am amazed at how the real food movement is finally starting to catch on, and more options are becoming available every day.
Here are my tips for keeping it simple when finding healthy food:
- stick to the perimeter of the store for most items
- read your labels — this DOES NOT mean the “nutrition facts.” Read the actual INGREDIENTS. If you can’t pronounce it or don’t know what it is, or it sounds toxic, it probably is. Put it back on the shelf and move along.
- buy local when you can — farmer’s market season is upon us, or find a local CSA to join
- bountiful baskets is a great option that I used for years – enter your location on their site to see if there is a drop spot near you – it’s a literal basket full of fresh produce each week that is extremely affordable and makes you try new and different things. We loved it.
- don’t sweat the small stuff. Try to buy food as close to its natural state as possible. Don’t stress about buying the fancy bars, shakes, or snacks that you see on social media.
- start by adding in a few of the good things — add cucumbers, add fresh parsley or cilantro, add more green food to your diet. Don’t get so hyped up that you buy the entire produce section and then get home and have no clue what to do with it all. Just begin with a few simple things.
You can still be healthy without shopping at these stores, trust me, I’ve done it for years. I don’t live within 150 miles of the nearest Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.
I buy the “fancy” things I need online, and splurge at Target for others when I get to one (the closest is 1.5 hrs from me). I make it work, and I probably spend a lot less this way too!
If you shop at Trader Joe’s and love it, that’s wonderful. My point is: you don’t HAVE to, to be healthy. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Don’t let it be an excuse. If all you can do right now is replace your table salt for real, mineral rich sea salt, then do that. If you want to buy a tub of coconut oil and just stare at it in your pantry for a few months before you ever crack the lid, DO THAT. Whatever it takes to get started. And let me know how I can help.
Food was created to be simple, let’s keep it that way!