I think it’s worth talking about shopping to eat clean, because success at lifestyle choices requires some preparation. If you want to be able to cook healthy, there has to be healthy food in the house. If you are in a rush and need to grab a healthy snack, it’s easy to end up eating junk if you haven’t planned ahead.
When you plan your shopping to eat clean, you’ll have ingredients in place for several healthy meals, healthy snacks, and a few smoothies. You’ll have fresh ingredients in the house so that you and your family gets several servings of vegetables and fruit each day – and a few backups in the freezer in case you get behind.
Choosing Protein Sources
Focus your shopping dollars on high-quality protein: meat, fish, and eggs should be the core of your food planning. These (ideally wild-caught or grass-fed and organic) animal protein sources are the basis for your healthy meals. Buy lean cuts and limit or bypass commercially-raised processed meats such as bacon, sausage and deli meats.
- Seafood: Choose wild-caught and sustainably fished when you can
- Ruminants (beef, buffalo, lamb, etc): Choose grass-fed and organic when possible
- Non-Ruminants (pork, rabbit, etc): Choose pastured and organic if available
- Poultry: Choose pastured and organic if possible
- Eggs: Choose free-range and organic for the best nutritional value
- Processed meats (bacon, sausage, deli meat): Choose grass-fed and organic when you can. Avoid factory-farmed, or those with added sugar, MSG or sulphites.
In the produce (and freezer sections), load up on local and seasonal vegetables, since they will tend to be the least expensive and most nutritious. If your budget stretches to everything organic, that’s great.
If not, choose organic when you can for vegetables which won’t be peeled (or where the skin is not eaten). EWG.org has an excellent list of which fruits and vegetables to prioritize as organic to avoid pesticide residue.
For fruit, again buy locally and organically when you can. We’re lucky to have a wide selection of local fruit here in Hawaii, so take advantage of it.
Remember that frozen fruits can be inexpensive and convenient alternatives, especially for smoothies. In some cases, they may even offer more nutritional value than fruits which have been shipped a long distance to reach your local market.
Getting Healthy Fats
On your list here would be grass-fed butter or ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, canned coconut milk, and avocados. Just avoid other oils or fats. Read more about healthy fats.
Seeds and nuts (or nut butters) can be purchased in moderation, but they are not a primary fat source. Read the labels to avoid sugars. Choose raw or dry-roasted options, not those roasted in seed or vegetable oils.
If you’ve decided to try out dropping gluten to aid your weight loss or improve your health in other ways, you’ll have to read labels carefully. A useful staple to add to your shopping list will be almond flour – to use to coat meat or fish before baking, or thicken sauces. You may also have to replace some of your sauces, so check labels on things like ketchup, fish sauce, hot sauce, etc before you go shopping.
Limit Purchases In the Center Aisles
You’ll be buying a few things in the “packaged foods” aisles, but not as many as you used to. Avoid anything with ingredients you don’t understand or that you couldn’t add in your own kitchen. Dodge MSG and any artificial or added sweeteners. Watch out for high-carbohydrate foods, especially if they are low fiber. Shop for products such as Almond Milk here, but avoid most of the ready-to-eat, long shelf-life products full of chemicals and preservatives.
Preparing to Snack
Planning ahead for snacking is one way to help yourself adjust well to eating cleaner.
One great snack is air-popped organic popcorn. Besides purchasing the popcorn itself (try the bulk isle), you may want to pick up some nutritional yeast. While it certainly doesn’t sound appealing, it makes an excellent and healthy substitute for salt on popcorn. I’ll even provide a recipe to prove it!
Healthy Popcorn Recipe
Try this: melt a tablespoon of organic butter and a tablespoon of coconut oil, with two tablespoons of tamari. Heat and stir till the ingredients combine, but don’t burn it! Use this to coat your air-popped, organic popcorn, and then sprinkle on the nutritional yeast and stir to coat. Delicious and healthy high-protein good-fat popcorn!
Boosting Your Smoothies
If you’ve never tried it, I strongly recommend adding a couple of teaspoons of chia seed to your smoothies. It absorbs a great deal of water, which makes your smoothie thick and will help you feel full much longer. That makes your smoothie not only healthy, but an excellent weight-loss aid.
Chia seed is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, a good source of calcium, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus, and antioxidant packed, so add chia seed to your shopping list.
Evolving Your Shopping for Healthy Eating
Over time, your typical shopping list will probably change dramatically, as will the contents of your cupboards and the tastes of your family. As you learn more and discover how to pack more nutrition into your daily eating, and you see your family’s health improve, you’ll be glad to do the planning for shopping to eat clean.