A few weeks ago, a friend of mine requested a post on grocery shopping essentials. I thought this was a fantastic idea. In order to practice clean eating, we first need to learn the art of clean shopping. So I thought I would put together a piece or what I like to call Grocery Shopping 101 as a guide to help you make healthy choices when it comes to stocking your kitchen.
Before I get into specific must-have ingredients and grocery items, let me first say that your goal should be to buy real food when food shopping. In other words to avoid the processed stuff and focus on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts and whole grains. Therefore, don’t get enticed by those aisles that harbor all the sugary, processed, pseudo-satisfying items like cans, meals-in-a-box, chips and candy. So where do all the whole foods hang out? In general, they tend to be located along the periphery. Dairy items, fresh baked whole grain bread, lean protein, and omega-3 fatty acids etc are typically found in their respective sections away from the aisles. So keep that in mind as you venture off to fill your basket.
In terms of a specific grocery list, I don’t generally make one in the way most people think of lists. This is probably because I have been shopping a certain way for so many years that I innately know what items I need to buy. That and the fact grocery shopping is something I truly look forward to with excitement. I see it as an adventure where depending on what I see and what idea it evokes within me, I will pick up an exciting and unexpected fruit, veggie, nut or protein to incorporate into a new kitchen creation. This is especially awesome when at the farmer’s market because there are so many fresh and flavorful ingredients to pick up! You may be thinking that this spontaneity is not for you; that you need a detailed and specific list. This is why I recommend having a general framework of the essentials, which I will discuss below. Within this structure, you can exercise that spontaneous bone within and go nuts depending on your mood! Another suggestion I make is to have 2-3 healthy and simple recipes ready (feel free to browse for these under my "recipes" tab :-)) and make a list of all the ingredients before you head out to the store. That way you will have at least 2-3 meals ready and possibly more if you make enough for leftovers the next night.
Just a quick note, I highly recommend that once an essential ingredient is finished in your kitchen, to jot it down wherever is most convenient. I have this list on my smart phone so I can refer to it when I am at the store. Alternatively just keep a notepad in the kitchen or on the fridge and jot the used up ingredient there. Just don’t forget it en route to the store!
I am going to tell you what I consider essentials (i.e. must-have ingredients) for the kitchen and then I will also throw in some of the items I frequently pick up to add some excitement to the basket. By no means is this a complete list. I only intend to provide you with a framework along with my personal favorites, so I encourage you to be creative! You love collard greens? Go collard greens crazy then! That being said, let’s break it down:
Dr. A’s Tips
- When choosing between any two items, always pick the low sodium option.
- Try to avoid canned foods as much as possible. But if you’re going to cheat, say with a can of beans, don’t forget to rinse them thoroughly to remove all that excess salt.
- Read the labels. Stay away from items containing sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite (found in processed meats), high fructose corn syrup and added sugar.
- Avoid sodas and other beverages packed with excess sugar and instead go for water with a slice of lemon or cucumber. Fresh berries and mint crushed into a glass of sparkling water is refreshing and fun. We always have a pitcher of unsweetened Japanese barley tea ready in the fridge. Not only is it thirst quenching but highly therapeutic. Alternatively, you can brew any tea of your liking, add mint and chill.
- Always choose brown over white when it comes to sugar, bread and pasta.
- Non-fat Greek yogurt is often an awesome substitute for sour cream or even mayonnaise.
- Spices and herbs are fabulous ways to transform healthy plain dishes into palate pleasers bursting with flavor.
- And finally, no grocery list is complete without a little dessert and remember no deprivation, everything in moderation! My suggestions? I love mochi ice cream (you can find it at Trader Joe’s) and these little heavenly pillows of creamy goodness are just small enough to indulge in one and be left completely satisfied. Another delicious option is “So Delicious” dairy-free ice creams and yogurts. As their name implies, they really are so delicious.
- For more tips on clean and healthy eating follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest and join in the conversation! If you have any questions about these topics, just ask me :-)