What to Get at the Grocery Store: A Guide
In last week’s blog post, I shared how whole, close-to-the source foods are the gold standard in high-quality ingredients. And the best spot to find these ingredients is at your local Farmers Market. Why? Because there, you know the produce is freshly picked and comes straight from the source direct to you. Now THAT is quality. Read that blog here!
But what if you don’t live near a year-round Farmers Market? Or it’s out of the budget for all of your groceries? Or what if you just want to munch on a package of plain ol’ yummy, crispy tortilla chips? (Heck, the Farmers Markets can’t carry everything.)
Don’t fret! Mama Pegs is here to help you decide what to get at the grocery store by identifying the high-quality ingredients at your local grocery store.
What to Get at the Grocery Store
Not sure what to get at the grocery store? We’ve been there… Especially with all the options these days! Here are few questions to determine what type of foods you should be buying at the grocery store:
Wait, what exactly makes a food higher in quality than others?
Glad you asked! Here’s the #1 rule:
The closer any food is to its whole, unprocessed form; the higher the quality.
Consider an apple. Simple right? It doesn’t need an ingredient list. It’s an apple, whole and unprocessed. That’s pretty dang high-quality! The only label you need to look out for is “organic.”
Why is that?
Think. How was that tiny seed cultivated, tended, watered, and cared for? Did it have healthy soil to grow in? Did the farmers use chemical sprays, pesticides, fungicides or reclaimed water? These questions make a difference. That’s why choosing organic is so important. Though regenerative/sustainable farming practices supersede even organic farming, organics are typically the best option you can find at your local grocery store. For a deeper dive on regenerative/sustainable farming, check out last week’s blog.
If a food isn’t labeled “organic,” just know it was most likely grown using industrial practices. In other words, it’s loaded with chemical pesticides, which are known carcinogens. Who wants to serve that up?
Organic foods act like the bike helmet to your head or the car seat protecting your child. They buffer us from exposure to harmful chemicals and the havoc they wreak in our bodies. That is an essential safety measure in my book. Everyone is worth it.
Good news! Organics have become more and more accessible throughout the years. We have increased the demand, and it’s working in our favor! We can even buy organics at Walmart and Target now, and it’s only getting better. The more we demand using our wallets, the more accessible and affordable organics become. Conscious choices for our families, future generations, and our planet! Hooray!
Now, let’s go back to our apple example. What if, instead of being in its whole form, it was part of Apple + Cinnamon Granola? What now?
How does anyone know whether a PACKAGED food is high-quality or low-quality?
Well friends, it’s time to get intimate with ingredient labels…
Flip that Apple + Cinnamon Granola around, and get reading. We’re looking for a short ingredient list. Given the title, we expect to see oats, nuts/seeds, sugars (honey, sugar, agave), vanilla, cinnamon and then the apples. Let’s investigate:
- How many ingredients are listed? Typically, the longer the list the lower the quality. We don’t want our foods bogged down by unnecessary additives.
- What is the 1st ingredient listed? Sugar or oats? Remember ingredients are listed in order of concentration. So, the first ingredient makes up the majority of the product. A high-quality granola would list oats or nuts
- What is the 2nd ingredient listed? Sugar of some kind or a nut? Keep looking to see how much sugar is in the product. Sugar above 3-4g is high, because most people don’t eat just one bowl. Mindful awareness of sugar consumption is good practice.
- Are there any preservatives, artificial flavors, dyes, chemicals added to give it a longer shelf life? High quality packaged foods = no artificial anything or fillers added.
- What about hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil? This is another additive given to products to extend their shelf lives. And guess what? It’s extremely hard for our bodies to digest this man-made oil. AVOID.
- How much fiber is in the product? We need fiber to help with digestion and elimination. Anything over a 3g is good, but a 4 or 5g is GREAT!
- Does it contain any allergens applicable to you? In the US, if a product contains any of the top 8 allergens (milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybean), they will be clearly labeled in addition to the ingredients list. My fellow g-free granola lovers: unless this Apple + Cinnamon Granola is clearly labeled grain-free, it will contain oats or buckwheat. So, keep that in mind.
- Check for any additional labels. If a packaged food is labeled BPA/BPS Free, GMO Free, and/or Organic, it’s a good sign that you have a higher-quality option on your hands and an ethical company you are supporting.
So. Did our hypothetical Apple + Cinnamon Granola check all the boxes?
We hope so! And now you have the tools to read the labels of all your grocery store staples.
And hey, if the granolas at your store don’t make the cut, you can always make your own. It’s easy! My fave recipe is in my upcoming cookbook, Damn Good Gluten Free. (shameless plug LOL) To preorder your own copy CLICK HERE.
Navigate that grocery store with confidence. You’ve got this.