Sunday, February 21, 2010

Navigating the grocery store - Part One

A very good friend and fellow trying-to-figure-it-out mom asked me to post my grocery shopping list. She is assuming I’ve already figured it out, which is a big assumption. I am definitely still working on that. There are a lot of factors that influence that list.

I am very lucky to have a Whole Foods close to home – that has made my job much, much easier. Yes, I know they have a reputation for being expensive (“Whole Paycheck” yeah, yeah...) but it doesn’t have to be the case. When I was single I could easily spend my current monthly budget in one trip, just buying specialty items and gourmet foods. I no longer have a gourmet budget, but I’ve found ways to make it work and still buy the foods I want my family to eat.

This didn’t happen right away – there were a few ‘Honey, let’s talk about the grocery budget’ conversations as I learned how to get the best quality and the most quantity for the least amount of money. (Thanks for hanging in there, DH!) I’ve also had a lot of luck with my ‘regular’ grocery stores, Giant and Safeway, who have also introduced organic lines. But when shopping with 2 2-year-olds, it is all about making it simple – and I simply have the easiest time at my local Whole Foods.

Regardless of the store, these are just a few of the main things I focus on.  I'm sure I am leaving out important points here, but that is the beauty of online communication - I'll add later!

Hormone-free meats and dairy. I know that there are a lot of things to consider when buying meat (grass-fed, free-roaming, antibiotic-free, etc), but with 2 little girls I am especially strict about hormones in food. Added hormones have been linked to early onset puberty and breast cancer.
Organic juice in glass containers (not plastic). Sippy cups at our house are only about 10% juice (90% water) but even in small amounts, I like to keep it as safe as possible.
Fresh or frozen organic vegetables. I used to use canned veggies, but then we learned more about the concentration of BPA in most cans. The only canned veggie brand I know of that does not have BPA is Eden Foods.
Whole grains, high fiber breads, crackers, cereals, etc.
• Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) foods. I just learned about ANDI and I think it is a useful frame of reference. Developed by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, foods are given a score from 1-1000 – the higher the score, the more nutritious the food. Who knew we’d end up liking bok choy so much?! You can find much more information about this through Dr. Fuhrman’s book and his website and you can see an abbreviated chart via Whole Foods’ site.
Items that are cost-effective. Whole Foods 365 Brand helps a lot. At Giant (also Stop and Shop in the Northeast) I like Nature’s Promise.
Things my kids will actually EAT! It doesn’t make sense to buy a dozen healthy foods that they will simply not touch, so while I do introduce new foods continually, I also try to be realistic (hence the healthy forms of french fries on my weekly list!).
Foods that are convenient. Two 2-year-olds – enough said.

Then I reach the point where I drive myself crazy. Even the most ‘healthy’ foods are of concern because of the chemicals in the materials used to package them. I mentioned BPA in cans, but there are so many other toxins lurking in our groceries! I switched to frozen veggies to avoid BPA, but what about the plastic bags the veggies come in? My organic, hormone-free, whole grain pizzas, nuggets, fries, etc are all encased in plastic. Are the plastic yogurt containers ok? I know that one of the answers is to avoid the packaged foods, but shouldn’t there be a way to make the delivery of these foods safe? In the meantime, what are the best choices? And what can we do about it?

I still don’t know all of the answers, but I’ve found a number of organizations focused on change so I am trying to divert my energy in that direction. I am a huge fan of “Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families”. They are working to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and achieve a “sound and comprehensive chemicals policy that protects public health and the environment, while restoring the luster of safety to U.S. goods in the world market.” This simply has to happen! If you support this, even a little, please go to their site and take a look.

There are other efforts, and frankly I am confused by the amount of pending legislation under various names. I’ll tackle that, plus post a list of actual foods and brands this week – I have officially used all of my ‘me time’ and the troops need attention.

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