How to Navigate the Grocery Store
First Stop: The first stop in any grocery store should be fresh produce. Regardless of where you shop, organic produce is often available. If you have allergies or chronic health problems, just switching what food you can to organically-grown versions can have a positive impact. The amount of fruits and vegetable servings which have been correlated with preventing many chronic diseases and cancers, is at least 9 a day. Take a similar tactic as when eating; fill your stomach (or cart) with vegetables and fruits first, then you will have less room for less healthy foods. Fresh is better than canned; however, frozen foods often retain many of the nutrition of fresh, but are easier and less expensive options for many people.
Second stop: Bulk food section. Most health oriented stores have some type of bulk food section or bulk packaging for grains, flours, herbs, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, and other snacks. You will find items less expensively and with less packaging than buying them in regular store aisles. In health food stores, you will also find many items that are difficult or impossible to find in other ways, like whole grains. Whole grains and legumes, because of their fiber, nutrients, and (vegetarian-friendly) protein, should be an every-meal part of your diet. The best part about bulk sections is you can try small amount of new foods before you commit to a large amount.
Third stop: Meat and dairy. If you are going to include meat and dairy products in your diet, please make them naturally-raised and organic as much as possible. Since these are such concentrated sources of nutrients, the more contaminated they are with pesticides, hormones, and medications, the more your body gets that harmful substance. And the major impact meat and dairy raising has on our planet is much more detrimental with conventionally-raised animals, something that will affect us for generations to come. If you can only afford to buy some items at the health food store, buy this category first.
Fourth stop: Grocery and frozen food. If you are new to healthier eating, this area will be an important part of your re-education about food. In conventional stores, way too much of our food comes from these foods with poor nutritive value, heavy in preservatives, additives, packaging, sodium, unhealthy fats, and sugars. Natural grocery stores may have alternatives to these foods, starting you off with fewer diet changes but healthier versions. But if you want to take full advantage of a health food store, you can’t just shop these aisles in the natural grocery store either! Real beneficial changes in your health can only happen if you move away from the middle. Start going to this area last, after you have already spent your budget in the other areas, and you will be less tempted to buy those cookiesnatural or not.
Fifth stop: Health & beauty aids and household items. Again, you can find an alternative to most of these items in your health food store, in a more natural and environmentally-friendly version than at a conventional grocery. The big advantage of going to a health food store rather than your local drugstore is the staff. Health stores, besides carrying brands much better than anything you can find in a grocery store (where typically 95% of the supplements are very low-quality), have staff that are trained and knowledgeable. Most of them have a personal interest in natural health which is why they are there in the first place (it’s not for the money or fame). And since they specialize in natural products, chances are they know more than even an average conventionally-trained medical professional about their particular products. Turn to the knowledgeable staff at your local health food store; especially if you don’t have access to a naturopathic doctor or natural health professional.