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Habits for the New Year and Beyond – #5 Change Your Grocery Store

Happy New Year!!!!  Last year totally rocked – Thank you for letting me be part of your lives!  I love you all very much and wish you a year filled with lots of adventure, happiness and ultimate wellness!

I hope you are already following Habit #1Habit #2, Habit #3, and Habit #4 – I am!

I woke up and had hot water with lemon and cayenne this morning, fasted for 12 hours, and fueled up after with a green smoothie… It’s been a great day following habits that are simple to take forth year after year, not just part of one year’s resolution.

I have one more habit left to share… And it’s another easy one.

Habit #5 – Change your Grocery Store 

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If I could give one piece of health advice to everyone I love I’d ask them to shop in a place where they can get the best quality groceries and produce available. Changing my grocery store has been fundamental in changing my health for the better. Typical huge whole sale box stores and conventional supermarkets are stocked with so many bad chemicals and ingredients it makes my head spin. The top BIG FOOD companies have created so many foods that are full of anything but whole ingredients – It’s cheaper for them to make these chemically made up fake foods than to use real whole and nutritious ingredients.

Alternative health stores have been around forever, but in the recent past they have become more mainstream allowing someone to make a easy transition to healthier organic whole, packaged and convenience foods.

I understand that some big name conventional grocery stores are making an effort to include more organic produce and organic convenience foods – but, they still carry all the chemical laden foods too. This makes shopping there 10 times harder because unless you know the brand and trust it – it means reading lots of labels and deciphering chemical names of ingredients. People are busy and what looks like good wholesome food can turn out to be a mistake – This has happened to me! It’s easier for everyone and safer to go to a store or market that has guaranteed quality ingredients.

This is probably one of the worst aisles in a typical grocery store…

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There are stores that make a commitment to ban certain ingredients from ever hitting their shelves – Really serious ingredients like growth hormone they put in dairy products that is known to cause cancer, partially hydrogenated fats that cause heart disease and high fructose corn syrup that is linked to diabetes and obesity.

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Earth Fare has a list of all banned ingredients and why they ban them in their Food Philosophy. For instance, they don’t allow growth hormone, trans fats, or high fructose corn syrup in any of the products they have on their shelves. Whole Foods has a similar list and Trader Joe’s too. You won’t find Coca Cola or Doritos there. One of my favorite stores (Healthy Home Market) doesn’t have a list sadly, but still does a good job at keeping a lot of bad chemicals out of their store. It’s definitely a better alternative to the chemical filled aisles of a conventional supermarket.

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You don’t even need to go into a grocery store at all on a regular basis – you can go to the farmer’s market to get local and organic produce (Atherton Market and 7th Street Public Market are my favorite) or grow your own food… like my Mom does right in her back yard…

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And sometimes, you don’t even need to leave your house.  Buying organic staples on the internet is a terrific way to save money and time! (Green Polka Dot Box is a fantastic option with lower prices that you can find at the stores in town). I can buy organic coconut palm sugar for about half the price I can get it in most natural food stores. This can add up to big savings overtime and worth the click, don’t you think? I also buy coconut oil, ezekiel tortillas, nuts, dried fruit and various organic snacks on the internet too. Have you been to the Food Babe Shop yet to see some of my favorites?

Remember always…. “The greatest wealth is health.” Support establishments that want you to be well!  Vote with your dollars. And shop smart.

Hope you enjoyed this healthy habit series and found some valuable insights to take with you into the new year and beyond!…

I’d love to hear from you either here or on my Facebook Fan Page.

Reader Questions: Where do you shop for groceries? Do you see an opportunity for change? Did you come up with any new year’s resolutions of your own?

Happy Shopping!

Food Babe

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49 responses to “Habits for the New Year and Beyond – #5 Change Your Grocery Store

  1. The places I shop have changed drastically since I started following a Primal lifestyle this past Sept. I buy most of my meat, dairy and eggs from 2 local farms. I shop for most of my produce at local farmers markets. I WISH we had a Whole Foods or Trader Joes locally, as it is I have to drive over an hour to get to either of those, which I do about every other month to stock up on some pantry items. There are a few foods I still buy from the grocery store, but I have to admit I almost HATE going in regular grocery stores anymore!

    1. Hi Diane! I feel your sentiment when it comes to regular grocery stores. I can’t believe some of the stuff on the shelves that is called food! 🙂

      1. I know, and it makes me very sad really. I know how “duped” I was by the mainstream world of food before I discovered primal. When I see folks filling their carts with CRAP I want to run up to them and say “STOP, you’re destroying your health with this stuff!!” As it is, I share my story with anyone who wants to hear it. Just wish there was more I could do to spread the word 🙂

      2. Diane – You can do something! You could start a blog, perhaps? That’s what I did. I never imagined my family and friends being so receptive to new ideas – You’ll never guess how many of them have started juicing for instance and eating Kale on a regular basis 🙂 If you’d like to share your story with me – I’d be happy to do a guest post on Food Babe!

      3. I know exactly what you mean. I work for one of those big-box grocery retailers (I gotta pay the rent, ya know). I have since started eating Paleo. I feel so much better now ! But it dictates the use of grass fed/organic meats, fruits and veggies. Even on my meager wages, I really try to persevere ! I have really started talking to the customers I come in contact with – tipping them off to the sales we have on these things and encouraging them to buy these types of items instead. I even point out some of the products that have GMO ingredients in them or are grown as GMO ( Thank you for that info Foodbabe !!!) I also refer them to this site and other organic food sites I have found on the FB pages where they can find interesting health tips, ideas and recipes and educate themselves about nutrition and the issues that surround our food supply. I regularly post articles like this on my own FB page which is nutrition, health and spirituality based.

    2. We have been buying our meat directly from farms for some time now. When we first started we would drive nearly 6 hours to pick up the meat, but now we found and we can have the meat shipped to us for less than the cost of the gas. Anyway, we like knowing where our meat comes from and I’ve stopped worrying about meat recalls. Plus in summer when our CSA kicks in, we have everything we need.

  2. I get some organics online. I can also find some things at Costco as well. Hy-Vee, which is a grocery store in my area, sells lots of organics. Depending on the location, they have the organics and gluten free in a special “health market” section. I also get my eggs from a farm and I grow a huge garden.

    1. Hi Ruth – Wow! A huge garden, eh? My mom is always egging me on to participate more in her organic gardening and food growing efforts – I don’t have much of a green thumb and it takes so much time!!! Maybe one day when I am retired like her! 🙂

      1. It really doesn’t take much time, if you garden like me…. I plant some potatoes, carrots, peas, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and black simpson lettuce, (it keeps regrowing all summer) if it makes it at the end of the summer, then YAY! We eat off it all summer too. I am in Alaska, with a super short growing season, I hate to see you southerners with lots of rain (rain=even MORE low maintence!) and sunshine and summer NOT doing your part to grow a garden! Thanks for all the good info in your blog!

  3. Vani, look into Square Foot Gardening. It’s been around since the 70’s, but was recently updated. It’s incredibly simple and can be done on a patio or porch if you are don’t have a yard. It’s also designed to plant as you eat, rather than harvest a large crop of something that you can’t use up. We tried it last year, with just tomatos, peppers & carrots (all very hard to kill) and after the initial construction & planting (maybe half a Saturday) I rarely spent more than 5 minutes a day watering, weeding & harvesting. We’re expanding this year to three seasons – adding peas, lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers & radishes to the mix.

    1. Thank you Amanda – I’ll have to check it out. I need to tell my husband about it too! He bought an hydroponic garden kit last year and we grew tomatoes in our laundry room 🙂 Since then, not sure where the grower went… hmmmmm….Need to break that thing out again 🙂

  4. Yay – Thank you Food Babe for the 5 habits postings 🙂 🙂 I received a juicer for Christmas (a saavy e-bay find from my father!!) and I’ve made 2 of your juice recipes already — using organics from my local food co-op, of course! My priority is to consume more antioxidant-rich foods, and despite eating a vegetarian diet for many years, I have ironically not had a vegetable-rich diet. That’s why your suggestions and explanations and ideas are so valuable and helpful! Happy 2012 to you!

  5. I love your pictures!!!
    Where were you in the last picture? Japan? I notice there were chinese tag and japanese tag in that store:)

  6. This is so true, unfortunately in a small town we have little choice, but our local supermarket is at least independent. I hate to see mothers with trolleys full of junk food and I picture the damage they are causing the kids (not to mention when I see a young child sucking on a sugary drink, their poor teeth!). Our solution has been to grow as much of our own food as possible, meat, eggs and veges, so then at least we know where they come from and we have easy access (although it does take up most of our free time!). For the things that we can’t grow, I would like to find suitable sources on the internet for organic grains etc. I just watched a youtube vid on the danger of Roundup residue on our food and I’m really convinced that we should be looking for organic alternatives as it is sucking the nutrients out of our food (I linked to it on my blog).

    1. Yes – I hear ya Liz! The carts full of junk scare me the most. It freaks me out when I see kids eat “Fruity Pebbles” for breakfast – the top three ingredients are white starch, sugar and transfat in the list…There are so many great alternatives that kids will enjoy – their parents just need to have access to them and buy them.

      I need to check out that video on your blog – I have a hunch that I’ve seen it before… Have you seen the documentary “Health Junkies?” It’s free on You Tube but it’s broken up in parts…It’s about raw foodists in England. The kids in the video are my favorite – They’ve never had cereal in their life 🙂

  7. This just reeks of convenience: high fructose corn syrup that is linked to diabetes and obesity – sugar? linked to obesity? Nowai. In general I agree with a lot of your sentiments, we might just go about different ways to discussing them. Knowing how to navigate ANY grocery store is a wonderful skill set. Luckily I don’t have to often, as I’m a member of a local food coop which is also a great option for people who want local organic produce.

  8. I also really enjoy the 7th Street Public Market, in fact I blogged about it recently. I can’t wait to see how it evolves in the spring.

    Another reader mentioned square foot gardening, I also think you should definitely look into it! I started a 4 x 4 square foot garden when I had just enough space at a townhouse. In 4 square feet I was able to grow a few tomato plants, zucchini, chili peppers, lettuce, basil, parsley, shallots, and banana peppers! I by no means have a green thumb, and it worked out well. In the spring, I plan on doing an article on my website about it, but there is already some wonderful websites dedicated to the topic!

  9. I live in Greenville, NC and health food stores and The Fresh Market do not accept EBT(which I use). I sent them an email and they said that it had to do with the cost to train staff and update their systems, etc. So all we have is Walmart, Food Lion, Harris teeter, Piggly Wiggly, various drug stores. I wish we had an Earth Fare. It would make my shopping a whole lot easier….Nevertheless, this Summer I am planning on joining a co-op. I can get fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, meat, cheese, flowers-Just about everything we need and everything is in season and from trusted farms! Lookin’ forward to it!

  10. It’s so frustrating that we have NONE of those types of stores closer than an hour to us. I’ve written to Whole Foods and Trader Joes to beg them to build a store in our area to no avail. We have a tiny little healthy grocery store, but because it’s the only one in the area, the prices are outrageous and they have such a small selection. Wegmans is the closest to a healthy full grocery store I can access.

    I feel like the healthy grocery stores should be the norm and not the exception as they seem to be.

    1. Hello Amy:

      Don’t lose hope! But we all must continue to put pressure on our “leaders” to stop subsidizing Monsanto and start to support the only real farmers — the organic farmers.
      Amy, have you thought about growing your own food or maybe working with neighbors to start a neighborhood food project? Just an idea!

      Warm Wishes and best of luck!

      Sincerely, Captain Powerful

  11. I would LOVE to switch grocery stores. Unfortunately, where we live, we have a Walmart, two discount grocery warehouses and a very small family owned grocer. Nothing else for 35 to 50 miles away. When I do drive the 50 miles (every couple months or so), we go to a Wegman’s and I just noticed a Trader Joe’s is being built – to open soon. That will be exciting. I do have to stick to basic staples as we are on a tight budget though. Organics and specialty items really bust the budget.

    Love your site. It is extremely interesting and informative. I’m always doing a search looking for something I should or shouldn’t be eating. Thanks for the articles.

  12. Hi! So I noticed that Earth Fare is selling coca cola now. I guess it’s probably the kind without high fructose corn syrup…. But still! What are your thoughts? Thanks!!!!

    1. Hi Courtney,
      Unfortunately, you still have to really watch what you buy, even in the health food stores. They still sell a lot of unhealthy food in there…

      1. Yep 100% agree Courtney… I found the same amount of junk in the semi local TJs ( wasn’t like that 15 plus yrs ago ) and Whole foods is no better… I have decent grocery stores with good prices and selections … You just have to look and learn … Yippy tis the season to hit the farmers market and I just ordered up some pastured chickens from a local for a great price ( lower than true natural chicken s;) )

  13. I was just curious about how much your weekly budget is for food? How much does eating this way cost? I always want to buy organic but I feel like I can only get half as much food if I buy the organic options. Am I doing something wrong? And I’ve seen people mention co-ops- what is that exactly?

  14. We shop at Springs of Life in Covington, LA, owned and operated by Nancy Fitzmorris who became a certified nutritionist because of her children’s health issues. We buy large quantities of fresh organic produce, and buy chickens and eggs from local farms. Haven’t been to the regular grocery store in a while…..

  15. I agree completely that a grocery store that cares about the products they sell makes a much better shopping experience. Although I’m a little disappointed with Earthfare in Huntsville, Alabama. I recently shopped there when I was there visiting a friend and had a couple of unfortunate encounters with employees giving me incorrect information. I asked for organic beef and the employee behind the meat counter “informed” me in an almost condescending way that organic beef does not exist. Another employee didn’t even know if they carry organic cheese or not (which I found on my own later) and said he didn’t know the difference between cheeses labeled as natural vs. organic. I emailed the store manager to say how important it is, in my opinion, for employees to be trained in these matters because some customers rely on them for those basic types of information. The manager just ignored my email and didn’t even send a response to say that they received it. Luckily, I don’t live there because I would have a hard time giving my money to them again.

  16. Any thoughts on Fresh Market? It the closest to us for supposedly fresh ingredients, but I’m not sure what their policies are regarding chemicals, dyes, meats, veggies, etc.

    1. Fresh Market carries a lot of organic produce. I like their large selection of organic flour options(spelt, almond etc). They are also the only local place I can find with nitrate free bacon, sausage. But you still have to watch what you buy there.They have a huge candy, coke section. I recently went for a fish purchase and though the salmon was wild caught, the tilapia was farm raised. The guy working the meat/fish section didn’t understand why I wouldn’t buy the farm raised and when I asked about GMO’s in some other products(crab dip) he looked at me like I had 2

      1. You are not alone in this. That happens to me a lot here in San Antonio but I have also been able to find a number of people who are all aware of what’s going on in our food industry for decades. My biggest challenge here in TX is that usually I get that weird stare when I tell people I do not eat red meat or pork(especially bacon!). They can’t understand why. lol. I tell my story but most of the time I feel like they think I am lecturing them so I have stopped explaining myself most of the times. Only if someone shows true interest do I dive into a “our broken food industry” conversation.

  17. I live in your neighboring county (Gaston) and shop at one of the newer Ingles. For a conventional store, they are one of the best and have a decent selection of natural/organic options in the grocery isles. Most isles you come to have a section labeled at the end that says “natural” so no matter what you are looking for, you can find the better versions of it easily. That being said, they are seriously lacking in the organic produce section and fresh bread.

    I am 45 min from any of the healthy food stores in Charlotte. I’m considering making a every other month trip to stock up on pantry items. I’ve recently started going to the farmers market, but I still depend heavily on the convenience of the conventional stores for produce. Farmers markets are opened when I need to do my shopping. I wish we had better grocery stores here! Bi-Lo and Food Lion are the absolute worst! I never go there.

    1. Hi Allison- ask them to please start carrying more organic produce. You never know? They are not going to do it if people aren’t asking. Good luck!

  18. Hi I’m so grateful that you’re doing great things to teach Americans how to eat healthy.
    I changed many things like going now to Trader Joes or Sprout markets that have more organic products; but still I found some products that contain not good ingredients, like the soy milk that I been taking for quiet a while that contains CARRAGENAN that is not good for your health, but what I most concern about is that this products have the USDA seal so I don’t get it.

  19. Vani, I have been following you on Facebook and Twitter for several months now, and recently also signed up for your email updates, because I believe you are fighting the good fight that needs to be fought. I am a married working professional and mother of 2 young boys, so it is important to me that we have the healthiest food options possible. My problem is my husband, who was raised by your typical working “yuppie” parents who believe what the doctors and the governments and the corporate marketing hype tells them (examples: fat-free is healthy, choose margarine over butter, our water should be fluoridated, etc.). He is also a meat-loving, Coca Cola drinking, smoker (he never smokes in the house mind you) so getting him to change his mind set is one hell of an uphill battle! I have taken over the shopping/cooking of meals so I can at least control it from that stand point, and I read labels religiously, so have been able to make small changes (ex: organic milk/butter, coconut oil and grape seed oil instead of canola, organic produce when possible, etc.) and I share the reasons for these changes with him and my kids. We live in Montreal, Canada so there is no Whole Foods here, and the closest health food store is a good 30 minute drive, so have to rely on standard grocery stores for weekly food. Any tips on how to help my stuck-in-his (and his parent’s) ways spouse change his lifestyle? I have told him that he is a role model for our boys, but that hasn’t changed anything… 🙁

  20. I find your posts so inspiring and your tenacity and spirit as a young woman infectious! I live in London UK and I am determined to use my voice this year to make a difference in my local community and in the food industry and choices we make as consumers. Thank you for standing up and standing alone and inspiring everyone around you and creating a ripple effect. Big respect! Keep on shining x

  21. Though this seems redundant in view of a prior contact and reply to Kristi from her response to me, the subject of this section inspires this thought.

    I live in San Antonio, Texas, the 7th largest city in the US, situated in the heart of Texas, and the headquarters of HEB Supermarkets. HEB is ranked #12 on Forbes’ list of privately held companies with $18 billion in revenues as of 2012.

    Why the numbers? Because changing grocery stores here and most everywhere in Texas would not be easy. As a powerhouse retailer. it literally crushed both Kroger and Albertsons in this city and both are long gone. You might say, “They know how to win.”, and they’ve been winning for over a century.

    Through a stream of posts on their Facebook page, my efforts to determine the safety of their seafood operations as it applies to imports from Southeast Asia has been met with the standard stall tactic.

    The rest of the story you know from my two previous contacts. Read just one of these studies:

  22. Okay Vani,
    So far I am following Habits 1-4 and will try to implement #5 but Mother’s Market and Whole Foods are soooo pricey!
    I am also trying to follow your New Years Resolution tweaks except that after watching Forks Over Knives and a few others like that, I did go Vegan cold turkey.
    I find that I’m eating mostly carbs, about 2/3 of my intake – oat meal, quinoa, beans, sprouted tortillas and some produce . I need to lose about 60 lbs and I fear I am eating wrong in order to achieve that goal.

    Can you share what a day or two of eating looks like for you?

    -Your newest big fan!

  23. I do agree that shopping where all the junk food ISN’T can make it easier to avoid, but you shouldn’t unquestioningly rely on these stores with their banned food promises, still be wary of seemingly healthy food that is really junk in disguise, yes even in Whole Foods and other grocery store often touted as “healthy”

    The number one thing I shake my head at is agave “nectar”. It’s not nectar, it’s not natural, and is worse than high fructose corn syrup! Yet places like Whole Foods allow it on their shelves, in pure form, and in “healthy” snacks.

  24. I’m sure this article was posted a while ago, but I have to tell you that I love everything you are doing! Over the past few days I have learned about what you are doing and become almost obsessed (but not in a creepy way) with reading all your articles and reading the research you have done. It amazes me that companies add all sorts of unnecessary chemicals in pretty much everything! I was sharing some of the information I had gathered with my husband and we both agreed that there were going to be some BIG changes in our household. We have two small children and we want them growing up with healthy foods and the knowledge of how to prepare HEALTHY meals instead of having to relearn how to cook like we are doing. Anyway, thank you for what you are doing and I look forward to reading and learning more and more.

  25. I recently moved to southern California, from North Carolina. I was not aware of your existence while in NC, but only recently saw one of your posts on Facebook. Consider me a new fan! I loved Whole Foods and sometimes Trader Joe’s in NC. Now in California, I have also discovered Sprouts. They carry most of the breads that you recommend and I am grateful for your list. Even the Ralph’s in my area (owned by Kroger’s) has some organic foods and Dave’s Killer Breads. Thank you for the work you are doing. Based on a link to Dr. Mercola’s site that you provided, my daughter has started ordering Hipp baby formula from England for her new baby. None of the U.S. brands are acceptable, as all have some form of sugar as their first ingredient.

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