Best Healthy Food Shopping Tips
Follow my healthy food shopping tips below to become a savvy food shopper. Healthy shopping is where healthy eating begins!
General Healthy Food Shopping Tips
- Buy organic.
- As far as possible, avoid E-numbers, especially the most harmful ones.
- Completely avoid G.M. foods. These are marked ‘G.M.’, or ‘genetically modified’ on the packaging.
- Avoid hydrogenated vegetable oil, mono-sodium glutamate, E numbers and other artificial additives, sweeteners and preservatives. Avoid over-salted, sugary, fatty, over-processed foods. They are bad for your health and even worse for your children’s health. If your children eat this type of food all the time, it is doing about ten times more damage to them, than it is to you, due to their smaller physiques and developing biology! Unfortunately, most processed foods fall into this category. If there is something they really like, try getting a healthy version of it in a health food store.
- ‘Buy local’ is an environmental mantra, but it also makes sense from a health point of view. Fruit and vegetables begin to loose their vitamins (vitality) as soon as they are picked. The less distance they have to travel to you the better. If you can buy direct from a local farmer, that is the best option. You will also be eating seasonal vegetables, which are what our bodies naturally crave.
- When buying olive oil, get extra-virgin cold-pressed. Otherwise, you could be buying oil that has been chemically removed from the olive. If you like to use spray oils, then buy your own, air-pump spray and fill it up with regular oil (try a garden shop for the pump). Otherwise, you will be eating the chemical propellant used in most commercial spray-oils. Or use a pastry brush to coat your food lightly with oil.
Healthy Food Shopping Tips:Fruit and Veg
- When choosing fruit, choose the tastiest. Many mass-produced varieties today are bland and boring and it is not surprising children do not like them. Do try to get freshly-picked, organic fruit. If you have a garden you could consider growing some of your own fruit. If you do, the most delicious varieties to grow are the more unusual ones which are not being mass-produced for supermarkets. Your children will get a great kick out of saving that variety for future generations and will also enjoy the wonderful, vibrant taste of fruit and vegetables as they used to be long ago. If you wish to send away for such seeds, to help preserve the biodiversity of our food chain,
you will find a link on this page
to a seed saving charity, which can supply seeds of unusual and endangered species of fruits and vegetables.
- If you can’t buy fresh, buy frozen. It’s better than tinned. Sometimes, however, no matter how dedicated you may be to healthy food shopping, you may have to resort to tinned. (I sometimes use tinned chickpeas and beans, for example, as soaking and cooking them myself does take an inordinate amount of time and pre-planning.) When buying tinned, try to get organic, and choose a brand that does not line the inside of the tin with white plastic coating. For unusual tinned items, try your local deli for nice things to brighten up panini, such as artichoke hearts and jalapeno peppers.
Healthy Food Shopping Tips: Meat
- If you are buying mincemeat, source it carefully. With meat, you generally get what you pay for. Pay cheap, get cheap! Mincemeat dishes, such as hamburgers, should not be thought of as a cheap meal. A good burger cannot be cheap. If you are going to make hamburgers, expect to pay well for quality meat. Ready-minced beef, sold in supermarkets and even in butcher shops, contains a lot of fat and low-quality cuts.
So, for healthy food shopping, it is essential that you find a good, reputable butcher, who sells local, traceable and preferably organic meat. Pick out from the display a nice piece of round steak (or sirloin if you prefer). Ask your butcher to cut off the fat, if there is a lot, but not all of it (a little fat to cook the meat in is fine and it adds flavour). Then get your butcher to mince your chosen cut, which he should do where you can see what’s happening. Make sure he clears any meat already in the machine from the nozzle. This is the only way to get top-quality healthy meat for delicious mincemeat dishes your children will love.
- Avoid processed meats, as they contain many additives, injected water and often products from animals, other than the meat you are supposed to be eating. Pastramis and bolognas etc. can contain huge amounts of fat, salt, cholesterol, sodium nitrates and MSG.
Buy your cooked meats from a high-quality owner-run deli, where you can ask about the source and make-up of the meats. But even then, my rule of thumb is 'the simpler the product the better'. Buy meats where there is no opportunity for anyone to add in stuff that shouldn’t be there. What I call ‘put together’ meats, are a lot dodgier than plain ones, because it is so difficult to find out what they are really made of. Alternatively, make your own cooked meat and slice and freeze batches of roast beef, chicken, turkey and boiled ham.
Healthy Food Shopping Tips: Fish
- Always buy wild fish, because farmed fish is flabby, has less flavour and is not as nice to eat. Farmed fish also contains chemicals and artificial colourings. It is also bad for our eco-system, as the chemicals used in the fish farms put wild fish at risk.
Always buy your fish in a good fishmonger, never in a supermarket where it is never fresh. Fresh fish should not have a fishy smell. It comes from the sea and should only smell of the sea when you buy it. When buying fish, always ask your fish-monger where it came from and when it was caught. A good fish-monger will be happy to answer your questions and like my local fishmonger, will tell you a great way to cook it.
The North Atlantic is very polluted, because it has been used as a dumping ground for industrial waste, including heavy metals. You may not wish to eat fish that came from there, particularly the oily fish, which retain high levels of pollution from the environment.
If you live in Europe and are interested in healthy food shopping, you may also wish to avoid fish caught in the Irish Sea, due to the continuing, scandalous problem of radioactive contamination from the discredited Sellafield-Windscale plant, on the West Coast of Britain. (Regretfully, because pollution does not respect international borders, Irish fish caught within Irish waters, by Irish fishermen, struggling to make an honest living, may be contaminated due to the refusal of the British government to close down their dangerous plant.)
The very best fish, if you are able to get it, is that which comes from the Atlantic Ocean.
Healthy Food Shopping Tips: Cheese
- Avoid processed cheese. It may provide protein and calcium, but also contains unhealthy additives and it tastes like plastic! It is important, when your children are young, to get them used to the taste of wholesome, natural food. Buy blocks of good artisan cheese, without additives and cut if off as you need it.
Healthy Food Shopping Tips: Drinks
- Completely avoid sugary ‘juices’ and fizzy drinks. If you don’t start your children drinking fizzy drinks, they won’t develop a taste for them. Instead, use juices and smoothies as treats. For something special, make up a home-made lemonade using honey, or less sugar than is in the bought ones. Regarding ‘juices’, the only juice your child should be drinking is pure fruit juice with absolutely no additives. So check the label. Not everything that calls itself a ‘fruit juice’ is a fruit juice! Many have loads of sugar and little, if any, fruit.
Even pure fruit juice in cartons has a low vitamin content, as it has been over-pasteurised to prolong its shelf-life. The best juices are those you find in the refrigerator section of the supermarket, the small bottles of ‘freshly squeezed’ orange juice with the bits in. An even better option is to squeeze a few oranges yourself.
However, water is absolutely the best drink to give your child on a regular basis, as fruit juices do corrode their teeth. But remember, the principles of healthy food shopping apply to buying water as they do to everything else you buy. Be discerning and read the label first.
Mineral water does what it says on the tin, it provides minerals, which we all need. If you need to buy a bottled drink for your child, still mineral water is probably the best choice. If your child doesn’t eat a lot of dairy, mineral water can be a great source of calcium.
But, even with water, you need to read the label! Buy one with a low sodium content (sodium is the harmful ingredient in salt). You also need to be careful of mineral waters that come in plastic bottles. Not only are they environmentally destructive, but the antimony in the bottles can leech into the water, with unhealthy consequences. When I buy mineral water, I look for one that comes in a glass bottle.
Generally though, I use filtered tap-water. Because of the chemicals, such as chlorine and fluoride, put into our water supply by local authorities, it is not wise to drink unfiltered tap-water. The best filtering systems are the ones you install in your home to filter the supply as it enters the house. But jug filters are a good alternative if you cannot install a whole system. When you have been using a filter for a while, you will notice the taste of chlorine in your tea, if you make it with unfiltered water.
For more information about healthy food shopping, see my articles on
For a handy healthy grocery list, please click here.
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Remember, healthy eating is enjoyable!
Blessings on your table!
The Good Food Angel.