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  • Grocery Shopping: Health vs. Wealth

    Three to four years ago, I probably spent about half of what I spend now on groceries. Back then, I bought meat and fish at Costco or on sale at the supermarket, I stocked my pantry with canned and jarred goods like spaghetti sauce and soup when they were loss leaders, and I bought seasonal produce at rock bottom prices. These days, I spend more money because I buy hormone-free meat and dairy, wild salmon, and organic produce. Canned and jarred goods are mostly limited to organic tomato products, beans, sardines, anchovies and olives.

    To be honest, I haven’t noticed a difference in my health since switching to more expensive groceries. But I continue to eat this way because I hope to live longer and healthier, and I think this helps. And I’m lucky enough to be able to afford it.

    If you’re not willing or able to pay for all of the more expensive products but want to eat healthier foods at home, try these tips:

    • Shop at Trader Joe’s. They have a good selection of organic produce and growth-hormone free dairy products at great prices.
    • Eat less meat. Organic beans and tofu cost a fraction of organic meat and are better for you. (I’ll post some of my favorite meatless recipes this weekend.)
    • Buy meat that doesn’t contain growth hormones or unnecessary antibiotics. It will be slightly cheaper than organic meat (in addition to being hormone and antibiotic-free, organic meat comes from animals who were fed organic grains).
    • Buy dairy that doesn’t contain the growth-hormone RBST (available at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods). It will be cheaper than organic dairy.
    • Consider buying organic if a food you eat often is high in pesticides or pollutants. For example, apples have been found to retain a relatively high percentage of pesticides, so you might want to buy organic apples. On the other hand, you’ll probably want to stick with conventionally grown bananas, which don’t retain the same amount of pesticides. Click here for a list of produce that retains pesticides and here for a list of seafood that is high in pollutants.
    • Avoid genetically modified corn and soy products. The easiest way is to buy organic versions, but you can also check for labels that say “non-GMO.”

    Of course, it goes without saying that no matter what your budget, your body will thank you if you stick to a diet rich in fresh produce, whole grains, and lean meat.

    Comments

    1. Occasus Pars Clamo says:

      I understand the concern with pesticides and growth hormones (although I think sometimes these concerns are blown out of proportion nowadays – Alar, anyone?) but I’m curious why you’re cautioning against genetically modified foods? When you get down to the nuts and bolts of the idea, it’s basically the same procedure humans have always used to change/manipulate an organism to make it more convenient/better/bigger/tastier/etc – just more fine-tuned.

    2. I haven’t done any research recently, but as I recall, GMO products do, or at least might, increase the likelihood of an allergic reaction and/or the risk of cancer. I’m pretty sure of at least the allergic reaction part, as I’m remembering the info that came out several years ago when shelf-stable taco shells were found to contain GMO corn.

      I’m sure my eating habits seem extreme to some – most of my family and friends don’t bother with organic or hormone-free products. On the other hand, I’m sure some people think I should make more changes, like eating all organic products and buying organic clothes. This is a balance that works for me. :)

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