Shopping for health and the planet
Knowing how to shop when you are either making a change to a healthier lifestyle, you are transitioning to a more organic and chemical free food and cleaning product choices or are an expert eco lifestyle shopper, the following tips can help you get through the week within budget, without compromising the earths resources and ensuring your healthy habits are not shot out of the water....
A few handy tips before you go shopping
Make a list: You cannot beat a list. It helps one stay on task and on budget
Plan your meals ahead: Plan seasonal based meals and use only whole foods, reduces shopping needs.
Eat simply: This does not mean compromising on flavour. It means simplifying the way in which you prepare foods.
Do not go shopping when hungry, pre menstrual or exhausted: Hard to overcome cravings when in these moods.
Always carry reusable, eco material bags in your car: This reduces need for plastic bags of any sort
Do not buy any product that your grandmother would not have recognised as food. This is the first step in making healthy choices.
When reading a label:
I am not a calorie counter. Nor do I recommend fat free foods. As a nutritionist I advise to you count nutrients not calories. Focus on eating whole foods that are nutrient dense and in their natural form. From this create your meals. See Nutrition for more information on how to create simplified wholesome meals.
When it comes to labels this is what I watch for:
If you don't recognise a name on the ingredients section on back of product: DO not buy it
If a product has more than 5 ingredients, I don't usually purchase it. I make it myself.
If it says its organic or natural look for one of the registering bodies to back this up. Marketing is deceptive
If the second ingredient is sugar.... It looks as though it has a shit load in it. I wouldn't buy it. Ingredients are listed in their order of highest ingredient in weight to lowest. Check labels for total sugars per gram amount. Remember that the average amount of sugar one should be having per day is 6 teaspoons women, 9 teaspoons men and 3tsp children (this is in addition to pieces of fruit per day)
Furthermore sugar is hidden in almost all products and has 100 names. Do some research and get educated. I simply do not buy anything if I don't understand the ingredients or I am suspicious that it is fructose in disguise.
Watch for products containing GMO corn, soy or canola.
Watch for the amount of trans fat on a product label. You are damaging your health if trans fat is in a product.
Purchase Mrs C's or The Chemical maze books to help you understand and watch for numbers (which indicate preservatives, additives, colours etc.) I don't buy anything with numbers unless I recognise them and know them to be safe.
Where to shop
Farmers markets: Weekly farmers markets are the BEST: Not only do they provide income for small farmers, cut down the food by miles, they are generally organic and spray free, cheaper (as it cuts out the middle man) and can provide you with seasonal and fresh produce locally. Most farmers markets you can find fresh fruit/vegetables, free range eggs, meats, poultry seafood and artisan foods such as sourdough breads, yoghurts, health foods and fresh flowers (not a food I know, but just so pretty). NOTE: make sure you check which stalls are spray free or certified organic. Just start up that conversation. Get to know your farmer.
Food boxes: CSA (community supported agriculture) groups provide boxes of local and fresh food on weekly basis, as well as online companies delivering fresh food right to your doorstep.
Locally owned businesses: Research your local area for business that sell organic, free range or spray free foods such as the butcher, baker, fish monger, eco stores and health food stores. Support this option before the commercial supermarkets if possible.
Bulk food suppliers for dry goods: Shops like community foods, co-ops and online bulk suppliers provide organic and non organic bulk dry goods and shelf foods at reasonable prices (some wholesale) and without the large packaging (some even are completely eco and use only paper). There is a sense of empowerment when you are measuring your own dry goods, or ordering foods that are Australian grown, Australian made and organic. Research your local area or visit recommended links for more information
Health food stores for health products: Online retailers or health food stores provide a wide range of products. From supplements, remedies and herbal formulas, to fresh goods, dry goods, hair dye, natural makeup, sprouts, seeds, baby products, cleaning products and more.
Quality of foods: A note on organic and spray free foods:
Why choose organic food over normal foods? There are so many reasons why organic (or biodynamic) is preferable to many Australians. The effects of chemical residues in the foods consumed in Australia and overseas has been linked to many illnesses (once again do your research. Make informed and educated decisions on what you choose to put in your’s and your children’s bodies). Organic food is grown without limited (and biologically safe) or no chemical, fungicides antibiotics, herbicides or Pesticides. Organic means it is also grown from true seed, not genetically modified seed. Many organic farmers are certified meaning they have none of the above mention used in the production, harvest, storage and transportation of the foods they are producing. Make sure it is certified by one of Australia’s certifiers of organic foods. (check labelling).
It is not only that reason behind why I choose organics. I grew up on a small farm and I know the intensive hardworking dawn to dusk labor involved in producing organic crops. By supporting organic farmers, we are supporting our health, the idea of organic food and a small industry that is producing real food. Are you worried about the cost of organics. Don’t be. It is the true cost of real food. Organic farmers are using less fossil fuels, they are keeping our water ways clean, our animals treated well and our Australian soils fertile. That’s worth something isn’t it?