The modern supermarket is a jungle to the average consumer. There’s nothing worse than walking out of the grocery store with your “organic” whole bran cereal, feeling all smug and righteous, then finding out it’s actually shot through with high fructose corn syrup and artificial preservatives. Total smack-down to the ego!
The best way to avoid being bamboozled at the check-out by misrepresentations in “food worthiness” is, of course, to check nutrition labels meticulously. But who has that kind of time? Grocery shopping is tedious and time-consuming as it is, and it’s not an opportunity that lends itself to doing your nutrition homework; that should start at home, before you’re ready to drop from exhaustion. Planning your menus and developing a sensible, concise grocery list that utilizes natural and organic choices over processed and hormone-infused ingredients will not only yield meals that feed and satisfy, but inject a little bit of conscience-soothing satisfaction that you are putting your family’s well-being first.
For those of us who aren’t fanatics about organic nutrition (not that there’s anything wrong with that), it’s necessary to balance your needs with your wants. In other words, crackers that don’t taste like pine bark are not necessarily out of the question; and a little chocolate once in a while is not exactly toxic. It just requires achieving a certain equilibrium of the natural with the satisfying.
To put together a shopping list that balances healthy ingredients with common sense, try these suggestions:
- Begin with the basics. Choose your “staples” (basic ingredients, such as flour, sugar, milk, butter, grains, etc.) from natural and organic products. This helps you get on the right footing from the start so that home-made also means “healthy-made”.
- Do your research. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Food nutrition information is often available on-line. Most product websites include nutritional information for their products. Once you find products that meet your specifications for “organic” or “natural”, you can continue to patronize those vendors/suppliers.
- Check out organic fruit and vegetable suppliers. This is a really attractive option for busy women. It’s a little more expensive, but you have the satisfaction of knowing that your fruits and vegetables are grown organically by small farmers who don’t use growth hormones or harmful pesticides. Some of these vendors even deliver to your home, so that saves you the time and trouble of grocery shopping for fresh produce. The drawback is that you have to plan a lot of your meals around vegetables that are in season for the farmers; but the benefit is that you learn to use vegetables you might never have tried before. So, be adventurous, while you feed your family quality produce!
- Try organic markets. These are the best places to find hormone free meats and poultry and pesticide-free produce. They also offer whole-grain breads made with unbleached flour and organic dairy products. There are also organic snacks and other prepared products that you can serve your family with a minimum of guilt.
Using the above guidelines, you will be providing a basis for healthier meals. Now comes the balance part. There are some choices you will have to make to please your family. They may not be amenable to completely jumping on board the healthy train. The occasional salty snack or doughnut is not lethal. But products high in fats, salt and sugar are to be consumed sparingly. Just try to achieve a sensible balance between healthy and happy.
One important point in getting your family to embrace the healthy life is cutting out flavored sodas and soft drinks. Make iced tea, which can also be flavored with fruit juices. You might want to invest in a carbonation device, such as SodaStream© or SodaSparkle ©, to inject plain water with carbonation; add a little fruit juice and you have an inexpensive, healthy carbonated drink. Cutting commercially produced sodas out of your life is a move toward better nutrition and can reduce your family’s propensity toward obesity and obesity-related diseases such as diabetes. Water is also a healthy choice, but if you can’t totally win them over to giving up all flavored drinks, fruit juice or flavored carbonated water is the next best thing.
The last step is to plan meals that use your organic products. Expect some trial and error; changing from bleached flour to organic and from refined sugar to raw may take time to find a balance between regular and organic recipes. Also, using vegetables with which you are not familiar requires finding recipes your family will enjoy. For example: if you are not familiar with kale (a nutritious leafy vegetable which can have an intense flavor), you can saute it in a little olive oil with garlic and shallots. There are a lot of organic recipes available on-line, as well as organic cookbooks which can reeducate you to using your organic ingredients to produce delicious creations. Just be patient; you’ll eventually feel your way through it. After all, achieving that balance and setting your family on the road to good health are worth it.