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Health & Food

Confusion in The Aisles – An Anxiety Ridden Trip Through The Grocery Store

I’ll confess, I’m sick of reading about nutrition.  Information online and in media is so skewed it’s ridiculous.  Research is being done that is sponsored by big businesses, and who knows if what we are reading is actually accurate or if the bits and pieces that benefit the company are just what we end up reading on our news feed.  It’s a crap shoot. It’s confusing. Even I, a Registered Dietitian, go to the store and don’t know what to buy (also,like this article suggests; Nutrition Science Isn’t Broken, It’s just Wickedly Hard!). So, I thought I’d post what I envision could possibly be going through the minds of many Americans as they grocery shop these days….Enter the produce department, go to grab some mangoes, realize they aren’t organic, think about whether you need to even spend the extra money on organic…  remember the article you read about how organic foods really aren’t any more nutritious for you, look at the price, think it’s probably not worth it. Then think about the article you read that said “pesticides cause cancer”. Forgo the mangoes, choose a thick-skinned banana instead (they are safe from pesticides, right?), but then remember the article you read online that said “bananas make you fat”. Forget the bananas, grab some baby carrots, but remember the article you read that said companies put weird stuff on baby carrots, so you grab the regular carrots, but by then you wonder if you should consider the organic again. You don’t.  You get the carrots and you continue on.

You go to the bakery for some fresh bread, but then you remember “wheat gives you a wheat belly”.  Do they have gluten free bread? The gluten free bread has more sugar in it, crap, sugar is bad, no bueno.  Get the wheat…but make it whole wheat.  Got it.  Thin slice? Medium slice? Thick slice? What the hell?  Just give me a loaf of freaking bread! Meanwhile your daughter spots the free samples of cookies. Shit, grab the bread and peace out (and let your daughter cry for a second because she’s not getting anything else sweet, it’s only 8 in the morning and she has already eaten five M&Ms for going poop on the big girl toilet).  You look at the label on your “whole grain” bread and realize water is the first ingredient.  Oh damn, it’s not 100% whole, it’s just 51%, does that matter? Should I take it back? Throw it in the cart and move on.

You go to the meat shop to pick up some burgers, but then you remember that TV show that said meat causes cancer, so you look at the chicken but remember that article that said poultry is loaded with antibiotics and could cause antibiotic resistance, so you go to the seafood counter and look at some cod but remember that story on the news that said cod isn’t sustainable and that it’s “dirty”…what does that mean anyway?! Which fish is best?  The fattier ones with more fat-soluble pesticides, but with more omega-3 or the less fatty ones with less omega-3 but..less … chemicals? PCBs?  What’s going on?!?! You see some shrimp but remember it’s high in cholesterol, and you forget if that even matters (it doesn’t) so you look for some salmon and only see farm raised and know you’ve read stuff about that but can’t remember why it’s “bad” so you get some. In the cart it goes.

You go to the dairy department to get some yogurt but can’t remember if it’s best to get low fat, fat free, whole milk yogurt, ahhhh!!  You grab the 2% but it’s right next to the coconut and almond yogurt and wonder if that book you read was really right about dairy causing cancer, so you grab some almond yogurt too (ya know, to mix it up) but the almond yogurt is lacking protein and you know Dr. Oz said you need protein in your diet and so you look at the soy yogurt but remember that soy is “the devil” and should really be limited and…ahh!!  Ok, 2% yogurt and a cup of coconut yogurt…whatever, in the cart they go.

You go to the deli to pick up some turkey for sandwiches and you see that the meat contains nitrites and nitrates and wtf are those anyway?!  You’ve heard the words, you know they aren’t good, you look for the “nitrite and nitrate free” versions, it’s five dollars more expensive, ugh, throw it in the cart. But wait! The sodium, it’s higher than the first one you looked at. Does that matter? Should you care?  Whatever, in the cart.

You remember to “Shop the perimeter” because that’s where all the less processed foods are, but what’s this? Processed meat? Sugar loaded yogurt? I thought the perimeter was the safe zone? And wait, I was hoping for some plain oats for some recipes I’m making, some lightly salted rice cakes for a late night snack (topped with my favorite no salt or sugar added peanut butter)….but these are found in the center store and the center store is bad?  Lame.  I’m venturing to the center, see ya folks!

You go to the cereal aisle, grab the oats, grab your rice cakes, and hop over to get your favorite peanut butter.  You come back to get your favorite “Raisin Bran”, but then you remember that magazine article that said to reduce your sugar, and man does this have some sugar!  But the sugar is natural, from the raisins, right? But then you remember dried fruits should be limited…and wait..shouldn’t I eat gluten free? You think about trying a new cereal, gluten free Chex. Much less sugar, no gluten (yeah!  But wtf is gluten?!) but shit, there isn’t any fiber, Cheerios will do the trick (and you’ll just add a spoonful of sugar anyway so who cares?!).

You finally make your way to the checkout and your freaking exhausted.  You look in your cart and wonder who in their right mind will eat this random assortment of…healthy? foods.  You make a vow to forget everything you’ve ever read and next time you shop, buy what you want.

Gina’s Three Tips for Not Having an Anxiety Attack in a Grocery Store

  • Eat mainly fruits and vegetables, and who the hell cares which ones?! (I don’t care what form they are in, as long as they aren’t loaded with salt or sugar!)
    • Fresh is an easy choice
    • Canned is fine, low sodium, and in light syrup
    • Frozen is superb
  • Choose 100% whole grains whenever possible
    • Look for the “Whole Grain Stamp”, it never fails.
  • Keep your added sugar levels below 50 g per day(let the new label help you with that, they will finally list added sugar on the panel!)
    • Breakfast cereals and snack foods/bars: Look for 10 g sugar or less
    • Condiments: use sparingly
    • Desserts: Eat sparingly (by that I mean one a day!)
    • Sugary beverages? Avoid

Want more? Read this article from Forbes.com — “If You Can’t Pronounce It, Don’t Eat It” And Other Food Mantras That Don’t Hold Water

Easy. See you next week!

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