This post is for you if you want to improve your diet without breaking the budget. To be healthy, not by spending more, but by making the right choices at the grocery stores. For those, who are interested in the surrounding world and see it as an underestimated source of food.
The quality of modern food is terrible. But it’s not only about pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, processed foods, and artificial additives.
Most of us know about them and try to do our best to avoid them. But what about the best, what our market can offer us, organic whole foods.
The quality of organic food is really low. Why? Because organic doesn’t mean nutritious. We eat too much of empty calories. We don’t meet daily vitamins and minerals requirements and trying to overcome the deficit with supplements.
The main reason for that is the preponderance of companies’ profit against the health interests of consumers. New varieties of fruits and vegetables are made by breeders to be beautiful, convenient for long shipping, and overly sweet, instead of nutritious. By nutritious I mean full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Modern strawberry varieties are like Styrofoam, lacking juiciness, just because they will survive shipment better like that. Blueberries are big and sweet, compare to their wild relatives, but completely deprived of antioxidants.
Many vegetables and fruits are picked green to insure; that they will not overripe until the end of a long voyage to the place of the destination, and that they still will be attractive to you.
Have you ever tasted tomato or cucumber right from the garden, so much different, right? All that essential oils, which strike straight into your nose… Yummm… Did you know that experience of flavor is complex and includes not only your mouth but also your nose?
So, what is the way out of all this?
Here are five strategies, on how you can get more nutritious foods on the same or even smaller budget.
1. Buy What’s in Season in Your Region
In this way you can expect, that fresh produce was grown in conditions close to natural and accumulated more vitamins and minerals.
Did you notice that fruits in summer which are typical for your region cost cheaper (very often on sales) and taste much better? That was discussed a lot, that even your grandparents didn’t eat fruits 365 days a year.
And eat fruits daily isn’t a part of a healthy diet, because they contain high levels of sugar, and fructose, which are linked to obesity. If you want to know more about that, watch this video. You basically don’t need fruits at all to be healthy, so skipping imported tasteless ones will save you money and won’t impact your health.
The same principle is applicable to veggies too. You will ask, but what you will eat in the winter months if you leave in the temperate zone and there is nothing growing outside? Make cabbage, carrots, onions, and beets, which were grown in your area, your staples. For more variety of vegetables, try to use the next suggestions.
2. Use EWG’s (Environmental Working Group) Guide to Fresh Produce
It’s easy to say, buy organic, but the majority, including myself, just don’t have the financial means to buy everything organic. My suggestion, follow EWG’s guide on pesticides in fresh produce and buy organic from “dirty dozen” or don’t buy them at all. And guys from “clean fifteen” should be favorites of your shopping cart.
3. Use Frozen and Dried or Canned Vegetables and Fruits
Don’t underestimate frozen vegetables and fruits, very often their nutritional value is higher than fresh ones. Fresh produce usually is frozen locally, in the region where it was grown, and in the peak season.
After it was frozen it holds its nutritional value much better than unfrozen produce which travels a long way until it reaches you. But the same as for fresh produce use EWG’s guide and buy only those low in pesticides. If you spotted wild frozen berries in your supermarket, definitely buy them. Just be sure there is no bonus of nasty additives in the bag.
Another option is to think in advance and to freeze everything that you need while it’s in season, and then use it during the winter.
You can also dry many fruits and herbs to use them out of season. Drying is a huge topic worth its own post. But in short pros of dried food over frozen are that it takes much less space and can be kept at room temperature.
It’s a little bit tricky with canned food. Home-canned food would be a good option but most store-bought – not. The biggest concern is that the lining of cans is leaching BPA to food in it. So if you’re buying canned products look for a “BPA-free” sign or buy in glass jars. Trader Joe’s and Eden brands claim that they are BPA-free.
4. Grow Your Own Greens
It’s easier than you think and there are outdoor and indoor options. Just don’t go huge at the start. Begin with three to five types of plants and expand as you will gain experience.
My suggestions of plants for beginners are parsley, dill, strawberries, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, and cucumbers. When you’re buying seeds and transplants prefer organic or more ancient varieties, but even non-organic seeds and transplants are fine.
What is On a Healthy Grocery List for Men Who Exercise?
Be careful to match the product that you include on your grocery list with the variety of fruits and vegetables that are low on the glycemic index. Many fruits are low on the glycemic index, but the potatoes, pasta, and white bread that are low on the glycemic index are high in carbohydrates and will spike your blood sugar rapidly. Instead, opt for items such as avocados, bananas, cantaloupe, cauliflower, green and yellow peppers, and other low glycemic index vegetables such as broccoli. You may also want to opt for non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, carrots, corn, or winter squash. Be sure that you include foods that are high in protein on your list.
5. Find Food Around You
Don’t underestimate how much you can save money by foraging around. And wild plants and fruits are really loaded with micronutrients and antioxidants.
Even if you’re a city resident, there are always parks around, where you can find something to put on your plate. I always enjoy picking blackberries, raspberries, mulberries, or less known autumn olives, while walking in the park, and don’t miss a chance to gather some lemon balm for my tea.
If you have a backyard, which is not poured with pesticides, go look for dandelions and purslane for your salad or stinging nettle and wood sorrel for your soup.
It's all easier than it seems.
Do you already use any of these principles in your life, leave a comment below!
Fresh vs. frozen vegetables by Greatist
A Garden in My Appartment TED talk
7 Tips for Starting your own vegetable garden by GetRichSlowly