It is a regular event in my life to lead people through the grocery store. That sounds silly, but have you seen how people walk through the stores these days? Eyes glazed over, a look of helplessness and confusion as they scan the shelves full of products all claiming the same things. A sense of accomplishment until the shock of the receipt kicks in. A defeat when all that time spent on shopping “healthy” and money spent on expensive promises doesn’t equate to improved energy or health. I can say, with all honesty, it is one of my greatest honors to give people the tools to walk into a store and be successful.
We make our way up and down every aisle. I let them guide me at first as if they are the ones leading the charge. They usually have me in tow because they are looking to incorporate better eating habits. We’ll call them “healthy” eating habits. So, they guide me over to the “Healthy” section. Makes sense. They pick a pasta and they don’t know why they picked it other than that because it was in the “healthy” section and it was brown, which means it is best. Chips, crackers, Oops! Don’t forget the brown rice! Cereal, protein bars and snacks for the kids (of course). Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Wheat Free. All the “free’s” accounted for! Now we’ve got the frozen food section, still in the offset area of the store. Waffles, ice cream, cookies, all go into the cart. Oh, dear. They’ve just doubled their grocery bill and added very little, if any, value to their “healthy” eating goal. It’s common and nothing to blush about. It’s why I do what I do.
When I was sick and needed to eliminate much of the ingredients that are now trending, there were no products to guide me; no special sections and very little to research. I had the distinct pleasure of figuring it all out on my own. While I would never wish that experience on anyone and I think the surplus of additional options for those with allergies is a blessing, I also see in many ways how it has become a disservice. When processed food (whatever is in a package, can, or box) has a label that says it is “Free” of something that would otherwise usually be in it, expect and know that something has had to replace it. We learned this with Fat Free products and Sugar Free products. A lot of “free” is really at the expense of increased calories, unrecognizable ingredients, and product cost. A cookie is a cookie, gluten free or otherwise. Ice-cream is ice-cream, dairy free or otherwise. In my experience, for those who are trying to eat healthier, the issue is not always the allergen, it’s the processed, the chemicals and the calories. It’s the shifting from one area of the store to another while still neglecting the one area that is affordable and healthy, (for the most part, more on that later) the produce.
It is much less expensive, just as easy and quick to stock your kitchen with foods that are naturally gluten free, dairy free and lower in calories. Hang out in the produce section. Grab some fresh fruit and veggies. Skip over to the bulk bins and scoop up raw almonds, cashews and pepitas. Need things with longer shelf life? Don’t buy those 6 expensive boxes of pre-packaged snacks and instead buy a dehydrator. Pineapple chips are insane as snacks! Don’t get me wrong. There is a place and a realistic need for products. I just encounter this struggle so often, people eating “Healthy” and still experiencing weight and health issues. People spending more money than they really need to be spending and taking way more time than necessary to get it right.
I wish there was one solution. There simply isn’t because every home is different. A good place to start, however, regardless of situation, is to change out one product at a time. It’s a slower process. This week, instead of buying chips, buy sliced raw almonds and flavor them at home with sea salt and spices you crave. Next week, instead of buying granola bars, buy apples and a few little packets of raw almond butter. Things like that. One at a time. Little by little. Trust me when I tell you, the more real food you eat, the more real your “health” becomes.