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Navigating the Supermarket Aisles, 140 Characters At A Time

Grocery cartAs you have probably noticed, the majority of my communication these days takes place via Twitter and Facebook.  However, this blog has certainly not been shut down or discontinued; case in point — this post!

Given today’s demands for quick-and-at-your-fingertips information, I figured it would be fun to take a Twitter-inspired tour of a supermarket.  Below, my 140-characters-or-less recommendations for popular foods.

The space restriction clearly does not allow for all facets to be covered, but it communicates what I believe to be the basics everyone should keep in mind.  I compiled this list based on the foods I am most often asked/e-mailed about.

Before hitting the supermarket: Eat something.  Prepare yourself with list or tentative weekly menu.

Basic rule: Front of packaging = marketing (ignore!); back of packaging = actual nutrition information (read!).

Baking Aisle: Dried unsweetened shredded coconut = great snack/addition to homemade trail mix!

Beans/Legumes: Top-notch nutrition.  Canned? Go low-sodium (or rinse regular under cold running water for 30 secs; this also removes some gas-causing raffinose.

Bread 1: Sprouted grains offer higher amount of minerals.  Aim for > 3g fiber & <2 g sugar per slice.  Don’t get distracted by # of of grains/seeds.

Bread 2: 100% whole grain w/3 grams fiber offers more nutrition than white flour w/5 grams of fiber from isolated fibers (ie: inulin).

Canned soup: Bean-based best (more fiber & protein).  Aim for <700 milligrams sodium in whole can.

Cereal: Whole grain 1st ingredient, <4 grams sugar, >4 grams fiber/serving. No “crunchlets” (artif. flavor + dyes + corn syrup + oil)!

Cheese: Organic whenever possible.  Strong flavors (i.e.: parmesan) best; small amounts yield lots of flavor.

Condiments: Prioritize spices (chock-full of flavonoids and antioxidants) over jarred spreads (ketchup, mayonnaise, etc.).

Dairy milk: Organic and grass-fed golden standard.  Organic but not grassfed is decent alternative.

Eggs: Here’s the awful truth: humane eggs not sold at supermarkets.  For that, get pasture-raised from local farmer or check out info at Animal Welfare Approved.

Frozen aisle: Plain veg, fruit, bean-based burgers (ie: Sunshine Burgers!) great standbys.

Grains: Quinoa & wild rice very easy to cook.  Try out!  PS: Add splash of canned coconut milk & lime juice to pot when cooking brown rice.

Non-dairy milks: Organic crucial for soymilk.  FYI: Plain varieties of most non-dairy milks contain 1.5 teaspoons sugar per serving; choose unsweetened.

Nut/seed butters: Should be one ingredient (ground nut/seed) or two (ground nut/seed + salt).  Everything else is unnecessary.

Nuts and seeds: all wonderful; hemp very high in protein, chia very high in fiber.  Different nuts/seeds = different healthful properties.  Mix & match!

Oatmeal: Go for plain and sweeten yourself with fruit (or just 1 tsp of sweetener of choice).  Top w/nuts or seeds for protein & fiber boost.

Oils: Flax, extra virgin olive, and hemp great for salads and raw dips.  Virgin olive, peanut, and coconut best for cooking.  Avoid corn/cottonseed/soy (too high in omega 6)

Produce 1: #1 priority: colorful variety.  Thin/no skin?  Choose organic if possible.  For best flavor/to support community, buy some local items!

Produce 2: Dark leafy greens a must!  Most offer vitamin K & calcium — a 1-2 super-boost for our bones.

Salmon: All Atlantic is farmed.  Most canned is wild.  Alaskan is only sustainable kind.

Shrimp: Domestic farmed a safer bet; those farmed in Thailand/India exposed to many pesticides, chemicals, and antibiotics.

Tuna: Chunk light lower in mercury than albacore, but if made from skipjack tuna, moderately high.  Canned in water best so omega 3s don’t get drained out.

Yogurt 1: Look for “Live & Active Cultures” seal.  Greek = more protein, less calcium. Plain best (but Siggi’s has flavors w/little added sugar).

Yogurt 2: If it comes in a tube and is brighter than lipstick, it’s “nogurt”.

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6 Comments

  1. Ken Leebow said on January 20th, 2011

    Tortilla – for sandwiches, purchase high fiber (12g), low calorie (70c) tortilla.

    Meat/Poultry – organic is best. Don’t be afraid of it.

    Trans Fats – Be sure to read ingredients … partially hydrogenated = trans fats.

    Salsas – high quality ones are excellent for adding flavor to meals.

  2. Sarah @ Semi-Sweet said on January 20th, 2011

    Love this – very clever and very practical!

  3. Kim said on January 21st, 2011

    Andy, a thousand thank-you’s for posting this! I find it very useful. Sincerely appreciated.

  4. Barry said on January 22nd, 2011

    Great info! Glad to see a blog post and thanks! My major – MAJOR – issue is with lack of knowledge on how to put together meals. Do you have recommendations for healthy eating ‘cookbooks’ and/or menu planning. Mostly it’s for just me as my wife and I rarely eat together. I am very active and time constrained most of the time and working nights is a problem in that I have to bring my meals with me; mostly they have to be cold and ready to eat. I would like to reintroduce myself to the gym and come somewhat warmer weather I’ll be pounding the pavement again getting ready for races. I need quality protein and I think lots of calories to get me through the day.

  5. Tita Barbosa said on January 23rd, 2011

    Què suerte que volviò Small Bites, siempre es un placer leerlo porque es muy informativo y se aprende mucho!! Me encantò este tour por las gòndolas del super, es un muy buen recordatorio para cuando se va a hacer las compras. Muy bueno el consejo de comer algo antes de ir para no tentarse y comprar cosas que en realidad no son necesarias y no son lo mejor para nosotros.

  6. Andy Bellatti said on April 13th, 2011

    Barry,

    I recommend health-oriented cookbooks geared towards college students, as they usually feature recipes that are quick to make and don’t require much in way of preparation/tools. You can, of course, add your own spin to them, but they should serve as a good base.

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