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Whole Gourmet Natural Cooking

Alison Anton's Natural Cooking Blog offers healthy recipes, inspirational food articles and culinary advice for the natural chef, and features dessert recipes from her upcoming cookbook, Desserts for Every Body.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Shopping Cart Makeovers

Even "natural" foods shoppers need a shopping cart makeover. With so many packaged, refined and processed items, it's hard to get out of any natual foods market with a cart of healthy, life-sustaining food. Even one false move in the bulk aisle can leave me wounded. As much as I wish it were true, sugar-laced granola, yogurt-covered pretzels and chocolate "energy nuggets" are just not healthy.

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But yet, I'm thankful. The bigger natural markets are a one-stop shopping spot that offer alternatives to the "SAD" Standard American Diet of hormone-laden meat and dairy, hydrogenated oils, refined flours and high-fructose corn syrup. And with a good amount of intention and self-control, everyone can make it out alive.

Here's How:

Stay around the perimeter of the store: This is where you'll find the fresh, perishable goods (produce, meat, eggs, dairy, vegetable proteins) that are more nutritious and have fewer calories pound per pound. Perimeter foods should eventually become your staples.

Limit purchases from the the center aisles: These aisles hold the packaged, processed foods that are high in sugar and flours, over cooked oils, fillers and too many ingredients in one box.

Know the aisles: When you go down an aisle for a particular product, try to make a beeline for what it is you want, skipping the other, less-beneficial items. Then move on.

Use the bulk aisle with caution: Choose raw instead of toasted nuts, flax and pumpkin seeds for omega-3s, whole grains (including easy-to-digest options like quinoa, millet and steel-cut oats) dried fruits, and trail mixes that don't contain chocolate. Okay... maybe small amounts of chocolate...

Make your shopping cart a work of art: It should look colorful and fresh, filled with 60-80 percent fruits and vegetables. Go for dark green, red and orange colors -- these indicate richness in beta-carotene, chlorophyll and other antioxidant-rich nutrients.

Eat before you shop: Treat errands like you're going out into a desert. Never make your trek without water, fresh fruit or nuts on hand. You may even want to sit in the car for 5 minutes to take a bite, calm your mind and set your intentions.

Make a list... Or not: It can be helpful to make a list and stick with it, but shopping without one is often more practical. If you know you love spinach, apples and loin of lamb, throw them in your cart and do something with them when you get them home. Improvise: Spinach can be tossed with a dressing or steamed along meats; lamb can be broiled or pan-seared with some simple herbs; and everyone knows what to do with an apple.

Some may snicker at making such a deal over the trivialities of grocery shopping. But those learning to be "conscious eaters" may have the last laugh. Gentle discipline with an intention of radiant health and inner tranquility just might be one of the best sources for a long and happy life.

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