Navigating the grocery store to avoid unhealthy (and expensive!) traps


Grocery shopping cart

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There are two images of our neighborhood grocery store and neither one are correct.

Those of us who are naïve and/or uneducated about nutrition see the grocery stores as a convenient one-stop shop to, for a reasonable price, buy all of the items the members of our families desire, while also helpfully pointing out additional savings and new products. After all, making food at home must be healthier and more affordable than buying take-out, fast food or going to a restaurant, right?

Then there are those of us who look at grocery stores as evil co-conspirators to the processed food industry, roping those naïve consumers into buying foods that are terrible for us simply because they are cheap, convenient and taste good. If it’s not organic or there isn’t a sign telling us which apples were picked from local farms, we won’t buy it. We’d rather go out of our way to a farmers market or a Whole Foods than be subjected to the Safeway two blocks away.

Again, neither one of these people is incorrect, but they both are missing some key points.

When we grocery shop, we analyze several factors to make purchasing choices. Mostly, we ask ourselves: Is this healthy? Is it affordable? Where did it come from? How convenient is it? Does it taste good? We pick which of these factors matter most and then make our choices. Unfortunately, many processed foods found in grocery stores are affordable, convenient and tasty, but not at all healthy. Likewise, healthy, locally grown and/or organic foods can be inconvenient to get to, are expensive and expire quickly.

There are tricks to navigating the grocery store to avoid strategic unhealthy and expensive traps. Some of them are psychological, others are ways to prevent giving in to temptation. Still more require putting in effort to learn about proper nutrition and be able to identify advertisement and marketing ploys.

Let’s take a look at some of them: