Time is a commodity as our obligations increase. Unfortunately, our health often becomes shortchanged as we pack in more responsibilities. A drive-thru or orderingin seems like the fastest and best food choice, contributing to our ever-expanding diabesity epidemic. These days, I understand more than ever what it’s like to have very little free time. My days are filled with patient care, teaching other doctors, acting as Chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine, writing books and blogs, giving lectures, spending time with my friends and family, and being a father, all while trying to fit in exercise and sleep. Many of my patients are equally time-crunched, and grocery shopping often falls to the bottom of their to-do lists. They wait until the last minute and then become forced to make do with grabbing whatever’s available, even if it’s more costly and their choices become less-than-ideal for their health and their waistline. I’m here to say that with a little preparation and some shopping savvy, you can keep your kitchen stocked with healthy, nourishing foods without spending hours driving from market to market or searching for gourmet ingredients.
PLAN BEFORE YOU GO
A little preparation will dramatically shorten your shopping time, while expanding your wallet and health
These 6 strategies can help:
1. Plan a weekly menu. Take a look at the recipes in this guide or search throughyour favorite cookbooks or online blogs. Refer to the companion guide –Food: 7-Day Meal Plan for suggestions on creating simple and delicious menus.
- Make a shopping list.
Have a shopping list every time you go to the supermarket and stick to it. You will save your money and your life. Keep this shopping list stored in your phone or somewhere you can always refer back to it. You will
3.Make shopping a weekly ritual.
Choose a specific day and time when you’ll shop each week so it becomes an ingrained ritual.
- Take stock of what you have.
Before you shop, clean out any old perishable foods from your refrigerator and determine if you can substitute something you already have for something on the shopping list. Decide which items you’d like to make a double batch of to freeze for future use. Items that are great for freezing include soups and stews, burgers, meat loaf, rice dishes, and sauces.
- Repurpose your existing stock.
If you have leftovers that cannot be successfully frozen, look ahead and plan where in your week you will use them. Make sure you have plenty of storage containers. Glass works best to preserve flavors (check out Pyrex for fridge to oven to table convenience). Take an extra few minutes to arrange your cupboards and refrigerator to reflect the order in which items will be used. It is helpful to have containers for all refrigerated items that go with a particular meal to be stored together and labeled.
- Consider home delivery.
Buy direct and cut out the middleman. One of my favorite places to get wild-caught seafood and is Vital Choice (www.vitalchoice. com). Just about everything else, from spices to nut butters, you will find at very reasonable prices at Thrive Market
3 STEPS TO ENSURING YOU HAVE THE RIGHT FOODS ON HAND AT ALL TIMES
Now that you’ve sufficiently planned ahead, this is where the fun begins. Perhaps it’s been awhile since you explored the produce section of your grocery store or visited a farmer’s market. Maybe you’re unfamiliar with the bounty of fresh vegetables that you can use as the basis for many meals that are the foundation of this program. The truth is that the key to success is a well-stocked kitchen, which allows you to whip up a meal on even the busiest of days.
Here are some of the things you should always have on hand:
Hit the Periphery for Fresh Foods Look around your market the next time you are there – you will notice that the whole, fresh foods are stocked on the outside aisles, not in the inside shelves. Stick to these aisles for the main ingredients of your meals. Check out the following section to see how to be a responsible and ethical shopper, choosing foods that are good for you and good for the planet. Armed with these strategies, you can radically simplify grocery store visits while keeping your kitchen stocked with real, fresh, whole foods.
Stock Up on Healthy Produce Non-starchy veggies are freebies—eat as much as you like! I recommend limiting fruits because too much can increase your insulin levels. When possible, choose organic, seasonal, and local produce. In the winter months, or when your favorite produce is out of season, you can find organic versions in the freezer section. When you can, avoid the most pesticide contaminated fruits and vegetables by consulting the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list and instead choose from the “Clean Fifteen” list, featuring the least contaminated options. Just make sure you’re buying unseasoned or unsweetened varieties. Also check out your local farmer’s market or community supported agriculture (CSA).
Re-stock often on all the Kitchen Basics to make sure you are always ready to prepare home-cooked, healthy and delicious meals.
CHOOSING THE BEST FOOD OPTIONS
One of the most powerful ways you can make a difference in your life, the lives of those you love, and the planet is to choose nutrient dense foods. Most people are familiar with “organic” versus “conventional” and are aware that organic is the option to choose if you want to limit your exposure to harmful chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, and hormones. However, “organic” is only a part of the equation. In the following sections, we’ll look at the importance of eating “real” foods, local foods, foods grown without antibiotics and other harmful chemicals, and how to choose the best options in meat, poultry & eggs, fish, dairy, grains, beans, fruit, sweeteners, nuts & seeds, and oils
EAT ORGANIC (AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE)
Ideally, all food would be grown without toxic pesticides and herbicides or added hormones and antibiotics. We wouldn’t be faced with the decision of purchasing healthier vs. less expensive. I advise my patients to look for organic when they can and to use the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen / Clean 15 to prioritize what foods should be sourced organically because of the high chemical residues, and which can be sources conventionally to work within a budget.
EAT REAL FOOD
Real food comes from the earth, fuels our bodies on a cellular level, gives us energy, and sustains us. It is not the industrialized, hyper-processed, hyper-palatable junk that degrades us and makes us sick. Most Americans don’t eat food anymore. They eat factory-made, food-like substances which contain any number of the following: trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate (MSG), artificial sweeteners, colors, additives, preservatives, pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones. Most Americans have all but lost their taste of what “real food” actually tastes like. In the Food: 7-Day Meal Plan companion guide, I help you rediscover your taste for true foods that will leave you feeling satiated and inspired to explore new recipes.