Choosing food

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April 17, 2012 by marieelia

I wrote a little about “But-It’s-Vegan” / “But-It’s-Gluten-Free” here, but it really hit me when I was in Trader Joe’s two weeks ago. There are so many convenience foods marketed as healthy. But I guess convenience foods—pre-packaged items—are inherently unhealthy, because they have to be shelf-stable, so they have to contain preservatives. They also tend to contain chemicals as substitutes for fat or sugar in order for the food to be labeled “fat-free” or whatever. (I admit though: I pack Kind Bars whenever I travel.)

Well, we know this. I know this. I was at Trader Joe’s with a specific goal in mind: Their raw almond butter, a large jar of which costs $4.99 compared to Whole Foods’ $10.99. I know that Trader Joe’s is snack heaven, though, so I thought I’d look around to see if there was an inexpensive, healthy-ish treat I could bring home. I walked through the whole store, picking up items and putting them back, and I got to the other side of the store with nothing but the almond butter in my basket. Really? It was nice, though; it was the middle of a weekday, the store wasn’t crowded, I wasn’t hungry, and I had just listened to a Food, Faith and Fasting podcast on the way there, so my mindset was perfect for some mindful shopping.

I went back to the beginning of the store and tried again. I came out with the almond butter, gluten-free oats (again, so much cheaper than expected!), unsweetened dried mango, and unsweetened prunes. Really, I guess it’s obvious, that we have to read labels and shop mindfully. But it just struck me how easy it is to grab things without choosing them. Think about that. We have the opportunity to choose our food, to decide how we will feel based on what we eat. It’s unfortunate that, a lot of the time, I feel pressure to just get the shopping done. I would like to have more shopping experiences like this one.

It’s also important to realize that you don’t have to find everything in one places. For me, Whole Foods provides the most choices and best quality, but there are some items I know I would rather buy elsewhere: I like that the coop has local eggs and raw goat milk, and of course Trader Joe’s has the inexpensive raw almond butter and gluten-free oats. Now that it’s spring, we’ll get to go to farmers markets, and the garden will start producing. I know time is rarely something we have to spare, but I would really like to dedicate more of it to planning and choosing what foods to eat. A good friend recently said to me, regarding relationships with people, “You decide how you want to be treated.” I think that applies in lots of areas of life. In this case, I decide how I want to treat myself. I decide to choose real foods.


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