Shopping smart at natural food stores

Natural foods stores have loads of nutritious offerings, but not everything they offer is superior. So here are some tips to help you shop smart.

Starting with sugar. You might be happy these markets don't carry foods with high fructose corn syrup, but fancy sounding sweeteners like Turbinado or Sucanat are similar to table sugar in terms of nutrition and calories and are generally more expensive. Check the ingredient list on baked goods. You'll see they can be just as high in saturated fat and calories as products in standard markets.

Although a smart choice if you need a treat is Fabes baked goods sweetened by juice and lower in fat.

Salad bars are often a work of art, but watch out for foods from the hot table. Fried chicken, chili mac and other comfort food has the same fat and cholesterol as always. But do take a look at the soups, just bypass the cream based ones.

Remember that extra virgin olive oil remains the gold standard in the world of fat. Ghee, a clarified butter, and coconut oil are both popular at natural food markets, yet they remain a source of saturated fat and should be consumed in small doses. For heart health, liquid oil is best.

Good things you'll find at these markets are organics and locally grown produce, a wide selection of whole grains, healthy dairy like Greek yogurt and gut friendly probiotics. There's a wonderful selection of meat-free proteins like veggie burgers and dogs, along with non-dairy rice, oat and soy products that are good vegetarian options.

Keep in mind that eating nutrients rather than taking them in supplement form is generally the best rule of thumb. Although popping things like Vitamin E and fish oil is practical.

But don't be swayed by fancy marketing or sales clerks that might not have the formal education to give you what you need. Before you head out the door, arm yourself with knowledge.

Publications like the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, Environmental Nutrition, Nutrition Action Newsletter, and Tufts Heath Letter, are all good sources to brush up on nutrition information.


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