Healthspan Blog

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What should I buy at Trader Joes?

1st May 2012

Reader question for Trader Joes customers…

Starting to get up there in years, so I want to change my diet up. I noticed this place and did a bit of research. I will be heading there tomorrow and wondered if anybody had any suggestions on what to pick up.

Looking forward to eating healthier, let me know! Thanks

My answer

First of all, you don’t need to buy from Trader Joes if you want to eat healthy. To eat healthier means to eat more fresh veggies and fruits. Cut down on fats and sweets. (And exercise but that’s not exactly related to the question here). You don’t need Trader Joes or even Whole Foods.

What Trader Joes is not is a health food store. Check the Labels – lots of Trader Joes prepare foods are very high in sodium which you want to avoid if you’re looking to eat healthy. You have to be really careful about their fresh produce and meats – their quality controls are not always the best and you might be bringing home spoiled goods if you’re not careful.

Also, I would not say they’re known for organic foods. And, by the way, the ‘organic’ label is quickly becoming meaningless as cookies, chips and sodas are all now labeled organic. The standard for what constitutes organic varies. Anyway, a Whole Foods type thing would have a higher percentage of organic stuff.

There’s plenty at Trader Joes you need to avoid, just like at most supermarkets. Industrial food is pure poison- so, know the source of your food- and you may want be find it locally- like buying from farmers and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms.

What to REALLY stay clear of: The big killers are processed sugar in all forms. They do cause all kinds of health problems- lots of evidence to support heart problems diabetes and cancer. These problems love inhaling artificial laced sugar stuff. Lots of molecular level tests and studies have proven this. It used to be we received a normal amount of sugar from fruits. Now, all are foods are laced with it- and the population gets mega amounts. And, it is not always called sugar. Get your sugar from fruit in normal amounts- dump everything else.

It is amazing when I walk through a grocery store in the US – I can’t buy most of the stuff in it. It is mostly crap. It is either laced with sugar, or laced with salt. If needed, go with the low sugar. (And, no substitute sugar in all its weird forms)

My approach is to limit the bad by doing whole grains, (processed slower and easier into insulin) lots of veggies, and stay away from most carbs.- pasta and bread etc…. Limit the dairy too. You may go for unsweetened nut milk…. Also, check the cans/labels, even in the health food store, for sugar <= 1%, fats, etc.... (It is not going to taste the same, but you will feel a lot stronger and better) The sweet tooth culture is hard to break and it is addicting. Also, buy meats without the hormones, antibiotics and make sure they are grass fed. Lots of farmers/health food stores sell this now. If you want to go more radical, you can substitute some of the losses with: Millet/Chia bread, Avocado, sprouts, (they are a great source of nutrition), organic beans, cold pressed olive oil, Tahini, salads, sunflower seed and oil, almonds, pumpkin seed and oil, apple cider vinegar, non sweetened almond nut milk etc..... This food group starts resembling a Mediterranean diet. I tend to call the more radical parts of this type of plan rabbit food. But, if you introduce it through veggie juices and into your meals gradually - it is great for you. Of course, the more you introduce, the more creative you need to be with your cooking – and food shopping. And the fewer restaurants you can actually eat at. But, there are lots of ways of making it taste good. In any event if you want to have more organic food I highly recommend either joining an organic CSA or visiting a local Health and Nutrition Canter with a good produce and meats section. You will find that it takes a lot of experimentation to find foods that you are comfortable with and that will make your diet healthier. However there are some good things about Trader Joes. Their frozen fish and frozen veggies are really good. Most of their meats are anti-biotics free. They have good no sodium trail mix. Their wine section has some great deals. They tend to be less expensive so you can afford higher quality food. I suggest you just take your time, wander and look. The people in the store are really helpful and knowledgeable. But they won’t be as knowledgeable as you are, now that you’ve read this post.

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