How to shop for healthy foods and get the most value

May 24, 2017

There’s a reason why Whole Foods is nicknamed “whole paycheck.” Buying organic, ethically raised, non-GMO foods can add up at checkout. If you make some smart choices and concessions, it’s possible to eat healthy and not overspend.

  1. Do spend more on high quality meat and diary: When it comes to meat and animal products—like eggs, cheese, butter, milk and yogurt—opt to buy organic. The reason is this category offers the triple-threat risk of contamination through exposure to pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones. Don’t skimp here.
  2. But do cut back on overall meat and dairy consumption: Doing this will save you money over the long haul and give you the opportunity to eat more plant-derived foods. You can replace half of your meat portions with beans, which are loaded with fiber to help you feel full.
  3. Shop mostly on the perimeters on the food store: You’ve probably heard of this tip before, but it’s worth repeating. On the outskirts of most supermarkets are the perishable items—produce, meats and dairy. Shopping more on the outer aisles fills you cart with more real food, as opposed to foods loaded with preservatives and artificial flavors.
  4. Don’t buy pre-washed and ready-to-eat vegetables: Pre-packaged or pre-cut vegetables are more expensive. It only takes a little bit of time to wash a bundle of organic spinach, for example. Buy a salad spinner to dry your veggies after washing. If you store your greens with a single sheet of paper towel, they will last longer.
  5. Use the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen lists: These guides are available on the Environmental Working Group’s website ( to help you navigate which products to buy organic and which ones you may not need to. Below are the 2017 recommendations from the Environmental Working Group:

The group identified the following items on its “Dirty Dozen” list of produce with the most pesticide residue:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Celery
  7. Grapes
  8. Pears
  9. Cherries
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet bell peppers
  12. Potatoes

The group also identifies the “Clean 15” or items in the report with the least likelihood to contain pesticide residue:

  1. Sweet corn
  2. Avocados
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Frozen sweet peas
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew
  12. Kiwifruit
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Grapefruit

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