Where to Shop for Healthy Ingredients
I'll be the first to admit that healthy eating requires a little bit of dedication, preparation and determination, especially at first. It is pretty easy to find healthy recipes around, but then you're left wondering what on Earth organic raw cacao is and where you can buy it! Sourcing the best quality, organic, fresh and local ingredients can take a little time and requires patience, but the effort is well and truly worth the reward. Plus, once you have established a few main food stores/places to shop at, buying your food in the future is much easier, quicker and requires less thought. Depending on where you live sourcing healthy, beautiful and nutritious food can be either very easy or very difficult. Certainly living in the city allows abundant access to beautiful health food stores that are packed from floor to ceiling with every imaginable goodie at competitive prices, whilst in the right country areas you are surrounded by farmers and farms growing all kinds of fresh, local produce.
Regardless of where you live, however, where there is a will there is a way. Here are a few of my go-to places for purchasing the best food that you can.
Farmer's markets would have to be my number one favourite place to shop. They are FULL of amazing fresh and local produce, as most markets have a defined radius in which the food must grown for it to be sold at market. Plus, it is a fool-proof way to shop locally, because only the foods that are in season will be at the market (duh!). Another bonus is the fact that you can actually speak directly to the farmers and ask them about their farm and their growing methods. We have found at home that a lot of the farmers don't use any kind of sprays, but because of the costly process of becoming certified organic they cannot label their food so. By talking to the farmers you can work out which stalls are best for what, make new friends and get great deals. Because you cut out the middle-man (and the supermarkets), farmers markets are a lot more affordable, especially when it comes to organic foods. You will often also find gorgeous homemade delights like tomato sauces, cakes and biscuits (hopefully healthy), sauerkraut and other fermented goods and even veggies juices. I cannot recommend finding a farmer's market near you enough. Just jump on Google and find the closest one and when it is on and GO! I promise you'll love it.
Health Food Stores
I am literally like a kid in a candy store in a health food shop. I can wander for hours and admire the shelves of beautiful, nutritious goodies. Most major cities have health food stores in every suburb and many country towns are now sprouting their own stores. A quick Google search will probably tell you of any stores close by. Health food stores are great for all of the crazy and weird ingredients and super foods that you may desire. They also often have a bulk food sections where you can buy nuts, seeds, granolas and even chocolate in bulk. Buying bulk saves you money and also saves on packaging, as you can re-use your own bags and Tupperware container.
Store assistants at health food stores are also fantastic resources of information and can give you hints on how to use a wide variety of unusual ingredients. Plus, they are usually super friendly kindred spirits, so why not make a new friend while you're shopping?
If you are a meat-eater like myself then it is vital that you source the best quality and freshest meat that you can, although this can be incredibly difficult at times. Ideally, all meat that you eat should be: organic, free-range, grass-fed, hormone, antibiotic and chemical free and from farms where the animals are slaughtered ethically. Be wary of labels though, unfortunately regulation is yet to catch up and so a chicken that has been in a paddock for a few days of its life can be labelled as 'free range' and 'cage free' eggs can simply mean thousands of chickens piled into one large barn. Grass-fed red meat is an absolute must, as eating the meat of grain-fed animals is inflammatory in the same way that eating straight grains is for humans. The best way to know is to find a local butcher and chat to them. Don't be afraid to ask if the meat is grass-fed and if so for how long (the whole of the animal's life or just part of it?). Also ask where the meat comes from. The closer, the better.
With regard to sea food, wild caught is crucial. Farming fish is not only cruel to the fish who are raised in unnatural conditions, but they too are fed grains instead of their natural diet. This leads to high levels of Omega-6s and low levels of Omega-3s in their flesh, so farmed fish offers little health benefits to you. Also, they are often full of toxic chemicals, which bioaccumulate in their body and is passed on to you as the consumer. Source fish that is wild caught and as fresh as possible. If you live by the ocean find a local fish monger and get to know them, then you can ask all the important questions and be assured that the fish is as fresh as possible.
This one may have surprised you, but supermarkets are not entirely filled with 'evil' processed from corporations who don't care about your health one bit. In fact, thanks to consumer demand all supermarkets have been making a considerable effort to expand their organic and health food ranges (I, for one, have noticed this). My family has always shopped at Woolworths and we often still do, although now we only purchase a few items rather than a whole trolley full. Most supermarkets will have a health food section/aisle in which you will find a lot of the ingredients needed for baking and healthy cooking, including raw cacao, coconut oil, rice malt syrup and all kinds of nuts and seeds and alternative flours. They will usually also have a reasonable range of organic fruit and vegetable in the produce section and most have plenty of free range chicken available in the deli. You can also find dairy-free milks in the long-life milk section, including my preferred milk, Almond Breeze Unsweetened Almond Milk.
A word of warning though, supermarkets will often label lots of canned and processed foods with their 'organic' or 'macro' labels - don't be fooled. Many still contain vast amounts of 'organic' sugar and other things that are just best left on the shelf.
Where do you like to shop?
Keep healthy, Erica xx