Grocery Store Confusion

15 09 2010

When did life become so complicated?  Or rather, when did certain aspects of life become so complicated?  Things that should be quite easy have become so difficult and confusing.

Take the grocery store – for example.

Have you ever taken a moment to take a good look around the grocery store?  It embodies much of what has put the brakes on healthy living in this country.  We have too much.  We have way more than we need.

Food From Afar

A few weeks ago, Mr. KD came to the store with me.  I asked him to grab some apples and oranges, while I was grabbing the veggies.  When we got home, I noticed that both of the fruits were grown in a foreign country.  I mentioned this to Mr. KD, who shrugged and said, “Sorry, babe.  I just grabbed what I saw.  Plus, I know you like navel oranges.” 

He’s right.  I do like navel oranges, but not enough that I would choose them over an orange grown in Florida. 

Mr. KD portrays the average shopper’s attitude toward food.  We know what we like, we find it, we grab it, we buy it, we eat it.  Without getting preachy, can’t we at least agree that there’s something wrong with a foreign apple being sold IN THE PEAK of apple season in New England?

I not only want to support my local farms, but I also want to sustain my health.  Fruits and vegetables are perishable.  When they come from so far away, we are either not receiving the freshest products or products that have been picked before ripeness and brought to ripeness by gas (I’m not sure of the specifics on this, but this does happen). 

Wouldn’t it simply be easier to offer a lesser variety of options and only offer local foods?  At the very least, the food we’re eating should be DOMESTIC. 

But, we’re spoiled.  We’re now used to eating tomatoes in January when it is not their season.  Similarly, we eat apples in July. 

I have even noticed that the fish counter is affected by this, too.  The last time I bought fish, I noticed that I could purchase haddock caught in the US or mahi mahi caught in Iceland.  Why even offer the mahi mahi?  While I enjoy both types, they are so similar.  Why do we need five different options of white fish?  We don’t.  We only think we do.

We’d be better off going back to a more simplistic view of food.  We should cook with what is in season. We’d appreciate it a lot more this way.

Too Much Variety

Anyone that knows me will tell you that I get overwhelmed by certain, little things in life.  Well, there are three more things you can add to this list: the cereal aisle, the bread aisle and the yogurt section.  While someone else might enjoy the fact that he/she is offered 25 different types of bread, I hate it.  It’s overwhelming.  Just when I think I’ve found bread I can feel good about, there is another on the shelf within the next week that claims to have better health benefits.

Cereal is even worse.  How can the average shopper be expected to make the best choice for health in this aisle?  Are Wheaties better than Raisin Bran?  Are Cheerios better than Kashi Smart Start?  It’s insane!  Who has the time to read ingredients lists of all those boxes (assuming the shopper is educated enough to do so)?!?  I sure as heck don’t, which is why I always buy the same ol’ cereal time and time again.

[Side Note: I REALLY like the Uncle Sam’s cereal I picked up.  It reminds me of whole Grain Rice Krispies.  It’s not sweetened and quite plain (in a good way).  It’s perfect with sliced banana and cold milk.  The cereal even contains flaxseed, which adds a fun crunch!  The best part is that it stays crunchy the entire time!  It’s definitely a winner in my book.]

Yogurt is the same.  There’s yogurt for kids, for digestive health, for extra protein, etc, etc, etc.  Who wants to be exhausted by the refrigerated section of the store?!?  How the HECK are we supposed to know what’s best?  It’s frustrating.

Hidden Ingredients

Okay, ingredients are never really hidden considering we can read the labels for ourselves.  But, I’m sick and tired of products pretending to be healthy when they’re anything but.

Didn’t you know the Lucky Charms are healthy because they contain whole grains?  Who cares if they contain Red 40?!?  Those pesky colors you see on boxes used to be derived from coal tar and are now derived from petroleum.  But, don’t worry about that because they contain WHOLE GRAINS!

It’s the same with yogurt.  You would think it’s healthy, but most brands on the shelf contain high fructose corn syrup.  Do I think eating certain products that contain HFCS is the end of the world?  No.  But, yogurt is generally a food that’s consumed on a weekly basis.  When it’s consumed that regularly, I think it’s something that deserves mentioning.  There are so many yogurts that contain minimally added sugars (other than those found naturally from the lactose).  Why even put the ones with HFCS on the shelves?

In Summary

I understand that money drives all things.  I also understand that there are political aspects to food, whether it be through the manufacturers, suppliers or ingredients.  I understand that certain farmers receive subsidies because they manufacture certain products.  But, I also understand that there are complications to the industry that I haven’t even scratched the surface of yet.

I’m not indicating things can be fixed quickly.

Nor am I indicating that I watch every morsel of food that goes into my mouth and then FREAK OUT when it contains something iffy.  In my opinion, life is entirely too short.  I made stuffed mushrooms the other day that contained Stovetop stuffing, which happened to contain HFCS or partially hydrogenated oils.  I honestly can’t remember which.  Maybe it was both!  Either way, I wasn’t about to make my own stuffing at the last minute so I went with it.  And, I DEVOURED the mushrooms because they were so tasty.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat (although I admit I might make my own stuffing if given adequate time).

As a consumer, I’m simply voicing that it’s frustrating.  The grocery store shouldn’t be a place where things are in “code” and consumers are left confused.  It should be straightforward.  It isn’t.  Frankly, it makes me sad.

Breakfast

In case you’re new to the blog, I have recently started taking Van’s waffles with me to work for one of the better breakfasts I’ve had in a long time.

It begins as a smiley face with a peanut butter unibrow :wink:

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…and turns into this: Half is topped with mashed banana, while the other half is topped with peanut butter.  Both sides are then drizzled in honey and topped with cinnamon.  So delicious.

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Lunch

Ham and laughing cow on a deli thin with mustard.  I also added some mixed greens.  I know it’s not a full serving, but anything is better than nothing.  Right?

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Popchips

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Carrots

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Snacks

Orange

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Chobani with Uncle Sam’s for mixing

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Dinner

Leftovers!!

My heart swoons for lasagna

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And ranch dressing that’s healthy!

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Question: What’s the most frustrating thing you’ve noticed at the grocery store lately?

While I didn’t mention it, the cost of (healthy) food is my # 1 complaint. 



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9 responses

15 09 2010
eatmovewrite

Yes, everytime I got to Whole Foods, I feel frustrated. No wonder America’s working class can’t feed their children from stores like that. How in the world could they ever afford it?! That’s irritating.

15 09 2010
Kara @ MyWellnest

I totally agree with you on the bread aisle! Borderline overwhelming. I now buy bread at Costco, less options, better prices.

I really don’t like buying produce from other countries and I hate when it’s mid winter and all the fruit looks blah.

15 09 2010
Ellen@FirednFabulous

Ohh your breakfast looks yummy! And you made some great points…I learned a lot. Admittedly, I don’t pay enough to what I’m grabbing at the store. I used to get overwhelmed with cereal choices too, but so many “healthy” ones didn’t in fact seem to be all that healthy. Now, I get Cheerios almost every single time because I always enjoy it and it takes out the guesswork for me!

15 09 2010
Betsy

You make some really great points here and I agree with you! Another thing that irritates me at grocery stores us wasteful packaging!

Side note: there was sn ad for HFCS on your blog when I opened the page, weird!!!

15 09 2010
Jessica

I am glad to hear you liked the cereal. I’ve seen it in the grocery store before, but had never bought it. I completely agree that it makes me furious in the store when healthy foods are so expensive!

16 09 2010
Lauren

This frustrates me too! Even beyond having way too much variety and being able to find whatever we want, whenever we want it, is the huge issue of confusion. In the past, I have spent a long time in the grocery store actually reading labels and trying to decode the health claims. It’s not easy!! And the average consumer does not have time (or probably even the desire!) to do this. They see a box of Lucky Charms with that stupid check-mark on it to mean that it’s “healthy” and made with “whole grains” and they think they’re making a good choice for their children. Companies thrive off misinformation. And the cost issue is pretty big too. When you’re on a budget, the sacrifices that must be made are usually the ones that are worse for your health. It’s cheaper to buy a liter of soda or Hawaiian punch than it is to buy milk (of even many fruits and veggies). It’s really sad. I don’t think it’s going to change until we have a fundamental shift in our culture. We need to start placing more value on clear information for consumers, cheaper prices on fruits and veggies (and other healthy foods)…and of course the local foods.

Anyway, that’s my rant for the morning. I think your breakfast waffles are a great idea!

16 09 2010
Katie @ Health for the Whole Self

You make some really excellent points. I am frustrated by all of it – the apathy about buying local, the overwhelming amount of choice that we don’t need, the ridiculous prices for the healthy stuff. The problem is that it’s not an individual problem; it’s an institutional, structural one. It requires a change much bigger than individual behavior, which is tough to bring about! But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!

16 09 2010
Stephanie @ The Cookie Battle

I never ever ever linger in the cereal aisle. I am easily overwhelmed as well (going to BJ’s or Costco make my head spin and I start to hyperventilate). Usually with things like that, I know exactly what I want when I enter the aisle, head straight for it, and then get on out.

I agree HFCS is fine in moderation, just like everything else, but it is frustrating how marketing makes junk food seem “healthy” when it’s really not. “Contains whole grains” can mean 1% of the box is whole and the other 99% is processed.

Why can’t the grocery store be simpler?

17 09 2010
Ashley

You’ve inspired me. I was at Costco last night & had my hot little hands on some Pink Lady apples until I realized that they were from South Africa so I dropped them like hot potatoes and went for the DOMESTIC California Gala apples! Sorry – gotta do the Costco shop for our big family! :) BUT – still – you’ve inspired me!!! I’ll never go for the foreign grown again! And…I’m trying to find some good farmer’s markets in my area too :) Thank you!!!

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