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Healthcare 101: Your Guide to Grocery Shopping

When it comes to your diet, good choices start at the grocery store. Understanding the importance of healthy grocery shopping allows you to make choices that will keep your body running well. Organic food, GMOs, whole foods, preservatives — these words are commonly used and often without much context. Who knows what they really mean? Do you know when they might be important and when they aren’t? Let CareSpot help you decipher the jargon and create a grocery list you can count on every time.

Does Buying Organic Really Matter?

Organic products have become a hot topic, with some advocates saying that eating organic is the key to better health while detractors argue that the label has become all but meaningless. So, is it worth it to buy “organic?”

The bottom line: it can be. In general, there are no nutritional differences between organic and conventional foods. However, organic foods reduce your exposure to pesticides that may impact health. If you are on a budget, don’t let your inability to buy all organic foods keep you from eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Instead, consult the Environmental Working Group’s“Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” foods that have the highest and lowest pesticide exposures, respectively. Prioritizing your purchases of organic versions of the “Dirty Dozen” will help you maximize your food dollars while minimizing exposure to harmful chemicals. Foods like strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers are all worth buying organic.

Understanding the Role of GMOs

For years, scientists have been genetically modifying foods to increase crop yields and improve the taste and texture of food products. GMO foods meet the same safety standards as other food groups. Some people are concerned about the potential for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to transfer modified genes to humans, increase food allergies and otherwise harm health. Although research in this area is still emerging, there is currently no strong evidence suggesting that GMO foods are less healthy than their non-GMO counterparts. Therefore, it is up to you and your health restrictions when it comes to GMOs — do the research, and make informed decisions based on your unique circumstances.

Avoid Preservatives

Many foods are heavily processed, containing preservatives and additives to enhance their freshness and flavor. Before making a purchase, scan the nutritional facts and ingredient lists on the label. If the food contains a large number of preservatives, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors or flavor additives, place it back on the shelf. A good rule of thumb is, if you can’t pronounce something on the ingredients list, it’s not good for you.

Prioritize Whole Foods

The healthiest foods are those that have been minimally processed. Whenever possible, fill your cart with fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grain products. Packaged products should be consumed in moderation. In other words… stay away from those boxes whenever possible!

Always Plan Ahead

No matter what you choose at the grocery store, one of the most important things to remember is to plan ahead. Too often, fresh fruits and vegetables languish in the refrigerator uneaten because there is no clear plan for how to use them. To help avoid this, spend a few minutes to create a quick meal plan for the week ahead. Focus on shopping for just the foods you need, and resist the temptation to add too many side items. This will help you prioritize healthy, fresh foods and avoid those that add unnecessary calories.

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