Grocery shopping is like going on a date: you don’t know what you are walking into, but you open yourself to one of the most intimate relationships possible. Foods, much like people, feed our inner and outer selves, by tickling our emotions, making our heart swell, and causing our brains to be engulfed by the high tide of love. However, before we get to the point of bliss, we venture in to a territory full of unknowns. We swallow the fact that we don’t really know where the foods (or person) are coming from, understand what they contain, or even comprehend the magnitude of how they impact our health. Yet, in a short whirlwind, we find ourselves having to make up to hundreds of decisions in the labyrinth of aisles lined with potential food suitors that will eventually change our lives.
Trying to make sense of the food supply as well as dating is no small feat: it’s more than most of us care to digest. And in the flurry of busy days, who has time to study the different brands, ingredients, and nutrition of the thousands of food and choices we can be confronted with on a daily basis? It’s near impossible. Here are some quick tips to give you a checklist of what to look for when you set your next date to venture into a relationship with foods or a person:
1. Go naked – Check the extent to which a food reveals its true self: gauge your selection by how much of the food you see compared with its dressings. If you see more plastic, Styrofoam, cardboard, and metal than food, there are probably too many layers to have to unravel to truly know what you are getting into, which is not unlike meeting a woman caked with too much make-up or a man whose identity rests on the laurels of his status and accumulation of possessions. Stick to “naked foods”, or foods without casings, as that is a sign that it probably hasn’t gone through extensive processing. For example, think fresh fruits, vegetables, and bulk foods like whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These foods are typically found along the perimeter of a store, so jog the outskirts with your cart and stay away from getting lost in the “guts” of the store where you’ll find more of the “dressed up” foods.
2. Speak the language of love –If you happen to be lured by one of those foods who disguise themselves in a box, can, or bag, help yourself translate what you’re getting into by scanning the Nutrition Facts label. After all, if you meet a person who makes you cringe when they speak, you probably won’t want to date them. Under the list of ingredients, you may see a novella or simple poem of items which may make you shudder or fall head over heels. Whatever the case, make sure that you can recognize most ingredients and ensure that they “speak to you”. For example, “Water, beans, and salt” makes a lot more sense than “potassium metabisulfite, monosodium glutamate, and sodium nitrate”; however, this is only a crude, quick way to filter the food contents. There are some cases where simple names like “salt” or “sugar” may not be desirable, and instances where more sophisticated names may be valuable like “thiamin” (vitamin B1) and “ferrous sulfate” (iron). But all in all, check whether you two are speaking the same language!
3. Look for “true colors” – A person who lacks personality won’t be someone you’d want to be around. For foods as well as people, lots of colors are a good indicator of a spectrum of “dating” potential, as long as those colors are not of the pretentious, artificial variety such as FD&C Yellow No. 5 or FD&C Blue No. 2. Let your eyes be allured by the sensuous array of natural colors: steamy reds like tomatoes and red bell peppers, playful oranges such as carrots and squash, sultry yellows like corn cobs and lemons, luscious greens found in broccoli and spinach, and mysterious blue-purples from the depths of blueberries
and eggplant. Entice yourself with this entire spectrum by visiting the produce section. In the end, the more natural colors you eat, the more attractive, healthy, and vibrant you will be!
4. Be wary of “adulteration” – Most foods have been in bed with large industries. They are loaded up with all types of ingredients that keep them preserved and attractive on store aisles, just in case no one swipes them up right away. Beware of the “fake factor” when it comes to foods and people – or those who have been around the block too many times. They can be laden with extra baggage like partially hydrogenated oils, fat substitutes, and dyes – a far cry from their true selves. If artificial colorings, flavorings, or sweeteners have made their insidious ways into a food, think twice before committing to it. “Artificial” anything suggests questionable effects in the body since these are not compounds found in nature. So avoid these cheaters at all costs! Go with foods you can trust.
5. The food “next door” – We may think that we have to travel to faraway lands to get the best of anything. We find ourselves on a continual search for the “perfect partner” when our soulmate may be as close as our backyard in our garden or in local farms. With the average food traveling 1500 miles to the plate, it’s difficult to know what has made its way into the food. Take the path of least resistance – go with foods that have local roots and that have been nurtured in the same environment that you live in. For the most part, food from your own neighborhood will be fresher, consistent with the seasons, and, as a result, more abundant in nutrients.
In the grocery stores of today, there are an overwhelming number of foods that you can take home just like the multitude of potential dating options! How do you know you are choosing the best one(s) for you? Be the smart, savvy shopper – know what you are getting into before you make your way up the (checkout) aisle. Don’t settle for foods or people that drain, strain, or pain you. Knowing your foods and lover better can help you to find a match made in heaven!
(Deanna Minich, PhD, CN, is the author of Chakra Foods for Optimum Health and An A to Z Guide to Food Additives. See her website for more information: www.foodandspirit.com.)