Why A Dietitian’s Primary Grocery Store Is Not Whole Foods

by Brooke on August 5, 2014

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I find it very interesting that a lot of clients, family members, friends, and even strangers tell me that they shop at Whole Foods as if they are trying to get approval from me and for me to validate the fact that they are healthy.  The funny thing is when someone tells me that they shop at Whole Foods I don’t view that as anymore positive than if they would have said that they shopped at another grocery store chain.  The choice to shop at Whole Foods alone doesn’t make someone more healthy.

In fact, Whole Foods is not even my primary grocery store.  It is a fun place and makes me feel like I am grocery shopping in Disneyland.  However, when I go to Whole Foods to shop I treat the experience similar to eating out for the night.  I don’t think of it as buying healthier food options for numerous reasons.

Whole foods still sells chips, soda, sweets, and other treats.  Buying these types of items at Whole Foods doesn’t make them healthier.  They still contain sugar, fat, and salt.  Even if the product states that it is  “natural” that doesn’t mean anything.  This word “natural” sounds like it would be something that is healthier for you, but the term is without written guidelines within the law and the policies issued by each governing body (FDA, USDA) and thus, are very vague.

Organic produce is not the answer to your health prayers.  The most important thing is to practice eating a variety of fruits and vegetables daily and not worry about the farming method until you have incorporated this behavior into your daily lifestyle.  Want to find out if you are consuming enough fruits and vegetables daily?  Check out this Fruits and Vegetables Calculator on the Centers for Disease and Control Website.  There have been numerous studies showing that there is a lack of significant scientific data proving that organic produce is healthier than conventionally grown:  Study 1, Study 2, Study 3However, recent a study in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that organic crops may  have higher concentrations of antioxidants, lower concentrations cadmium, and a lower incidence of pesticide residues.  More research is needed, because this evidence doesn’t provide any supporting data that shows how consuming more antioxidants increases overall health.  The study was also funded by an organic farm, so the results of a study may be biased.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with consuming food based on taste!  Summer Porter, a Registered Dietitian and PhD candidate at the University of Illinois in Chicago, stated that, “If you were privileged enough to grow up on or near a farm you can tell the difference between industrial and non industrial milk, eggs, meat, and produce. Sometimes organic is non industrial and sometimes it’s not.”

You don’t have to shop at Whole Foods to buy “whole foods.”  It is just as healthy to go to another grocery store to purchase your fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.   By definition a whole food is that, which is in its “natural” state and stills contains all its intact vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.  A whole food is considered as such regardless of its organic or non-organic status.  It is easier to find whole foods when shopping the perimeter of a grocery store.  For example, fresh green beans and grapes can be found in the produce section compared to canned green beans and grape juice located in one of the center aisles.  However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find whole foods like brown rice in the center of a grocery store.

One of the benefits of shopping at a Farmer’s Market over a chain grocery store is the abundance of local produce!  Browsing Whole Foods, I found that much of their produce is shipped across the country.  In my opinion, I’d rather have a fun adventure exploring a Farmer’s Market.  I am always excited when I go shopping at local farmers’ markets.  It is so much fun meeting people that helped plant, fertilize, grow, and pick my food!  Here is a previous blog post I wrote about one of my favorite Chicago farmers’ markets – “Fall Into Farmers’ Markets.”



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