Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Where to Buy Healthier Food

When I discuss the benefits of eating food devoid of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides with my clients, many often ask me where they can buy such products. A lot of people think these foods are specialty items only available at farmers markets or high-end food stores. Thankfully, this is not the case.

In the past several years, more and more conventional supermarkets are starting to provide consumers with healthier food choices. Specifically, I’m more concerned with fresh meats and dairy than packaged goods, since the packaged items have their ingredients listed. (As I detailed in my post about mayonnaise, there is a lot of unpronounceable stuff added to packaged foods, which should be avoided.)

I was in Florida last month, and, curious about the choices available, I ventured into a Publix supermarket. I was pleasantly surprised by the better options available.

In the butter section, Publix was offering the standard American brands, including Land O’Lakes ($1.05 per stick). Also available were two European butters that are better options, considering both are free of the hormones, antibiotics and pesticides found in Land O’Lakes. Kerrygold (an Irish butter) and Lurpak (Danish) were priced at $1.80 per stick and have the added benefit of being made from milk from grass-fed cows.

(Do understand, however, that information about what the cows are eating and how the butter is produced is not printed on the butter packages. A little research is necessary, so I visited the Kerrygold and Lurpak websites. Both described in detail the health benefits of their butters, plus the grazing habits of their cows. No such information could be found on the Land O’Lakes site.)

For eggs, a dozen conventional eggs cost $2. Also available were eggs from chickens that contained “no drugs, antibiotics, or animal by-products.” Trust me, you would quickly pay the extra $1 per dozen if you knew the toxicity of conventional eggs produced on commercial poultry farms.

Publix has created its own label of healthier food items, and these GreenWise products are prominently displayed. GreenWise beef, chicken and pork contain no antibiotics or hormones, unlike their conventional counterparts.

The price difference can be steep, however, especially for more expensive cuts. Cheaper alternatives, like ground beef, may be a better option if price is a concern. GreenWise ground beef was $5.49 per pound, compared to $3.99 per pound for ground beef laden with hormones, antibiotics and pesticides.

As for sausage, bacon and frankfurters, Publix offered several brands--Niman Ranch, Aidells, Maverick Ranch and Applegate Farms--that advertise their health benefits on their products’ packages. To further aid customers, Publix had placed handwritten signs (“NO NITRITE,” “NO ANTIBIOTICS,” etc.) on the shelves.

Granted, Oscar Mayer “Naturally Hardwood Smoked Bacon” was available for those wanting their bacon cured with water, salt, sugar, sodium phosphates, sodium ascorbate and sodium nitrite.

Thanks, but I’ll pass.

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