10 Common Groceries I Never Buy

by | Mar 7, 2009

In general I would say I eat pretty normal food. Admittedly the fruits and vegetables I buy are extraordinary (thank you San Francisco), but they are still just plants that grow out of the dirt in California. I realized recently that what is truly unusual about my diet are the groceries I do not buy.

10 Groceries I Never Buy

(and why I think there are better things to spend my money on)

  1. Sliced bread. Sure my grandparents think it is the greatest invention of all time (literally), but I would argue that the fluffy loaves that come in plastic bags at the market can barely be considered food. Don’t believe me? Check the ingredients list. If you don’t fall asleep by the time you get to the bottom, try pronouncing some of those words in the middle. Exthoxylated…wuh?
  2. Fruit yogurts. It is generally accepted without question that yogurt is good for you. That may be the case for old-fashioned plain yogurt (though I am still not convinced), but I guarantee you those sugary yogurts that take up the bulk of the dairy case do not qualify as health food. 15 grams of sugar is my cut off before a food transitions to dessert. Look before you eat.
  3. Iceberg or romaine lettuce. Besides being colorless and flavorless, these boring greens add little (zero?) nutrition to your life. Instead I buy the colorful, loose spring mixes that come in bags, boxes or bulk bins at the grocery store and farmers market. If you prefer to stick with one kind of salad green at a time, try green or red leafed lettuce. Mix it up occasionally with cabbage or radicchio.
  4. Corn-fed beef. As I have explained before, I love beef (even though I don’t eat much of it). When I decide it is worth the indulgence, I go straight for the gourmet grass-fed kind. Why? Cows were never meant to eat corn (industrial cows have been bred to do it), and those that do are sicker and less nutritious than cows that are pastured. Moreover, the factories that process this sub-par beef are likely to be huge, unsanitary and foster E. Coli outbreaks. Thanks, but I’ll pass.
  5. Soda. There was a time in my life when I drank quarts of Diet Coke a day. But since I started focusing on my health I gave it up and never looked back. Even natural sodas add very little to your quality of life. And if they contain full sugar, your life may even be shortened. When I’m thirsty I drink water.
  6. Pancake or brownie mixes. I am not immune from the occasional pancake or brownie craving (and sometimes my friends demand these of me!). So if it is a special occasion, why bother with the boxed stuff? Both these goodies are easy to make from scratch and worth a little extra time in the kitchen to make them spectacular! Isn’t that what indulgence is all about?
  7. Winter tomatoes. Need I say more? There is no room in my life (usually) for an inadequate tomato. Canned tomatoes are a better option during the spring and winter.
  8. Juice. Even 100% fresh squeezed juice is dangerous for your blood sugar and insulin levels (not to mention your BMI). If I decide to try some, I consume less than 8 oz. You can probably guess what I think about the phony 10% juice products from concentrate (see point #5).
  9. Deli meats. On the surface these purportedly lean meats seem to be healthy. But under the surface they are packed with salts, sugars and nitrates. For a quick protein fix, try canned salmon (boneless, skinless), sardines or lox.
  10. Cheese that comes in plastic. Similar to beef, I indulge in cheese so infrequently that I prefer to go straight to Cowgirl Creamery for the good stuff! My recent favorite is called Midnight Moon.
  • What popular items don’t you buy?
  • Have any questions about other common items in your shopping cart?
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36 Responses to “10 Common Groceries I Never Buy”

  1. Scott says:

    “…..they are still just plants that grow out of the dirt in California….”This is one of the coolest and most profound things about farmers markets and neo-nutrition. We’ve gone back to the lowest common denominator, seeds/plants/dirt that is the crux of health. I like you as champion neo-nutrition, Darya!

  2. Doug says:

    What’s “Natural Soda?” As a non-food grocery item, you can generally replace most industrial cleaning products with white vinegar.

  3. Darya Pino says:

    @ScottThanks!! I’ve never heard of neo-nutrition, but I like it! That’s what we need, something totally new.—–@DougI was thinking of Hansen’s soda that my mom made me drink as a kid, but there are others.

  4. Michelle says:

    Great post idea. I just posted about grocery shopping actually but I like your take on it!I never, ever buy:-cake or brownie mixes-energy drinks of any kind-those refrigerated Pillsbury biscuit tubes-all the things on your list!:-)

  5. Dinneen - Eat Without Guilt says:

    Great list! I must say, I never buy those things either. I make my own yogurt, make my own pancake mix (it's SO easy), lettuce is meant to be green, deli meats are a heart attack in waiting, and I avoid soda (except for the occasional "indulgence").I too used to drink a ton of diet soda. Once I got off it, my skin got better, my hair & nails healthier, and had much more energy. Amazing that so many people buy (and EAT) these items on a DAILY basis. One of the many problems with the Standard American Diet.Thanks Darya for your list. Good to know I'm not alone!!

  6. Cindy says:

    What a great post. I never buy frozen anything (except veggies), shredded cheese – or any other “convenience” food – microwave popcorn, breakfast cereal, or margarine. I cook my own meals, shred my own cheese, cook popcorn on the stove, eat eggs or oatmeal, and put real butter on my homemade bread. Simple foods are the key to good health!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Blaming it on your mom?! All kids love soda, and moms love to make kids happy……

    • m says:

      my daughter has never tried pop and does not desire it at all. i think the trick is to keep them from trying it, and if they do, stick to your guns.

  8. NB says:

    The sound of “post-modern nutrition” rings a little better than neonutrition. “Neo” is so passé. And for those who are as dying to know as I am, Ethoxylated is past tense for ethoxylation, which is a chemical process in which ethylene oxide (IUPAC name: 1,2-epoxyethane) is added to fatty acids in order to make them more soluble in water. An example is the ethoxylation of sodium dodecyl sulfate to form sodium laureth sulfate, which is used as a foaming agent in shampoos and toothpastes, and as an industrial detergent.True Story.

  9. Darya Pino says:

    @AnonI’m not blaming my mom. She at least tried to protect me from Coca-Cola. But she was duped into believing that “natural” was better, and I think that is debatable.—–@NBThanks 😉

  10. Nate @ Money Young says:

    Darya,I love this post. It has gotten me thinking about my grocery shopping habits.Nice points for the deli meats. I still haven’t found canned salmon, but I’m not really looking hard either. I want to though!And I don’t agree with the Juice. I drink TONS of OJ and a little bit of AJ. Would you prefer to liquify your own apples and oranges?-Nate

  11. Travis Saunders, MSc says:

    As usual, great post. I agree especially about the winter tomatoes – we had several last week that tasted like cold mashed potatoes. Blech.One question – why no cheese from plastic?

  12. Darya Pino says:

    @NateThank you, I hope to inspire!!Canned salmon can be tricky (and kinda gross), so be careful. Make sure it is skinless and boneless or you may encounter some unpleasant spinal cord action. Yuck!As for juice, if you like it go ahead have it! But it important to keep in mind that as far as your blood sugar/insulin resistance goes, it isn’t that different from soda. Blending your own would be fine if you didn’t filter it. Otherwise it doesn’t really matter.—–@TravisRegarding cheese, I have 2 objections to the kind in plastic. First, the taste. I admit I’m a food snob and prefer artisan cheeses. Second is the same as the bread. That industrial cheese is filled with weird ingredients that do God knows what in your body. If you can find a cheese in plastic that is really cheese (rather than a cheese-like substance), that’s great! Check the ingredients for ANYTHING that comes in plastic.

  13. Katie says:

    Thanks for the list, Darya! Its always fun to peek into the eating habits of someone really healthy; I think a lot of people lie or exagerate their habits when you talk to them, but your 10 groceries make sense. This was a good article idea; I guess I wouldn’t mind seeing something about the top 10 things that you do buy.

  14. Darya Pino says:

    @KatieHere’s what I always buy!

  15. Car Blog says:

    I think one can have juices, there is nothing wrong with making your own fruit juice at home.

  16. Matt Shook says:

    This is really really hard for me to come up with a list like this. I pretty much try to avoid all processed food.I never buy dairy…cows milk was intended for a small calf that needs to put on a ton of weight during its growing years…no need for me to ingest that stuff.Know why they call it “Thousand Island” dressing? Because it has a thousand ingredients in it…I avoid all those. Especially “Ranch”, it is the bane of my existence. There are a ton a great do-it-yourself recipes for awesome dressings…No bagged salad…there is a ton of nasty germs in those things…even if they’re quadruple-washed.No cookies, crackers, and other bread-like items that a gazillion preservatives and artificial flavorings/colorings in them.No ice cream, or any processed frozen items…the only frozen stuff I buy is organic blueberries and strawberries.No flesh of any kind…if I want cow, chicken, or salmon I’d prefer to kill it and prepare it myself…but I haven’t had the urge to yet. 😉

    • Karli F. says:

      Can you recommend any good do-it-yourself dressings? Ranch is my weakness. I am just learning to cook and ranch is my solution to a less than par meal.

  17. David Gans says:

    It’s a great list, Darya, although my wife shuddered a bit on the “Romaine lettuce” item due to her upbringing (Italian on both sides, reared in New Jersey).

    We buy sliced multigrain bread at the Farmers’ Market. Michael Pollan got me seriously into “simpler is better” re ingredients lists, and once I started reading those plastic-wrapped loaves I realized I was better off sticking with the local bakeries for every bit of the bread we eat.

    • Darya Pino says:

      Oh, I have no problem with real romaine lettuce from the farmers market. You know, the kind with flavor. But it is one of the mass produced crops these days and I always order my salads (probably industrial when from restaurants) with mixed greens instead.

  18. Kate says:

    As gross as it may be, canned salmon with skin and bones is actually nutritionally superior to the skinless/boneless variety. A lot of the Omega action comes from the skin, and there’s calcium in the bones. Just shut your eyes!

  19. Lynn says:

    So if the bagged bread at the store isn’t good for us but we don’t own a grain mill and buy our grain in bulk…. what should we do?

    • Darya Pino says:

      Great question! I only buy artisan breads from bakeries or the bakery section of grocery stores. They keep surprisingly well in the freezer, so when I get it home I use whatever I need when fresh then cut the rest into single servings, throw it into freezer bags and stick it in the freezer. It stays good a few months 🙂

      Keep in mind any bread isn’t super healthy, but at least you aren’t getting all the weird preservatives and dough conditioners with artisan breads. Moderate portions of this stuff is totally fine.

      • Roo says:

        I just purchased a bread machine for $4 at a local thrift store and OMS, will never go back to store bought bread again! Whole wheat? Fantastic! Pizza bread? Excellent! Peaches & Cream bread? Out of this world! Next up? Cracked black pepper and parmesan bread is on the menu for today! Plus, I know what is inside every single loaf!

  20. Annette says:

    I’ve been thinking about how great this post was and wanted to revisit regarding the 15 gram cut off for fruit yogurts or anything else for that matter. There is allot of great information in this article. I am happy to suggest this website for all my friends who care about what they eat. Thanks for all your hard work!!

    • Darya Pino says:

      Awesome! I got the 15 g recommendation from Marion Nestle in her book What To Eat. Feel free to shoot me any questions you have finding your healthstyle.

  21. rrr says:

    Frankly Ms. Pino your advice regarding food is rather debatable. No offense lady, but Alot of the stuff you recommend for sustenance is not only unappetizing, but gross-Sardines? I don’t think so. And I am not about to give up drinking Diet Coke on occasion. As for drinking water, alot of the water out there tastes like crap, and that includes alot of bottled water. You are entitled to your opinion, but I disagree with you alot of the time.

  22. m says:

    thanks for the list! i’m pretty happy that already follow the same regimen, though out of the items you mention, i totally can’t give up the brownie mix for some reason….(yet).

  23. Dorothy Ratigan says:

    At age 69, health is important. There is always something new to learn & your site brings it to every age group. Thank you. My personal lifestyle also consists of never eating anything with “ose” on the end of the word. Herbs & spices are a must. I enjoy reading your hints & the hints of those who post. Keep them coming and may we all live bountifully.

  24. Caroline says:

    I try to avoid all the food you mentioned above and I also try to avoid GMO food.(that´s the biggest challenge !)You don´t write much about that topic.

  25. Mig says:

    Deli meats that are (heavily) processed are clearly less nutritious than say whole cuts of turkey, ham, etc. However, as a necessary counterpoint- that is also tied in with the lowering of juice intake- eating deli meats that are high in salt and in nitrites, that can turn into carcinogens like nitrosamines, can be avoided by an intake of your daily recommended amount of vitamin C that greatly reduces the harm caused by the nitrites. Also, many deli meats that are available now are nitrite free, reduced sodium and minimally processed. Although we can view these marketing slogans as propaganda, it is important to state the health benefits of a high-protein low-fat diet.

    And with fruit juice, well as an obvious fact, it provides the same antioxidants that real fruits provide (note: sometimes in the same quantity). Then, you can argue in the process of pasteurization and other processing you lose natural sources of fiber. Remember though, that even food in the grocery store some “natural” products (lettuce) are not as clean as fruit juice. Juice isn’t pesticide infused.

    I am not supporting anti-farmers markets, but when you look at a product I am simply requesting everyone look at both constituents. There is always going to be a certain personal cultural belief towards food and ones diet. Should we not consider other perspectives as well?

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