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How to Shop Smarter at Whole Foods

Most people’s relationship status with Whole Foods would definitely be, “It’s complicated.” A lot of people have a love/hate relationship with grocer. It’s pay more for organic, natural, and in some cases, sustainable food’s model can be hard for people to swallow; myself included at times. I however have a love/love relationship with Whole Foods. Yes you do have to mentally prepare yourself to spend a decent chunk of change when you walk through its doors, but you are purchasing quality when you do so. You just need to know what to buy, and what to avoid to get the most out of your relationship with Whole Foods.

Since Whole Foods opened its doors in Vancouver I’ve had many people come to me raving about all the wonderful things that they have purchased at the store. However in quite a few of those cases the praises are typically followed by expressions of disappointment; as most are unhappy that they’re still not losing weight despite their new organic “whole food” diet. While Whole Foods’ shelves are stalked with many incredible products, there are still items residing on those same shelves that are not good for you. To help you get the most out of your next Whole Foods experience, here is your roadmap to navigating the organic grocery store’s aisles.


Foods & ingredients to avoid at Whole Foods


1. Sugar

Just because it’s organic and sold at Whole Foods, does not change the fact that sugar—in high doses—is not good for you. It’s the leading cause of weight gain, is directly linked to diabetes, and a number of other diseases. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, (like I do) satisfy your cravings with natural sugars like honey, maple syrup (the real stuff) and coconut sugar, and avoid sugars and sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, Splenda and cane sugar. Check out this post for more on that sweet stuff you love.

2. Baked Goods

The baked goods at Whole Foods are delicious, and admittedly, very hard to avoid. But if you’re trying to lose weight or are just watching your calorie intake, you need to stay away from this department. Despite the fact that Whole Foods’ bakes all of their own goods from scratch—a step-up from most big name grocery stores—they still contain loads of sugar, flour and other fillers; which will contribute to weight gain, and/or slow down the weight loss process. If you have a craving for something baked and are not in the mood to hit your kitchen, by all means grab something from Whole Foods. Just be mindful of how much of these products you are eating. If you are trying to lose weight or be healthier, baked goods should not be a staple in your diet.

3. Ingredients that you can’t pronounce

Organic doesn’t always mean good for you. Just because a product says organic, raw, non-GMO etc. on the packaging, does not mean it’s free of less than good for you ingredients. The bottom line is that you need to be prepared to read the label of any product that you pick from the shelves of Whole Foods, and avoid foods that contain ingredients that you can’t pronounce—as they’re typically not good for you. Whole Foods does make a conscience effort to stalk a limited number of chemical-ridden products—making them better than most grocery stores—but they can still be found. Take natural tea for example. Whole Foods’ stalks many wonderful tea varieties, but most contain “natural flavours;” which could literally be anything. Check out this post for more on reading the label and arm yourself with education before you hit any grocery store.


Foods to stalk up on at Whole Foods

1. Grass fed animal products

These are the items that make Whole Foods’ special, and why I don’t mind paying more at the checkout. Grass fed milk, butter and meat comes with a host of benefits. It’s typically leaner than it’s grain fed counterpart, higher in omega 3s, and contains more vitamin E, beta-carotene and vitamin C. One of the nicest things about Whole Foods is their meat ranking system. Whole Foods’ ranks their meat from 2-4, 4 being best. I recommend that you always choose 4.

2. Organic whole grain products

This includes items like spelt tortillas, corn tortillas, some cereals, crackers and breads. One of my favourite brands at Whole Foods is 365. Most of the grain products that are marked with this label are whole, and contain next to no filler. They’re also cheaper than some of the other labels found on the grocer’s shelves. A massive bonus if you’re on a budget like me.

3. Gluten-Free products

If you’re following a gluten-free diet, as I am, you know that it can often be hard to find products that taste good—let alone, are good for you. Whole Foods is a great source for gluten-free items that are actually healthy. There are a number of brands that have jumped into the gluten-free arena in hopes of capitalizing on this growing dietary restriction—most packed full of not so good for you ingredients designed to mimic the fluffiness of the baked goods we love and miss. Avoid these products like they’re the plague. Especially if you are gluten-free and trying to lose weight and/or cut calories. Instead head to Whole Foods—or any other organic grocer that you love—and look for “whole grain” products with limited ingredients. One brand carried at Whole Foods that I love is GluteNull. This Vancouver-based bakery produces premium quality, non-GMO breads, granolas and muffins that are wholesome and tasty. Check them out if you haven’t already.

4. Burritos

If you’re hungry and are looking for a healthy cheap meal Whole Foods can be your place, if you know what to buy. Whole Foods’ burrito bar is great. They prepare fresh-to-order burritos and burrito bowls (my personal favourite) which are loaded with organic ingredients you won’t feel bad to eat. The best part? They’re under $10.
Before I sign off I wanted to give you some tips on how to save money at Whole Foods so that you don’t have to break the bank when you shop there. As I’m sure you’ve gathered from this post, I am a huge fan of the grocer, and support it in any way that I can. So when I do make it over to one (I live in Tsawwassen, so that’s not always easy) I love that I can upgrade my meat, pick-up some healthy tortilla wraps for my kids, and find many organic products that I don’t usually have access to. But I do so on a budget. Here’s how you can avoid a costly bill at Whole Foods.

Tips for saving money at Whole Foods

1. Only buy what you need

Easier said than done but, make a list before you go and stick to it! You’ll be glad that you did when you reach the checkout.

2. Check local deals online

Visiting Whole Foods’ website before you head to the store is a fantastic way to find deals. To save even more money, grab a free copy of The Whole Deal as soon as you enter any Whole Foods Market. It’s full of coupons that will help you save even more at the till.

3. Follow Whole Foods on social media

Like most businesses, Whole Foods shares exclusive deals with their social media following via their social channels, (i.e. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter). So follow them and reap the rewards! Here are the social channels for Whole Foods Vancouver locations:

4. Stick with value products

House brands like 365 (which I mentioned above) are fantastic buys at Whole Foods. They’re usually cheaper than other brands carried at Whole Foods, and full of the same healthy ingredients.

5. Start in the bulk section

The bulk section is usually located in one of the corners of the store. As soon as you enter, go directly to bulk and buy what you can from your shopping list there. The prices are usually great compared to prepackaged versions of the same food, and you can buy exactly as much as you need.

6. Bring back your glass milk containers

If you buy your milk at Whole Foods, bring the containers back. The deposit fee can be up to $3. So make absolutely sure that you don’t toss the empty container into your recycling bin—instead bring it back next time you go to Whole Foods, and they’ll give you a voucher at customer service.

7. Don’t put heavy items in your salad

Just don’t. I know, hard boiled eggs are delicious in a spinach salad, but your salad is being weighed and those eggs are expensive as hell. Other items to avoid at the salad bar: beans, bulky vegetables like broccoli, etc.

8. Don’t shop hungry

This goes for all grocery shopping. Hungry shoppers are spendy shoppers 😉



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