Nutritional Foundations- Making the best of the regular grocery store, Part 5
As promised, here is the continuation of yesterday's discussion of how to purchase meat, poultry and eggs from a conventional grocery store, and make the best choices possible:
Egg Beaters or any similar egg replacement: Avoid! These are basically egg whites, with some coloring and spices. Don't buy the lie that egg yolks are to be avoided. This is where the bulk of the nutrients are found in the egg! Instead, we should be looking for whole eggs with rich, dark yellow yolks, bursting with goodness!
A step above regular: Omega-3 eggs (more nutrients than regular eggs, but still kept in confinement and fed things they shouldn't be eating, like soy products)
Better: Free-range/ Cage-free/ Free-run (they get some outdoor time, so their diet includes some grass foraging and insects, though they still receive other feed which is not organic and are likely still confined much of the time)
Even Better: Organic Free-range (the above pluses, and no pesticide's in their food)
Best: Straight from the farm of a farmer you trust or the backyard of someone who raises them well. Just take a drive in the country, and you'll likely see many signs in driveways saying "Eggs for sale". Check out the living conditions, ask how they're fed. I know this isn't a grocery store option, but I just had to mention it. 🙂
Look for brands that advertise: pastured or grass fed, no animal by-products, no hormones, no antibiotics, organic feed, etc. The more of these items that are indicated, the better!
Here is a helpful website I found, called US Natural Beef. This site lists 18 different beef brands, that claim to be "natural". To find out exactly what this means, you need to visit the website of each brand and fish around a little. I've researched two of these brands to give you a bit of an idea of what they're about.
Creekstone Farms– Their natural brand of beef (they have a conventional line as well) boasts the following protocols:
- No Antibiotics – EVER!
- No Added Hormones – EVER!
- No Growth Promoting Drugs – EVER!
- No Artificial Ingredients – EVER!
- 100% Vegetarian Diet
- Sourced Verified to Ranch of Birth
- Humane Animal Handling Practices
To find out where their products are carried, you can check out this link, and see which stores in your state have Creekstone beef. I check out Washington, and this beef can be found at Haggen stores, which is a regular grocery store.
Certified Angus Beef Natural Brand– This is also distinct from their conventional brand. Their website claims that in raising this beef, there are:
Never any antibiotics. Producers ensure antibiotics are never used.
Never any hormones. Cattle are never given hormones to enhance performance or growth.
Never anything but all-natural feeds. Cattle enjoy a vegetarian diet of only top-quality grains, forages and essential nutrients – just as nature intended.
To find a store, visit this link. Make sure you look for the "Natural" brand icon, to know that the particular store you have found actually carries the natural, not just conventional brand.
These are just two examples, but there were many more on the US Natural Beef site. It may take a bit of researching and looking around, but chances are you can discover a more natural brand that is carried by one of the stores that you shop at or have access to! Though grass-fed beef from a local farmer would be the ideal, this can be a great way to compromise and do the best you can with what's available to you!
Sadly, I could not find any sites that listed poultry brands together, so it's a bit of a tougher area to really dig through. You're looking for the same types of words that I mentioned above, under Meat (no antibiotics or hormones, grass-fed, no animal by-products, etc.) Here are a few brands I did find on the web:
Smart Chicken– from what I can tell, this is a step above conventional chicken. Not a really big step, but even a small step in the right direction is a good thing! It seems as though this chicken may be available at some major retailers, but you'll need to call to find one in your area.
Petaluma Poultry– this brand carries both free-range and organic poultry, but is most likely carried at co-ops and health-food style stores. I would check their retail index, though, just to be sure.
Shelton– Same as Petaluma. Looks good, but not carried at most major retailers, unfortunately.
Since I had a hard time finding sites that offered what I was looking for (and I spent a looong time looking, which I'm sure you don't really want to do!), here's what I would recommend doing. Next time you go shopping, bring a pen and paper to the store with you, and write down all of the brands that are available to you.
Take this to your computer, and look up each brand to see if they have a website. If they are more conscientious about how they raise their poultry, they will talk about it, as they do at Smart Chicken. If they are not, and it's completely conventional, they will talk about quality and safety in vague terms and mention nothing about how their meat is raised- for an example of this, see the Lilydale site.
Beyond chicken breasts and ground beef…
Let me quickly address a few specific types of meat that you might be wondering about, in addition to the basic cuts.
Quite frankly, I would recommend not purchasing any sandwich meats at all. All deli meats like this contain preservatives, specifically sodium nitrite (which is carcinogenic). In addition, they often have corn syrup, colorings, smoke flavorings, MSG (which is linked to neurological damage), hydrolyzed proteins (which is actually a way to hide MSG in a product) and other chemical preservatives. The only sandwich meat our family eats is from a local, natural deli that doesn't use these preservatives or other ingredients (I can tell, because the meat doesn't last long in my fridge and doesn't have the strong flavor of other sandwich meats). Learn to read the ingredients, and you will see that unfortunately, there isn't much in the deli section of the store that doesn't include these sorry ingredients.
What to use instead: Cooked, sliced chicken breast or leftover turkey is perfect for sandwiches or in wraps. Another great option is cutting thin slices when you make roast beef. We also like to make salmon or chicken salad, using either canned salmon or chopped up chicken, a bit of mayo, seasonings, perhaps onions or celery. Fried eggs are actually quite good in sandwiches. Any other ideas?
Other deli meats:
Hot dogs, sausages, bacon, pizza meat, pepperoni sticks, etc. Sadly, it is all full of the ingredients I mentioned above under sandwich meats, including sodium nitrite (seriously, in everything. I can't think of an example of anything that doesn't have it). Not to mention, much of it is made of undesirable animals parts, ground up so that you have no idea what you are eating. Not particularly appetizing, is it?
What to use instead: On our pizzas, we use chopped up chicken or ground meats. For sausages, we have been able to find some more natural brands, without the preservatives and MSG. A few grocery stores are beginning to carry them, and Costco is one great place to find them (I like their natural chicken sausages a lot). There are even many recipes for making your own sausage or pepperoni (note- avoid the Morton Tenderquick salt, as it has nitrites. Use sea salt instead). If you do still want to buy these meats, make sure to read the ingredients, and stay away from the above mentioned items. Seriously, I would just avoid things like hot dogs and pepperoni. If you absolutely must, choose 100% beef hot dogs with the shortest ingredient list, and keep that and the bacon really, really minimal. Please.
Ultimately, the best choices that we can make at the local grocery store include simple, basic cuts of meat. As always, the main conclusion is to go back to whole foods, that have not been processed, altered or packaged. Food that are as close to the way that they are found in nature. These are the foods that will nourish you and your family!
Any more questions about buying meat at the store? Do you have any brand preferences or great finds to share with us? What are your thoughts on all of this?
Thanks so much for these great tips.
Meat is always the biggest issue for me at the grocery store. We have been eating a lot less of it because I can’t always afford the good stuff and have a hard time buying the bad stuff!
Thanks again for all the effort you put into these posts.
Ugh! I just bought some egg beaters last week, trying to cut back on fat. It’s funny, because I stood their reading the label and wondering if this really was a healthy option. Thanks for all the great information!
Thanks for sharing this information. I think the more we know about what we eat the better!
Thank you for the information, you sure put in a lot of work. I found some nitrate free, beef hot dogs at Costco. They taste good, and are a way to feed the family who is still so hooked on them, until I convince them otherwise.
We have a couple more in-between options here at the grocery store–chicken and eggs that are “all natural”–they’re not given hormones or antibiotics, but they’re not free range or organic.
Meats are one of the hardest for me to “go natural” with. I love hot dogs, liverwurst, and other deli meats, as well as the precooked options in the freezer section. Not that I don’t cook from scratch, which I actually mostly do, but I love throwing in the different meats to spice it up, and with the precooked options, give me a break.
You may have covered this before, so if you did, just direct me where to go. What specifically is wrong with some of the “no-no” items (nitrates, corn syrups, MSG, etc)? I’ve read references to what is unhealthy in brief statements by others and yourself but I would love to read in more detail about these ingredients that seem to be in everything.
Great post, wonderfully thorough. It really helps for someone like me, who is just beginning to sort through all the options.
I do agree that Costco has some great options, they seem to carry organic and natural items quite often.
Another option I keep hearing about, but have yet to check out is Trader Joe’s – it is not in every area, but it is basically a Aldi for health foods – one brother started Aldi, one started Trader Joe’s.
Hormel is a good brand of lunch meat that doesn’t have preservatives in it.
Yes – I get Hormel Natural ham & turkey from Walmart (it freezes well). It doesn’t have nitrates or preservatives but some turb. sugar. Our local grocery also carried Carolina All Natural Turkey (tastes like fresh sliced turkey – not slimy deli meat). These 3 are the only deli I can find. *sigh* Good meat is so hard to find …. even in farm country!
Too bad that we can’t eat bread due to wheat sensitivities! 🙂
Faith, that is a great question, about the food “no-no’s”. I haven’t posted specifically on that topic, but I will add it to my list of future posts!
Thanks everyone, for the suggestions, brands, stores, etc.!