• How to Get Healthy at the Grocery Store

    April 3, 2012

    Yesterday, I watched a really interesting episode of The Dr. Oz Show called “Dr. Oz’s Super Market Survival Guide.” It was all about learning how to save time and money while taking the guesswork out of what to buy at the grocery store. I’m semi-obsessed with meal planning and saving money at the grocery store, so I was totally into it.

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    What I liked most about the episode was the three experts (a nutritionist, a fitness trainer, and a chef), who shared their best buys to get healthy and lose weight. In fact, I found their advice so helpful (and not the usual tips and tricks you hear all of the time), I took some notes while I watched to share with you guys on CNC. Here’s what they suggest for getting healthy and saving money at the grocery store:

    • Create a weekly meal plan and shopping list to save time and money. You’re more likely to stick to your list if you enter the grocery store with a plan.
    • Eat a meal or snack before you go shopping to help eliminate impulse and unhealthy buys.
    • Half your meat and double your fish. Your goal should be to reduce your red meat consumption to once per week. The rest of the week should be 3-4 nights of fish and 3-4 nights of chicken since they’re packed with protein and omega-3s without the “negative consequences” of red meat.
    • When shopping for meat, look for “loin,” “round” and “grass-fed.” These meats tend to be the leanest, have less saturated fat, and contain more omega-3s.
    • Choose “lighter and whiter” fish, such as sole, scrod, or halibut. They’re low in fat and good for weight loss.
    • You’re wasting your money if you’re paying more for “organic” seafood. There are no “organic” labeling standards in place for seafood, so there’s no need to look for that label.
    • Aim to fill half of your grocery cart with produce, which will encourage you to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies.
    • When it comes to “leafy greens,” try bagged baby greens, which are sweeter and more tender than some of the other “mature” greens, like kale and Bok Choy, but are just as nutritious.
    • Check out the freezer aisle for great deals on frozen fruit and veggies.
    • Instead of regular potatoes, try colored varieties, such as red potatoes, purple fingerlings, and sweet potatoes, which are loaded with antioxidants. Sweet potatoes have four times the antioxidants as regular potatoes and be sure to eat the skin—that’s where you’ll find the fiber!
    • Choose whole grains straight from the earth, such as brown rice, quinoa, and amaranth.
    • Try Einkhorn, an ancient strain of wheat. “In the 1990s, scientists found Einkhorn wheat on an ancient man who had been preserved in ice for more than 5000 years, making it humankind’s first domesticated wheat. They resurrected the grain and reintroduced it to market shelves. Einkhorn wheat has fewer chromosomes on its DNA than modern wheat, making it more easily digestible for people with gluten intolerance. It’s also loaded with protein, vitamins and fiber, and it regulates your blood sugar better than other grains.” [source]

    Dinner

    Last night’s dinner was Lemon-Garlic Marinated Shrimp with Israeli couscous and cannellini beans. I cooked the shrimp and couscous separately and then mixed everything together. I finished off the dish by adding some minced garlic, Garlic Gold, salt, and pepper for some added flavor.

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    I ate this bowl plus another similar size helping. Delish!

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    For dessert: a Ginger Cookie. Mal ate my Chocolate Chip Cookie, so I was stuck with the Ginger one. Wah. Chocolate Chip Cookie > Ginger Cookie.

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    Do Something Reel Film Festival Ticket Giveaway

    Thanks to everyone who entered yesterday’s giveaway to win two tickets to the Do Something Reel Film Festival! Here’s your winner:

    Nikki

    My BF and I love watching food documentaries and have found they have made positive impacts on our nutrition the past couple of years. I also live in the fenway area so it would be a fun date night out for us!

    Congrats, Nikki! Please email me at tina@carrotsncake.com to claim your prize!

    Question of the Day

    Do you think it’s difficult to eat healthy on a budget? Why or why not? What are your tips and tricks for healthy, budget-friendly shopping at the grocery store?

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    { 60 comments… read them below or add one }

    Grace @ Healthy Dreaming April 3, 2012 at 8:01 am

    I tuned into that episode too and I loved the breakdown! I cook 99% of the time so it’s always great to get new tips or inspiration :)

    Lemon and shrimp go so well together!

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    Hope @ With A Side Of Hope April 3, 2012 at 8:04 am

    I actually have this episode saved on my DVR. I’m planning on watching it when I get home from work today. I’m glad to hear that it was informative! :)

    I love your dinner! It looks yummy.

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    ashley April 3, 2012 at 8:12 am

    I have to say, you are a better wife than I would be. I’d be furious if my husband ate my last chocolate chip cookie. :P

    I don’t think it’s hard to eat healthy on a budget just for me, but if I had a family I am sure it would be a struggle. Healthy foods tend to cost a lot more than the junk, and they also go bad more quickly, so I think a meal plan would definitely be necessary for a larger house hold!

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    Alyssa @ fit and fun in third April 3, 2012 at 8:15 am

    Great tips! I had no idea I was wasting my money on organic fish…. Good to know! I realize it’s a bit more expensive to buy organic fruits and veggies, but at this point in my life Im willing to make that a priority.

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    Claire @ Live and Love to Eat April 3, 2012 at 8:17 am

    I think there is a time and place for every cookie – I love a good, soft, ginger cookie. Good basic shopping tips!

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    CJ @ http://healthy-happy-whole.com April 3, 2012 at 8:20 am

    i really like Dr. Oz and think this is a great topic sinch food continues to increase in cost, especially if you are trying to “shop the perimetere.” I always check out weekly circulars and coupons to see which store we are going to go to that particular week, and i ALWAYS check the reduced price produce section. I dont know if every store has one, but our store has a portion of the produce aisle where they significantly mark down everything that needs to be sold quickly. they also have a similar section for meats and fresh breads, and sometimes you can find some really good buys! I found bison tenderloins for 6$ last week when they are typically about 12$. That makes for a very exciting and much more economical trip :-)

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    Tina April 3, 2012 at 8:21 am

    @CJ @ http://healthy-happy-whole.com: I {heart} the reduced produce section! :)

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    Katie @ Peace Love & Oats April 3, 2012 at 8:21 am

    I’m having a hard time eating healthy on a budget because 1) I really need to work on meal planning and 2) having to eat gluten free and soy free means some more expensive groceries, especially if I try out something new and hate it!

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    Tina April 3, 2012 at 8:22 am

    @Katie @ Peace Love & Oats: There’s soy in everything! It’s frusterating!

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    George Super BootCamps April 3, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    @Tina: There’s no soy in fruit and veg!

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    George Super BootCamps April 3, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    @George Super BootCamps: Although I wonder if there’s any soy residue in our meat (that’s fed far too much soy in their feed…)

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    Lina April 3, 2012 at 8:30 am

    I actually don’t find it hard to eat healthy on a budget since I love cooking. My big proble though is being seriously addicted to sugar and keeping myself from eating. That’s a fight every day!

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    Khushboo Thadani April 3, 2012 at 8:32 am

    If you’re going to eat only organic, special dietary foods I do think healthy eating can be difficult on a budget. However sticking to healthier whole foods as opposed to packaged bars & ready meals definitely works out cheaper: consider the price of an apple versus a cereal bar. Also while the cost of healthier foods may seem costlier now, I bet they work out cheaper than the cost of health care in the long run!

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    George Super BootCamps April 3, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    @Khushboo Thadani: I say amen to this!

    Not only do you feel better when creating your own food from this type of ingredient, but you have total control over your ingredients :)

    Reply

    The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh April 3, 2012 at 8:43 am

    I watched that too and just finished watching the DVR of it to make sure I absorbed the info and here you are breaking it down so nicely for us! Thanks!

    So jealous of your shrimp. I can never get mine to look that awesome. Any tips on how to do cooked shrimp so they don’t end up shrinking into rubbery nuggets?

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    Tina April 3, 2012 at 8:46 am

    @The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh: I just try not to overcook them. Usually, I buy frozen cooked shrimp, so I really just need to defront them and heat them up! :)

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    Jessica April 3, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Yes, I find it is difficult to eat healthy on a budget. The produce is the budget killer. I can get filled up on a 89 cent box of macaroni and cheese, an 89 cent bell pepper will not fill me up. Know what I mean? And farmers markets are just as expensive as stores in my area. I know eating healthy will be cheaper in the long run, as in that bell pepper will help my health, whereas the macaroni and cheese will not. But is sucks to blow so much of my budget on produce.

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    Molly @ RDexposed April 3, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Not a bad set of guidelines. I’ve noticed that patients then don’t know what to do with groceries though once they have them. More home ec in high school needed?

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    Serena April 3, 2012 at 8:49 am

    Thanks for sharing the info. I follow most of them already. The wheat story was really interesting I’ll have to look for it.

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    Anna O April 3, 2012 at 8:59 am

    When I was single it was too expensive, but now I’m married 2 teenage stepchildren in the house. So last year we spent allot of money on veggies so this year we decided to plant a garden. We will have all the tomatoes, cucumbers, colorful onions, and herbs we want. I’m very excited and now we will be saving $$.

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    Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife April 3, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Sounds like a pretty good set of guidelines! I agree–the freezer section has great produce often, as well!

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    Nicole April 3, 2012 at 9:08 am

    I think it’s less expensive to buy healthy, fresh food. When I grocery shop, my items (all of the produce!) cost much less than the items I’m buying for my b-f (turkey, cereal, milk, meat, cheese). In Chicago I lived near a produce market that was like a wholesaler. Everything was so inexpensive–the only caveat was that you had to eat items within a few days.
    I also think that if you eat in-season, you can eat your fruit & veggies on a budget!

    Reply

    Amy April 3, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Filling half your plate with fruits and veggies sounds expensive but I do about 75% frozen to stick to our budget. They devour broccoli, cauliflower, corn, carrots or peas with berries on the side and each large store brand bag is only about $0.99! Another way I reduce our grocery spending is one vegetarian meal per week – canned beans are cheap and versatile!!

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    Tina April 3, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    @Amy: I {heart} canned beans too. We eat a lot of them!

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    Caitlin @ This Bride's Joyride April 3, 2012 at 9:16 am

    I think it’s hard to buy healthy in that it can be harder to plan out, harder to get my fiance on board (he would eat red meat 5 times a week if I said OK), and sometimes more expensive! But is it really that hard? No :)

    Lately we have made a deal to only shop when we have just eaten (we used to go together on Sundays after the gym – worst idea ever!) and to stick as much as we can to the outer perimeter of the grocery store. That’s where the dairy, fruits and veggies are anyway!

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    Elizabeth @ Chocolate Drops and Pearls April 3, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Thanks for all the tips! I will be sure to incorporate these into my next shopping trip.

    I think that it’s easy to eat healthy on a budget if you know how to shop. Trader Joe’s has a lot of healthy options that are way cheaper than say Whole Foods or even the grocery store.

    Reply

    Stacy @ Every Little Thing April 3, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Great tips but the best one of all is SHOP THE FARMER’S MARKETS! You can get all the fresh stuff you need at the market and support local vendors, farmers, etc.

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    Ashley @ My Food 'N' Fitness Diaries April 3, 2012 at 9:28 am

    haha my husband always seems to eat the treats he buys for me too… he bought me a few Reese’s Eggs for my birthday this year, and he told me he ended up having to go back to the store to get more because he ate them all before he gave them to me. :)

    Reply

    mary @ minutespermile April 3, 2012 at 9:29 am

    My favorite grocery tips: shop on the perimeter if the store (healthy), and buy feta crumbled at the salad bar instead of the cheese section (cheap!). I’m also a huuuuge sucker for free samples at the grocery store! Free snacks while I shop? Yes please.

    Reply

    Tina April 3, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    @mary @ minutespermile: Feta from the salad bar, huh?

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    mary @ minutespermile April 3, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    @Tina: yep: $5.99/lb vs $7.99/lb! Plus you get whatever quantity you want!

    Reply

    Tina April 3, 2012 at 1:31 pm
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama April 3, 2012 at 9:40 am

    I don’t think it’s difficult but I do think it’s more expensive. Even if I stick with frozen out of season fruits and veggies it adds up really fast.

    Meal planning and sticking to your list is the best tip! When I go off my list that’s when the $$ adds up!

    Reply

    Stephy C @ pjsandyogapants April 3, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Thanks for taking notes- I meant to dvr that episode! I definitely need to add more fish to my diet.

    Wah! about your chocolate chip cookie. LOL

    Reply

    Liz @ Tip Top Shape April 3, 2012 at 9:46 am

    I loved this post! Going in with a list is key for me in terms of not over-spending. I know when I don’t I end up having a lot of impulse buys.

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    katie @ KatieDid April 3, 2012 at 9:52 am

    Yes I think its difficult but I don’t mind spending more on food these days. It’s really a priority for me and makes me happy. With that said I definitely spend more than friends though, but I limit eating out more than others might, so I think it evens out. Interesting what you say about eating more chicken vs red meat… chicken tends to have high omega 6 content and grass fed red meat does not… I eat grass fed beef about 3 times/ week and try to limit chicken to 1-2 times for that reason.

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    Wendi @ A Southern Yogi April 3, 2012 at 9:53 am

    for fish you should look for wild caught – I like Whole Foods because they’ll rank their fish with levels of sustainability. The issue with farm raised fish is that a lot of times, they have lot of chemicals from living in a farm environment – very similar to chicken and other meats from corporate farms. Also, while whiter fish might be better for you to lose weight, they also have high levels of mercury – so salmon is a good alternative :)

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    Meg April 3, 2012 at 9:54 am

    I don’t know that I feel it’s difficult to eat healthy on a budget but sometimes I do have to leave some things out that I really want. Like this week I might just eat oranges when I’d rather switch it up and have an apple one day/grapefruit the next but it’s cheaper to buy a big bag of something. I love this post!

    Reply

    Tina April 3, 2012 at 9:58 am

    @Meg: I do the same thing. I really wanted fresh berries last week, but went with oranges instead because they were so much cheaper. They were some really tasty oranges though! :)

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    Cait's Plate April 3, 2012 at 9:56 am

    I think eating healthy on a budget can SEEM intimidating but once you know what you’re looking for, it’s actually not that bad at all.

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    Carrie April 3, 2012 at 10:02 am

    I always check out the frozen section for deals on fruits/veggies. Also, I eat a lot of beans/lentils that I prepare myself from dried. Those are DIRT CHEAP.

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    nicole @healthygirladventures.wordpress.com April 3, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Yes it is hard to eat healthy on a budget. But I do it. I feel like I spend more money on eating healthy than i do buying clothes and other necessites. Some of my tips are-

    1. Get your produce at your local Farmers Market (you will save a TON). If you must only buy organic try a hydroponic farmers market. Just google it to find one in your area.

    2. Align your grocery shopping list with that week’s sale flyer

    3. Only buy what you need! Thats a biggie for me. I’m horrible about passing by some new health food that I must try- yet I’ve got a fridge full of healthy snacks at home. I need to learn to eat those before buying something new.

    4. Don’t throw away those flyers you get in your junk mail. Alot of times grocery stores will post a $5 off coupon. And some stores like my local PUblix will honor the competitors coupon. You never see coupons specifically for meat or produce in the sunday paper. Well that $5 off coupon is now going to help you save on just that.

    5. Chop up your fruits and freeze them so you get more use out of them, which again will help you save money.

    Reply

    Tina April 3, 2012 at 10:24 am

    @nicole @healthygirladventures.wordpress.com: @Stacy @ Every Little Thing: Maybe it’s just the farmers’ markets around me, but they’re really expensive! I still shop at them occassionally, but they’re not cheap!

    Reply

    Elina (Healthy and Sane) April 3, 2012 at 10:36 am

    @Tina: I second that – farmers markets around Boston are very expensive. I shop at them to support local farmers and get fresher produce, but it’s definitely not a money-saving tactic.

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    Elina (Healthy and Sane) April 3, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Definitely some good tips there! The organic seafood thing cracked me up… I’ve never even seen that! You should, however, pay attention to wild vs. farmed if you care about sustainable seafood practices. The Monterey Bay app is an awesome guide for that!

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    Rebecca @ Miss Magnolia Munches & Moves April 3, 2012 at 11:48 am

    I’m finding it costs me about the same to eat healthy, unprocessed foods as it does to eat junk. But, you have to be careful and shop sales. I’d never pay $3 a lb for asparagus, so if it costs that much at a given time, I just don’t buy it and find another veggie on sale to replace it. I also buy meat in bulk when it’s on sale.

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    Kerry @ Totes My Oats April 3, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    I definitely shop for sales and try to choose veggies that are on sale. When meat is on sale, I try to stock up and freeze some.

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    Sarah April 3, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    They missed the biggest way to eat healthy and affordably: go vegetarian! I know you’re doing Cross Fit which leans toward the Palio thing, but I also noticed that you often include one or two meat free meals a week which I really commend you for! Seems like Dr. Oz missed a big opportunity there.

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    Tina April 3, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    @Sarah: I agree, I’m surprised they didn’t suggest meat-free meals.

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    Jen @ Such a Funny Fat April 3, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    I look at it like – I’m either paying money for healthy food or I’m going to end up paying more money for healthcare or bigger clothes. It’s moving money from one budget to put into another budget.

    Incidentally, I noticed they said to essentially avoid paying for organic fish but did they talk about the nutritional benefits of wild-caught vs. farm raised? (Sorry if they did – I didn’t see the episode so I don’t know).

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    Erica @ For the Sake of Cake April 3, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    This isn’t entirely a “health tip” but when I’m at the grocery store, I do my best to stick to the perimeter! I buy most of my canned/dry foods at Target (I find most of them to be cheaper there… especially if I buy store brand) so I only really need to stock up on produce, meat, & dairy at the grocery store. This does help me to avoid filing up on random junk food I might spot, but it also saves time since I’m not dodging quite as many carts on a busy weekend day!

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    Whitney @ Whit Likes Fit April 3, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Love those grocery shopping tips. The other one we use is to try and spend most of our time shopping on the outer aisles (produce, meat, dairy) and less time on the inner part of the store which is usually where most of the processed foods are. Cheaper and healthier.

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    Miranda @ Working Mom Works Out April 3, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    The less meat and dairy I eat, the less my grocery bill is, even when buying all organic produce.

    These are great tips!

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    Lacey April 3, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    I actually find it a lot easier and cheaper to shop healthy. Compare the cost of an apple to a granola bar/ breakfast bar. It is a few coins in change, but it adds up over the course of a month, year, etc… Plus, I always remember the gross open heart surgeries my health professor showed us in class of what fat and cholesterol look like in the body when it has been built up in the arteries- you’ll never EVER want to eat any processed food again!

    Reply

    JessicaE April 3, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    I like all the tips but this one: “Create a weekly meal plan and shopping list to save time and money” I only agree with partly. In my opinion, keeping an open mind about sales before you go to the store saves a lot more money. For example, if pork is the menu, but chicken is on sale, get the chicken, etc.

    :)

    Reply

    Tina April 4, 2012 at 6:34 am

    @JessicaE: Yep, exactly! I based my meal plans off in-store sales to save the most money.

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    Julie April 3, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    Great suggestions Tina – I did want to point out that though there is no such thing as “organic” seafood, it is extremely important to be mindful of “sustainable” seafood. Labeling programs have found their ways into local supermarkets allowing for consumers to make sustainable choices. Many of our favourite fish species are overfished, and some are even listed as endangered species (orange roughy, bluefin tuna, etc).
    So, while it’s not worthwhile to pay for anything claiming to be “organic” seafood, it is definitely worthwhile to be an educated consumer and to choose seafood that is sustainably harvested or from a healthy stock.

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    Andrea G. April 4, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Just wanted to point out that, while “organic” doesn’t mean anything for seafood (I’ve never even seen it on a package), there are certainly still things to look for in order to make your seafood consumption as environmentally-conscious as possible!

    A great resource is the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch, where you can get more information on which types of seafood are best to buy, and which to avoid (species with populations on the verge of collapse, for example). You can also print out a tiny pocket guide for free, specific to your area, to carry in your wallet to check when you’re at the grocery store! I’ve found this to be really useful- I get the healthiest possible seafood without the environmental guilt! :P I thought you and your readers might be interested in this resource!

    http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/download.aspx

    Reply

    Michelle Collins April 4, 2012 at 9:55 am

    I definitely think it’s easy to shop healthy while on a budget at the grocery store. The price you pay for eating overly processed, bad-for-you food in the long run is a lot worse than paying the extra dollar now for healthy, whole foods!

    Reply

    Amelia @ Eating Made Easy April 30, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    I didn’t see the Dr Oz show but this is the exact type of info people need – and love the tips you shared!

    Reply

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