You can find “paleo” food at any grocery store. It’s true. You don’t need to shop at a health food store to buy high quality, whole foods that fall within a paleo framework. Every grocery store has a produce section and most grocery stores have meat and seafood departments.
It might be easier to find some paleo staples at a health food store, but it’s possible to do most of your shopping at a regular old chain grocery store and probably even at the mom & pop grocery (if you live in a small town).
5 Tips to Finding Paleo Food at any Grocery Store:
1. Shop the Perimeter:
This is a good old trick. Stick to the outside of the grocery store and avoid the aisles. The perimeter is where you’ll find all of the fresh foods like produce, seafood, meat and eggs. In any grocery store, the processed and junk is in the aisles. The aisles are where you’ll find food in boxes and bags, food full of additives and preservatives, the foods you want to avoid when you’re following a whole food lifestyle.
I do venture into the aisles from time to time to buy my paleo baking supplies like almond flour and coconut flour. You can also find your coconut oil, olive oil and ghee in the aisles of the grocery store along with canned sardines and tuna. Stick to the perimeter of the store for the most part and have a plan for the foods you need in the aisles.
2. Learn to Read Labels:
When you do venture into the aisles of the store, you need to know how to choose the best option. Most of the foods in the aisles will be in boxes or bags and all of them will have labels that contain nutrition facts and ingredients.
Start with the ingredients; look out for sugar in any form. Check for any ingredients that you can’t pronounce or that look like they might be chemicals. Sometimes natural ingredients might be listed in their scientific names, but usually a hard-to-pronounce ingredient is a not-so-good ingredient.
Be especially wary of boxes that say “natural” on the front. The “natural” label doesn’t actually mean anything, as there are no regulations on the use of this word like there are around the use of the word “organic”. Foods that are labeled “natural” can have strange ingredients, or lots of added sugar (sugar is natural). You have to be very vigilant about reading the labels on these foods, the front of the package is meant to mislead, but the back of the package will most likely not lie.
3. Go for Clean Produce
The organic produce selection at most stores is getting broader by the day. The more demand a store has for organic produce, the more likely they are to bring it in. You can find some organic fruits and vegetables at every kind of grocery store, but the selection is usually less compared to a health food store.
When you’re buying produce keep a list in mind. There are many vegetables in the market that use chemicals to reap and expose you to xenotoxins like chemical herbicides and pesticides. On the other hand there are a bunch of clean fruits and vegetables. My rule of thumb is if it has a thin skin or you eat the skin, buy organic. If it has a thick skin, conventional is okay. For example, when you eat kale, you eat the entire leaf, so I would try to buy organic. When you eat a banana or an avocado, you peel it first, so conventional is fine.
4. Choose Lean Cuts
If you can’t find grass-fed or pasture-raised animals at your grocery store, go for leaner cuts of meat. Animals store toxins in their fat just like we do, so when you can only get conventionally raised animals, choosing a leaner cut is best. This means chicken breast instead of chicken thighs, and 90+% of grounded beef. Most stores have organic options, which can be a good choice, but when a meat is just organic, it doesn’t mean that they have access to grass or the outdoors– it just means that they are fed certified organic feed. Always try to get meats that are anti-biotic and growth hormone free. It’s getting easier to get these kinds of meats at all stores.
If you can only find conventional raised meats and you’re not sure about where they came from, it’s not the end of the world. This might be a good time to look around for a store that does offer a wider selection of animal proteins, or to visit your local farmers market where you can talk with your farmer about how their animals are raised.
5. Go Prepared
Make a shopping list before you head to the store. This way you’ll be less likely to pick up some of that junk food that looks so tasty on the shelf. Take some time to carefully build your list– think about what your week will look like in terms of food, what kinds of events you have going on, when you’ll need snacks. It might be helpful to look through the sales flyer and see if you have any coupons.
Be mindful when you’re shopping. Pay attention to labels and make sure that you read the ingredients.