Finding Healthy Food When You Don’t Have Access to a Health Food Store
One of my clients recently asked me how she can eat well and incorporate healthy food into her diet when she lives in a small town and doesn’t have access to a local health food store.
My response was that it’s not as hard as she might think. I proceeded to share a number of tips with her which we’ll be incorporating into her lifestyle step by step.
It occurred to me that many of you may be wondering the same thing, so I wanted to share a few of those same tips with you. But first, I think it is important to make one thing really clear:
The path to better health is a journey, and it is your own.
I wanted to share this with you because it is important that you understand that you do not need to do everything at once, and that it is neither helpful nor productive to compare yourself to others along the way.
Every step you take in the direction of improving your health (no matter how small) is beneficial and will yield positive results. Most importantly, you’ll quickly see that each of those positive results will motivate you to continue your journey.
This step by step approach fosters habits that are both lasting and sustainable. These attributes are crucial to accomplishing your health goals.
I also want you to understand that it is possible to improve your health despite any challenges you may be facing, regardless of whether those challenges are due to difficulty in finding healthy, whole foods; a busy schedule; inexperience in the kitchen; a limited budget; etc.
In fact, my six month health coaching program is designed to overcome all of those challenges. I meet you wherever you currently are in your journey, work with you to identify your health goals, and then provide all the support and encouragement you need to attain your goals step by step. You can learn more about my six month program here.
Ok, now that we’re on the same page, here are my tips for incorporating real, healthy foods into your diet regardless of where you live:
Fruits and Vegetables
I am a huge believer in a diet based on local and seasonal produce, and highly recommend that you explore the possibility of buying your fruits and vegetables from a local farmer.
Buying locally will not only ensure the freshness of whatever you’re purchasing, but your produce is also likely to cost a lot less. As an added bonus, you’ll be eating seasonally, which ensures that you are benefiting from a wide variety of nutrients year-round.
You will feel good about supporting your local farmers and your local economy, and there are significant environmental benefits that result from buying locally as well.
Did I mention that your produce will taste amazing? There is nothing like the flavor of something that has been hand picked for you that day!
Here are the best places to find local, seasonal and organic fruits and vegetables:
- CSA – CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You pay upfront for a share of the farm’s harvest and receive weekly or bi-weekly baskets of produce throughout the season. You can find more details regarding why I love my CSA in this post. And you can find a CSA program in your area by searching Local Harvest’s database here.
- Farmers’ Market – Farmers’ markets are a great place to find local, seasonal and organic produce. They are also a great way to spend a Saturday morning. Most offer more than just produce – you can often find flowers, honey, freshly prepared foods, fresh bread, etc. You can find a farmers’ market in your area by entering your zip code here.
- Grow Your Own – I am just entering the world of gardening, but I am loving it. It is so rewarding, and I’ve found it to be another great way to teach my boys about real food and where it comes from. You can start small by adding a pot of herbs in your windowsill, or by allocating a small space in your yard and planting just one or two items.
I also believe that there are numerous health and environmental benefits to buying organic and I choose organic whenever I can. However, there are also a number of instances in which buying organic may not be the best choice.
This can be especially true if you live in a small town.
Even if you are able to find organic produce in your local store, there is a good possibility that it has travelled thousands of miles to reach you. Not only does this mean that the food is not as fresh and has lost many of its important nutrients along the way, it is also bad for the environment.
Therefore, it is just as important to look at where the item is from as it is to determine whether or not it is organic. In some cases, the organic item may not be better than the conventional.
How can you determine whether you should buy organic or conventional? The Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce provides a very concise and simple guide. It was designed to educate you on the produce grown with the most and least amount of chemicals, and will help you to determine when it’s most important to choose organic. For example, apples are notoriously pesticide-laden and top the “Dirty Dozen” list, while onions, because of their protective layers, rank among the “Clean 15”.
What to do if you still can’t find access to local produce in your area? Not to worry . . . frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are a great substitute, especially when you are just beginning your journey toward better health. They retain most of their nutrients and provide a convenient and accessible alternative, especially during the winter months. Just be sure to read the labels and choose items that do not contain added sugar, are low in sodium, and are packaged in containers that are BPA-free.
Remember, the most important thing is that you are incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet . . . how you acquired them is secondary.
Meat and Dairy Products
One of the most important things you should seek out, regardless of where you live, is access to organic meat and dairy products (assuming that animal products are currently a part of your diet). Conventional meat and dairy products are filled with chemicals, growth hormones and antibiotics that wreak havoc on your health.
When you purchase organic meat and dairy, you can be assured that the animals weren’t given antibiotics or growth hormones, and that they were fed a 100 percent organic diet and given access to the outdoors.
Just as I mentioned when buying produce above, buying animal products directly from a farmer is a great option because it enables you to get to know where your food is coming from, provides access to high quality meats and dairy products, and allows you to save money in the process.
You can search eatWILD for a supplier of grass fed beef, eggs and dairy in your area.
Supplements and Specialty Foods
While I recommend buying local when you can, online retailers can be a good solution for items that are difficult to find outside of a health food store, such as supplements and products for specific dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, vegan, etc.).
There are many options, but here are a few of my favorites:
- ThriveMarket.com – Thrive Market offers the same healthy and organic products found at your local health food store at a fraction of the price. For a membership fee of less than $5 a month, you receive access to an ever-increasing number of healthy and organic products at wholesale prices. You’ll save between 25% and 50% percent per item, which more than justifies the membership fee. Use this link to get a free 1 month trial, 15% off your first order, and free shipping on orders over $49.
- Vitacost.com – I have been ordering from Vitacost for over a year now. Their prices are very competitive, they offer free shipping on purchases over $49, and they offer a Set and Save Program where you can schedule automatic delivery and save 10% on the products you use the most. You can even customize the delivery schedule based on the frequency that works best for you. Finally, Vitacost offers a Refer-A-Friend Program. If you sign up using this link, you will save $10 on your first purchase and also receive $10 for every friend you refer to the program going forward. To explore Vitacost’s website and see what they have to offer, just click here.
- RenewedHealth.com – Renewed Health Supply is a small, family-owned provider of health products. They carry a variety of supplements, including fermented cod liver oil and high vitamin butter oil which we take daily. I have been purchasing from them for over a year as well, and have found their prices, quality and customer service to be excellent. I highly recommend them. You can find Renewed Health Supply here.
- RockwellNutrition.com – Rockwell Nutrition carries a great selection of supplements, and consistently has the best prices on the probiotic we take. Rockwell Nutrition also offers a Rewards Program where you can earn points with each purchase, which can be redeemed for gift certificates toward future purchases. You can find Rockwell Nutrition here.
- Amazon.com – Not only does Amazon stock millions of products, it offers the lowest prices in many cases as well. In addition, you can often find everything you need in one spot and can avoid shipping charges by grouping your food purchases with other household staples.
Do you live in an area where it is challenging to access healthy, whole foods? The tips outlined above are a great starting point, but everybody’s situation is unique. I’m here to support you in YOUR journey. You can contact me here.
In the comments below, please share which of these tips you’re going to put into action this week.