Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The grocery game: How to shop smartly

Excerpts from an 11/18/08 Miami Herald article by GiGi Lehman

Consider the challenges faced by the early Americans trying to get their first Thanksgiving meal on the table: Outsmart the wild turkeys, clean the codfish, grind the grain into meal, gather the corn and be grateful that Native American chief Massasoit contributed five deer to the feast. (Today, a nice bottle of wine or homemade pie would be considered sufficient.)

But navigating a modern supermarket in advance of the big day can be almost as daunting. Should the turkey be free-range? Are those ''whole grain'' rolls the real deal? Pay more for organic cranberries and oranges for the sauce? How many calories in that pumpkin pie from the bakery?

That's why the most useful skill for today's supermarket sleuths is the ability to read a nutrition label, not turkey tracks. So, in advance of one of the biggest grocery shopping trips of the year, here are some tips to help you put a meal on the table that's at least as healthful as the one enjoyed at the earliest Thanksgivings.


• ''You can't go wrong with vegetables and fruits unless you buy too much and throw them away,'' says Gayle Dietz, a registered dietitian and nutritional consultant with Dietz and Associates.

• Those annoying little stickers on produce have a function beyond getting you to pull the flesh off a nectarine trying to remove them. Five-digit numbers starting with 8 mean the food is genetically modified; five-digit numbers beginning with 9 are for organic produce. Four-digit numbers mean a food is conventionally grown. But the labeling is optional and a creation of the International Federation of Produce Standards, an industry group -- not a government agency.

• When is it worthwhile to buy organic? Organic produce is often (but not always) significantly costlier than other food. To spend your food dollar where it will do the most good, Consumers Union, the organization behind Consumer Reports magazine, suggests buying organic versions of these fruits and vegetables whenever possible: apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach and strawberries. Blogger note: avocados, papayas, starfruit and a host of tropical fruits and vegetables never make this ‘must buy organic’ list.