Spending a little time in your grocery store or health food store will help make you aware of the vegetarian products available and their nutritional value. Although the layout of each store differs, the following will help as you take your tour.
1. Fresh Produce
- Fresh produce is always a good choice.
- Look for a variety of fruits and vegetables and make the effort to try those you have not tasted before.
- Most stores now sell organic produce, which is slightly more expensive. You can also check with the produce manager to learn where produce is purchased and whether the store buys goods from local farmers.
- Look for time-savers such as pre-sliced mushrooms and packages of mixed greens and baby spinach. Major grocery stores regularly sell these at reasonable prices,e.g., buy one, get one free.
2. Bread and Cereal Shelves
- Look for cereal with at least two grams of fiber, eight grams or less of sugar, and two grams or less of fat per serving. Compare portion sizes and carbohydrate content on the nutrition facts label; servings range from a 0.25 cup to 1.25 cups.Many cereals are now available with added flax or hemp.
- Look for bread that is made from whole grain or partially whole grain. If selecting white bread, choose enriched or unmilled versions.
- Check ingredient labels for animal products.
3. Canned-Food Aisle
- Canned beans, peas, and tomato products are a must for the vegetarian pantry.Choose brands with firm beans or peas of good quality. Use reduced-sodium products if desired, but remember to rinse all beans before use. Also look for vegetarian varieties of baked beans.
- Choose 100 percent pure fruit juices instead of fruit cocktails or punches. If you select a juice that needs sugar, for example cranberry juice, look for brands with less high-fructose corn syrup.
- Look for canned fruit in is own juice and unsweetened apple sauce. These makegood staples in the winter months.
4. Cracker and Cookie Aisle
- Check out the selection of cookies and crackers. Several brands are healthy, but most are loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, or hydrogenated oil.
- Good bets for crackers include water crackers and whole-grain crackers made with no hydrogenated oils.
- Best bets for cookies include fruit newtons, oatmeal cookies, cookies sweetened without sugar, and cookies that contain whole grains, nuts, or dried fruit. With cookies, you can usually justify making a healthy batch at home.
5. Bulk-Foods Section
- The bulk foods section is a great place to find muesli, granola, and other interesting and healthy cereals; hard-to-find grains; dried fruit; TVP; nutritional yeast;fair-trade teas; and organic candy.
- It is worth a stop every time you are in the store.
6. Dairy Case
- Milk, buttermilk, cottage cheese, and yogurt that are nonfat or have 1 percent milk fat are good low-saturated fat choices for vegetarians.
- Some brands of soy milk are now refrigerated and available in the dairy case.
- Look for strongly flavored cheeses, where a little cheese goes a long way, or cheeses that are made partly with nonfat milk.
7. Frozen Foods
- Check out the selection of frozen fruits and vegetables. Because these foods are frozen soon after picking, their nutritional value is often higher than that of fresh. Frozen vegetables are also convenient to keep on hand and lower in sodium than canned. In addition, some stores do not carry certain varieties of fresh products,for example turnip greens, but do offer frozen versions.
- Look for vegetarian meat analogues and vegetarian frozen entrees. Many health food store brands have gone mainstream and can be found in local grocery stores.
- The varieties of meat analogues continue to grow. Check out new and interesting products.
8. Other Tips
- Learn the layout of your store and which foods are stocked where; this facilitates quick shopping.
- Meander the aisles and read nutrition labels on new or interesting-looking foods. Some seemingly non vegetarian items, such as premixes, might be vegetarian and might even have vegetarian cooking suggestions on the back.
- In your wanderings, also check out salad dressing and vegetarian broth offerings. Finding a flavorful salad dressing made with healthy oils and no high-fructose corn syrup and flavorful not-so-salty broth will drastically improve how your meals and foods taste.