This post is a summary of tips for food shopping while staying in the Zone.
I’m researching the Zone diet while I explore more effective patterns and practices for eating strategies.
This post is based on the book, The Top 100 Zone Foods: The Zone Food Science Ranking System, by Dr. Barry Sears.
Five Steps to Supermarket Shopping
Dr. Sears provides the following tips for food shopping while staying in the Zone:
- Always go with a list.
- Stay mainly on the periphery.
- Make the produce section your foray into new adventures.
- Go for fresh meat and poultry rather than the deli counter.
- Consider buying organic produce.
Step #1. Always go with a list.
Don’t shop when you’re hungry and stick to your list.
“Go prepared with a list of high-quality Zone foods, and stick with that list.
To help you stick with the list, make sure you don’t shop when you’re hungry.
Eat a Zone meal or snack before you hit the supermarket.”
Step #2. Stay mainly on the periphery.
Processed foods tend to make up the center. Shop at the edges.
“Ever notice that the fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and dairy products are all found in the outer aisles?
This is where you want to spend most of your time.
Avoid the center aisles, which contain the processed foods like cereals, pasta and snack foods. And of course, avoid the bakery at all costs.”
Step #3. Make the produce section your foray into new adventures.
Have fun with the produce and explore.
“OK, you may find it hard to pass up the new brand of chocolates that screams to you from its bright pink bag.
But don’t the bright red tomatoes also beckon? or the deep purple blackberries?
Go to a supermarket that displays appealing produce, free of bruises mold, and brown spots. You’ll be more tempted to dive into the colorful delights.”
Step #4. Go for fresh meat and poultry rather than the deli counter.
Choose fresh meat over deli processed meats.
“With the exception of cooked turkey breast, you probably can’t find much higher-quality protein at the deli. Head instead for the fish counter and the fresh meat choices.
Just make sure that any beef or pork you buy is well trimmed, preferably a ‘select’ grade that is low in saturated fat.
You will probably still have to do some extra trimming of any separable fat to make it a good Zone protein choice. Realize that the deli turkey breast and chicken breast are of lower protein quality than fresh poultry.”
Step #5. Consider buying organic produce.
Go organic where you can.
“Organically grown fruits and vegetables are higher-quality Zone foods than non-organically grown produce.
This is because they are pesticide and herbicide free, and some research suggests that these chemicals can have negative effects on your hormonal systems.
I realize that organically grown produce is more expensive, but I think the added cost is well worth the health benefit.
Also, consider buying your produce from a farm stand or one of the farmer’s markets growing increasingly common in major cities.
Although this produce isn’t necessarily organically grown, it’s fresher than the produce you find in the supermarket and thus probably has a higher nutrient content.”
Frozen vs. Fresh
Dr. Sears makes the case for frozen foods.
“If you are like most people, you probably shop with the best intentions to buy fresh vegetables and fruits. Unfortunately, you’ve probably also come to realize that the shelf life of such fresh produce doesn’t always conform to your daily schedule, and you may be sick of throwing away spoiled vegetables that you never got a chance to cook or fruit that has turned to mush.
If this is the case, you have two options: (1) Consider purchasing fresh produce two or three times each week. (2) Use frozen fruits and vegetables.
The quality of frozen produce has dramatically increased over the years, and the shelf life will always be greater (usually about two months before freezer burn begins to set in).
Furthermore frozen fruits and vegetables usually contain higher amounts of vitamins than fresh produce. This is because they are quick-frozen within hours after harvest to reach your local food distributor.
From there you can expect a few more days before it gets to the supermarket and is bought and eaten by you. During this time the vitamin content of the food is constantly decreasing.
By using frozen fruits and vegetables, you get maximum nutrition and convenience for the least cost.”
Getting Out of Meal Ruts
Dr. Sears suggests varying your foods so you don’t fall into a rut.
“Most people find it’s easy to get stuck in a meal rut, preparing the same meals over and over again, week after week. It’s easy, mindless, and less trouble than pouring through new recipes.
Still, I urge you to try a new food or two every week — or even every day if you cans swing it.
Just as you can make minor adjustments to your favorite meals to make them Zone-friendly, you can also make a few changes to your Zone meals to get the highest-quality foods. Within a few weeks, you’ll have a formidable pharmacy of “drugs” to pick and choose from that will dramatically improve the quality of your life.”
Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways:
- Make a list.
- Spend more time on the periphery than the aisles.
- Make exploring fresh produce an adventure.
- Choose fresh meat and fish over the deli department.
- Consider organic.
- Consider frozen foods.
If you wan to stay in YOUR zone, try a few of these ideas to see what works for you.