In this chapter of my best-selling book on how to live a healthier life, I'm going to give you a tip on grocery shopping. I know some folks have the best intentions in mind when approaching the grocery store, but once they muscle that cart with one bum wheel over the rubber pressure pad and feel the sharp, cold welcome of the overhead air conditioner blow their perfectly styled hair back into something that resembles the bed head of a troll doll, all bets are blown back as well. The colorful packaging, the lure of the sample tray, and the mystical magic of the ice cream aisle are all deterrents that keep them from shopping like they're supposed to shop.
For a good portion of my previous book, 'Uncle Mike's Guide to Working the System and Getting the Most out of Life', we explored the exploitation of the sandwich shop wherein we examined the fine art of getting the biggest sandwich possible at the lowest cost. We talked about casing the sandwich shop for a number of weeks in order to learn the shift rotations of the employees and choosing the sandwich maker we deemed most likely to consume the largest lunch. Targeting him as our purveyor of perfectly prime pastrami and pristine provolone, we'd enter the shop just prior to his lunch break. At this time, he would be at the peak of hunger and his eyes would be bigger than his stomach. Ambushing him at that precise and delicate moment, we were able to order the cheapest sandwich on the menu, grinning wildly as his hunger and haste loaded our mere six inch sub with almost twice the amount of ingredients displayed in the faded picture above his head.
In writing this, that guide's spiritual sequel, I have not only put that book to rest, I have buried it six feet under with new thinking. Healthy thinking. That said, let's fix that hair and get back to pushing the cart (Sorry, I can't help with that stupid wheel). So, where do we begin in this overwhelming collection of confusion. We shop. We shop for people. What? Yes, we shop for people...at first. Rest easy, they may be delicious in very remote parts of the world, but our aim is a bit more strategic than gnawing on another's ear (cough...Mike Tyson...cough) and being arrested and taken away by the men with the white jackets or worse: banned from the grocery store (*shudder* bury that last thought).
We're looking for people who move quickly and with a purpose. Ones who stick to the veggie and meat sections and don't head to too many of the inner aisles. They don't have to be shredded or have three percent body fat; some people with average bodies are in fantastic shape on the inside. But we're looking for those who seem to be health conscious. They know what they want, head right for it, and when they get there, it's a healthy choice that they drop it in their cart without a second thought (their cart, by the way, has four wheels that roll properly. Nope, it's too late to go back and change yours out. Suck it up and push through its squeaky concerto, Buttercup.).
Shy of stalking these people, glance around and see what they are putting in their carts. They fill up on the good stuff and read and compare labels. Unless they are throwing a party (cough...Enablers...cough...ugh, I need a lozenge or something today), you won't see Doritos or soda, no Hostess or half gallons of ice cra..p...I mean, 'cream'. What you will see are a lot of vegetables, lean meats, and complex carbs. It may sound plain, simple, and boring as far as taste is concerned (it's really not if you know what you're doing), but that's where knowing how to cook to bring out the flavors comes in handy. That's a whole separate book entirely.
Barring any food allergies or intolerance you may have, this is a great way to start your shopping if you either don't know where to begin, or feel the lure of the marketing around you. The best foods carry no labels. The ones that do, need to be scrutinized. If you've made it this far in the article, at an 87% chance of success, I'm guessing you can comprehend the English language; so make use of it, and a bit of that third grade math, and become a pro grocery shopper. They even put all the info into a fancy little rectangle for you there. In all seriousness, get off auto-pilot for a change of pace or even go off list and see how what healthier choices come home with you to be filed away into your pantry and how those choices effect your body and even your mood.
***As a side note, pass good food habits along to your kids (teach them how to shop and cook with you) so that 20 years from now, someone like me isn't writing something like this again because they have learned bad habits out of either convenience or laziness. Good food for you, but they can have hot dogs and processed chicken nuggets with fountains of sugary drinks? I don't think so. Nip it in the bud. If they're hungry enough and realize what you've cooked for the family is what they're getting or they go to bed hungry, they'll stop complaining eventually. Your time and sanity is worth something, as well. Tough love, people. They'll still eat some junk, that's what kids do, but the majority of what they consume should be healthy. More importantly, an appreciation for the right foods should be in place before they are old enough to shop and cook for themselves.***