You’re finally here. You’ve made the big step of switching from a regular grocery store to a health food store. What’s that? The odor, you wonder? Oh, that’s just the pure smell of the absence of gluten. Breathe. It. In.

But before you start the health food supermarket sweep there are several tips and a few tricks you will need to know about proper behavior. These may not completely prevent you from looking like a little lost fawn searching for the Hostess section (hint: there will be no Hostess section) but trust me, they will at least help get you in the door.

First off, you know what stores I’m talking about. The ones that sell reusable tote bags that people proudly carry with them everywhere in an environmentally friendly but totally bragging way.  If you see these totes and feel the icy organic glares from those who can smell your fear of being bagless, you’re in the right place. Congratulations.

Now, let’s not be naïve. Just because it is a health food store doesn’t mean you can go in and buy whatever you want and be guaranteed health or weight loss. You need to have a plan and be educated regarding what is available in the store and what your new and improved eating plan needs.

However, it is true that shopping in a health food store greatly reduces the temptation of buying junk food as it is not marketed like it would be in a regular grocery store.

I have recently begun toying with the idea of “clean eating” and am still trying to figure it out. Up until about a week ago I thought clean eating meant not eating last week’s mac and cheese straight from the pan that had been left on the stove. The concept of clean eating is relatively simple: all you have to do is eat foods in their purest form, free from processed, artificial ingredients.

In addition to a stellar produce and fresh seafood section providing the basis for clean eating, health food stores usually have a wall of bulk seeds and nuts that can replace Fatty McFatterson fats with healthy fats. Tip: Before trying to bag up your nuts (and seeds), carefully observe other customers first. This is still something I have yet to master in a health food store. I have no confidence when it comes to obtaining bulk items. I can just see it now. I march up to the bulk sunflower seeds, pull the lever, and suddenly find myself ugly-crying in a sea of seeds with cruel judging eyes looking at me from behind thick dark rimmed hipster glasses.

Now that you (basically) have the idea of a clean eating plan for beginners (let’s recap, fresh fruits and veggies, seafood, healthy fats, eh, you get the idea) it’s time to learn how to act at a health food store. Mama didn’t raise no fool, so just play it cool, man.

Tip #1: Don’t lollygag, but if you must, do so with purpose.

You want people to know that you are taking the time to carefully consider all aspects of the item you are purchasing to later put in your body, but, at the same time, there’s no time to look around with your head in the health clouds. There are other people in the store who need their flax seed, and they need you to get the flax out of their way.

Tip #2: Interrogate your food.

Question the meat. Where does the meat come from? Was it raised on a farm? Is it organic? What did it major in? Has it ever been convicted of a felony or have a history of drug abuse? Does it want children someday? Feel up your fruit. Is it ripe? Are there any blemishes or imperfections? Does the cantaloupe match the grapes? If you are unable to obtain any of this information from looking at the food or the food packaging, ask a helpful sales associate. Ask them their stance on quinoa while you’re at it. You will want to sound intelligent so I believe it’s pronounced “kwwen-ohhh-wahhh,” but then again I don’t know, I’m new at this.

Bonus tip: if you ever pronounce anything wrong, you will be corrected by other store patrons, and by corrected I mean met with a patronizing grunt of disgust, but hey, at least you will know to look up the pronunciation when you get home.

Tip #3: Appearance and Parking.

It’s important to look casual, but in a “just coming from yoga class” way or in a “going to yoga class after” way, or even an “organic cotton neutral colors way” making sure you mention your clothing is organic at least one time while in the store. Men, throw on a plaid shirt that makes us ladies wonder if you’ve just come from a long day of chopping wood and suddenly worked up the appetite for a big ol’ bowl of kwwen-ohhh-wahhh.

As far as parking goes, if you own a hatchback or a station wagon, there are no rules. If you do not own one of these vehicles, your best bet is to slap on a “coexist” bumper sticker, and if that doesn’t work, you might want to park that luxury sedan or SUV down the block. If there is a Smart Car parked outside, parking directly over it is encouraged to save space to maximize Subaru surface area in the parking lot.

Now that you are equipped with the basics of health food store behavior, I hope you will join me on the quest of clean eating and seeking the holy grail of unprocessed, natural foods. Remember to do your homework and be confident on your first health food store rendezvous. Godspeed, young healthy grasshopper.

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One Response

  1. Brittany Andriana Stevens

    This is precisely how I feel walking into Whole Foods – great article, Bridget!

    Reply

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