If you’re like more and more Americans, you’re trying your hardest to improve your health and wellness. That’s a great step in the right direction. A lot of people think that by shopping at their local health food store they can make grand strides. But is a health food store all it’s cracked up to be? Is the extra cost worth it and is everything in a health food store more expensive? Also, is everything truly health food?
I do think it's fantastic and helpful to spend more of one’s time and food budget at a health food store. I believe that you can have increased access to local, organic produce; clean meats and fish; and the ability to buy items in bulk, a great money-saver! I lead Walking Nutrition Tours at health food stores in my area to teach people about this exactly!
But you're correct in noting that just because it's a health food store, it does not mean everything is an ideal food or worth the extra cost.
As with your traditional supermarket, I would still encourage you to, first of all, shop the periphery. The outside sections of the stores generally are where you'll find the produce, meats, and dairy products, the items I encourage you spend your money on. It's in the center aisles that you'll more often find the packaged foods, replete with added sweeteners, rancid oils, and genetically modified ingredients.
That means my second recommendation is to read labels. Consider granola. Once thought to the be the health food of the hippie generation of the 1960s and 70s, it is now a ubiquitous item, containing added sugar and refined oils. This stands true whether you purchase it in a traditional supermarket or a health food store. I encourage you to scan the label of the granola you might pick up in the health food store next time you shop, or those organic cookies you might love. I can almost guarantee they'll have added sugar. Essentially, a packaged product is a processed food, no matter what name you call it or where you buy it. Buying cookies or potato chips at a health food store doesn’t make them much healthier than buying them elsewhere.
A way to save money is to, again, read labels: price labels. A box of regular pasta is a box of pasta, purchasing it at a health food store does not make it healthier in any way. Or, when it comes to produce, you do have increased access to organic and local items at a health food store. But, if you choose to buy conventional produce or frozen produce, there’s no difference in quality between a traditional supermarket and your health food store, so go with the cheaper item.
My basic recommendations are shop the periphery, read labels, and get comfortable cooking more at home instead of relying on packaged foods. These suggestions will lead to improved health and money saved.