Editor's Note: Last year, we launched a new series in which dietitian Katie Cavuto scoured local grocery stores for their healthiest prepackaged food options. First, she took a trip to Trader Joe's and then Giant Food Stores, ALDI and ACME. Today, she shares what landed in her cart at Whole Foods. Don't forget to reference her healthy grocery shopping cheat sheet here.
Of all the stores I have covered in this healthy grocery shopping series, Whole Foods is the store I know the best because this is where I personally do the majority of my shopping. What keeps me shopping here time after time is their quality standards and food philosophy.
They ensure there are no artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, hydrogenated fats or high-fructose corn syrup in any product in the market. Whole Foods Market has also shaped and developed industry standards — from animal welfare and meat quality to sustainable seafood and responsibly grown produce.
And they put the customer first. Wary to buy a new item? You can ask to try it. Shopping for one? They will portion any item to meet your needs. Only need half a watermelon? They will cut it for you. Moving away from chemical laden cans? They now offer jarred tomato products as well as tuna fish and even frozen beans.
Here, you can stock up on a great selection of organic and pastured meats, poultry, eggs and dairy, plus sustainably caught fish. Don’t miss out on the homemade chicken and turkey sausage in the butcher department. Try removing the casing and using it like ground meat. Ditch lunchmeat varieties and ask for their store-roasted turkey or roast beef, which can be sliced thin for sandwiches. Get the most bang for your buck and ask for a pound of salmon with the tail end removed.
As for the prices, when it comes to organic and natural staples like fish, meat, milk, eggs and grains, Whole Foods is comparable and it’s often less expensive than conventional grocers due to supply and demand. Look for the store’s 365 Brand, which offers Whole Foods quality at a value price. The bulk bins are stocked with everything from quinoa to millet, dried bans, lentils, fruits, nuts and chocolate. You can even bring your own container and purchase as much or as little as you want, all without the cost of packaging.
From wallet-friendly pantry staples to specialty items, here are my top 10 (plus 2 more!) picks from Whole Foods Market:
Treeline Artisanal Nut Cheese: A specialty item that is hard to come by elsewhere, these cashew nut cheeses are absolutely delicious. As a cheese-lover that avoids dairy due to an intolerance, this is one of my favorite treats. I have included it on many a cheese plate and my guests had no idea it was dairy-free. They have several other flavors including Chipotle Serrano, Green Peppercorn and Herb Garlic and they are priced similarly to your favorite artisanal dairy cheeses.
Ingredients: Cashew nuts, filtered water, onion powder, sea salt, dried scallions, lemon juice, L. Acidophilus
BELA Skipjack Jarred Tuna: I was thrilled to see a tuna option that is not in a can. This smaller tuna fish variety is a great option as it is lower in mercury than larger tuna fish like albacore. Regardless of the type, limit tuna fish intake to once a week. Read more here.
Ingredients:Poll and Line-caught Skipjack tuna fish, Portugese Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sea Salt
Love Beets: It’s hard to pass up a pre-roasted beet when the alternative is to roast your own for over an hour. With a clean, easy-to-read ingredient list, these no fuss beets are a versatile, sweet and vibrantly flavored addition to any recipe. I love shaving these baby beets over my salads at home. Love Beets offers 5 varieties including Honey & Ginger, Organic Mild Vinegar, Mild Vinegar, White Wine & Balsamic and Sweetfire Beets. (Most are gluten free!)
Vital Farms Organic Pasture Raised Eggs: Pasture rasied eggs are the next best thing to having your own chickens. These chickens spend the majority of their lives outdoors where they have access to a traditional diet of grass, worms and insects, which is supplemented with organic grain. While these eggs are definitely more expensive, consider saving your organic dollars for animal proteins, as there are more variables to consider than with produce. This brand offers non-organic, pastured eggs for a lower price.
Ingredients: Pasture Raised Organic Eggs
Urban Accents Marrakesh Za’atar: A blend of sumac, thyme, oregano and sesame, this aromatic Mediterranean spice blend is earthy, slightly sweet and very versatile. It works well as a seaoning for chicken, beef and pork and tastes great spinkled into a salad or salad dressing or as a topping for eggs, hummus or avocado. Try this Cauliflower, Chickpea and Kale Shakshuka with Za’atar.
Ingredients: Sumac, Sesame, Thyme, Oregano
Envirokidz Homestyle Oatmeal: Kid-friendly characters rarely appear on the foods I buy as those that bare them tend to be more processed and loaded with sugar. But this organic, non-GMO, gluten free, unsweetened instant oatmeal is a pleasant exception to the rule. I try to buy plain and sweeten it myself with no more than 1 teaspoon of honey or real maple syrup. My family enjoys the addition of fresh or frozen fruit as well as a sprinkle of nuts and seeds. Bonus: The Envirokidz brand gives 1 percent of sales to support animal habitat conservation and education programs.
Ingredients: Organic Gluten-Free Rolled Oats
365 Extra Virgin Unfiltered Olive Oil: Not all olive oils are created equal so having a go-to brand makes shopping easy. When picking an olive oil keep these four tips in mind: Dark Bottle. Extra Virgin. First Cold Pressed. Single Varietal instead of a Blend. This 365 Brand Extra Virgin Olive Oil from California is a great, affordable option for your cart.
Ingredients: Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Price: $12.99/33.8 oz
Buddha Bowl Foods Himalayan Pink Organic Popcorn: With only three simple ingredients, this is about as close as you’re going to get to making your own. The slightly sweet coconut oil makes this popcorn all the more satisfying. It’s a snack you can feel good about eating.
Ingredients: Non-GMO Popcorn, Coconut Oil, Himalayan Sea Salt
Wallaby Organic Purely Unsweeted Whole Milk Greek Yogurt: Here’s the thing, most yogurts, even organic varieties, are loaded with sugar – 3 to 5 teaspoons per serving, yikes! So you can imagine my joy when this fruited, organic, Greek-style strained yogurt without any added sugars showed up on the shelves at Whole Foods. Top it off with a spoonful of nuts and seeds for a nourishing snack. Siggi’s is another great brand with a clean ingredient list and very low sugar conent — we love their low-fat and full-fat varieties.
Ingredients: Cultured Pasteurized Organic Milk and Cream, Organic Strawberries, Natural Flavors, Organic Locust Bean Gum, Pectin, Fruit and Vegetable Juice for color
Jovial Diced Tomatoes: I don’t know what excites me more, the fact that they’re jarred down the tractor-path from where they’re grown, or the fact that there’s nothing else but tomatoes in this jar. This takes a ton of prep work out of my meal time and I can add whatever seasonings I want. Plus, I know these diced tomatoes are free from preservatives, additives, BPA and other unneccessary junk.
Ingredients: Organic tomatoes, organic tomato purée.
Price: 2 for $5.00
365 Brand Organic Super Grains: A blend of millet, quinoa (tan and red) and buckwheat, these gluten-free grains are a less expensive, yet equally nutritious, alternative to quinoa ($5.99/pound). Naturally aromatic, the buckwheat adds a subtle yet beautiful earthy and nutty flavor to this blend. Cook it like rice using one part grain to two parts water or add an extra cup of water to create a porridge-like consistency.
Ingredients: millet, quinoa, buckwheat
365 Brand Frozen Butternut Squash: Fairly new to the frozen vegetable section is this butternut squash. Perfect for soups, mashes and even baked goods, this no-fuss option is a great find considering how labor intensive it can be to prep and cook a whole squash.
Ingredients: Butternut Squash
Price: 2 for $6.00
Katie Cavuto MS, RD, Chef is a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian and wellness advocate. Katie is the dietitian for the Philadelphia Phillies and Flyers and the Nutrition Advisor for Unite For Her, an organization that supports newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. She appears in regular nutrition and cooking segments on local and national TV. Her writing and recipes have been showcased nationally in Eating Well Magazine, Everyday with Rachel Ray Magazine, O, the Oprah Magazine, Parents Magazine and more. For more of Katie's recipes and wellness tips visit her blog. Her first book, Whole Cooking and Nutrition is available now!