10 Foods NOT to Buy at the Grocery Store

Buying healthy foods can be a challenge at the store with hard-to-understand food labels. Find out the 10 foods not to buy at the grocery store.

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I just returned from a month-long vacation with my family and came back to an empty refrigerator – except for some fruit, meat and make-ahead meals in my freezer. And while I went out to buy food to replenish our frig, it occurred to me that there are certain foods I haven’t bought from the grocery store in years because these foods are usually loaded with artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, sugar (or worse sugar substitutes), GMOs and other ingredients that I avoid for my family. Find out what foods not to buy at the store.

10 Foods NOT to Buy at the Grocery Store

1. Frozen waffles and pancakes

It’s so easy to opt for pre-packaged frozen waffles or pancakes to pop in the toaster, but if you take a look at the ingredient list you’ll see a laundry list of additives and sugar. You can easily make your own (check out my gluten-free buttermilk pancake recipe and adapt for waffles too) ahead of time and make double or triple batches to freeze. We usually make bulk batches over the weekend and use them for breakfast or packing in our kids’ lunches.

2. Non-dairy milk (almond, soy, coconut or rice)

I usually opt out of soy milk, but I do love almond and coconut milk for my smoothies. But have you ever checked out the ingredient list? Most of the store-bought non-dairy milks have an ingredient called carrageenan – an additive that can cause gastrointestinal inflammation and other health issues. Plus, soy has other anti-nutrients you should avoid. And it’s actually pretty easy to make your own coconut milk or almond milk.

3. Trail mix or trail mix bars

Buying trail mix or snack bars may seem like an easier option, but again many brands are loaded with sugar (or worse high fructose corn syrup) and other additives. Again, it’s easier to make your own and make a big batch to use for the week.

This Paleo Trail Mix is great on its own or it can be formed into bars – which works well for a kid’s lunch. It’s packed with healthy nuts, shredded coconut, and raisins to deliver a healthy mix of carbs and protein – and lightly sweetened with real maple syrup.

4. Salad dressing

I see it all the time. Shopper grazing over the salad dressing aisle in stores, and I’m always amazed when people buy dressings that are just as easy to make at home. Plus, it’s easy to accommodate those with food allergies with homemade dressings. Many store-bought dressings contain gluten, soy and other allergens that my family has to avoid.

Italian dressing can be made with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, garlic, sea salt and a touch of Italian spices (like basil, thyme, parsley and oregano). Sometimes I even add a few squeezes of lemon juice for a citrus flavor.

5. Canned soups and vegetables

We avoid canned soups, vegetables and pretty much anything in a can to eliminate potential exposure to BPA-lined cans. In addition, we prefer fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as homemade broths and soups to cut down on salt and other additives. I usually make a batch of homemade broth and store extra in mason jars in the freezer.

6. Coffee creamer

Take a look at the label for your favorite coffee creamer. Chances are you’re checking out a long list of ingredients you can barely pronounce. I know, you can’t live without your pumpkin spice coffee in the morning. But it’s actually pretty easy to make your own.

7. Table salt

In a nutshell, there’s no nutritional value in refined table salt. Opt for Himalayan Pink salt or Celtic sea salt instead. Both contain more trace elements for your body.

8. Margarine

I’ve long given up on margarine. Years ago, I thought margarine was the healthier choice. It was lower in fat and made from vegetables oils rather than high-fat butter. Boy was I wrong. The reality is that margarine is a man-made product. It’s like hydrogenated oil. It’s a food-like substance that isn’t made with real food.

Real butter from pastured cows, on the other hand, is a real food that has been produced for centuries. It’s packed with fat-soluble vitamins (which doesn’t make you fat, actually it nourishes your body), vitamin K2 and conjugated linoleic acid.

9. Canola and vegetable oils

And while we’re talking about canola and vegetable oils (this includes corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower, peanut, grapeseed, rapeseed and cottonseed oils), I should note that these oils should be avoided too since they are refined, usually made from GMO rapeseeds and treated with chemicals to get the desired color. They’re also high in polyunsaturated fats and omega-6 fats (which are not the same as healthy omega-3 fats).

Instead opt for monounsaturated fats like unrefined, virgin coconut oil (which work well for stir fry, deep fry and so much more), organic ghee or pastured butter, or avocado oil for cooking. Extra-virgin olive oil is great for salads and other dishes that don’t require heat.

10. Boxed cereal

I have vivid memories of eating sugary boxed cereals in the morning as a kid. Little did I (or my mom) know that those cereals were loaded with artificial colors and flavors and packed with sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

Now as a mom myself, I opt out of sugary boxed cereal. My kids have seen commercials on TV for boxed cereal but haven’t tried any of them yet. Even those touted as healthier alternatives without artificial colors or preservatives are still high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. I usually make the kids a quick frittata or scrambled eggs with fruit for breakfast instead. They love these kid-friendly Breakfast Tacos and Burritos or this Instant Pot Oatmeal.

But I admit I do let my kids indulge from time to time on a box of cereal but we usually opt for a puffed brown rice cereal or organic corn flakes. These still give the kids a bit of crunch but without the added artificial colors or sugar. They’re not perfect options but I find that my kids just like to have a little treat now and then.

What food have you stopped buying at the grocery store?

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  1. I’ve read a few articles saying that going gluten free is not a good health choice unless you truly are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease. Are you gluten intolerant? I’ve heard gluten free referred to as a fad just like Paleo diet and Mediterranean diet. Just curious if you’ve done any research on going gluten free as a health choice?

    1. My husband is celiac and my oldest son is gluten intolerant. The problem with gluten is that it’s GMO and so different compared with what our ancestors ate. If you try Einkorn wheat (ancient wheat), you may be able to tolerate it. That’s the only wheat we have in our house. I make homemade pancakes with it.

  2. When I clicked the link for where author buys coconut milk – Village Green Network, I see empty space. There doesn’t appear to be any products in there. Am I missing something?

  3. I already do some of these…yay! I am always looking for more ways to make my own healthy foods. I make peanut butter with the food processor: unsalted nuts, honey and a bit of coconut oil. Every now and then I’ll add a small amount of molasses. My husband loves it and eats it plain on a tablespoon. I keep it in the refrigerator too. 🙂