Local Nutritionist Shares Tips for Finding Healthful Ingredients at Grocery Chains
With so many places to buy groceries in the Orlando area, where do you go when you have limited time but want to make healthful choices? Small markets are a wonderful resource for local and seasonal items, but busy schedules often demand the one-stop shopping that chain groceries provide. Whether you’re looking for gluten-free bread or organic produce, area chains offer a surprising array of healthier-for-you foods.
Who they are: With one local location in Lake Mary (and several more throughout Florida), this self-professed “green neighborhood market” carries many excellent options for health-conscious consumers. Look for eco-friendly cleaning products, organic personal care products, bulk items and a large selection of wine.
Save time and money: The store is on the smaller side and there’s ample parking, so you’ll be in and out fast. On Wednesdays, members of the free Natural Rewards program get 10% off their entire purchase.
Healthier options: Choices in the produce section are almost exclusively organic, and some are locally grown. Along with local brands like Smart Cakes, Earth Origins carries national brands that are often hard to find elsewhere, including coffee from Bulletproof and Four Sigmatic; Epic bottled bone broth and snacks; and protein powders from Ancient Nutrition.
Who they are: If you’re new to the South, you may not have heard of this Florida-based, employee-owned grocery chain known for its excellent customer service. They have everything you’d expect from a large grocer, including a robust produce section and an expansive deli with made-to-order sandwiches locals lovingly refer to as “Pub subs.”
Save time and money: Publix offers grocery-delivery service via Instacart and Shipt. Rotating sales on specialty items often include organic produce. To maximize your savings, sign up for digital coupons online.
Healthier options: Most grocery stores place healthier items toward the outer aisles, so head for those areas first. Publix has a robust organic produce section, with produce that is usually quite fresh. Many but not all items in their line of Greenwise products are organic, but all are made without artificial preservatives, flavors or colors; they also use unbleached and unbromated flours, expeller-pressed oils and dairy free of rBST. Greenwise meat is raised without antibiotics or added hormones and fed a vegetarian diet.
Who they are: A large nationwide discount supermarket that originated in Germany in the mid-19th century, Aldi is part of a larger company that is distantly related to the Trader Joe’s franchise. Aldi exists throughout the country, and many have noted large incongruencies from location to location. It may be worth your time to explore several Aldis in your area to find which one you prefer. Ninety percent of products in stores are Aldi-exclusive brands, which allows Aldi to offer quality products while keeping their costs down. Aldi has baby products, beer, wine, produce, meats, bakery items and extensive Hispanic and gluten-free selections.
Insider tips: Aldi has lots of organic produce options, and their organic offerings are clearly labeled. Insiders know Aldi tends to have excellent pricing on their organic options, making them a best bet for affordable and healthy shopping trips. Like Publix, Aldi recently launched a grocery delivery service through Instacart. Aldi has excellent prices on alcohol, and offers many weekly discounts that could significantly lower costs for those who take advantage of their coupons.
When shopping at Aldi, bring your own reusable bags; Aldi doesn’t offer disposable bags, and they don’t employ baggers, either. Bring a quarter if you plan to rent a shopping cart; you’ll get your quarter back when you return the cart yourself. By offering their own private label brands, encouraging shoppers to do their own bagging, eliminating disposable bag costs and having customers police their own carts, Aldi has created innovative ways to keep prices down while still offering quality products.
Healthier options: All of Aldi’s “Simply Nature” products are either organic or Non-GMO Project verified. They contain no artificial flavors, artificial colors, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils or high-fructose corn syrup. Aldi’s “Never Any” meat is always free from antibiotics, hormones, steroids and animal by-products. Aldi carries many healthy options that you might not expect to see, like organic unrefined coconut oil, flax seeds and chia seeds, to name a few. They have an extensive selection of gluten-free products as well, under their liveGfree line.
Who they are: Trader Joe’s is owned by families that partly own Aldi Nord, while Aldi US is owned by Aldi Süd. However, Trader Joe’s notes they operate completely independent of Aldi Nord or Aldi US. While once a neighborhood grocery in California, Trader Joe’s is now widely found throughout the United States. At last count, they had 488 stores in 41 states.
In similar fashion to Aldi, Trader Joe’s focuses on private label brands in an effort to keep costs down for consumers. Along with offering many interesting seasonal items, Trader Joe’s also frequently discontinues products that aren’t performing well in stores. This means you may find your favorite product has unexpectedly disappeared, but you’re also given the chance to explore fun rotating options on their shelves: Trader Joe’s calls this their “gangway factor.” They like to make shopping an adventure, and they don’t hesitate to discontinue items that aren’t selling or that have increased manufacturing costs. They never offer sales or membership bonuses, as they strive to offer customers good values on a daily basis.
Insider tips: Trader Joe’s has lots of pre-prepared food items, so it’s a great place to shop when you’re pressed for time or are stuck in a food rut. You never know when an item might be discontinued, so if you find something you like, stock up on it while you can. Along with the uniqueness of their offerings, Trader Joe’s is known for their quirkiness, too; instead of an overhead PA system, Trader Joe’s uses the dinging of bells to signal employees, and has their employees dress in Hawaiian shirts.
Healthier options: Due to their constantly rotating stock, Trader Joe’s is a good source for freshness. They also tend to stock more unusual varieties of produce. Looking for baby gem lettuce or haricot verts? Trader Joe’s might have that! If you’re pressed for time, Trader Joe’s is a great place to find healthier, partially prepared or fully prepared foods to grab on the go.
Who they are: Whole Foods is a national grocer known for their dedication to healthy and organic products. They have a rigorous approval process for their vendors, and they continually monitor the practices of vendors once they’re brought on board. They use experienced team members to vet products and ensure they meet Whole Foods’ high standards. This dedication to the merit of their offerings means consumers who are focused on quality can rely on Whole Foods to do some of the research work for them.
Insider tips: Whole Foods was purchased by Amazon, and Amazon committed to making Whole Foods’ prices more affordable overall. Amazon Prime members get additional savings at Whole Foods; smartphone apps give members more savings on store items, yellow signs inside stores indicate items with 10 percent discounts for members and Prime members get $10 off their first $50 order. Online ordering for both pickup and delivery is available for Prime members as well.
Healthier options: If you’re looking for big variety and good quality in produce, Whole Foods is a best bet for all types of organic produce. You’ll be able to locate lots of harder-to-find choices there. Whole Foods has a veritable bounty of product options for those trying to live a healthier lifestyle. They have safer choices for cleaning products, personal care products, meats, seafoods, organic wines, you name it. If you’re looking for a store to take the stress off your mind and do most of the vetting for you, Whole Foods is a safe bet for your needs.
who they are: Lucky’s was founded in 2003 by two chefs from Boulder, Colorado. There are currently 21 markets in Florida, with more stores planned this year. The mission of Lucky’s Market is to provide healthy, delicious food to their customers in a relaxed and supportive environment. Lucky’s strives to support local vendors and carry local ingredients, and offers many opportunities for partnership with local businesses. Through their “Community Impact Program,” Lucky’s supports local non-profits that focus on building up the community.
insider tips: Come to Lucky’s hungry! There are many samples available as you walk through their stores, from fresh-baked breads to craft beers. Lucky’s has an extensive deli and prepared foods section, with gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options. They make frequent changes to their prepared offerings, many of which are seasonal, and they offer both organic and conventional products in their stores. Lucky’s also has a rapidly expanding private-label brand, marked with a red “L,” for meats, grocery products and personal care items.
healthier options: Lucky’s L brand features organic chicken, antibiotic- and hormone-free pork and 100 percent grass-fed beef. They have an extensive list of excluded ingredients for L brand grocery products, such as: artificial flavors, FD&C colors (food dye & color), MSG, trans fatty acids, partially hydrogenated oils and high-fructose corn syrup. Their store’s Apothecary section has many high-quality personal care and supplement brands, like Gaia Herbs, Now Foods, MegaFood, Everyone, Badger and more. For their private label body care and Apothecary offerings, they list more than 100 potentially harmful ingredients that are always excluded from the products.
Who they are: A grocery store inspired by farmers markets, Sprouts was founded in Arizona in 2002 and has grown to 320 stores nationwide. There is a Sprouts located in Winter Park, with more expected to open in the Central Florida area soon. With inspirational mottos including “Every Meal Is a Choice” and “Healthy Living for Less,” they aim to inspire and educate consumers about making healthy food choices in an affordable manner. They have produce, meats, seafood, a deli, a bakery, beer and wine, personal care products, and an extensive bulk items aisle perfect for bargain shoppers. Many items are organic, and Sprouts is proud of their commitment to the principles of sustainability and responsibility. You can even download a report on how they achieved these goals last year on their website.
Insider tips: Along with digital coupons, Sprouts offers “Checkout Challenges” that unlock special reward coupons for use during checkout. A Sprout smartphone app makes it easy to use the coupons and checkout challenges, and “Double Ad Wednesdays” mean you can use both last week’s and this week’s coupons when you shop on a Wednesday. Like several other markets, Sprouts now offers delivery through Instacart as well.
Healthier options: Sprouts offers a selection of less common, and often healthier, meat choices like elk, venison and beef liver. Sprouts has a private label brand that offers many affordable and healthy choices to the consumer; Sprouts Brand has seasonal and specially imported products, as well as organic, gluten-free, non-GMO and plant-based options. Staying in flow with their mission, there are many Earth-friendly sustainable options in the Sprouts Brand line. Sprouts will often give out samples to customers, like coffee or produce or baked goods, so if you want to try something new, it never hurts to ask!
Sarah Geha is a Certified Nutrition Specialist and Licensed Dietician/Nutritionist in the State of Florida. She has a master of science degree in nutrition and integrative health from the Maryland University Integrative Health, and a health coaching certificate from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in NYC. Visit sarahgehawellness.com to learn more about her practice.