Food Shopping- Online or In Line at the Supermarket?

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New York City is an interesting place when it comes to food shopping and cooking at home. In movies, New Yorkers are often seen dining out, getting Chinese take-out delivered, and using their ovens for storage. It’s true, we have a great dining scene, but I’m a New Yorker who still enjoys cooking and eating at home most nights of the week.

With eating and cooking at home comes grocery shopping, which, in the city, is something that brings a whole other set of quirks. Depending on where you live in the five boroughs, a traditional, large format supermarket doesn’t really exist here. Rather, our groceries are usually multi-level, narrow stores that can be difficult to navigate with a cart and pretty much guarantees a long check out line. Now, with that visual, consider the new trend of online grocery shopping, where you can order your groceries from the comfort of your apartment couch!

I’ve been an in-person grocery shopper my whole New York life, but recently Danny and I decided to finally use a mailbox coupon and try online ordering for the week. I know many of you are interested in the real deal behind e-ordering, so I’m breaking down the pros and cons, as I see them, for online food shopping.

Pros:

  • Not having to lug home bags yourself- if you have a car and are driving home from the store, this might not seem like an inconvenience, but in a walking or subway city, bringing home bags is tough work! Bags arriving at your door can be a very nice perk.

  • No lines to wait in- my biggest pet peeve of the grocery is the very, very long lines to check out. Ordering ONline instead of waiting IN line is a big plus for busy people.

  • Helps with meal planning-by placing an order online we found it forces some decision-making when it comes to food prep and planning. We also cut down on extraneous purchases and avoided the check-out line temptations this way too.

  • Less stressful- overall, shopping online, away from the crowds, turned out to be a less stressful experience. When it’s been a rough week or we have a hurried one ahead, shopping online can certainly help to reduce the stress of navigating a store in-person.

Cons:

  • Not immediate- the largest downside of online ordering is definitely that you don’t get your items the same day. If not in meal prep-mode, this method of shopping won’t work very well.

  • No control over quality- one of the biggest reasons I like shopping myself is getting to pick up and assess the quality of my groceries, especially when it comes to produce. Ordering online means taking your chances when it comes to ripeness of certain fruits, but generally the freshness and safety of the items are fairly good.

  • Mishaps with product or packaging- on our first order we expected to receive some vacuum packaged steak, which we were lead to believe meant individually sealed in a way that lends itself to freezing. What we got instead was meat packaged in one of those styrofoam trays wrapped in plastic and because of this we had to adjust our meal prep plans for the week. The service we used, Fresh Direct, was nice enough to give our account a credit for the mishap though!

  • Weekly plans may change- while online shopping is great for when you have a plan, it gets tricky when those plans change. Ordering all your food up front means you have a stash that will go bad if not cooked or consumed. Whereas with in-person daily, or every other day shops, if your after-work plans are adjusted and you’re not going to be cooking at home that night, you are preventing possible food waste.

Interested in checking out online shopping? Place your first order using Fresh Direct, Amazon Fresh, Instacart, or Thrive Market to name a few.

Which do you prefer? Online or in line food shopping?

Bring On The (Good) Bacteria

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This post was originally published as a blog post for Good Food Made Simple, with minor edits. I was not compensated for my writing or time, but did receive free product.

With the rise in digestive woes and diagnosed digestive disorders, scientists, doctors, and the general public are learning to get more comfortable talking about all things gut related. One of the biggest and buzziest topics regarding gut health these past few years has been probiotics and it seems that this food trend is here to stay. So, let’s take a look into exactly what probiotics are, if they could be of benefit to you, and how you can start to incorporate them into your diet.

First off, it’s important to understand that we all have trillions of bacteria currently residing in our bodies, with most living in our large intestines. With today’s trend of recommending everything from our food to our hygiene practices being “clean” you might assume that this gut-bacteria is something we should be wiping out too- not so! These intestinal bacteria help digest our food, produce beneficial byproducts, and protect us against harmful bacteria. We want to keep these good buggies around, but sometimes, due to infection, sickness, travel, stress, or heavy antibiotic use, the scales can tip towards an unhealthy balance of bacteria. This, my friends, is why probiotics are so important.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms which, when ingested, extend health benefits to the host. These microorganisms are usually live bacteria, but some can be yeasts or molds. In non-science-y speak: probiotics are “good” bacteria that if you consume them may benefit your health, yippee! 

Currently, one of the most studied areas of benefit is probiotics’ ability to reestablish a healthy gut, such as one that may be suffering from chronic diarrhea, slow gut transit, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), abdominal pain, bloating, or ulcerative colitis. This makes sense because if one of these above digestive tract woes is being caused by a harmful pathogen or compromised digestive tract lining, we would want to introduce beneficial probiotics to help chase out the bad bacteria, reduce inflammation, and produce more beneficial by-products to alleviate the uncomfortable GI symptoms.

Probiotics are also being studied, and recommended in some cases, to be used as an immune-system support for allergies, and for benefits to the reproductive tract, oral cavity, lungs, skin, gut-brain axis, and glucose metabolism.

Going through this list of ailments may have you thinking, “well shoot, maybe I should be taking a probiotics pill, I’ve got issues in at least one of these areas!” But before you go out and pick up any old bottle of capsules from your drug store, it’s important to understand that there are numerous strains of bacteria and not all of them are shown to necessarily be helpful for every issue. Before a stop at the pharmacy, I recommend a stop at the grocery.

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What foods contain probiotics?

I first recommend consuming probiotics through food sources, and the important thing you’ll want to look for is that a product says it contains “live active cultures” on the label. By ingesting the live bacteria they have a better chance of reaching the areas of your gut that need them the most. Some of the common sources of probiotics are fermented foods such as:

  • Yogurt

  • Kefir

  • Kimchi

  • Sauerkraut

  • Tempeh

  • Miso

  • Kombucha

Other food sources of good bacteria, but not living cultures, are sourdough bread, beer, wine, chocolate and soy sauce. Probiotic supplements are certainly a popular area of interest these days, but again their efficacy and specificity leads me to recommend choosing probiotic foods over capsules at this point, unless guided by a dietitian or doctor.

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A note on prebiotics

Less commonly known, but I feel just as deserving as all the hype, are prebiotics. You can think of prebiotics as the “food” for the good gut bacteria that will go on to benefit the person who consumes them. Prebiotics can help to selectively balance the health promoting vs. disease-promoting pathogens, and they work especially well in the large intestine. Much like probiotics, once prebiotic foods are fermented in the gut they can help improve IBS symptoms and diarrhea duration. Prebiotics are most commonly found in non-digestible food sources or foods that contain high levels of resistant starch (meaning the starch is not fully broken down into glucose) such as:

  • Dried beans and legumes

  • Garlic

  • Asparagus

  • Onions

  • Leeks

  • Artichokes

  • Green bananas

  • Sunchokes

  • And somewhat in wheat, bananas, yams, and sweet potatoes

Practical tips to boost your intake

Regardless of if you currently suffer from digestive or immune system woes or not, it’s a great idea to build up you intestinal defenses by including probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods in your diet on the regular. If you’re struggling for ideas on how to incorporate some of these funkier foods, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Add spoonfuls of kimchi or sauerkraut onto salads and grain bowls

  • Make a marinade or salad dressing with miso

  • Spoon of yogurt on a an egg breakfast bowl

  • Stir kefir into your morning oatmeal

  • Toss chopped asparagus into a pasta dinner

Dairy vs Non-Dairy Yogurts and My Top Recommendations

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Traditionally, and by definition, yogurt is a dairy product, meaning it is made from cow’s milk, or less often from the milk of other animals. We covered that pretty well in the previous blog post, but as you may be aware, the non-dairy yogurt trend has been growing rapidly! Whether it be for reasons of lactose intolerance, other digestive woes, or veganism, plant-based yogurt alternatives are launching into the market rapidly. I recently dabbled in the non-dairy yogurt space and I’m going to tell you why and what I discovered.

I am not an advocate of elimination diets, whereby entire food groups are dramatically removed from a person’s eating pattern, UNLESS medically or nutritionally warranted. I believe that working with a professional to undergo the phases of elimination and careful reintroduciton, while monitoring symptoms, is the safest and sanest way to go about an elimination challenge. Alas, I have not been immune to trying one such diet, without expert guidance (…), in an attempt to link a health issue to my diet.

Without going into too much boring detail, I’ll suffice it to say that I’m a grown adult woman with hormonal acne and this year I dove into the research behind diet and acne, in the hopes of riding me of these pesky breakouts that I’ve dealt with since my teen years. In speaking with my dermatologist and reading the literature, there didn’t seem to be a clear connection between dairy and acne, only a possible link between acne and whey protein (found in milk). Wanting to see if reducing my whey, and overall dairy, intake would help, I started replacing my usual morning cow’s milk yogurt with a dairy-free alternative.

Did this short dairy-free trial solve my skin issues? Nope. Did I learn about some new plant-based products that would be of interest to ya’ll? Sure did!

Non-Dairy Yogurt 101

Rather than being made from animal milk, the non-dairy yogurts you’ll find on the grocery shelves right now are made from either nuts (almond or cashew are what I’ve encountered), soy milk, oat milk, or coconut milk. While each of these are excellent sources of nutrition in their whole forms, they’re not typically processed down into a semi-liquid product, and so with these non-dairy milks you will find the ingredient list to be a bit longer as there are usually thickeners added to give it a yogurt-like texture and consistency. I found that each brand and type varies greatly when it comes to texture, so you’ll likely need to taste test a few before finding one you like! Now, let’s get into their nutrition…

Where’d you go, Protein?

The biggest difference between these varieties and traditional yogurts is the protein content. Cow’s milk yogurts contain on average 15 grams per cup, while these plant-based versions only have 3 grams- this is a big difference! Soy-based yogurts contain about 6 grams per cup and some almond-based ones contain 5 grams of protein. Many oat varieties have protein added in as fava bean protein, which also helps with the texture. I’m a big advocate of sufficient protein at breakfast, so if a oat yogurt is going to be your choice I’d throw on some extra nuts or seeds.

Sugar Situation

Usually when a product is lacking in protein or fat, sugar is loaded on to make up for it. We’ve seen a shift in sweetness in the traditional yogurt sector, and luckily the non-dairy trend has taken to this as well. I’m impressed to find some varieties as low as 4-6 grams (Good Plants and Lava), and on the top end I’ve seen 20 grams of added sugars (Kite Hill Almond Milk Yogurts). Again, some use natural cane sugar and others sweeten with Stevia leaf, so I feel that really comes down to a taste preference.

Good for your Belly

One of the big reasons I recommend consuming yogurt is for the probiotic benefit, and luckily you will find these beneficial bugs added into many of the non-dairy yogurts.


So, that’s my take on dairy and non-dairy yogurts. With a bit more knowledge of yogurts and how they can (and should!) be included in a healthy, balanced diet, I hope you feel more confident strolling through the refrigerated section of your grocery store.

I believe that when we are given the tools to make our own decisions about which foods to purchase we become more conscious consumers and eaters. Learning how to read a nutrition label, understanding the sugar levels amongst different brands, and feeling like a nerdy scientist and reading lactobacillus acidophilus and getting to say, “I know what that is! Bring on the probiotics, baby!” is such an empowering feeling!

Yet, I also know that having some specific recommendations can be helpful and I’d rather these come from a professional- like me!

Click here to find out my favorite name brand yogurts (dairy and dairy-free) and consider saving this reference guide on your phone for the next time you stroll down the dairy aisle.