Friday, February 25, 2011

Whole Foods - your window to weight gain

One of the joys of living in the US is a health supermarket chain called Whole Foods.

Before you get the wrong impression about me, let's get one thing clear. I'm no health nut. I've never been obsessed with hitting the gym (actually, I detest it and would rather do a lot of walking), organic food, or calorie-counting. None of those things have really interested me.

I love chocolate. I love cheese. And I love anything that's encased in pastry.

Having said that, I like to think I live a healthy enough lifestyle. I (usually) choose walking over driving for a lot of day-to-day errands. I eat mostly home-cooked meals, made from scratch. I don't make a habit of visiting the Golden Arches - or many other fast food joints, for that matter. Generally, I don't eat a lot of processed crap, and now that we're in the US, do my best to avoid things with high fructose corn syrup. I do actually enjoy, and frequently eat, a lot of vegetarian dishes. I may not be skinny, but I hope that these factors will stop me from being a lot bigger than I already am ('Amazonian' proportions, thank you).

Over the years, I've barely set foot into health stores, but circumstances have gradually changed. The main issue is that J needs gluten-free bread, and we cook with gluten-free pasta, bake with gluten-free flour and so on. In Australia, these were easy enough to get at our local supermarkets. Not a great range, but they were available. The regular American supermarkets seem to have a limited gluten-free range - in fact, I've yet to see any gluten-free bread in a normal supermarket.

Add to this the fact that Miss Pie began eating solids about seven months ago. After six months of exclusive breastfeeding, I felt somewhat protective about what went into her mouth, so wanted to start her off with organic food.

We hadn't been in L.A. long when someone suggested we try Whole Foods for gluten-free bread, and we haven't looked back. I have never seen such an incredible range and variety of gluten-free products -  all I can say to anyone who is gluten-intolerant or coeliac and living in America, go straight to Whole Foods... run!

However, the cost of groceries at Whole Foods means that I don't shop there for everything. Just the gluten-free items, and organic ingredients for making baby food ready-made baby food for my lazy days, which are frequent.

This is the theory, anyway. Whenever I set foot in their store, it's with the intention of purchasing only the products just mentioned. Putting theory into practice is a little more difficult, because everything in there is presented so tantalisingly. Everything smells so delicious and wholesome. Everything looks so, well, good for you.

Therein lies my problem. Once I step inside, my brain tells me that if Whole Foods sell it, then it must be okay. It's not bad for you. I go into a food fog, without actually eating. A basketful of necessary purchases turns into half a trolley's worth. I find it impossible to emerge without spending a minimum of $60.

This is bad news for our budget, but good news for Whole Foods.

The process usually happens as follows: after selecting the fruit and vegetables I want, I then head straight to the pasta aisle and grab a few boxes of the gluten-free version. I then set out to grab whatever other gluten-free ingredients are on my list, and do the same with baby food and snacks. Then, en route to the bread aisle, I pass the beautifully displayed cheeses.

Mmm... cheese... I haven't had any Jarlsberg for ages... oh, and they have British cheddar! Yum!

Plonk. Plonk. Into the trolley.

Mmm... breakfast burritos? How could they possibly taste anything but divine?

Plonk. Into the trolley.

At some stage, I head down the frozen aisle to pick up sweet potato fries. The frozen aisle also contains a plethora of other goodies.

Mmm... frozen waffles... we really should take up that fine American tradition of waffles for breakfast... these ones are organic, so they can't be bad for you...

Plonk. Into the trolley.

Mmm... they have a much better range of Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavours than the local supermarket... S'mores! I haven't tried that one yet!

Plonk. Into the trolley.

By that point, any delusions of buying healthily have gone out the window. Along the way, the Faery will have also conned me into buying her fruit twists, a fruity concoction that resembles licorice straps but is super tangy, sweet and - I'm pretty sure - not that healthy.

At this rate? I may need to book an extra seat for my arse on the airline when we return to Australia...


  1. Oh, I can't blame you. I'd go nuts in Whole Foods too. It sounds like my kind of place. This also sounds frighteningly like what our shop turns into (particularly if the kids are along for the ride). Supermarkets must know this. The whole place is rigged to get you to spend as much as possible.

    I look back on my $40 a week Piedimonte shops now with something approaching disbelief. I know it was 15 years ago and there are three more people now but still ...

    (As you guys are GF, have you tried buckwheat pancakes? If not, I can highly recommend them.)

  2. Yep, we've tried buckwheat... but just recently found a really good GF pancake mix by Bisquik AND even better - the local supermarket sells it. We now have fairly regular weekend pancake brekkies : )

  3. MJ - Whole Foods is supermarket heaven. It's orgasmic. And I recall purchasing THE best donuts in the world from Whole Foods. I mean, they were shut your face awesome.

    Mel - Piedimontes. Oh the memories. Imagine even being able to afford the rent within that vicinity these days? And yes, Bren and I shopped for the week on a budget of around $40. Sometimes less.

  4. Donuts, you say? Really? Don't tease me now. I've actually found American donuts (and ready availability) somewhat disappointing. Perhaps it's just the area we live in (Armenia-ville?), but good donuts have been hard to come by.

    I will make it my mission to purchase some Whole Foods donuts asap...

  5. Chocolate covered, as I recall. Not normally my style. I am all about the cinnamon donut - fresh outta the hot oil. But these were goooood.