Grocery stores are a breeding ground for many different dangers to your health and wallet. Not all grocery stores are created and maintained equally, but anywhere that hundreds of humans regularly intermingle at once is bound to be germy. The grocery store is no exception. Among the abundance of germs, there are a number of items that you should 100% avoid, in the name of good health and financial literacy.
What foods and processes are putting you at the most risk? The following list will show you which dangers are easily avoidable.
Anything From The Deli Section
No in-house cut meat, no soups, no salads, literally NOTHING. Without proper sanitation, the blades used to slice meats can be a threshold for bacteria. The USDA does not require expiration dates, it just recommends certain guidelines. Therefore, not all grocery stores honor expiration dates when it comes to processed meats. These meats can be re-wrapped and sold, or even be cut up and used in vats of deli soup! Not to mention the glass covered cases they keep the meats and salads in. How many times have you seen flies or other insects that accidentally get trapped inside? You are far better off purchasing your meats from a local butcher and produce from locally owned farmer’s markets.
If you’re not already checking your carton of eggs before purchasing, you might want to get in the habit! Broken or cracked egg shells create an entryway for bacteria and pathogens. While cooking does reduce the amount of most contaminants, it does not remove them completely. Inspect eggs before buying them to make sure you and your family aren’t exposed to food-borne illnesses because of cracked egg shells.
Don’t fret #TacoTuesday lovers, there’s a bit a good news here. A few years back, it was rumored that manufacturers were cutting corners and supplementing their product with wood pulp. While this rumor was deemed moderately false, it is true that most pre-shredded cheeses contain fillers and additives. The main culprit it cellulose. Here’s the tricky part, cellulose is often considered "wood pulp" because manufacturers grind up wood to extract cellulose from. Wood is from trees, trees are plants, plants have cellulose. While all of this may seem confusing, wouldn’t it be easier to skip out on the risk of ingesting questionable additives and just take the extra two minutes to grate your own cheese?
While fortified almond milk contains as much vitamin A and vitamin D as regular cow’s milk, it is also loaded with sugar and lacking in protein. If you’re unable to drink dairy and are concerned about protein, non-dairy milk made with soy or pea protein would serve as a good option. There are also unsweetened variations that are far less invasive on your health. Additionally, cow’s milk is a natural source of calcium but almond milk must be fortified. As a rule of thumb, always read the nutrition facts panel on the side to confirm it’s been fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Pre-made Guac, Salsa, And Hummus
If you buy manufactured brands, you’re likely getting a ton of chemical additives and extra calories. Due to this, the calorie count and amount of chemicals to keep it fresh is also extremely high. The same thing about the deli meats being repurposed for soups holds true for “fresh” store-made guac. The semi-old tomatoes, avocado, and onions are chopped up and used in their “made fresh daily” recipes. So again, why not take the extra 10 minutes to make your own truly fresh guac? You can find the best and easiest way to make homemade guac here.
Exotic Fruits And Veggies
Unless you are purchasing your favorite exotic fruits from a foreign grocer, it is fair to assume that these items are poor quality. Think of the time it takes to get to your favorite grocer. Can we honestly say that these items are shipped in a manner that ensure’s freshness?
White Lines In Chicken
Healthy chicken is pink in color. If you see white stripes on your chicken, it could be a sign of a muscle disorder. According to the studies conducted by the Italian Journal of Animal Science, this condition has a big impact on the nutrition and flavor of your meat.
Those little white lines running alongside the muscle in your chicken breast don’t present a safety risk to you or your family, but they affect the quality of the food you feed your family. Chicken breasts with white stripes are higher in fat and lower in protein. This not only has an impact on the nutritional value of the chicken breast, but on taste and even the tenderness of your meat.
Most store bought dressing ingredient lists include around 15 or more ingredients and 100 to 300 calories to your green goodness! “Healthy” dressing ramp up additives and other unhealthy ingredients. Most “fat-free” dressings often have sugar to make up for the fat removal; and most of us don’t need more added sugar. Claims of ‘sugar-free’ on dressing bottles are misleading. This often means artificial sweeteners have been added. For the same price of your favorite dressing, you could make your own and cut the calories to under 100. Here’s a quick Strawberry Vinaigrette recipe to get you started!
Anything That’s Not Food
Somehow a trip to get groceries always turns into a trip for paper towels, light bulbs, picture frames, air freshener, and batteries. As hard as it is to resist. YOU MUST! These large chains are fully aware of our tendencies and try their best to make unnecessary purchases at marked up prices as convenient as possible. Make a list, and stick to the list!
Germ-Infested Shopping Carts
Dozens of hands push shopping carts around the grocery store each week, so it’s hardly surprising that most are coated in germs. However, you might be surprised just how dangerous this bacteria can be. Keep yourself safe by diligently washing your hands before and after coming into contact with a shopping cart and always place your produce in a bag to prevent them from touching the cart. Also, be extra cautious before using grocery carts that are parked outside, as they can be coated in animal droppings.
Grungy Fridge Doors & Credit Card Machines
What are the two other things in a grocery store that 90% of shoppers are guaranteed to touch? The credit card pad and refrigerator doors. We all like opening the doors in the freezer department to look inside, and their bacteria levels are proof of the practice. Then, just think about when you’ve gotten your bacteria-ridden cart, opened the grungy refrigerator door, grabbed all of your packaged, yet germ infested items, and are ready to check out. When you settle your bill, you’re putting your fingers in contact with everyone else’s flu germs, potentially putting yourself at risk of illness. Thankfully, washing your hands before and after will dramatically reduce your risk of contracting anything. I personally keep hand sanitizer with me at all times!
From the hands of dozens of supply chain employees, and hundreds of shoppers traveling through them each day means that the standard grocery store is a pretty disgusting place to be. Grocery shopping without question could put your health at risk, but practicing some common sense will go a long ways towards protecting your health! Make sure to inspect all packages before buying, never touch your face or eat samples with your hand coming into contact with germ-infested surfaces. Lastly, always remember to wash your hands and produce once you leave the store.
By following these techniques, you’ll drastically reduce the amount of unsafe bacteria you come into contact with on your next trip to the store!