Goose - 28, New York City, new to Paleo asks:
Dear Paleo Model,
Thank you sir.
Hi Goose! (Very paleo name by the way).
What a great question. Thank you. I understand how stressful and busy grocery shopping in Manhattan can be, with gaggles of vegan-inclined New Yorkers lining up out the door of Trader Joe's while you stand there, bewildered, having a gander at the epic fruit and nut wall. (See how I snuck in not one but two puns in that sentence?).
I've been thinking about how to answer your question, and I think we should start with an old adage... "practice makes perfect". When you're brand new to Paleo it can be a little overwhelming with all the contradictory opinions of what constitutes a "Paleo food" and what doesn't. But don't worry because after a few months of eating this way and delving into some of the Paleo literature you'll be a pro. But let's set down some basic rules to get you started.
Firstly, a loose definition of Paleo would be anything that flies, runs or swims; and anything that grows out of the ground that can be eaten raw. Now of course there are some exceptions to this so let's get into some more detail with these eight guidelines.
PALEO SHOPPING GUIDELINES:
1. Focus on everything in the exterior sections or walls of the supermarket (i.e. produce and meat) and ignore almost everything in the aisles (processed, packaged and multi-ingredient foods).
2. Go for any meat, seafood, poultry & eggs, fresh or frozen, so long as it is not processed (i.e. only contains one ingredient).
3. Choose any vegetables and fruit, frozen or fresh, that can be eaten raw and that is only one ingredient. The "can be eaten raw" rule means that it is NOT a legume or a grain, which are not paleo foods. (Note that peanuts are legumes so peanut butter is out).
4. The exceptions to the 'can be eaten raw' rule are starchy tubers and roots such as sweet potato, parsnips, turnips, taro, yuka root, plantains, etc.
5. Some exceptions to the 'not from the aisles' rule are as follows: canned fish, raw tree nuts, coconut products (water, cream, oil, milk, dried/shredded), olive oil, vinegar, spices, sea salt, >80% cacao dark chocolate, coffee, tea, sparking water, tinned (or preferably glass bottled) vegetables such as tomatoes, olives, etc.
6. The dairy section is out for strict Paleo although I do recommend grass-fed butter or ghee. Once you've been dairy-free for a while if you really want to you could potentially reintroduce some fermented dairy such as kefir or even raw aged cheese and see if you do well on that. Milk is out though.
7. The frozen section is good for single ingredient (preferably grass-fed) meat, (preferably wild caught) seafood, (preferably organic) veggies and berries.
8. Some packaged foods with a few ingredients are still "paleo". Make sure you carefully check the ingredients. These include things like tomato "passata" sauce, thai curry paste, fresh salsa, pesto, etc. Watch out for cheeky ingredients like dextrose, corn starch or high fructose corn syrup.
That pretty much covers everything. I highly encourage people to go to farmers' markets to get really fresh, local produce at a good price. Due to economies of scale it's hard to find really good quality eggs and meat from a supermarket and often you can't guarantee the origin, quality or time in cold storage of supermarket produce, which all affect the nutritional value.
Here are a couple of resources for more detailed lists of paleo friendly foods:
Hopefully my guidelines help you a bit until you find your Paleo feet. You'll be a Paleo pro in no time. After a year in NYC I now have my own Trader Joe's strategy down. I quickly grab all the 'in the aisle' stuff and then jump in the massive line (which conveniently wraps around the exterior of the store) and then I just pull things off the shelf as I go!
Thanks again for your question and am so glad you've found Paleo. Please spread the word (but not in a preachy way!)
Also look out for my upcoming post, 'My Paleo Staple Foods', which coincidentally outlines the eight items I buy every time I go to the supermarket and what I use them for...
The Paleo Model.
PS - I went out to buy some goose feather pillows, but I found they were so expensive I couldn't even afford the down payment!