Top three foods you can’t go cheap on

Sarah Steimer

Get your shoes on sale. Buy the most inexpensive lamp you can find. Talk down the price of a car. But whatever you do, don’t bargain grocery shop. The cheapest option is not always the best option.

You pay for quality, and it’s one thing to skimp out on quality for some things – but definitely not for what goes into your body

Here’s a simple list of what I find to be the most important foods to spend an extra dollar or two on. It’s worth it, and you’re really saving your health in the end (which is more important than money anyhow, right?).

1. Meat: A few weeks ago I stumbled on an article in the New York Times about a 22-year-old girl – a dancer, actually – who was paralyzed after eating a frozen hamburger her mother grilled for her. The hamburger was contaminated with E. coli. This isn’t something that often happens, but why take the chance? Find a butcher or deli that carries local meats: Smaller farms often keep a closer eye on their products. If you’d rather stick to the grocery store, talk to the butcher there, and buy the freshest product (not frozen) that you can find.

2. Fruits and vegetables: Now that farmer’s market season is over, it’s time to start buying fruits and vegetables from the grocery store again. Steer clear of vegetables from discount grocery stores like Wal-mart. These places have a huge bulk supply, which means chemicals are added to grow more and preserve them longer. It’s not natural. Organic is your best bet here; otherwise spend a few dollars on a fruit and vegetable cleaner – but still try not to buy from the discount chains.

3. Non-hydrogenated oil products: If you check the ingredients on food, you’ll see there’s an overwhelming number that have hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil. It doesn’t matter if it’s sunflower oil or soybean oil – it’s not good. These oils are banned or limited in many European counties – notice we’re the fat, unhealthy ones. One of the first things to change in your pantry? Switch to all-natural peanut butter.

As you can imagine, the list can go on and on, but these are some of the most important food habits to break. The most important thing to do is read the labels. Most likely if it sounds foreign, it’s not worth eating. Go with food that has the least amount of ingredients, and ones you can pronounce. Don’t buy your food from stores that aren’t specifically grocery stores. Large chains that also carry clothes and tires aren’t likely to carry the healthiest food; they’re looking to keep things in bulk and keep it cheap.

While inexpensive is great while you’re in college, it really isn’t worth putting anything but the food itself into your body. No one wants a side of E. coli.

Contact features correspondent Sarah Steimer at [email protected]