The food you purchase is vital to your health and wellness. Making smart choices at the grocery store will assist you in being the happiest and healthiest you, but health smart decisions often come with a higher price tag. Being a healthful food shopper means knowing what to buy, while also understanding the balance between quality and price.
Unfortunately, sometimes there are no alternative tricks or tips and you just need to splurge to get the best for you and your family. Let’s take a look at 10 exceptional products well worth the extra price.
Pure maple syrup
If you have ever been to Vermont, you can attest to the amazing flavor of pure maple syrup. There really is no comparison between real and artificial maple syrup — the two are just so different. Pure maple syrup offers a rich, sweet taste and contains antioxidants and minerals. Artificial syrup, on the other hand, is loaded with corn syrup and artificial flavors and preservatives. This one is not a difficult sell! Be sparing when slathering your French toast or pancakes with pure maple syrup since a little goes a long way.
Wild rice was a Native American staple and is still grown in North America today. Wild rice is abundant in free-radical-fighting antioxidants and keeps indefinitely if stored in an airtight container. At three dollars a cup, about double the price of brown rice, you may want to make it a small addition to a dish, rather than a whole side.
At around two dollars per bunch, buying fresh herbs doesn’t add up when looking at what your recipes call for. Often a bunch of fresh herbs can far exceed what you need for multiple dishes, but the value is in the taste and nutrition. According to research, fresh herbs and dried herbs both reduce your risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases. However, fresh herbs offer up vitamins like A, C and K — all wonderful additions to your healthy meal. Of course, growing them yourself is best, but you can also wash, dry, and wrap them in a paper towel and store them in a plastic bag in the fridge for about a week. Making fresh herb purée and freezing it in ice-cube trays is also a great alternative trick for soups and salsas.
Extra-virgin olive oil
Extra-virgin olive oil, or EVOO, is a must for healthy cooking. EVOO has a rich natural flavor and delivers protective antioxidants. Research surrounding the Mediterranean diet has noted EVOO and other Mediterranean-specific foods to be healthy alternatives for decreasing your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and a host of other chronic illnesses.
Extra-virgin olive oil can cost you 10 to 30 dollars per liter, but again, some products are worth the price. Cold-pressed EVOO offers the best flavor with the most health benefits. Studies have also shown that using EVOO can assist in your body’s absorption of nutrients, more so than other cooking oils. EVOO needs to be stored in a cool, dark place to protect it from heat and light, which will decrease its flavor and nutrient power.
High-quality dark chocolate
The best dark chocolate contains 60 percent or more cocoa and boasts a variety of exceptional health benefits. Good dark chocolate is delicious and natural; ingredients include cocoa solids, vanilla, lecithin and cocoa butter. The cocoa offers antioxidants vital for your health while curbing your desire for processed, cheaper chocolate filled with artificial everything. Eat less and savor every bite, letting it tantalize your taste buds.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is hailed as the only real Parmesan according to European law, and for excellent reasons. Less is indeed more when it comes to this splurge, since the aromatic flavor of Parmigiano-Reggiano goes a long way, even in a small spoonful. In comparison, other Parmesan cheeses offer up high calories with little flavor, causing you to use more. The best way to get the most from your Parmigiano-Reggiano is to buy it by the brick and grate it at home to increase value, freshness and flavor.
Purchasing smoked paprika over regular is like buying a Volvo instead of a Hyundai. You will pay more than double, but you will probably enjoy that Volvo way more. Both smoked and regular paprika offer abundant antioxidants and carotenoids, but smoked paprika boasts far more flavor. It has an earthy, smoky taste and aroma that is worth the price. Purchase this delicious spice in small quantities to get the most out of it; the potency decreases quickly over time.
An authentic bottle of traditional Italian balsamic vinegar can cost up to 200 dollars for a three-ounce bottle. It is, at times, more expensive than gold, but we don’t expect you to take your buying to that extreme! Quality affordable balsamic vinegar contains simple ingredients and has a sweet-tart flavor. Cheaper balsamic vinegars often contain sugar and caramel flavors, which are both no-nos when it comes to your health. Higher quality balsamic will also go a long way. The flavor boost you get from a spoonful is more than enough for salads and marinades.
Toss the bitter, chemical aroma and taste of artificial vanilla and invest in pure vanilla to really emphasize the sweetness in your food. Whole beans cost around five dollars per bean and extract ranges between one and three dollars per ounce, but it is well worth the price tag. Real vanilla is aromatic with almost a hint of honey; it is smooth and there are no added sugars, artificial flavors, or anything else concocted in a food laboratory. Vanilla will lose its delicious aroma and flavor during the cooking process, so it is best practice to add it at the end or while your dish cools before serving.
Specialty salts have more flavor power per pinch, which is an excellent alternative to decrease your sodium intake. There are a few notable options, like smoked salt or Himalayan pink salt. You can sprinkle a pinch on your food for flavor while increasing your meal’s presentation. Specialty salt is expensive, but the impact it will have on your health makes it a smart buy for the money. It is potent, so a little will do the trick, while keeping your sodium levels balanced and healthy.
Like many of us out there pacing the aisles of the local food co-op or grocery store, you want to get the most value for your dollar. There are a variety of great ways to keep purchase prices low for the nutrient-rich, higher quality food you deserve to enjoy. Buying fresh, seasonal items as opposed to packed, precut or prewashed products is a great alternative way to balance quality and quantity with price.
Knowing when to splurge on high-quality products is just as important. It is challenging to budget for extra expenses; however, nutrient-rich, all-natural food is one detail that shouldn’t be ignored. Remember that you will get the most from the high-quality food products you do decide to purchase when they are used and stored properly.
Have you been pondering a healthy splurge? Do a bit of research and see what you come up with. You may be pleasantly surprised.
What alternative food products do you splurge on and why?
—The Alternative Daily