For some time now, there have been some popular articles circulating dissing Whole Foods Market. I must admit, I have enjoyed reading them. However, this is my rebuttal, and ode to a place I call my playground.
Unless you are in a particularly “granola” part of the country (Austin, Colorado, parts of California), the theme of Whole Foods is not overwhelmingly Vegan. That may have been the dream of founder John Mackey, but in truth, the meat department does quite well. A frequent shopper at Whole Foods, I cannot tell you the number of times I have been offered a little sausage sample dipped in a gourmet ketchup. I actually shudder when I think of that particular ketchup now, thoughts of plump sausages dancing in my head. If I were have to ever purchased said ketchup, it would have been before it were forever correlated with dancing meat. Shudder.
Despite the amount of thoughtful employees that work in Whole Foods, I would never assume they were judging others for not being vegan, because most of them are not vegan themselves. Perhaps, I am just a friendly person attracting friendly people, but the employees I have met at Whole Foods are quite knowledgable about all products, and extremely patient. Can you imagine the amount of times they are asked by guests to locate “key-know-uh” (Quinoa), Splenda, or something Dr. Oz has mentioned? The answer to those questions is, “Keen-wah” is on whatever aisle the rice is on, Whole Foods does not carry Splenda because that is one toxic ingredient the store has not let creep into their products, and whatever Dr. Oz mentioned they may, or may not carry.
In defense of the cost for some products, it is true that if you want a healthier cookie or chip, you may be paying more for it at Whole Foods. True story. To be frank, the reason for this is quite simply because the individual ingredients cost more. One of the products I recommend to my younger clients is “Red Hot Blues.” A bag of chips that taste remarkably like Doritos. If we were to look at the ingredients on both bags, we would see that Doritos contain:
corn, vegetable oil (corn, canola, and/or sunflower oil), maltodextrin (made from corn), salt, tomato powder, corn starch, lactose, whey, skim milk, corn syrup solids, onion powder, sugar, garlic powder, monosodium glutamate (aka: MSG), cheddar cheese (milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes), dextrose, malic acid, buttermilk, natural and artificial flavors, sodium acetate, artificial color (including red 40, blue 1, yellow 5), sodium caseinate, spice, citric acid, disodium insinuate, and disodium guanylate.
Where as said, “Red Hot Blues” by Garden of Eatin’ contain the following:
Organic blue corn, expeller pressed oleic safflower and/or sunflower oil, dehydrated tomato, rice flour, salt, paprika, spices, smoked torula yeast, dehydrated onion, natural flavor.
Yes. If my child is addicted to Doritos, I am going to spend the extra pennies to avoid cheap and highly toxic ingredients like MSG, toxic dyes, like Red 40 and blue 1 (because clearly Red 40 is not how strawberries get their color), not to mention the number of genetically modified ingredients in there (corn, corn, and more corn, oil, etc.). The reason that other chips are cheaper is quite simply because cheaper ingredients equates to cheaper products. While I would not call “torula yeast” a healthy ingredient, or any chip a “health food”, I would tell you there are usually healthier alternatives at Whole Foods.
If you are having trouble choosing, a Whole Foods employee will generally offer to let you try a item. I have yet to see someone do this in another store.
Whole Foods is home to a plethora of unique products, but unless you are in the produce section, just because it is in the store, does not make it a health food. The folks working in bakery will lovingly smile and point you in the right direction, but those talented people will flat out tell you that while they may not be using high fructose corn syrup in their icing, and they might be using beets to make pink roses instead of red 40, they are still using sugar and oil. I feel much more comfortable buying cupcakes and desserts from Whole Foods than any other big grocer, but a cake is still a cake. It may be a cake from Whole Foods, but it is not free ride to loving your body. I don’t think a Whole Foods employee would tell you otherwise. They will help you find a vegan cake, should you be looking, but they will not sell you on the fact that it is a health food. Thank you honesty.
Whole Foods is also home to an extensive amount of produce from all across the world. While Whole Foods may be leading the way for Organics and GMO labeling, they undoubtably are going to have a splattering of non-organic, not local, or GMO items in there also. I have seen many a guest become disgruntled to find a Mexican organic cucumber, or pepper. I must say, I stare at critically at those vegetables too, willing them to be local instead. We are trained to want what we want, 365 days of the year. Well, Mother Nature is divine in that she only grows certain vegetables in certain regions and specific times of the year. If you are upset that your butternut squash is more expensive during the summer, it costs Whole Foods more mula to bring in that winter item in during the summer too. Perhaps we should all start gardens of our own and that way we can have local cucumbers and peppers. If you want to save money at Whole Foods, shop seasonally, and locally, and avoid pre-cut items. Of course those are going to cost more! Whole Foods is paying some lovely lady to chop them up for you.
On another note, Whole Foods has some of the best looking vegetables I have every seen. Besides some of the local markets that are starting to pop up here and there, including my favorite non-GMO grocery store, Green Grocer, what I admire most about Whole Foods is their produce selection and their high quality standards. Did you know that if they receive a shipment of lackluster veggies, they just won’t put them out? So, if a batch of mushrooms come in looking all creepy and slimy, they don’t make their way to the mushroom bin. What does this mean? If said mushrooms are arriving all “creepy and slimy”, there might not be any mushrooms available in the store. So if you want mushrooms that day, you may have to venture elsewhere, where you inevitably may have to sort through creepy mushrooms. Mother Nature is imperfect. Fresh food goes bad. However, should it go bad, I do not want to eat it. I am always amazed when I venture into another grocery store to find a bunch of sad, bruised, and picked over vegetables. Did they fight a battle on the way over? Perhaps they are sad because they are not at Whole Foods. I would personally just rather not have to dig through a mound of sad vegetables. I am grocery shopping. I am not on a treasure hunt.
As far as the makeup department goes, I love knowing that I can find better, non, or less-toxic ingredients, and for great prices. The skin absorbs an upwards of 80% of what we put on it, so if we are taking the time to treat our body right, we should not be stacking on the poisons topically either. I rarely venture into department stores these days unless I am visiting my mother, or during the holidays. In a sea of bright lights, I feel like someone is always trying to spray me with a stinky perfume, or sell me a product to make my skin less wrinkly, or something or another. I can’t say I do a lot of beauty product shopping, but if you walk out of Whole Foods spending a lot of money on face cream, I can only imagine what you would have spent in a department store. And for what? Excess chemicals? Eek!
If you want to shop smart at Whole Foods and spend less, start by purchasing the foods that John Mackey intended to highlight: the produce (seasonally, and locally), and then the bulk section of the store, where you will find an extensive amount of legumes, nuts, and grains. These foods require little maintenance, are quite filling, and are thus usually less expensive. The more chips and cookies you eat, the less satisfied you will be, and thus the more money you will have to spend purchasing said, “healthier” cookies and chips. It is quite simple.
This past weekend I found myself at Costco, a place I always try to see how fast I can get in and out of. Everything at Costco is LARGE, “convenient,” fast and impersonal. I was standing at the checkout lane and there was some sort of delay. The guy in front of me was quite bothered, dancing around like he had ants in his pants. I must admit I was antsy to get out of there with my giant bags of organic carrots and Hail Merry tarts. I had to smile though, because as much as I appreciate Costco’s ability to bring organics into the store, the greater portion of their products are processed. Lines move so fast because people want to get in and out, and then stop for a GIANT slice of pizza and soda so that they don’t have to make lunch… or dinner. So while I waited in line (a whole two minutes longer than I had anticipated) I realized, gosh, I appreciate Whole Foods.
(Disclaimer: This is meant to be a silly glimpse into a place I frequent. Of course the bill can add up, when we start adding on higher quality junk food. But… the bill adds up elsewhere when we are shopping for convenience, including those doctor’s bills).