The AI Diet – SHOPPING PART 1 (Vegetables, Fruits, Grains)

There is no question about it – the grocery store is not only overwhelming to navigate, but clever promoters leave no stone unturned in terms of how to best entice you to buy more.  This is why I suggest making a list.  A list…like mom used to do?  Yes, exactly!  Okay. So, creating a list actually requires a little work in meal preparation, but fundamentally, when you abide by the principles of the anti-inflammatory diet (AI diet), you will find that it’s simple to put together flavorful, creative meals you and your entire family will gobble up! To get inspired,  check out any of the many recipes I’ve posted on this site thus far and anticipate many more to come!

With your list of AI foods in hand (or smart phone, I-Pad, etc.), avoid the center aisles of the store and head straight to the produce section. The rainbow is your guide, so stock up! In case you didn’t know, you can eat as many vegetables as your little heart desires, the only exception being corn (actually a grain which mistakenly falls into the veggie category) and white potatoes. Buy fresh or frozen, but never canned. Don’t forget your fruit, although a good guideline is to plan for 2-3 vegetable servings to every fruit serving.

There are some folks who say that certain vegetables and fruits should never be consumed as a result of high sugar content, but I counter this by saying that both vegetables and fruits contain a significant amount of water and fiber.  Even some of the sweetest fruits (like pineapple) also contain very high amounts of fiber which prolongs digestion and the rate in which sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, further mitigating insulin response. For this same reason, I advocate fruit blending (smoothies) over juicing. Buy seasonally for the best price and taste! If you don’t have the budget to go 100% organic, attempt to at a minimum, make organic choices for those items on the Dirty Dozen list (which is a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide load).

Does your local store have a bulk foods section?  If so, this is the least costly means to purchase the following items:

    • Steel cut oatmeal
    • Beans & Legumes
    • Nuts
    • Quinoa
    • Brown Rice
    • Barley
    • Spices
    • Coffee (buy organic, limit to 1 cup in the morning only)

No fancy packaging needed, right? However, if you’re making the switch from Uncle Ben’s instant white rice to natural brown rice, you will need to modify your cooking methods a bit as unprocessed, whole grains take longer to cook and typically use more water.  Want a suggestion for this?  Purchase a rice cooker – you can set the cooking time, add rice and water, close the lid and voila…rice in 45 minutes! Many rice cookers double as a veggie steamer, too – it’s wonderful!  The same concept applies to steel cut oatmeal and quinoa as well as beans and legumes (which when purchased dry, need to soak overnight before cooking).  Also note, some beans, when not cooked thoroughly, contain toxic properties. See additional preparation and cooking instructions here.

Since, we are talking about grains, let’s segue to bread. If you abide by the principles of the AI diet, fundamentally, not only are you focusing on including more whole, fresh food items into your diet, you are simultaneously eliminating foods which cause internal inflammation. Processed foods are pro-inflammatory because of the nature in which they are manufactured (which has nothing to do with nature at all).  Bread IS a processed food. When buying bread,  look for 3 things: #1 absolutely no artificial ingredients, minimal sugar content (as even organic breads contain molasses) and 100% whole wheat. Check out Rudi’s organic bakery as an example of what to look for! Bread products can be one of the very few “processed” foods included in the AI Diet, albeit consumed minimally, as long as you are mindful as to what you are purchasing.

Additional Anti-Inflammatory “processed “ foods:

  • Organic or Natural Nut Butters
  • Real Maple Syrup (used sparingly to drizzle over oatmeal or as a sugar substitute in certain recipes)
  • Organic Tomato Sauce
  • Organic Goat’s Milk Cheeses
  • Raw Cow’s Milk Cheeses
  • Raw Cow’s Milk
  • Organic plain Greek Yogurt
  • Organic plain Almond milk (wonderful in coffee coupled with cinnamon-flavored Stevia)
  • Organic Coconut Milk

The key here is to thoroughly read the label and be on the lookout for any funky, unpronounceable ingredient. Chosing organic products can help, but simply because a product is labeled as organic or as containing organic ingredients does not mean that every ingredient is on the AI list…like sugar! If you need help deciphering the label code, check out this cool app called Fooducate!

In SHOPPING PART 2, we’ll tackle meats, oils and dairy.  Until then, continue to Nourish your mind and educate yourself on healthy, anti-inflammatory food choices!

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