I’ve lived in Japan for 15 years now. Sometimes I get asked what I miss from home.
Two things: First one, obvious- seeing my family. And second, Whole Foods.
If you visit Tokyo, you’ll see so many slim, healthy-looking Japanese women, and me, carrying around Whole Foods shopping bags, you’d think that we have one here.
Here’s a list of what I buy at Whole Foods, when I do get a chance to go, once a year. If you’re trying to lose weight, looking for low carb/low sugar snacks, you follow a Paleo, Keto, or Slow Carb diet, I hope sharing my shopping list is helpful.
As you can probably imagine, creating this blog post wasn’t cheap. (Haha! Whole Foods joke)
The price symbols ($ – $$$$) I list are only estimates.
Note: Oftentimes, you can find these products elsewhere, substantially cheaper.
But at Whole Foods, you can find everything ♪…
I discovered these chips on Tim Ferriss’s Instagram @timferriss. On his diet, the Slow Carb Diet, you get one “cheat day” per week. But now that I have Siete Grain Free Tortilla Chips, I can have chips and guacamole any day of the week. Made from cassava root, avocado oil, coconut flour, ground chia seed, and sea salt, these chips are Paleo/Slow Carb-friendly, and IMHO, are just as good as regular corn tortilla chips. On this diet, I realized it was the crunchy texture that I was missing. (and the vodka tonics!)
One of the daughters in a Mexican-American family of seven (siete!) living in South Texas was diagnosed with multiple autoimmune conditions. At her brother’s urging, she decided to adopt a low-inflammation, grain-free diet, and her whole family joined her on the journey to better health. The family of seven started exercising together in her parents’ backyard, and they even opened up their own Crossfit Gym.
The tacos and fajitas on flour and corn tortillas that they grew up eating just didn’t taste the same as lettuce wraps. So she began making grain-free tortillas for her family, and Siete Grain Free Chips were born.
At the Whole Foods I went to, they had these three flavors: Sea Salt, Lime, and Nacho.
The Real Coconut by Daniella Hunter, are gluten, grain, and dairy-free products dedicated to digestive health. The brand’s philosophy promotes organic, sustainably-sourced ingredients, and farming initiatives in Belize. The tortilla chips are made with organic coconut flour and cooked in organic coconut oil. The texture is probably harder than you’re used to, but I think you’d like these babies too.
They’re my second favorite.
Their flavors are Himalayan Pink Salt, Original, Beach Barbecue, Golden Curry, and Sea Salt & Vinegar.
My first and second grade students in Japan love this snack. At one point I was ready to ban it from my classroom because I was always picking up those damn plastic wrappers off the carpet. And it wasn’t just my students from Japan or Korea, they all loved it. Even the one girl, I never saw eating vegetables at lunch, liked nori (the Japanese name for seaweed). The Korean version that they sell in the cafeteria is seasoned with sesame oil and salt. Unfortunately, it comes in individually wrapped snack-size packages to keep the sheets of seaweed fresh and crispy.
I don’t quite understand how you can certify seaweed as organic, like this US brand, gimMe. Dr. Hergesheimer taught me that only soil is certified organic. So for example, if you’re growing tea in China with poor air quality and dirty water, it can still be technically certified organic. I’ve wondered how this can relate to seaweed because instead of being rooted in soil, seaweeds are free-floating.
Seaweed absorbs essential minerals like a sponge. But depending on where it’s grown, it may also soak up environmental toxins and heavy metals. GimMe grows their seaweed in a protected region of the Yellow Sea, off the coast of South Korea.
Yellow Sea? Did this raise an eyebrow for you?
Certified organic means that no chemicals or pesticides were used in growing, harvesting, or processing the seaweed. It doesn’t certify that the Yellow Sea is free of contaminants; however, it’s seems apparent that this company took great care in finding a clean marine environment to grow their premium-grade mermaid food.
Nowadays, my thyroid gets its dose of iodine (which is an essential nutrient, meaning your body can’t produce it on its own) from seaweed, not from iodized table salt like in the US. GimMe seaweed snacks have about 50 micro grams per serving. The daily value of iodine for adults is 150 mcg.
Seaweed is incredible dense in nutrients. Some call it “the new kale”, but I wouldn’t go overboard. If you have thyroid or digestive issues, first consult your doctor.
Now I am just realizing that the name of this seaweed is a play on words: gim is the Korean name for this snack. Get it?
Oh, and they just have one flavor: seaweed.
This 4th & Heart Madagascar Vanilla Bean Ghee is perfect for flying. On the plane, I either ask for a tea or hot water and make my own, and squeeze in this ghee. Oh ghee!, is it tast-ee! To make a “Bulletproof tea”, these travel Brain Octane Oils are also almost perfect.
Warning: if your tummy is not used to Bulletproof Brain Octane or MCT oil, I find that this serving size will give me a stomachache, and you’ll likely make a mess if you try to save half of the tube for later. With MCT oil, it’s better to start with a teaspoon per day and work up to a tablespoon. On a plane is not the ideal lab to experiment with your stomach.
I was dumb. Safer to stick to just the ghee, which stays solid at room temp, or bring a travel packet of coconut oil (see below).
In addition to fueling my brain with healthy fats, “Bulletproof tea” helps me feel full on long haul flights. Whole Foods sells Bulletproof Coffee, but I’m not a coffee drinker (thanks to my junior high school math teacher’s coffee breath).
High quality MCT oil like Bulletproof is not cheap. At home, I tend to add grass-fed butter and coconut oil to tea. It’s a little bit easier on my tummy and budget.
Ghee Price: $$+ Brain Octane: $$$
Living in Japan, I’ve eaten a lot of canned fish. I have favorite brands of canned sardines, anchovies, and mackerel depending on which supermarket I’m at. When I’m in the US, if there’s a co-op or Whole Foods, I go for Wild Planet sardines in extra virgin olive oil. I’m not the only one- they’re often sold out.
The doctors and nutrition experts I trust recommend avoiding large ocean fish, like tuna, altogether because of they’re high mercury content. Small fish like sardines are lower on the food chain and have spend less time in the ocean to accumulate high levels of heavy metals. You get your heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids without the high level pollutants, and it’s sustainably fished.
Dr. Dom D’Agostino and now Tim Ferriss travel with Wild Planet sardines. As for the latter, he wrote on his blog, “24 cans of sardines are sitting next to me in my suitcase.”
I soften up a half a head of broccoli in a skillet with butter, and then add sardines on top and stir-fry on low heat. Probably be good with some garlic or fresh squeezed lemon.
Whole Foods carry a few different alternative pastas like this one and a more expensive organic brand. I look for ones that don’t add brown rice, corn, or whole wheat: only 100% lentil, green pea, or chickpea.
The texture is different than wheat pasta. But with alternative food options like these, it taught me that following my diet does not mean I have to sacrifice the food I love. You just have to swap ingredients: like chickpea for wheat.
At my age, 38, I can’t eat whatever the heck I want to anymore, but with pastas like these, pretty darn close!
I tend to agree that it’s good general advice to avoid protein bars. But if you’re eating a stevia-sweetened brownie flavored Quest Bar instead of a brownie, I think you’re doing everything right! Most protein bars are full of sugar. Even Rx Bars, that are sweetened with dates, are really high in sugar.
If I’m going on a trip and want to stock up on back-up energy snacks, these are my top choices, in this order.
#1: Primal Kitchen- low in sugar, quality ingredients, and tastes good
#2: Bulletproof Vanilla Shortbread- low in sugar, great for refueling your brain and body and feeling full (May taste a little weird if you’re not used to eating coconut oil or stevia.)
#3 and #4 (my last resorts): Kind Bars- the ones that are lower in sugar and Rx Bars- also taste good, but high in sugar
Cows that feed on eat four-leaf clovers?
Kerrygold is a relatively inexpensive Irish grass-fed butter that tastes magically delicious♪. In Japan, I often buy Isigny Sainte-Mère grass-fed butter from France. At Whole Foods, believe it or not, it’s like less than half the price as it is in Japan. Organic Valley Pasture-Raised Butter is also pretty decent spread.
After I unlearned that butter is bad for you, I started frying eggs in butter on low heat and I add a dollop in my black tea. But if you aren’t buying grass-fed butter, all the pesticides that goes on the cow’s feed, soy, corn, ends up in the milk. Cows eat a lot. (burp)
Do cows burp?
You’ve heard the saying “You are what you eat.” I often hear doctors like Mark Hyman point out that “You also are what you eat eats.” Eggs are an example of this. Well, chickens are, but you get what I mean.
In the US, food labeling is incredibly misleading. According to current regulations, eggs can be labeled ‘organic, free-range, and cage free’ if the birds are given organic feed, like corn, wheat, soy (not a chicken’s natural diet), and a small door is opened for five minutes a day, giving chickens “the option” of going outdoors. There are also no requirements for the size or condition of the outdoor area.
In Japan and the USA (Whole Foods or a local farmer), I look for eggs from “happy chickens”, raised on pastures eating their natural diet, bugs and grubs, not fed a corn, grain, and soy diet.
Artisana Organic Raw Almond Butter is my favorite snack to bring when I travel. Organic nut butter is expensive so I usually only buy it when I fly. The snack-size pack also prevents me from eating five heaping spoonfuls from the jar in one sitting.
Artisana Coconut Oil goes in my tea on the plane or at the airport. And thanks to Naini @nainisingh, and her mother, I now use it on my skin and hair. I put it behind my ear where I get a little bit of eczema instead of petroleum-based products like I used to. So now I smell like a tropical vacation, and you can imagine me wiping up the coconut oil I spill on my airplane tray table and rubbing it behind my ears.
Hey, this organic Whole Foods stuff ain’t cheap!
You can read my interview with Dr. August Hergesheimer (topic #2 in the table of contents) to learn why you should add coconut oil to your diet.
I love Whole Foods’ salad bar and hot bar. Of course, it’s expensive compared to shopping at the farmer’s market and chopping vegetables at home. But when I’m traveling, usually solo, I can eat exactly what I want to eat and it’s a lot cheaper than $20 -$30 dollar restaurant meals three times a day.
Price: $$ – $$$
And food for your skin…
(Since I’m already at Whole Foods anyway)
Dr. Mark Hyman says, “If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.” Not sure if I want to eat this sunscreen, but anyway.
Sunscreens, just because the SPF is the same, it doesn’t mean they’re all equal. A 2018 report from Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that nearly 67 percent of sunscreens didn’t work. And those nifty spray-on sunscreens may not cover the skin completely and pose an inhalation risk.
Ewg.com grades sunscreens on a 1-10 scale, 1 is the highest, and will tell you if the sunscreen you’re using may actually be harming you. Badger Sunscreen is rated a 1 and is on EWG’s list of best beach and sport sunscreens of 2018. I really like the new ‘clear zinc’ version and I put the face stick on my lips, which before always burned easily.
I also use All Good Reef-Friendly sunscreen, also rated 1, which I don’t think Whole Foods carries. If you really hate greasy sunscreens, I recommend this brand.
Find out what your sunscreen is ranked here.
Once I switched to using Burt’s Bees Shaving Cream, everything else smelled really chemically to me. It’s pricier. The first time I used Dr. Bronner’s new shaving cream, I cut myself in two places. Pretty sure it was my fault and not Dr. Bronner’s. I neglected reading the small print …that covers the entire tube.
The older I get, the more sensitive I’ve become to smells. If the dish soap, shaving cream, or shampoo smells really good, I enjoy the experience more, even washing dishes.
It’s my reward.
I have to blame my friend, Pris, for introducing me to really good natural brands like Aesop. Once you get used to “the good stuff” like John Masters Organics, it’s hard to go back to my regular $6 shampoo.
I know everyone has their own preferences for smell, but I’ll actually sometimes smell my green tea and cucumber deodorant Kiss my Face Deodorant before I put it on. Mmm, smells goooood. Not like every day- I’m not that big of a weirdo.
When that flavor isn’t on the shelf, no, I don’t lick it, I also like Tom’s of Maine.
Did I leave out one of your favorites from Whole Foods? Please let me know in the comments below!
*This information should be correct at the time of writing. If you notice any mistakes or changes, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.