Updated: Jan 16, 2019
My grocery trip the other day to Ralphs (a Kroger subsidiary, Publix for you readers on the east coast) was heavily loaded— not in the way where I left with a massive overflowing cart, but more in the way that I had sooo much to say and share about my investigation.
You see, I grew up going to Ralphs. My brother and I would tag along on mom's grocery trips as often as possible solely to ride in the kids carts or to blame the other for knocking over boxes in the cereal aisle. We loaded the cart up with gushers, cocoa krispies, fruit roll ups.... aaaaaall the junk. So how did I turn out the way I am? I seriously ask myself that question every day. But to make a long story short, I remember how sh!tty I felt when I ate that way, and I made a vow to myself that I will never wanted to feel that way again. And I haven't looked back every since.
I have, however, been to a Ralphs since. I go for the emergency fruit run or toilet paper & paper towel replenish. As for my other grocery staples, I like to keep it as fresh as possible: organic veggies and fruits from the farmers market, organic tempeh from Trader Joe's, fresh hummus and affordable organic nut butters from Whole Foods or I just make my own at home. So going back to Ralph's in the eye of a grocery shopper was slightly different, yet nostalgic. A one word summary of my thoughts? Surprised. Maybe the fact that I chose a Ralph's in the outskirts of Beverly Hills will bias my results, but for the most part I tried to find and review staple brands that I thought might be at a majority of stores across the country, in addition to a few fun finds that may or may not be at a store in the middle of nowhere but I had to include it nevertheless.
1. Boar's Head Roasted Garlic Hummus
This product started a major debate in my head. First of all, the name of the brand brings up disgusting images in my head and gives my chills up the spine. On a related note, yes, the brand is a deli meat & cheese company. On another related note, yes, I am also wondering what the heck they are doing in the hummus industry. Can't us plant eaters have one category to ourselves? Anyway. I digress. I had no choice but to put Boar's Head hummus in here because it was honestly the only hummus brand I'd recommend in terms of ingredients (not company morals, let's be clear here). There are a few reasons why this brand is my first choice at Ralph's: the chickpeas are steamed, which is better than roasted because more nutrients are preserved. They use sunflower oil and olive oil instead of canola oil (which most other brands do. It is super inflammatory, typically genetically modified and has little to no nutritional value). However, I must also mention that I don't like that they add citric acid and it isn't organic, so you could be ingesting trace amounts of pesticides.
2. Endangered Species Dark Chocolate
I went all in on Endangered Species in my Target blog post, but in quick summary: I absolutely love the brand and what they stand behind. While I prefer dark chocolate that is soy & sugar free, I sometimes opt for Endangered Species brand because it is ethically traded and they donate 10% of their profits to wildlife conservation efforts. I aspire to have a company that does this one day.
3. Simple Truth Berry Medley
Simple Truth is Kroger's affordable organic brand. I was really excited to find the organic berry medley in the frozen section, because I LOVE frozen fruit. I buy frozen fruit because I don't have to worry about eating it all before it goes bad, and honestly a frozen strawberry with some raw almond butter and 70% dark chocolate square is my freaking jam. I usually opt for strawberries when I feel a cold coming on because they're high in vitamin C, and I opt for some blueberries or blackberries with dark chocolate when I want a little dessert, and raspberries on the daily because they're high in fiber and nutrients, but low in calories.
Notice that I didn't list a specific product in this title? That's because I can vouch for any GoRaw brand product. I'm not sponsored or affiliated whatsoever, I just have a lot of appreciation for the brand as it was my saving grace when I first went #plantbased when I was 15. My favorite go-to products are the pumpkin seed sprouted bar and the cacao granola. Ugh, so good. Need some right meow. A bit on the nutrition for those that are interested: the granola is extremely clean and sprouted, making it more bioavailable to our body. The only sweetener is dates which I love, considering the pumpkin bar now uses agave (not a fan, it's extremely high in the glycemic index. Might as well just eat corn syrup), but the pumpkin seed bar is also sprouted, high in fiber, tastes amazing and is better for you than most protein bars out there.
5. Hilary's Root Veggie Burger
I was so excited to find these here! I first tried Hilary's veggie burgers at Expo West last year and boy they were good. The ingredients are extremely clean and also organic & non-GMO. The root veggie burger flavor only consists of millet, coconut oil, turnips, sweet potatoes, beets, salt, mustard seed, apple cider vinegar, turmeric (*a superfood spice!!!), garlic, paprika, psylium husk powder (*fiber!!), apple cider vinegar and arrowroot. Amazing, amazing, amazing.
6. Plant-Based Halo Top
I've yet to find another grocery store with more plant-based Halo Top options than Ralph's. I mean, they were stocked full. Even Whole Foods only has 1-2 flavors. Ralph's had ones I never even knew existed. For those of you reading this that have never heard of Halo Top, it's basically a low-calorie ice cream option that is actually darn good, but most of their flavors are dairy based. They dropped a line of coconut milk based flavors, which are also darn good, but I also should mention that it is still a dessert. While there is no dairy or eggs, there is still a lot of sugar just like most ice creams.
7. Don Bruno Arrabbiata
I've never heard of this brand nor seen it on a shelf before, but I was happy to find a tomato sauce that didn't have added sugar. I'm also trying to stay away from calling tomato sauces "pasta sauce" because I had a realization recently... it doesn't always have to go on pasta! I freaking love a good tomato sauce, and I don't eat pasta that often so why not put it on something nutritious that I actually would like to eat? Like, a veggie melange! So, I discovered you can just cook a bunch of chopped veggies on the stove with "pasta" sauce and it is a darn good way to eat flavorful veggies, especially because cooked tomatoes are high in antioxidants (more so than raw— fun fact!).
8. Birds Eye Superfood Blends & Birds Eye Riced Cauliflower *read before buying*
I need to preface that this is not something I recommend. I added it to this post so that I can myth bust it. It is so sad to me that companies will put products out on the market and advertise them to be "superfoods" or "healthy" when they add ingredients like sugar, yeast extract (another way of saying MSG), and non-organic natural flavors. It's call to action is "Superfood Blends - Quinoa & Spinach." Well let me tell ya, you can buy a bag of quinoa and a bag of spinach, mix them together, and have 4x the proportions for the same price, minus all the bad stuff. Bird's Eye also has another "healthy" product that almost fooled me, the Riced Cauliflower. First of all, your riced cauliflower ingredients should only have "cauliflower" in it. Nothing else. Birds Eye's Riced Cauliflower has added salt, cornstarch, guar gum... Pleaaaase read ingredient labels. Don't be fooled by big company advertising. Your body is your temple amiright?!
9. Green Giant Frozen Butternut Squash Veggie Spirals
I was pleasantly surprised to see a clean ingredient list on this one. Butternut squash spirals are a great alternative pasta noodle for those with celiac disease or gluten and wheat allergies. It's lower in calorie and higher in nutrients (vitamin E, manganese, potassium, B vitamins). It would also make a nice add on to a green salad or buddha bowl. Also because they are in the freezer section, you can take them home and pop them in your freezer and eat them when you're ready, instead of having to worry about waisting them. I get so much anxiety when I have food in the fridge because I hate waisting. It's like, all this food could have fed so many people. Did I mention I hate waisting? I'm neurotic.
10. Kroger Frozen Stir-Fry Vegetables
Part of Kroger's frozen "Stir-Fry Starters" line (who knew this existed? Not I), the Stir Fry Vegetables is merely sugar snap peas, green beans, carrots, mushrooms, onions, celery and broccoli. Frozen stir-fry veggies are a staple in my kitchen because it's so easy to throw them on a skillet with a little bit of water and coconut aminos, then serve them with some quinoa and tempeh and call yourself a d@mn chef. Isn't asian food a crowd pleaser? Especially healthy asian food? Ok, now I'm starting to sound more delusional than neurotic.
11. Simple Truth Organic Frozen Spinach
Another major staple in my kitchen, frozen spinach is key to have on hand. Whenever you feel like a dish is lacking or you haven't had enough greens for the day, you can easily pop a handful on a skillet and sauté some spinach with olive oil over low heat. What I use frozen spinach mostly for though is my green smoothie every morning. I put a big handful in my blender along with my almond milk, organic pea protein, chia seeds and other goodies, and this way I know I'm replenishing my tank after a fast (breakfast) in a nutrient dense way. When your greens are frozen, it also gives your smoothie a nice chilled texture and masks the flavor of the greens (it works with kale, chard, other greens, too). Frozen spinach, guys. Get on board. (And organic for only $1.69 ?!?! Must be the illuminati)
12. Simple Truth Frozen Organic White Quinoa
Another star ingredient list! A big batch of white quinoa with only olive oil and sea salt. For those of you that listen to my rants, I'm a firm believer in consuming olive oil (extra virgin unrefined and not heated; in other words, don't cook with it!) with every meal, along with turmeric, but that rant already happened in an earlier post. Olive oil is amazing for heart health— it's high in antioxidants, it's anti-inflammatory and protects your blood cholesterol from oxidization, among a long list of other benefits. Quinoa is also a plant-based form of complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids (this is a big win, because omnivores hold this over our plant eating heads all the time).
13. Cascadian Farm Organic Edamame
Soy is definitely one of the more controversial topics in health, but this is mainly due to the fact that most studies contradict each other on the effects of soy consumption and cancer. This is primarily because some individuals have a cancer gene that can be activated by consuming soy, while others that do not have this gene are totally fine to consume soy; and since most people don't know whether or not they have this gene, it's almost better to avoid soy all together. This is difficult for plant-eaters because soy is one of the minimal sources of complete plant-based proteins we have available to us, and it's also very high in protein compared to other plant protein sources. So to this I say... everything in moderation. Also, make sure to only buy any soy products (edamame is a soy bean) organic, as over 90% of the soy in our country is genetically modified, and buying certified-organic soy means that it is also non-GMO.
14. Tommy's Seasoned Asparagus & Kale
I've not personally tried this product, but I've tried Tommy's Seasoned Superfood Greens and it is theeeeee bomb so I have no doubt in my mind that this would be a good one too. The ingredient list is always simple— no weird additives or sneaky ingredients. I'm also a sucker for a good veggie side that you can keep in the freezer and pop-up when you're dying for some greens or wow a friend with your subpar cooking skills.
15. dr. Praeger's
There really isn't a dr. Praeger's item I don't like. Personally, I don't buy all of them for myself but I usually always have their Super Green veggie burgers in my freezer for emergency situations. By now, you can probably tell I'm a big proponent of having healthy food in the freezer for emergency situations. By now, you can also probably tell I suffer from hangryness sometimes and by having healthy options in the freezer, I get to be a Jew (save money. I'm also Jewish, so don't come at me for this joke) and prevent hangryness. dr. Prager's line is also great to have instead of having tatertots with your friends after a late night out, especially if you get the ones infused with spinach because then you're just being an absolute freaking wellness rockstar.
16. Miyoko's Cheese
Boy oh boy!! Was I excited to see Miyoko's at Ralph's. I understand this is probably a tough one to put on here because I don't honestly think that Miyoko's is carried at all Kroger stores, but knowing that it is carried in at least one gives me hope. Miyoko's is my favorite dairy-free cheese brand because it is a no-junk-added type of company, while most other vegan cheeses are weird ingredients that you can't pronounce or are usually soy-based. Miyoko's is not. It's just cashews, filtered water, coconut oil, herbs, rice miso, nutritional yeast and probiotic cultures. Clean as can be!
17. Treeline Cheese
Oh, did you think we were done talking about vegan cheese? We're not. Treeline is also a great line of dairy-free cheese, but it's harder to find. I've only found it in boutique grocery stores and hipster supermarkets in the past, so I was pleasantly surprised, once again, by Ralph's. Treeline cheese is made of just cashews, water, onions, salt, lemon juice and probiotic cultures.
18. Wildbrine Sauerkraut
Frankly, I hate the taste of sauerkraut. I like pickles though, which is odd, but I can't do sauerkraut. I still eat it though, but it's like a 23 year old Isa is force feeding a 9 year old Isa to eat something she doesn't like, which at that time (and to this day) was milk. So yeah, it's slightly torturous, but I still eat it because it's darn good for your gut and if it's good for your gut, it's good for your brain and mental health too. So don't skip on the sauerkraut! Just make sure to always check the ingredients, because sauerkraut can sometimes be made with fish sauce or refined sugar.
19. Simple Truth Yellow Corn Tortilla Chips
Corn is not something I add to my grocery cart really. It has anti-nutrients, meaning it makes it difficult for your body to absorb essential nutrients. If you grind up the corn, though, like as corn meal or corn flour, then your body can actually absorb the nutrients in it. Unfortunately, corn tortilla chips are still anti-nutrient dense. That being said, it's hard to avoid tortilla chips (especially in the summer months) with a side of guac and salsa. So when I am buying tortilla chips for a gathering or girls night, I always opt for organic tortilla chips to make sure that the corn is non-GMO. Corn is one of the most subsidized crops in our country, meaning farmers typically use nasty pesticides and unsustainable farming practices to increase their yields, so if you buy certified-organic corn products, you can be assured quality corn that is not laced with chemicals or harming the environment. This brings me to...
20. Simple Truth Organic Original Microwave Popcorn
...organic popcorn! I know popcorn is a big thing, at least it was for me and my friends in college. It's a low calorie snack, fun for movies and easy to share. I won't hate, but just try to get organic popcorn when you can! And make sure there's nothing on it, so you can season it yourself with some coconut oil and sea salt or dark chocolate.
21. Vital Farms Pasture-Raised Eggs
YAY, I was so happy to see Vital Farms here. Vital Farms is the only humane-certified egg farmer in our country. I'm not going to go in to detail on this because I'll save it for a dedicated post, but essentially you always want to buy "pasture-raised" eggs. Not just organic. Not just cage free. PASTURE RAISED my people. This means the chicken that produced the egg was actually raised humanely, in a pasture, as it naturally would live its life, eating organic feed and roaming around like a healthy little chicken that in turn produced a healthy little egg that is going into your body. So buy organic, *pasture raised* eggs as often as you can, because then you can be sure you are properly fueling your body and you are supporting humane treatment of animals.
22. Simple Truth Plant Based Protein
Woah! I did not know that Ralph's store brand produced plant-based protein powder. The nutrition label did not disappoint, either. It's pea protein based, high in fiber, low in carbohydrates, high in protein and adequate in essential nutrients like iron, calcium and sodium. It aaaalso has some superfoods squeezed in like kale, flax seed, quinoa, spirulina, reishi (like, what?!), spinach... I can go on.
23. Epic Protein Bar
Also a new discovery for me, Epic's new line of clean protein bars are pretty interesting. They're almost identical to the RxBar, but I love that they specify the eggs are cage free (although not pasture raised, it's still a step up) and non-GMO.
24. Simple Truth Date Bar
While we're still on the topic of bars, I also found a Ralph's brand "date bar" that is pretty much identical to a LaraBar, but cheaper! I don't eat LaraBars on the reg, but I do have a small stash that I will occasionally through in the microwave for 10 seconds if I want a warm cookie but don't have a warm cookie and am too lazy to make one. Trust me on this one, microwave a LaraBar (or Simple Truth Date bar, for the matter). You won't look back.
25. Simple Truth Organic Teas
This made me very happy. A clean, organic tea that is also affordable. It's funny, because you wouldn't really think you'd have to check the ingredients label on a tea box, but you surprisingly do. Most teas aren't just the tea leaf. Most teas add random junk like fertilizers and pesticides, plus other root leaves that have no association with the tea you're buying. So read your labels please please please!
26. Simple Truth Organic Instant Oatmeal
There is a big problem right now with glyphosate, a extremely harmful chemical used by a lot of farmers to kill weeds that often grow around oats. Therefore, research has recently surfaced that there are unsafe levels of glyphosate in oats, so try to opt for organic oats when you can. I love that Ralph's brand Simple Truth is providing an affordable option for organic staples like oats. Makes my heart full. Oats are also a great source of fiber, and we're nearly all deficient in fiber, so eat yo oats!
27. Simple Truth Unsweetened Almond Milk
A really affordable option compared to other almond milks, less than $2 for 1 QT. I love that they also have an unsweetened vanilla option, which is usually my go-to for almond milk. I also like Pacific's line of non-dairy beverages, which you can also find at Ralphs, because their cartons are BPA free, recyclable and non-GMO.
28. Bob's Red Mill
No matter what time of year it is or where I am in the world, I guarantee I have at least one Bob's Red Mill product sitting in my pantry. It's usually a bag of ground flax seeds for my smoothies or for a last minute flax-egg for baking. I also always have their gluten-free flour blend on hand, which works perfectly as a substitute for any recipe that calls for white or wheat flour. I'm dying to try the paleo flour blend... let me know if you have!
29. McCormick Organic Spices
Until recently, spices were spices. Just like teas, I never thought to check the label or considered buying the organic version. The thing is, I'm not totally sure how spices are made. I understand the general gist, its a root or herb or plant that is dehydrated or dried and ground. What I don't know, is what the process is truly like, and if any chemicals are used in the process or if there will be left over pesticide residue, so I treat spices like I would any other produce now. It's hard to find organic spices surprisingly, so I was happy to see organic spices at Ralph's that were *on sale* !
30. Mary's Gone Crackers
Mary's Gone Crackers selection of organic gluten free crackers are awesome. They're brown-rice based, so it's a great alternative for those who are sensitive or have an allergy to gluten or wheat, and have the exact texture of a cracker (you don't always have to compromise without gluten!) I usually opt for the black sesame to get in some added superfood nutrients.
31. Rhythm Superfoods Beet Chips
I'm a sucker for dehydrated veggies. I just think it's an awesome way to get your veggies with a little more crunch and less bitterness. I'm also a sucker for dips and condiments, do having a dehydrated vegetable chip instead of a fiberless sugar-bomb of a chip is a great way to a happy Isa. My ideal combo? Dehydrated beet chips with Majestic Foods sprouted cayenne hummus. Mmm, mmm. Health hack: make sure your veggie chips are dehydrated and not fried! Otherwise you might as well eat a potato chip.
32. Simple Truth Organic Tomato Ketchup
Tomatoes are at the top of the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list almost every year, meaning if you're not going to always buy organic, at least buy these 12 foods organic. Tomato is one of them. You wouldn't normally think to buy ketchup organic, but it is tomato afterall! Luckily, Ralph's brand has organic ketchup. I don't usually go for things that have added sugar, but ketchup is hard to dodge unless you make your own homemade.
33. Amy's Organic Soups
I like to have Amy's organic soups in my pantry during the fall and winter months because I don't always have time to make my own homemade soup (although it is very fun to do and I highly recommend it). Amy's line is BPA free, the aluminum cans are recyclable, and the ingredient list is pure as always. I love that it's only like 5-6 things and they're all real, whole food ingredients like organic zucchini, organic garbanzo bean, organic olive oil... YAS!
34. Sustainable Seas Chunk Albacore Tuna
Ok, I don't know what is up with my Jewish jokes in this post. It must be because I was visiting my mom when I went shopping at Ralph's and ended up doing her grocery shopping for her, and she eats like a typical Jewish woman. She also raised me like a typical Jewish child, so yes I'm also a sucker for tuna salad. Is that even a Jewish thing? I just always thought it was because we always had it when we'd break the fast. Anyway, let's chat tuna. I love tuna salad, but it's really not healthy for you. I realized there is a way of making it healthier, and that is by getting wild-caught tuna (always) and healthier alternative to mayo (see below). I usually opt for SafeCatch tuna because they test each fish for its mercury presence, but I was happy to find this alternative at Ralphs.
35. Chosen Foods Avocado Oil Mayo
A mayonnaise with an avocado oil base AND cage-free eggs! A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE! Avocado Oil based mayo just means they use oil from avocados instead of oil from rapeseed (canola oil), which is super inflammatory and usually genetically modified. Cage-free eggs... well, self explanatory.
That's it, my friends! I hope this post is helpful to you in one way or another. Also, feel free to always DM me with shopping questions when you're at the store. I'm more than happy to help. I can't reiterate it enough, but the more you fuel your body with beneficial ingredients, the more incredible things your body and your brain can do. Let's become powerful together.