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How to Do a Balanced Bodega Trip

As hard as we might try, sometimes that Whole Foods trip doesn’t always happen, and the majority of us don’t live next to an organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, mega-store that promises balance and enlightenment just by stepping foot inside.

But you know what? That's OK. To be honest, sometimes I prefer going to my corner bodega*. Sure, maybe it has to do with a laziness factor (#nojudgements) but what I’ve learned is that if you shop right, you’ll eat right. It's kind of like that work smart, not hard attitude everyone keeps talking about. You might be surprised what you can find to make yourself a balanced meal or snack and still feel enlightened (AKA feel good about yourself) when it’s over.

Whether it's for a late night, early morning, or quick pick-me-up, we're breaking down your bodega options to avoid a total bodega breakdown. We've been there!

Fresh is Always Best

Bodegas today are filling their shelves with fresh fruit and produce more and more, making it super easy to grab the veggies and go** Don't be scared. We promise the counter bananas can be your friends.

What to Avoid: Anything canned, especially fruit soaked in sugary juices. The Ben and Jerry's freezer!

Look for Wholes

The whole grain, whole fiber, whole wheat ingredients, that is. Many bodegas are also bringing in those fancy chips made with quinoa and kale, which are great options if you're looking for that crunch in a bag. Look for ingredient labels that include only whole foods that you actually recognize (and enjoy!).

What to Avoid: Those greasy Lays and finger-staining Doritos we all know and love (so much).

Pick A Protein

Look for the non-roasted nuts such as almonds and cashews that are great for a quick snack or to throw in a salad. The small hummus containers that come pre-packaged with carrots and pretzels are simple and perfectly sized.  You might even be lucky enough to score some organic almond butter for spreading purposes.

What to Avoid: Planters Salted Caramel Nuts are NOT your friends. Also, be wary of protein bars as many of them contain more sugar than a candy bar.

Be in Love with the Coco

These days coconut water can be found just about anywhere. Our favorite brand is Harmless Harvest, but the key is to look for the fewest ingredients possible. We love our coconuts as close to the source as possible -- no sugar please! If you can convince yourself, sometimes all you really need is a large bottle of water. Go alkaline when possible and let the hydration begin.

What to Avoid: Pretty much everything besides coconut and regular water! Everything else is so processed and full of sugar that it'll leave you hungrier and shakier than when you entered. 

When I Dip, You Dip, We Dip

The chips and dips section of any bodega is by far one of my favorites (next to the candy and ice cream freezer, but more on that below). Looking for something creamy to dip your quinoa stick into? Check for ripe avocados!  Here’s a 60 second guacamole recipe for the girl on the go: Cut avocado in half, remove pit, scoop out flesh and dump into bowl. Mash, mash, mash. If you need something to dip, stick with fresh veggies, whole grain crackers, or pretzels.

What to Avoid: Anything with a neon yellow color and labeled ‘cheese spread.’ :(

Sweet Escape

As I casually mentioned above, I'm a sucker for sweets. They look so nice and cute all lined up together, but their cuteness is a just a lure. I'm not going to find the balance and energy my body needs by grabbing the Snickers. I'm not knocking the little nugget. I'm just saying when I'm trying to feel like my ultimate sexy, enlightened self on a tight time crunch and budget, the last thing I need is a raging sugar crash. I am, however, a girl of habit so if I do need a little sugar boost, I'll grab some dark chocolate covered nuts or Greek yogurt and mix it with berries.

What to Avoid: Do not, I repeat, do not ask for one of those delicious looking chocolate frosted donuts inside the case at the counter. They are full of so many processed ingredients as well as empty, energy draining calories. Who wants that?!

*The Health Department defines a bodega as a food store that:

• Has no more than two cash registers

• Sells mostly food and doesn’t specialize in any one item such as candy or meat

• Sells milk

*Be sure to check out the NYC HEALTHY BODEGAS INITIATIVE whose goal is to provide and boost the availability of healthy foods in bodegas for the NYC neighborhoods that need it the most

*Image via here

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