Why Whole Foods isn’t as wholesome as you think (and where you should be shopping instead)

The Farm Bill, Big Agribusiness, Big Soda, Big Pharma. I’ve given lots of lip service to all of these corrupt influences in the past.

With forces like these running the show, bad health is practically institutional in this country. But I refuse to stay quiet about it. Or to admit defeat by accepting the status quo.

Because at the end of the day, I love my country. Despite the fact that the government does so many things so incredibly wrong—especially when it comes to public health and nutrition.

Unfortunately, we’re not alone in our struggles. Turns out, there are lots of other places dealing with the same problems we are. And they’re encountering just as much trouble in their attempts to solve them.

Case in point: I read an article recently about a program called the Food and Health Dialogue, launched by the Australian government back in 2009. The goal was to put some controls on the junk food market by reducing or restricting fat, sugar, and salt content.

And five years later, the program is an utter disaster. According to one recent study, this program hasn’t hit any of its proposed targets. (And the bar was set pretty low to begin with.)

But at least the Ozzies recognize that a poor diet is an even bigger contributor to chronic disease than smoking. Still, while a lot of governments around the world (including the U.S.) have done an amazing job of getting people to stop smoking, none have done an effective job getting people to stop buying and eating junk food.

Just imagine if they focused their efforts on creating policies that would make healthy foods—like fresh, local produce and responsibly raised livestock—more affordable and accessible.

Sure, you’ll find Whole Foods markets all across the country these days. So it seems like good nutrition is more accessible than ever before. And, in fact, it is. But not because of our government. And not because of fancy chains like Whole Foods. Don’t kid yourself about this health food empire.

My pet name for Whole Foods is Whole Fibs. Why? Because this market charges outrageously big bucks for products that don’t always measure up to their price tags.

In fact, they often don’t.

On a recent visit to a nearby Whole Foods, I noticed the selection of vegetables and fruits was almost entirely conventional—not organic. And the organic versions they did carry were all shipped in from California and Mexico.

And unfortunately, the fish counter and meat case weren’t much better. They only had a couple of locally caught fish available—another disappointment. And the locally raised meat and poultry was sparse, too. In fact, a lot of the selections were the same quality I could get from the regular supermarket. For a lot less.

Is it me or is this just wrong? Aren’t consumers relying on Whole Foods to provide the highest quality foods?

So I couldn’t help but ask myself why I should pay more (not to mention walk two extra blocks) when I could have gotten the same thing at the corner bodega.

The good news is, Whole Foods no longer has a monopoly on the healthy food market. Smarter choices are available in more places now.

Case in point: My local farmer’s market is only one block from Whole Fibs. And it offers tons of fresh, local, seasonal, and organic produce. Often at a fraction of the cost of what Whole Foods charges.

With Spring finally in full swing, I can’t urge you enough to seek out your local farmer’s market.

That way, at least you know you’re always getting what you pay for—and exactly where it came from before it landed on your dinner plate.