As they say, haters gonna hate.
Whole Foods and its shoppers get a bad rap. More often that not, I hear people refer to Whole Foods clientele as “annoying hipsters” who are more concerned with the local and organic label than they are with the veracity of that label, and who are the only ones idiotic enough to spend $5 on a tomato.
That, I say, is a false and ignorant generalization of the varieties of people who shop at the grocery superstore and the reasons why people patron WF. While I will admit to seeing more than my fair share of 20-something year old’s who look like they’ve never worked a day in their life and are using mommy’s money to buy raw buckwheat flour bread, I’ve also seen middle-class families wheeling their cart around looking for the highest-quality ingredients to feed their children. And since I shop there — a 20-something, full-time worker who has to carefully budget her expenses every month — I can personally vouch that those generalizations are falsehoods that are only uttered because they have, themselves and ironically enough, become the status quo in apathetic, self-righteous statements.
While I may fall into the millenial age group, the reason I patron Whole Foods isn’t because “it sounds cool,” (does anyone actually do that?) but because, given the fact that I am vegan, Whole Foods offers the best vegan selection and high-quality produce that I haven’t found anywhere else.
Growing up, my family and I shopped religiously at Albertson’s (RIP), Ralph’s or Food 4 Less, and while I’ve never had a terrible experience, I have tried hard to clean up my eating habits the past couple of years and avoid products made with fillers and ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. I’ve come a long way from my Hot Cheetos for breakfast, lunch and dinner days, and because I know big box grocery stores like the ones mentioned above stock a large variety of chemically-processed foods, I avoid buying anything there. Then, as a student living in San Francisco, I relied heavily on Trader Joe’s low prices and fun products. While I’m still a fan of their packaged nuts, soups, cereal, and breads, I’ve learned the hard way that their produce isn’t always the freshest and usually expires within 1-2 days of purchase. Ain’t nobody got time to buy food that’s only going to expire in 2 days.
My grocery store trial-and-errors then led me to my mecca: Whole Foods. Once I started shopping there, I realized that they have everything I could ever need as a vegan, fresh (oftentimes local) produce, and a high standard to which they hold their products at.
While people may jokingly refer to Whole Foods as Whole Paycheck, I’ve found that shopping smart and buying produce isn’t that much more expensive than shopping at Trader Joe’s.
Here’s why I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a superfan of Whole Foods.
1. Their Rigorous Standards
Unbeknownst to most people, the products sold in Whole Foods under rigorous testing to ensure they’re free of artificial ingredients and hydrogenated fats. In order to be sold at Whole Foods, products must be free of 70 ingredients that have been identified as fillers and preservatives. Some of those ingredients include sucralose, foie gras, artificial colors, polydextrose, etc. The meat and seafood sold must also meet strict environmental standards; for example, meat sold at Whole Foods must be free of growth hormones and antibiotics, and must be raised in humane conditions before slaughter. In addition to those standards, seafood must be either wild-caught or responsibly farmed. I hate to ask, but what other grocery store pays such strict care and attention to the quality of their products sold?
2. Their Selection of Local Produce
The beauty of WF is that each store’s inventory varies according to the tastes of the location it’s in. While this is the case for stores like Ikea, it’s always fun to visit Whole Foods locations in different parts of the state (even country) to see what the locals are into. This means that the snacks, cereals, chips and prepared foods are always different, with the most variation being in the produce department.
Whole Foods does a great job at featuring local farms and co-ops. The best tomatoes I ever had were from a co-op in San Francisco whose produce was being sold at Whole Foods. Those tomatoes were revelatory! Most grocery stores don’t even make the effort to buy from local farms, so it’s really neat to see WF, now a huge corporation, pay homage to its’ roots.
3. Their Vegan Selection
Yes, local produce is great, but it’s their vegan selection that has made me a diehard fan. Their vegan selection, especially in LA, is unbeatable. Yes, most Whole Foods carry vegan products, but there are entire sections dedicated to alternative meats and milk, vegan & raw snacks, and other goodies that never fail to restore my ever-wavering faith in humanity.
It was at Whole Foods that I discovered the wonder that is EnjoyLife’s Garlic & Parmesan Lentil Chips, the magic that is Hail Merry’s Raw Chocolate Almond Butter Tart and other goodies like Just Pure Foods Spicy Jalapeno Tomato Chips, Mary’s Gone Crackers Ginger Snap Cookies, and so many more.
If you’re vegan, you should be shopping at Whole Foods. If only for their snacks.
4. The 365 Brand
Great news for fans of the 365 brand: Whole Foods is opening 5 365 locations in 2016! For those unfamiliar with 365, it’s Whole Foods very own less-expensive brand. The 365 brand makes everything from pasta to toilet paper, and is the perfect alternative for those looking for high-quality ingredients at lower costs.
Just another reason Whole Foods is the best.
5. Their Commitment to an Eco-Friendly Lifestyle
The grocery store isn’t just about organic and local food, they’re about an organic and local lifestyle. Most Whole Foods stock everything you need to live a conscious, eco-friendly lifestyle such as organic clothing, accessories, home goods, decor, and exercise equipment from companies who are known for their charitable reputation and contributions to society.
In most ways, Whole Foods has become your one-stop shop for clay-based toothpaste, hemp fiber clothing, vinyl records, soy wax candles, and of course, amazing produce! Looks like Target has some serious competition.
6. Their Beauty & Body Section
This section is almost as beautiful as their vegan snack aisle, which never fails to bring tears to my eyes every single time I venture down it. The beauty and body section feature almost every organic skincare brand you can think of, shampoo, conditioners, deodorants, lotions, body butters, incense (because who doesn’t like to light incense every now and then for purification?), and MAKEUP! Aside from the sheet masks I purchase from Sephora, every skincare product I own is from Whole Foods. My favorite brands they carry are Andalou Naturals and DermaE. In addition to skincare products, they sell all-natural makeup that is perfect for those with sensitive skin or just looking to rid their makeup bag of chemical-laden, animal-tested products.
7. The Supplements
Supplements are a hot topic of debate: do or don’t they work? Well, I’m no expert and I’m more than willing to chock up results to the placebo effect, but I love discovering and trying new supplements. It’s almost as exciting as shopping for skincare products (those goddamn sheet masks are an addiction). Whole Foods carries every type of supplement from stress-reducing tonics to floral remedies to your traditional vitamins and minerals.
The supplements I have made staples in my pantry are VegLife’s Vegan multivitamin, red & green marine algae pills (for boosting my immune system), Vitamin D from Garden of Life, and Matrix Reishi Mushroom powder. It may seem like much, but it keeps me healthy, energized and happy.
8. They Sell Vinyl Records & Books
Yup, some Whole Foods have a dedicated vinyl lounge and book section which is awesome if you have a few minutes to hang out before starting your arduous search for every item on your grocery list. While you can’t play vinyls, you can flip through them and their selection is usually spot on featuring classics like ACDC, Bob Dylan and Michael Jackson, along with some current pop stars like Adele and Lana Del Rey.
As for their books, Whole Foods carries a variety of healthy lifestyle books that are usually geared towards healthy cuisine, exercise, or meditation. I’ve found some of my favorite cookbooks from Whole Foods, so if you have a couple of minutes, I definitely recommend checking it out!
9. C’Mon, Those Prepared Foods…
I’m sure you’ve been in this situation: it’s a Monday, you’ve just come back from an amazing weekend and the workday kicked your ass. Now that you’re out, you have to go to the grocery store to now complete another task that promises to leave you battered and exhausted: grocery shopping. But wait… you see it, you smell it… Over there is an entire section of the grocery store dedicated to prepared foods — hot foods, pastas, breads, salads, sandwiches… Once you smell it you compromise with yourself by choosing to grab enough dinner for tonight (in the form of a Beyond Meat sandwich and Plentil chip bag) then come back tomorrow to get the task done.
Thankfully, the Whole Foods prepared section is there to help us make last-minute healthy choices.
10. Last, But Not Least, The Way They Treat Employees
The company is well known for their kickass employee benefits that rival that of corporate offices: they offer amazing healthcare benefits for their employees, a discount system based on your level of health and lifestyle, PTO, LOA, a matched retirement savings plan, and so much more. I’ve known several people who work/have worked there and they’ve all loved the manner in which they’re treated by their superiors and the benefits they receive as employees.
Few companies as large as Whole Foods can say that they value their employees first, but given the incentives they offer, Whole Foods can.
Before internalizing the negative comments you’ve heard about Whole Foods and its shoppers, I say try the place out for yourself. Yes, it can definitely get expensive, but that’s only if you’re putting nothing but prepared, prepackaged items in your cart and are forgoing the produce. And if you are buying nothing but produce, rest assured that it’s high-quality, organic fare that was placed with care.
After all, don’y you deserve the best? Especially if it’s going in your body!