How to Shop in America

Catchy title, eh? I refer to food shopping, specifically for au pairs, young people who have come to live with an American Host Family and care for their children, while attending college or university and having an incredible cultural exchange experience. Unfortunately for Americans, even though we spend tons of money on food, we buy some of the most unhealthy foods to stock our pantries. Au pairs are often shocked and horrified at the lack of fresh food in American homes.

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American food is new and different, but what about food shopping in America? Register now at

Fellow-blogger Summer Blackhurst has interviewed hundreds of Host Families and shared her findings recently in a short article. While I agree with her discovery that Americans have a terrible diet (she doesn’t exactly say that), I would like to take it a step further and give some advice to both au pairs and Host Families. First, part of the cultural exchange experience includes food. Au pairs should try all kinds of new American foods. The same is true for the Host Family; when possible, the au pair should have an opportunity to buy food (international aisle of many big-chain stores is good or do a google search for specialty stores in your area) and share some flavors from home with his or her American family.

Second, look for restaurants that serve cultural or international foods. You might consider trying some new foods or new restaurants and be very surprised at your new favorites. Providence is known for its international cuisine, especially in Little Italy, also known as Federal Hill! All of our coastal towns, like Narragansett and Bristol and even Warwick, have many restaurants offering fresh seafood during summertime and all year round!

Now, to the shopping. I did mention the international aisle and local specialty shops, but what about the every week, day-to-day eating and shopping? Here is where the advice of a mom of six can be helpful. Stay away from the actual aisles of the store. I know that sounds funny, but try to limit your shopping for food items to the edges of the market. This will limit your shopping to the produce department, where all the fresh fruits and vegetables, which should be making up the bulk or majority of your diet, are found, as well as the meat and dairy departments. You will find virtually no foods in boxes or pre-processed foods at the edge of the store, except maybe the frozen foods. Limit options in the frozen foods to vegetables and maybe a splurge on ice cream.

Shopping the edges of the store will limit your exposure to the processed foods located in most of the aisles. Realistically, you will need to go down a few aisles to get things like spaghetti sauce, pasta, breads, cereals and paper & cleaning products. You will find, though, that the healthiest options in the store are at the edges. If you attempt to limit your shopping to healthy food, you will find the negative affects of our Western diet will be less. Organic food stores are also popping up all over, so locate one near you!

Finally, it is a little late to start one this year, but eat out of a garden! That is a great way to eat healthy and keep active with the kids! I have an awesome garden full of many of the vegetables my kids and I love, and I will even freeze or can some to last into fall and winter! If you didn’t start a garden this spring, plan one for next spring and visit a local farm and garden shop for some fresh vegetables this season. You will find them even fresher and tastier than vegetables or fruit bought at your grocery store. There is still time, too, for fresh fruit picking. Many farms in Rhode Island have “Pick Your Own” signs out front. Right now, blueberries are still in season, peaches will be ready soon, and next month, look for elderberries and maybe some early grapes!

For more information about becoming a Host Family with Go Au Pair, contact me, Joan Lowell, your Local Area Representative, at or 401.3069.1925 or simply register for free at I will contact you shortly. I look forward to hearing about your family, your childcare needs, and your ideal cultural childcare experience!



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