Store Review: Natural Grocers

I have looked forward to this day since I first learned Joplin was getting a full service health-centric grocery store. I’ve watched with keen anticipation as the building went up, at the busy corner of 7th and Range Line.

This morning, Natural Grocers opened its doors in Joplin, launching the store with a day full of activities designed to draw the curious and the excited within. I inhabited both categories! I grabbed a shopping cart and wheeled through the store late this afternoon.

I went to their website to research this company, with 143 stores currently in its corporation, and I was impressed and inspired. Margaret and Philip Isely started Natural Grocers with $200 that they borrowed, and the earnest desire that everyone should be able to afford a healthy lifestyle and be empowered to take control of their health.

They began by going door to door in Golden, Colorado, lending out books on nutrition, talking to people about their health, and giving samples of whole grain bread. They would return after a couple of weeks to answer questions and take orders for the bread, nutritional supplements and natural, nourishing foods.

During a time when TV dinners and convenience foods were enjoying their heyday, the Iseleys bucked convention and taught that nutrition was the foundation of a healthy life. Margaret had personally experienced that change in lifestyle. After the birth of her second child, she became chronically ill. When traditional medicine did not help or heal her, she turned to eating nutrient dense, natural foods and taking dietary supplements. Margaret healed herself and that became the impetus for what she would offer to others.

In 1989 the Iseleys switched to a store format, incorporating an organic produce section. The following year they removed all partially hydrogenated oil products from their shelves, a move that was years ahead of the times. In 1995 they formalized their nutrition education programs, creating a Nutritional Health Coach position. Every store offers classes on health and nutrition. A few years later the stores went bag free, creating a huge impact on the health of the environment. And in 2014 the company rolled out their pasture-based dairy standards and began the process of removing products that came from confinement dairies from their shelves.

The Iseley’s story resonates with me and endears me to their story even more. I can identify with Margaret and her decision to reclaim her health. I believe there is currently another major shift taking place, led by people like Anthony William, as people become more and more sick. Facing diagnoses of mystery illnesses and autoimmune disorders, and finding marginal relief of symptoms with very few cures, people with chronic pain and illnesses are discovering the amazing healing properties of natural, nutritious food. I am among those taking back their health. And Natural Grocers desires to support and help me, and others, with that process.

Natural Grocers was a joy to be in today. The parking lot was full, as was the clean, well lit store. The staff was cheerful and helpful, in spite of being busy restocking shelves. For people weren’t just looking. They were shopping. They were asking questions and reading labels and dropping items into their carts.

I loved the store. One hundred percent of the produce is organic. The canned goods and frozen foods are organic and non GMO. There are shelves of bulk items such as raw nuts, dry legumes and rices, spices and seasonings and grains. I found non dairy products such a yogurt, made from almond and coconut milk, unsulphured dried apricots and a huge gluten free section.

In addition to an incredible array of nutritional foods, Natural Grocers sells healthy pet products, vitamins and supplements, environmentally friendly paper goods and body care products. I was delighted to see that I can pick up chemical and dye free hair and shower products, as well as hand soaps and cleaning products. One of my goals for 2018 is to eliminate chemicals from all of the products that I use in my home and on my body. I will be looking to Young Living Essential Oils for help in this area. However, it is great to know this grocery store supports my decision as well.

I was extremely impressed with Natural Grocers today. I love that they offer health and nutrition classes. I appreciate their ongoing mission and the passion this family owned company has for supporting people in their health journeys. I was wowed by their product selection and their competitive pricing.

This store became my primary grocery store this afternoon. I look forward to getting to know the product and attending classes and exploring new foods and ideas. As they support my healing journey, I will support them by showing up and making purchases and recommending their services and wares to others. Well done, Iseley Family. Let’s journey together.

Journey 106: My First LARABAR 


I stopped by a local grocery store in Joplin today, to pick up avocados. Checking out I spotted LARABARs for sale, above the plethora of candy bars available. I had read about these health bars on the Whole30 website. Curious, I purchased a Peanut Butter Cookie one to try, since I am in my slightly more relaxed second 30 days. 

On the Whole30 site, the bars are suggested as more of an emergency food to be consumed if no other healthy whole food is available. I assumed LARABARs had to be ordered online. It was a nice surprise to discover local availability. 

The packaging states Gluten Free • Dairy Free • Soy Free • Vegan • Kosher. The back of the packaging has a statement from the founder of the bar, Lara. “We at LARABAR believe that a sound mind, body and spirit are derived from food in its simplest most natural state. Made from 100% real food, LARABAR is a magical harmony of fruits, nuts, and spices that will lift your vitality and provide energy with every bite. Simple. Pure. Delicious. Enjoy the energy!”

I researched Lara and her bar and discovered that she had the idea for her creation while out hiking in the Rocky Mountains. Lara, who used to be a junk food junkie and is now passionate about healthy living, wanted a nutritious, good-for-you indulgence that used wholesome, simple ingredients. And indeed, her bars only contain two to eight ingredients. 

With a rolling pin and a Cuisinart, she tinkered with recipes, using her family as tasters. In May 2000 the LARABAR was launched in five delicious flavors. The first 500 bars were packaged and sold. Today, millions of bars are sold each year. 

It was time for my own taste test! I tried my bar with an unsweetened ice tea. The Peanut Butter Cookie Bar contains only three ingredients: dates, peanuts and sea salt. For the sake of clarity, this bar would not be allowed during the first 30 days, due to the inclusion of peanuts. I have tested my body’s response to peanuts during my second 30 days, as per the Whole30 guidelines, and I do not have allergic or inflammatory reactions to peanuts.   

The bar was moist and very tasty! One bar satisfied me and I didn’t crave another one, or anything else for that matter. Knowing these are available locally, I will occasionally buy ONE bar as an indulgence, as Lara suggests. It’s really about choices and how I feel and enjoying life, with a high level of energy and vitality. I believe savoring a LARABAR now and then fits right in with my lifestyle! 


           LARABAR founder, Lara Merriken 

Journey 62: Whole30 Day 7

Whole30 day 7 dinner

A quick post this evening, with an update on how the Whole30 Program is going. After a week of awareness about what I am eating, and even more awareness about what I am NOT eating, I’d say the program is going well. Eating whole foods is easy to do, even with the occasional meal out, and I feel like there is a wealth of information available online. There are recipes and supportive sites that I’ve not even looked at yet.

It’s got to be simple for a program to work for me. My schedule can sometimes interfere with regular lunch and dinner times and I’m not a big breakfast eater, however, I’m relying on boiled eggs to supply protein in the mornings and after adding a handful of nuts and a cup of berries, I’m ready to go! Lunches and dinners have most often been grilled chicken or fish with fresh or frozen veggies. I love including sliced avocado, for healthy fat. And I’ve really savored baked sweet potatoes with a dab of clarified butter, also known as ghee. This class of butter originated in India and is available locally at health food stores. Shopping has been just as simple. Most of my purchases are in the fresh produce section and the meat section, with trips down the frozen vegetable aisle, in my usual grocery store. I make a weekly run to my favorite health food store for items such as ghee and almond flour.

Tea time, I feared, would become a casualty, but I’ve found I can still have my Scottish tea, I just don’t add that splash of milk. I like the tea plain, I’ve discovered, and I can appreciate the subtle flavors more. Instead of finger sandwiches or shortbread cookies or scones, I’m enjoying fresh fruit and a handful of nuts. It’s a great little pick me up and I don’t feel cheated out of afternoon tea. Soon I’ll be trying a grain-free, sugar-free, dairy-free recipe for nut cookies that I found. If they are as delicious as they look, and prove to be a perfect accompaniment for hot tea, I’ll pass the recipe along.

Whole30 day 7 tea time

A healthier version of afternoon tea

I’m careful about eating out, however, I’ve not found it difficult to get a grilled protein, such as fish or chicken or even steak, with plain sides like grilled asparagus or a baked sweet potato without the sugar/cinnamon mix added. Today, not having time to make it home for lunch before a closing, I had grilled chicken nuggets from Chick Fil A and a plain fruit cup. Perfect.

Best of all, after one week, I’m feeling great. Those little aches and pains disappeared within 24 hours after I stopped consuming sugar. I’m sleeping better, have more energy, feel lighter. The program does not rely on scales as a measure of success and health, and I like that! My jeans are loose…that tells me all I need to know about weight. It is so good for me to be reminded that sugar is poison to me. I can occasionally have a slice of birthday cake, if I choose to after the 30 days, however, why choose to? I don’t feel good when I eat that stuff. I think dairy affects me by clogging up my sinuses and causing allergy type reactions. I don’t know that I have any intolerance of grains, but I’ll experiment with those later.

I love the quote, posted below, that I found today, about my competition being the person I look at in the mirror. That’s it. I compete with no one, judge no one, including myself. I simply challenge myself to release that which is not best for me, and embrace that which is. My desire is to be the best me possible, for my own joy, because it makes me feel great. From that amazing and optimal space, I have so much energy that it fills me and naturally overflows to others. For me, that’s the most incredible benefit of all of a healthy lifestyle.

Whole30 day 7 strawberry smoothie

Another quick pick me up…almond milk, coconut oil, fresh strawberries blended together

Whole 30 day 7 look in the mirror

Journey 2: Spinach Smoothie 10 Day Cleanse

spinach smoothie 2

There is something so inviting about a clean slate. The freshness and newness sparks creativity and begs to be filled. The new year offers such an invitation. With the passing of the old year, I release all that occurred, the good and the not so good, and feel energized and inspired to begin anew. No wonder so many begin diets or start to exercise again or make changes in their businesses on January 1. It I Is the closest thing possible to a “do over”.

I love stepping into the new year with my new word and theme. In my mind, when I was a child, December and January were 12 months apart. I saw a year ending. And then a new year beginning with no connection between the two events. It truly was as if I stepped through an open door, into the new year, and then the door closed behind me. And far, far down at the end of the road, December waited. I was almost to my teens before I made the shift that allowed me to see that December and January were side by side, so to speak, and that December flowed right into January. I still like that distinction between the old and the new, however.

I think another reason so many begin a diet or exercise with renewed vigor is because we’ve eaten so many sugar and calorie laden foods over the holidays! This was certainly true for me. My journey today led me to try a spinach smoothie, as a teaser. Tomorrow, having tried the smoothie and liked it, I’ll begin a 10 day cleanse, drinking three smoothies a day. My sister Linda provided the Woman’s World article for this inspiration.

I like the idea of a cleanse right now for several reasons. I want to reset my body’s eating habits, after weeks of not being as mindful as I’d like to be. The smoothie is nutrient dense and balancing to the body. I look forward to feeling a surge of energy that is sure to accompany the removal of sugar from my diet (again) and the inclusion of good-for-me power foods. And, although it could be seen as boring, knowing exactly what I will be having for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next 10 days frees my mind from having to think about what I will eat. I can turn more energy to other pursuits, such as writing.

Here is the recipe, as suggested by Woman’s World:

2 cups of fresh spinach blended with 2 cups of water. Puree until liquefied. (This happened almost instantly and I used a regular blender set to high speed.)

Add ½ avocado OR 1 ½ teaspoon of coconut oil OR 1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed

Add 1 scoop whey protein powder OR 1 small container full fat Greek yogurt OR ½ cup silken tofu OR 1 Tablespoon unsweetened almond butter

Add 1 cup fresh or frozen berries

For my smoothie today, I used fresh spinach leaves, coconut oil, Greek yogurt and frozen blueberries that had been picked locally. I blended well and drank. It was tasty, with the blueberries being the most prominent flavor. I think next time I will add crushed ice in place of some of the water, for a thicker smoothie.

Spinach is considered one of the healthiest foods in the world. This dark green leafy vegetable is extremely high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Benefits include lowering blood sugar, cancer and asthma prevention, curbing appetite, improved skin, hair and bones, lowering blood pressure and promoting a healthy digestive tract. Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant ratings, meaning it is beneficial for the nervous system and brain health, for cancer prevention and as an anti-inflammatory. What a powerful combo to consume! The coconut oil, flaxseed or avocado add necessary healthy fats, while the Greek yogurt, whey powder or almond butter adds protein and keeps hunger at bay.

I’m excited about this cleanse. It will jumpstart my healthy eating and transition me back to an overall, and ongoing, healthier lifestyle. I have places to go and things to do! A healthy, strong, vibrant body gives me someplace to live, while I’m on my journey!

spinach smoothie