10 Tips for Healthier Grocery Shopping
The grocery store can be a tricky place. Between the trendy buzzwords on packaging, the tempting low prices on processed food and the limited amount of time you’d like to spend reading nutrition labels, even the most knowledgeable shoppers can end up making mistakes in his or her cart. But with a few tried and true tricks up your sleeve, it’s not all that tough to make smarter decisions at the store.
Make a List
Know your grocery store and go with a list of healthy foods in the order they are laid out. That will help you resist temptation, and it speeds up shopping because you’re not wasting time cruising the aisles for what you need. Plan to purchase foods you can use for multiple meals.
Don’t Go Hungry
Healthy eating choices start with the groceries you have on hand. Grocery shop with a plan and shopping list. Do not attempt to grocery shop when you are hungry, as you will be surprised at the significant number of impulse buys in your cart.” If possible, go grocery shopping without the children, they often lobby for unhealthy choices.
Pick (Even) More Produce
In my experience, most people tend to under-shop the produce department. They toss a head of lettuce, a stalk of broccoli and a bag of carrots into the cart and move on. But remember: We’re supposed to be eating five servings of veggies a day. As a rule, vegetables should take up at least a third — or even half — of the real estate on your plate. Logically, this means that veggies (fresh or frozen) should take up at least a third of your grocery cart!
Stock your pantry with canned beans, legumes, broths and rice so you can make a healthy meal in minutes. A recent study found that meals prepared at home contain, on average, 200 fewer calories than meals from restaurants — and they’re lower in fat and sodium. Having a well-stocked pantry can equal pounds lost and pennies gained!
The original versions (most often plain-flavored) foods and beverages — like cereals, soy milk, yogurt, pasta sauces and more, are usually the most nutritious. That’s because as brands extend product lines, they move into more decadent offerings that cost more and have worse nutritional profiles.
Be Selective When Buying Organic
Buy produce according to the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 lists. Buying all organic isn’t realistic for most people … but you can easily and affordably minimize pesticide exposure when you buy according to the lists.
Read The Label
Bypass the front of the package and rely mainly on the nutrition facts panel and ingredients lists. If you’re looking to bump up fiber or protein intake, or lower fat/saturated fat intake, the nutrition facts panel can be a one-stop shop for all nutrients and can simplify the process of comparing products. However, when using them, make sure to check the serving size to make sure it’s a reasonable portion for you. If not, you’ll have to double or triple the numbers that you’re trying to add or reduce.
Try Something New
Trying something new? Use the bulk food aisle to scoop up a small portion of buckwheat or bulgur or millet or dried beans. Experiment with a new vegetables like artichokes, leeks, parsnips or kale.
Don’t Buy At Eye-Level
Look high and low on store shelves for the least expensive items in their category — and often the most nutritious. Brands pay higher slotting fees to be placed at eye level, and those costs are generally passed on to consumers.
Do A Final Check
Before you pull into the checkout line, pull over and do a final cart check. Make sure your cart has visually 50 percent fruits and veggies, 25 percent lean and plant proteins, 25 percent whole grains — and don’t forget to double check there are enough healthy fats, like avocado, nuts, seeds, nut butters and liquid oil … You are only as healthy as your last trip to the grocery store!”