Good nutrition starts with smart choices in the grocery store. However, grocery shopping can be a daunting task simply because there are so many choices. Which items are the most nutritious and the best buys? With a little knowledge and a few tips, healthy choices can be found in any supermarket.
Tips on how to navigate the grocery stores:
- Plan Ahead: Before you set out for the market, plan your meals for the week, and create a list to shop from. It takes a few minutes, but saves time in running back to the store for missing ingredients. Use the food lists and forms found in this binder to help you plan ahead.
- Never Shop When You are Hungry: Mandy studies have shown that grocery shopping when you’re hungry or have gone several hours without eating will lead to making poor food choices and may lead to overeating.
- Shop the Perimeter of the Grocery Store: Fresh foods like vegetables, dairy, meat, and fish are usually located around the perimeter of the store. Avoid the center aisles where junk foods lurk. Spend the most time in the produce section, the first area you encounter in most grocery stores (and usually the largest). Choose a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables. The colors reflect the different vitamin, mineral, and phytonutrient content of each fruit or vegetable.
- Don’t Deviate From Your Planned List: Grocery stores are in business to sell you food, lots of food. Many of the tempting foods or “foods to avoid” are displayed prominently in the front of the store. Committing yourself to stick to the foods on your list and doing so will give a feeling of empowerment as well as ensure healthy foods end up in your cupboards. Don’t get caught in the trap of buying “treats” for the rest of the family or those who live with you. If it is not healthy for you, it is not healthy for your family.
- Eat Whole Foods: Avoid foods that contain more than five ingredients, artificial ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.
- Don’t Discount Healthy Canned/Prepackaged Foods: When fresh produce is simply too expensive, try the frozen version or canned with no added salt. Research suggests that canned or frozen vegetables are just as good, and in some cases, even better, than fresh. If you’re concerned about sodium, try rinsing canned vegetables before heating. Convenience is often worth the extra cost, especially when you’re trying to control portion sizes or packing lunches. When you are in a hurry or hungry, washed and prepped produce are easy, healthy foods to reach for instead of high-calorie foods such as crackers or chips.
- Learn to Read Nutrition Facts Labels: In order to buy the healthiest packaged foods, be sure to read the food labels. Choose products that are lower in fats, carbohydrates, sodium and calories, and high in vitamins and minerals. Choose foods with as few additives as possible.
“Markets perform a great public service, but keep in mind they are designed to get you to buy (and, therefore, eat) more food, not less,” – Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, Professor of Nutrition at New York University