Going to the grocery store can be overwhelming for those of us trying to eat healthier or lose weight. Here are some tips to make healthy shopping a little easier.
Eat “treats” occasionally, but not in your home. Even those of us trying to eat as healthily as possible will want to splurge sometimes, and that is okay!
1. BUY MOSTLY WHOLE, UNPROCESSED FOODS
Foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. This includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat, seafood, cold-pressed oils, nuts, seeds, and more. Processing foods can remove the naturally occurring liquid, fiber, and nutrient content and can also add flavorings, sodium, sweeteners, etc. Staying close to nature is best!
2. MAKE YOUR GROCERY LIST AT HOME WHILE PLANNING YOUR HEALTHY MEALS AND SNACKS
Making a list before going to the store sets your intention to buy the healthy foods on your list, rather than grabbing whatever suits your cravings. You are more likely to go directly to what is on the list, rather than being tempted by all the plethora of unhealthy food that is available. Shopping from a list helps you to avoid impulse purchases, the bane of healthy diets.
3. SHOP THE PERIMETER
In general, the perimeter of the grocery store is where you will find most of the whole, fresh foods such as produce, meats, seafood, and dairy. Down the aisles is where you’ll find prepackaged, processed, artificially flavored, high sodium, and high sugar foods.
4. “BUZZ WORDS” DO NOT GUARANTEE THE FOOD IS HEALTHY
Companies can label foods “low fat/fat free,” “natural,” and even “organic,” and this is no guarantee that the food is healthy. “Natural” means absolutely nothing; foods labeled “natural” can still be filled with sugar, trans fats, preservatives, flavorings, etc. “Low fat” foods may have less fat, but they are less filling than their full fat counterparts, so you may be tempted to eat more, plus they may have more sugar or artificial flavorings to compensate for the taste of losing the fat. Even organic foods are not a guarantee of health. Though they are certified to have fewer pesticide residues than their non-organic counterparts, they can still be high in sugar or sodium, or have “natural flavors” added.
5. READ THE LABELS
Sometimes you may have to buy some prepackaged food to save time, but be sure to read the labels, even if the food is labeled with the buzz words “natural,” “low fat,” or “organic.” Look for labels that have familiar ingredients that you can pronounce. Choose items with a lower sugar and sodium content.
6. FROZEN PRODUCE CAN BE FRESHER THAN FRESH PRODUCE
Buying frozen produce is not only a great way to save money and meal prep time, but frozen produce can also be fresher. The fresh produce in your grocery store, if you don’t have a locally sourced grocery store, spends a lot of time in transit, sometimes across the country, sometimes across the world! The nutrients in fruits and vegetables start degrading the instant they are separated from the plant.
The fresh produce at a grocery store sometimes has to cross a country or a continent, and then it sits in the store waiting for somebody to buy it. It could be as long as a week or two from the time it is picked when you buy the produce, which gives the nutrients plenty of time to degrade. Frozen produce, however, is frozen before shipping, probably within a day or two of picking, and freezing slows the degrading of the nutrients.
7. SHOP LOCALLY AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
Buy as much of your food as you can directly from a farmer when it is in season. Join a CSA, or shop your local farmer’s market or roadside farm stand. This guarantees you are getting the absolutely freshest produce available, and it also supports the local economy!
8. EAT TREAT OCCASIONALLY, BUT NOT IN YOUR HOME
Even those of us trying to eat as healthily as possible will want to splurge sometimes, and that is okay! But if you have treats easily accessible in your home, you will be inclined to eat them more frequently. Rather than i.e. buying a box of cookies at the grocery store to keep at your house, instead occasionally buy a fresh-baked cupcake at your local pastry shop, or share a dessert with a friend at the end of your work week.
Having treats occasionally (i.e. once a week) gives you permission to “take a break” from healthy eating and not feel like you are depriving yourself, which makes it easier to maintain your healthy diet intentions. You will crave sugar less if you eat it less often, and you will appreciate the treat more!