For several reasons, grocery shopping can be a time-consuming taxing experience for many people. For example, the most challenging season in my life to grocery shop was when my children were young. Making decisions on what to buy, with input from an 8-year-old, is never easy. Still, even without kids in the cart, the vast array of options and brands available at the market complicates the shopping experience for most. Additionally, navigating an unfamiliar busy store can add to the stress as well as keeping track of foods that are healthy versus unhealthy all within a reasonable budget.
Here are some tips for healthy grocery shopping:
• Make a list: Having a detailed meal plan and a well-planned grocery list gets you in and out of the store quickly, helps you stick to your healthy eating plan, and saves money. Before going to the market, plan your meals and snacks for the week and make a list of the ingredients you’ll need.
Make A List
• Read labels: To know what is in the food you’re buying, you want to read the ingredient list, NOT the claim on the front of the package. Look for whole food ingredients and check the nutrition information. Avoid products high in added sugars, saturated and trans fats, and sodium. I generally recommend that if there are more than seven ingredients, if you cannot pronounce an ingredient listed or don’t know what it is, don’t eat it.
• Don’t shop when you’re hungry: We’ve all shopped hungry and walked out of the store with food items we didn’t intend to buy. When we are hungry, our resistance is down, making it harder to stick with the list and make healthier food choices.
• Stock up on staples: Keep healthy staples in your pantry to supplement your meals—things like whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. Avoid junk food like chips, cookies, and sugar cereals.
• Be mindful of portion sizes: Maintaining a healthy diet and preventing weight gain are important. Portion size refers to the amount of food consumed in one eating occasion, and portion control begins in the grocery store. Most processed food has serving sizes listed on the nutrition label. Also, remember that fresh produce spoils in a day or two.
• Try new foods: Experiment with fresh fruits and vegetables and try different ways of cooking and seasoning them. A produce rule of thumb is to include colorful food in your diet. Next time you are at the market, note all the vibrant colors in the produce section. Fresh, colorful food is good for your health.
The goal is to build a balanced diet based on fresh, whole, nutrient-dense foods that provide a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants essential for optimal health. These foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
In contrast, processed and high-calorie foods are low in essential nutrients and high in added sugars, unhealthy fats, and salt. Therefore, when grocery shopping, limiting processed, high-calorie foods and focusing on fresh, whole, nutrient-dense foods is key to maintaining good health and supporting overall well-being.