10 Tips to Make Healthy Grocery Shopping a Success
So you’ve decided to change your ways and eat healthy, but you don’t know where to start. It’s pretty straightforward: healthy eating begins with healthy choices.
The grocery store is really where your diet begins, and if you’re not wary, you’ll end up further away from your goals than when you started.
Healthy grocery shopping is tricky — even the most informed shoppers can end up making mistakes that are entirely avoidable. From confusing nutrition labels to enticingly low prices on unhealthy and processed foods, it’s all too easy to slip up.
Tips and Tricks for Healthy Grocery Shopping
With a few tricks up your sleeve you can make healthier choices and bring home wholesome foods that have a range of health benefits to offer.
1. Make a list
Lists are great. They keep you on track and hold you back from buying stuff you don’t need. Healthy eating choices begin with the foods you have on hand. Make a list of all the foods you need and rethink your choices before you head to the grocery store.
When you’re shopping, pick your foods in the order they are laid out. This will help you shop faster and forgo temptation as you won’t be strolling down the aisles, wondering whether your cart is missing some junk foods.
2. Don’t shop when you’re hungry
Trust us on this one – there’s research to back it up.
To study how hunger influences food choices, researchers from Cornell University made participants shop in a simulated online grocery store. Their results showed people who had not eaten for hours before shopping chose more high-calorie and unhealthy foods in the simulated supermarket than those who ate a snack right before shopping.
If you shop when you’re hungry, you’ll be surprised at how many impulse buys you end up with. Hunger makes unhealthy foods look more enticing, and before you know it, you’ll be piling everything from cupcakes to frozen pizza into your cart. Have a snack before you go shopping or chew gum to counter the effects of hunger.
3. Know your store
Get acquainted with the aisles in your local grocery store and start shopping at the store’s perimeter. Fresh and clean foods like produce, dairy, meats, and bread are almost always located on the perimeter, whereas unhealthy foods lurk in the centre aisles.
Avoid the aisles, except when you need to pick up essential items on your list, and move away when you’ve got what you need.
4. Buy more produce
You can’t go wrong with fruits and vegetables – they’re all good for you.
Studies show diets rich in fruits and veggies are associated with a lower risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, hypertension, and even some forms of cancers. Replacing meat and dairy with more fruits and vegetables, even a few days in the week, can aid weight loss and protect against bone deterioration.
The recommended intake for vegetables is five servings a day, and vegetables should make up at least a third of your plate at every meal. Choose fresh vegetables when available, but frozen or canned vegetables are healthy options as well.
Load your cart with produce of all colors and variety to get a healthy mix of all the beneficial nutrients that fruits and veggies bring to the table.
5. Read labels properly
Studies show nearly 60 per cent of people have trouble understanding food labels. Manufactures often print misleading phrases like “All Natural” or “Fat-Free” on products that aren’t really healthy. You should judge the nutritional content of a product not by what the front of the package says, but by reading the nutrition facts panel and ingredients lists.
If you’re trying to determine whether a food is healthy or not, follow the rule of thumb: The fewer ingredients, the better. By applying that rule to grocery shopping, you learn to be more conscious about what you’re putting into your body. You learn to identify and eliminate added sugars, fats, and preservatives.
6. Money well spent
Organic and whole foods may be more expensive, but anything that will get you and your family to eat healthier is worth the extra expense.
There’s not much evidence to show that organic foods contain more nutrients than conventional ones, but consuming foods free from chemical pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones is obviously better for your health.
Grass-fed beef, for example, may cost two to three times more than grain-fed beef, but meat from animals raised sustainably is better for your health and the environment.
7. Ensure half your grain products are whole grain
Experts recommend eating six ounce-equivalents of grains each day, half of which must come from whole grains. Opt for whole wheat pasta and bread, and choose from whole grains like barley, rye, and brown rice.
Whole wheat grains are packed with many nutrients, but be wary of the products you choose. “100% Wheat” bread isn’t composed of whole grains, and is nutritionally deficient compared to products with a “100% Whole Grain” or “100% Whole Wheat” label on the package.
8. Watch out for dairy
Dairy is perishable and spoils quickly, so buying smaller quantities will prevent overeating and waste. Needless to say, don’t buy a large block of cheese. It’s all too easy to binge on cheese if you’re storing a lot of it in your fridge.
If you do consume a lot of dairy, buy a tub of plain non-fat Greek yogurt instead. It’s far healthier than cheese and sour cream, and you can add it to fresh fruit and cereal, and even use it to cook with.
Non-dairy alternatives like almond and soy milk are healthier than cow’s milk, but if you prefer the latter, opt for skim or low-fat (1 percent) milk instead.
9. Choose lean meats and consider meatless alternatives
Buy lean cuts of meat. Look for beef sirloin or pork tenderloin, which are some of the leanest cuts available. Two servings of oily fish like salmon and mackerel, and shellfish like mussels and crab, are recommended for brain and heart health.
You should also consider alternatives to meat such as beans, lentils and tofu. They’re healthier, as well as rich in protein and essential amino acids.
10. Do a final check
Before you get to the checkout line, stop and scan your choices for a final check. Ditch products that don’t offer much in terms of nutrition. Ensure your cart has 50 per cent fruits and veggies, 25 per cent meat or plant-based lean protein, and 25 percent whole grain products. You should also include healthy fats, like avocado, nuts, nut butters, and coconut and olive oil.
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