Ah, the Supermarket – it’s a place of joy or a place of dread, but a place that is a part of everyone’s life. You may go once a month, once a week or every day, but you do have to go. Did you know there are over 40,000 products in a standard supermarket? A key step for losing weight, keeping weight off and staying healthy is shopping with a plan and learning how to buy the right foods at the store. Truly, the split second decisions we make while food shopping have the greatest impact on our health. If you buy the cookies that are on sale and bring them home where do they go once they make it onto your shelf? Do they sit there and slowly age? Do they go in the trash? No, they go in your stomach (or your loved one’s stomach). What you purchase, whether its planned or bought on a whim has a profound effect on your waistline as well as your overall health. Planning your meals and snacks and shopping with a list is the most efficient and impactful way of living a healthier lifestyle. It all starts once you grab that cart and take your first steps into the store. Follow these tips to help you navigate the supermarket with health and wellness in mind:
• Make a List
Make a grocery list before leaving the house and make a commitment to stick to it. Shopping without a list also leads to unhealthy impulse buys, plus you are more apt to forget something that you really need. Meal planning is an integral part of healthy living. Decide what you will be making for dinner, lunch, breakfast for the next week, write down what you need and stick to the list.
• Never Shop Hungry
Shopping on an empty stomach often results in impulse buying of unhealthy snack foods. If you are exhausted and in a rush to get out of the store, you are likely to make poor food choices. Eat before you go, bring a snack with you to the store and/or one for the kids. Something as simple as eating a handful of almonds or an apple will make a huge difference in how you shop.
• Fill Up On Fruits and Veggies
You should be filling your cart with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, lean meat, fish, poultry, beans, and nuts. Start shopping in the produce section and select a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. The different colors indicate different vitamins, minerals and phytonutrient content. Splurge on unique fruits and vegetables now and again to offer your family a different variety. Ideally your cart should be half-full of fruits and veggies, and that includes the baby seat and the area under the baby seat.
• Select Whole Grains
Cereal, bread, pasta and rice offer opportunities to add whole grain to your diet. Choose whole wheat bread over white bread, and whole grain cereals whenever possible. With cereal, aim for five grams of fiber per serving with the least sugar possible. Pick brown rice over white rice and whole oats over instant oatmeal. Don’t overlook quinoa, barley, wheat berries and other grains as well.
• Shop the Perimeter
In general, most of the healthy food in the grocery store is located on the perimeter aisles (fruits, vegetables, dairy, fish and meat) and more of the less healthy foods are in the middle. Frozen fruits and vegetables are good choices in the wintertime when many fresh varieties aren’t available. Read the labels and shoot for nutrient-rich foods that are low in calories, fat, sugar and preservatives.
• Read Every Label
People don’t read nutrition labels as often as they think they do, according to research from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Even though one-third of study participants said they look at calorie content and 26% said they look at serving size, eye-tracking devices found only 9% actually pay attention to calories and 1% look at servings. Every time you put a new item in your cart, take the time to read the label. Look for serving size, calorie totals per serving, protein, fats, sodium, sugar, and nutrient breakdown. But most importantly avoid foods that contain artificial ingredients, excessive additives, and more than five ingredients. Make it a rule that if you can’t pronounce what’s on the label, then don’t eat it.
• Beware of Health Halos
Many products are marketed to make them seem healthy for you. Be cynical when making decisions on buying any processed foods. Just because it says it has whole grains, low fat, no cholesterol etc. doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
Remember that being a health conscious shopper, shopping with a plan and list will make you and your family healthy eaters. It’s truly that simple. Happy shopping!