One of the most important things you can do to improve your health and control your weight is to make the right food choices – and that starts at the grocery store. It’s easy to make impulse purchases when shopping for groceries, and supermarkets make it easy to do that by putting indulgent food items at eye level – and when you add it to your cart, there’s a good chance you’re going to eat it. That’s why it’s important to make the right choices when you shop. Here are some healthy grocery shopping tips you can use to stay on track.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Never grocery shop without a list. Plan your meals and write down everything you need before grabbing a grocery cart. Stick to your list so you won’t get side-tracked by the boxes of cookies and potato chips that will surely catch your eye as you move up and down the aisles. When you’ve planned your meals ahead of time, shopping is a breeze and you’re less likely to make the wrong choices.
Stick to the Perimeter
The perimeter of the store is where you’ll find healthier fare, especially the produce section. Spend more time here and less in the middle aisles where packaged and processed foods are. Make it your goal to try a new fruit or vegetable every week. More stores are stocking exotic produce, so don’t be afraid to broaden your horizons and shake up your taste buds by trying something new and healthy.
Be a Smart Label Reader
The more whole, unpackaged foods you eat the better, but when you have to buy a packaged product out of convenience, get the nutritional rundown first. Don’t be lulled in by words like “low fat,” “natural” etc. Low fat often means high in sugar, and “natural” has very little meaning on a label. Get down to the specifics by seeing how many grams of sodium, sugar, calories and fat are in a product. Study the ingredient list – the shorter, the better. If it’s long and full of names you can’t pronounce, put it back.
Choose Frozen Over Canned
Frozen vegetables are a good option when you don’t have time to prepare fresh produce. Frozen vegetables retain as much and sometimes more of their nutritional benefits compared to fresh because they’re frozen at their peak of freshness. Choose frozen veggies without added sugar or sodium and avoid ones with an added sauce.
Why is frozen better than canned? Two reasons. Canned vegetables usually contain too much sodium and they’re in a can lined with bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical linked with fertility problems and cancer that can leach into food, especially acidic foods like canned tomatoes and tomato sauce. Avoid cans as much as possible until manufacturers remove BPA from the lining.
Organic Doesn’t Always Mean Healthy
When you see that a product is “organic,” don’t automatically assume it’s healthy. Organic cookies and snacks aren’t better for you if they contain added sugar. Read the label on products labeled organic just as you would for any other product you buy. On the other hand, buying fruits and vegetables, especially the “dirty dozen,” is a smart idea to reduce pesticide exposure. Choosing organic meat and dairy will also reduce your exposure to antibiotics and hormones in conventional meat and dairy products.
Don’t Grocery Shop When You’re Hungry
You probably already know the risks of grocery shopping when you’re hungry. Everything looks appetizing and those impulse items look even more appealing. Grocery shop after you’ve eaten breakfast or lunch – not before.
The Bottom Line?
Eating healthy starts with how you stock your refrigerator and cabinets. Use these tips to make better choices when grocery shopping and enjoy better health and a slimmer waistline.