When you’re trying to stick to a healthy diet, a simple trip to the grocery store can feel like navigating a minefield. If you are prepared each trip will be easier and more fun than the last. Arm yourself with these simple tips and a thorough list, and you can have a cart full of good-for-you foods in no time.
Never shop hungry. Hunger makes you more susceptible to impulse buys and other foods you don’t need. Always have a healthy, satisfying meal or snack before heading to the grocery store.
Plan ahead. Make a list – and stick to it - so you will buy what you need and use what you have. Check store ads in your mail or online to find the best deals on healthy foods.
Shop from the outside in. Grocery stores usually place the healthiest foods, such as fresh produce, dairy and fresh meats and seafood, in the outside perimeter of the store. Shop the outside aisles and back of the store before heading to the middle section, where most of the processed foods are found.
Fresh is best. Whether you’re choosing meat, seafood, dairy or produce, look for the freshest items (in the case of packaged foods, check the expiration dates). To make your produce last longer, don’t just choose the ones that are ready to use; mix in some underripe fruits and veggies, and let them ripen at home.
If you need to store produce for longer, or what you want is unavailable, choose frozen fruits and vegetables over canned. Frozen produce is fresher – therefore containing more nutrients – and is less likely to contain sugar, salt or other additives. If you are buying canned foods (such as tomatoes), choose natural foods with no salt or sugar added.
Choose whole grains in pastas, breads, cereals and the like, especially those with high fiber content (at least four grams per serving). Avoid white rice, white bread, white pasta and anything else made with refined flour versus whole grain flour.
Read nutritional labels carefully. A food may advertise that it is 100 calories per serving, but the serving size could be smaller than you’d think. Low-fat foods sometimes contain high amounts of sugar, salt or calories, making them just as unhealthy as the higher-fat version. Always compare the nutritional information of the “light” version with the regular version, to see if there might be a catch! Look for foods with few ingredients, and little to no artificial ingredients or preservatives.