It happens to the best of us: We enter the grocery store with the intention of buying fruits, vegetables, and milk, but we come home with fruits, vegetables, milk… AND a family-sized bag of potato chips that were on sale. Grocery shopping, especially while trying to lose weight, is an eternal tug-of-war between intention and temptation of which the latter usually wins. However, if you stick to the following guidelines, it will help you navigate through the grocery store while avoiding impulse-buying traps, and you will be able to accomplish your healthy grocery shopping mission!
Fruits and vegetables: Look for color! Brightly colored fruits and vegetables reflect phytochemicals, which are a wide variety of compounds (antioxidants, flavonoids, polyphenols, etc.) produced by plants that have a significant role in health. Some of these benefits may include reducing the risk of certain cancers, boosting the immune system, or decreasing blood pressure. Plus, leafy green vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber for very little calories and carbohydrates – perfect when you are trying to lose weight! Avoid canned produce as they often contain added sugar and salt but does not carry the same nutritional value as its fresh component.
Meat, fish, and poultry: Be sure to choose lean proteins that are low in fat. For meat, look for round, top sirloin, and tenderloin cuts. For poultry, opt for skinless. Fish can be fresh or frozen.
Dairy: While dairy is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D, dairy products may have high fat content. So, make sure you select yogurt and other dairy items that contain no more than 2-4 grams of fat per ounce. Milk should have no more than 3 grams of fat per eight ounces.
Come prepared: Savvy grocery shopping begins before you leave the house. Plan ahead of time by making a list of the items, so you will enter the grocery store more focused and more blind to temptations. Whenever possible, go shopping after you have eaten and when you are in a calm, stress-free mood.
Hit the walls: Until recently, fruits and vegetables were the first things you see when you enter a grocery store. However, more commonly now, non-nutritionally-densed foods, such as cakes, muffins, and doughnuts, are hovering at the entrances trying to lure you from reaching the healthy items elsewhere in the store. So, when you get out of your car, make a beeline to the perimeter of the store where fresh produce, meats, and dairy can now usually be found.
Search high and low: There is a reason why certain products and brands are easier to locate than others. A portion of supermarket profits come from “placement fees” that companies pay for premium, eye-level spots on the shelves. Heavily promoted items are more likely to be not as nutritious, so you may have to search high and low on the shelves for better, healthier options.
Avoid unhealthy “healthy” foods: Just because a food item is labelled “healthy,” “fit,” or “organic” does not necessary mean that the item has a nutritional advantage or will help you lose weight. While organic produce may be lower in pesticide exposure, organic cupcakes and chips are still cupcakes and chips. So, take your time to evaluate the nutritional value of each item before placing them in your shopping cart. Overtime, you will be an expert at picking out the healthy options, and you will have accomplished your healthy weight-loss mission!