Shop Healthy at the Grocery Store

grocery shoppingKnowing how to shop healthy at the grocery store can be a key factor in your ability to successfully lose weight. Eating at home is WAY healthier than going out to eat, since restaurants serve huge portions of food laden with more fat, calories, and sodium than you would use at home. However, it’s important to consider the following tips when grocery shopping, so that you don’t come home with items that will sabotage your diet.

TIP #1 : Don’t go to the grocery store hungry! Go after you have eaten a meal, like right after breakfast. Going right before lunch or right before dinner puts you at risk for impulse buys, which will likely NOT be healthy.

TIP #2 : Always bring a list to the store, and don’t buy items that aren’t on your list. I realize that making a list takes time. For me, it can take almost an hour sometimes! But the effort you put into making a list will definitely pay off over the course of the week. Plan a week’s worth of meals ahead of time,including breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. I usually put my menu above my shopping list, and I include all the main dishes, side dish(es), and vegetable(s) I am planning to make during the week.

TIP #3 : Only include items on your list that you will realistically prepare and eat. If your weekdays tend to be hectic and you don’t have a lot of time to make dinner, you need to choose simple things vs. complicated and lengthy recipes. Otherwise you’ll be eating late (which is not the best thing for your diet), or throwing in the towel and getting take-out.

TIP #4 : Choose items that you actually like. You may be saying “duh!”, but I know people who start a diet and plan on eating all sorts of “healthy” things that they don’t actually like that much. They buy spinach when they don’t like spinach, and guess what happens? The spinach rots in the refrigerator. So, pick fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and low-fat dairy products that you know that you will eat and enjoy.

TIP #5 : If you are very busy, spend the extra money to buy fruits and vegetables that are cleaned, cut up, etc. You may like carrots, celery, honeydew, and pineapple… all foods that are good for you.  But if you don’t have time to wash and cut up those fruits and vegetables, they will likely sit in your refrigerator crisper until they get moldy. I know it costs more to buy pre-cut, pre-washed veggies and fruit, but it will definitely help you eat more produce. And in turn, eating more produce will help you stay healthy and lose weight.

TIP #6 : Buy organic when possible for produce items that have notoriously high levels of pesticides. Refer to the “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables so you know which ones are best to buy organic.  The Dirty Dozen includes: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines, grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries, lettuce, and kale/collard greens.  Produce on the “Clean Fifteen list” are usually OK to buy non-organic, which will save you money. They include: onions, corn, pineapple, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mango, eggplant, cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, and mushrooms.

TIP #7 : Primarily shop around the outside perimeter of the grocery store. That is where all the fruit, veggies, meat, and dairy products are located. You’ll need to venture in the middle section for nuts and whole grain products (whole wheat pasta, cereal, and healthy granola bars). Which aisles should you absolutely avoid? The ones with macaroni and cheese, hamburger helper, cookies, chips, etc. If you don’t go down there, you won’t be tempted to buy those things.

TIP #8 : Leave your kids and husband at home if possible. I realize that isn’t always an option, but it will eliminate requests from your kids for unhealthy things. I realize that you can always say NO to your kids (and I usually do), but sometimes when they are holding up a dark chocolate Mounds bar, I am tempted to give in. They know my weaknesses… As for your hubby, if he is like mine, he might tend to go OFF your list and put things like chips and dip in the grocery cart. Better to leave him at home to do other chores!

TIP #9 : Pick a grocery store that is high-volume and usually busy. Why? Because a quieter, low-volume store will likely have produce that has been sitting out for a while. And old produce doesn’t taste nearly as good as fresh produce. I realize that going to a busy grocery store can be stressful and take longer, but a high-volume store will replenish their produce very frequently. Consequently, you will get the freshest (and yummiest) fruits and veggies around.

Do you have other tips for shopping healthy at the grocery store? Please share your ideas by commenting below. Happy Shopping!

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