When planning a vacation, what’s the first thing you do? Make a list of things you want to do and see while visiting an unfamiliar locale. I recommend you do the same for your weekly grocery haul, especially if you have new nutrition goals. With so many options available at the supermarket, it is easier than ever to get distracted—but also, to eat well! Today we’re providing you with a grocery store guide and shopping map that will help you get to a healthier place and achieve your goals.
Fail to Prepare & Prepare to Fail
One way you can make sure your fridge and pantry are always stocked with healthy foods is to plan your meals in advance. Don’t forget to check your family’s schedule to see if you’ll actually be home for all those dinners! It takes a bit of extra time, but is well worth the effort. If you compile your shopping list beforehand, you will be less tempted by items that didn’t make it onto your list. So before you head to your local store, create your shopping list. Then stick to it! Only break it for fresh or staple items that may be on super sale.
Eat Before You Go
You can’t hear this too much, because it’s so true! Eat at least a snack, anything, before you go. If you shop on a semi or full stomach, the sweets and treats that are trying to sabotage your shopping trip will feel less tempting, and you are less likely to over-buy quantities as well.
Start at the Produce Section
In most stores, the beautiful colors of the produce section bombard you as soon as you walk through the entrance. Take advantage of the placement. It’s best to fill your diet with more of the healthiest options like vegetables and fruits. By eating foods that are fresh and close to their natural form, you can feel better, look better, and have more energy. Fill up your cart!
Shop the Perimeter
Most supermarkets display fruits, veggies, bread, dairy products, meat, poultry, and fish around the outside of the store. The middle aisles are typically where you will find your carbonated drinks, refined sugars, artificial foods, processed foods or CRAP. Shop the perimeter first and then head down only the aisles that contain the items on your list (ie spices, oils, vinegar, paper goods, etc). Here’s a map to show what I mean.
Avoid Impulse Buys
Stores are designed to take advantage of impulse buyers through gorgeous displays, discounts, and bright advertisements. To avoid these distractions, stick to your menu-based shopping list like I mentioned above.
Read the Labels
Nutrition should be the guiding factor when choosing what foods to buy. Always take a glimpse at the nutrition label and list of ingredients because they will give you the framework to determine whether certain foods fit into your plan. Here are a few things to look for on the labels.
- Be sure to check the serving size. The information listed on the label is based on one serving. One package may contain more than one serving, so if you eat multiple servings and aren’t aware of the specifics, you may be adding unknown calories to your daily intake.
- Consider the calories. 400 calories or more of a single food item is considered high. 100 calories is considered less or moderate. If you consume more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight.
- Choose nutrients wisely. In order for your body to operate properly, you’ll want to fuel it with potassium, fiber, vitamins A & C, iron, and calcium, which all support a healthy diet. Limit your intake of trans fats, saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium, and sugars to support a healthy heart.
How to Grocery Shop on a Budget
If you need to eat healthy but are concerned about your budget, here are some tips to help.
- Check your fridge and pantry before you go; you may be surprised by what pricier condiments and staples you still have left and can incorporate into meals.
- Don’t buy ready-made meals or prepared vegetables. It’s often healthier and cheaper to prepare them yourself. (Just watch over-buying, to protect against spoilage.)
- Take a glance at your weekly circular and keep your coupons on-hand when you go shopping.
- Enroll in any frequent-flier savings program your grocery store may have.
- Choose fruits and veggies that are in season, as they cost much less than they do out of season.
- Check the reduced produce section, if your store has one. Just make sure you can use the item right away, or peel and freeze it for later. Homemade smoothie, anyone?
- Look for cheaper product swaps. For example, frozen berries are usually cheaper than fresh—and last longer! Or quick oats are less expensive and healthier than pre-packaged, sugary oatmeal.
- Compare prices and sizes and make purchasing decisions based on the best value. What’s in eye-line is often pricier than the lowest shelf. And though you want to stick to a shopping list, if one of your classic staples is on sale and has a shelf life, buy more to save longterm.
Remember, you are what you eat—and you eat what you buy. The choices you make at the grocery store are vital to your health and fitness goals!