Guilt-free guide to healthy grocery shopping

Grocery shopping – you either love it, hate it or maybe you are somewhere in between.  No matter how you feel about it, we have to eat in order to live so we might as well be good at it. 

The one thing we shouldn’t have to feel when stepping inside a grocery store is guilt.  Guilt may stem from being tempted to buy items that may not be health-promoting.  As we stand at the check-out counter thinking “I know I really don’t need____ but it tastes so good.”  It’s not to say we can’t enjoy an indulgence every now and then but if your grocery cart is filled with more health-harming instead of health-promoting foods, there are things you can do to change that.

More than ever, we realize how much our daily behaviors and food choices impact our health and well-being.  We are all busy with many factors distracting us from leading a healthy lifestyle – busy schedules, lack of access to fresh produce, and being swayed by smart advertising by the food industry. 

Here are some tips on helping you overcome some of the barriers to healthy eating.  By following these tips next time at the grocery store, you’ll walk out guilt-free knowing your feeding yourself and your family nutritious food choices contributing to their overall health

·Plan ahead

There can’t be enough said about planning ahead.  We plan ahead when we go on vacation or have a presentation to give at work.  Why not plan ahead when going to the grocery store.  Writing down exactly what you need before you get there will prevent wasted time wandering aimlessly up and down the aisles.  Before you know it, your cart is filled with impulse purchases or foods you don’t have a use for.  The trick is to write out a menu for the week, starting with dinner as it usually requires the most planning.  Look up what fooditems you need and check your pantry to see if you already have some on hand. 

Some people find it helpful to put up a post-it note on their fridge, writing down items on the note throughout the week making writing a shopping list less daunting.  Another trick is to use your cell phone to take a picture of the inside of your fridge and pantry to refer to while at the grocery store. 

·Learn to speed read food labels

The most important tool when grocery shopping is the nutrition facts label on all foods found in a package.  This important tool is a window to what is really in your food.  Be careful not to be swayed by large print on labels claiming “low fat.” “low sugar,”  or “all natural.”  Food marketers realized a long time ago us as consumers want healthy food and this is a marketing trick to get you to buy the food.  To be sure you are really getting something healthy, investigate deeper and study the nutrition facts label. 

Specifically look at:

·The serving size as all the numbers on the nutrition facts label are based on the serving size

·The number of servings per container

·The calories per serving

·If you have diabetes, always check the total carbohydrate grams

·The milligrams of sodium per serving – try to choose foods with no more than 200 milligrams per serving

·The amount of fat per serving.  Foods that contain fat may contain saturated and trans fats that can raise bad cholesterol and increase heart disease.  Try to choose foods with no more than 3 grams of total fat per serving. 

·Shop strategically in the middle aisles

 Some nutrition experts say to avoid the middle aisles yet today’s grocery stores are well-integrated so most aisles have plenty of healthier options.  Within the middle aisles you can find healthy foods such as whole grains like brown rice or ancient grains of farro, buckwheat or amaranth, beans both dried or canned, canned fruits packed in water or low-sodium canned vegetables, whole wheat breads, canned tuna, salmon and sardines, and whole grain, high-fiber breakfast cereals.  If you were to skip the middle aisles, you’d also be skipping on finding and choosing these healthy, nutritious foods.

·Spend extra time shopping for produce

The produce department is where you should spend a good quantity of your time.  The eye-catching bright colors, textures and taste of fresh fruits and veggies should be your biggest motivation in getting your necessary healthy fix of nutrients, phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber.  Load up on all sorts of veggies such as zucchini, peppers, broccoli, or spinach.  Check out melons, citrus fruits, and berries or buy precut produce if that is more convenient for you. 

·In the meat department

 Healthy choices can be made when buying meat.  Choose lean cuts of beef with little marbling - the more marbling, the more fat the cut contains.   Choose beef items with the words “loin,” “sirloin,” “round,” “ground round,” or “eye of round” on the label.  When choosing pork look for pork tenderloin, if lamb look for roast or lean chop, and if turkey, choose ground turkey or turkey breast filet. Choose skinless chicken breasts and cold water fish such as salmon, tuna,   herring, and mackerel. Figure that each pound will serve about four people.