One of the best ways you can support healthy eating habits is to make healthy choices when grocery shopping. However, in the age of meal delivery, Instacart and even Door Dash getting into the grocery game, going shopping on your own can sometimes feel overwhelming. Especially when you are trying to eat better but can’t think of how to start.
Here are some of the tips to help you set yourself up for success when you go grocery shopping.
Don’t shop hungry
There’s nothing like a rumbling stomach to drown out healthy shopping intentions—ever. Price that you end up with extra impulse buys in your cart that way? Everything seems so damn intifing. Before you go to the store, make sure you have a healthy protein-packed snack or meal. This will keep you full and energize your brain and body for every task possible to make this trip a success. This will also help you make the best choices for future meals as your mind will be toward the future and not the “Need it now!” mindset you tend to feel when you’re hungry.
This can also apply to online grocery shopping, by the way. While you’re potentially mess susceptible to things like smells or free samples or beautifully arranged displays, targeted ads and automated suggestions for what else to buy can prompt you to click “add to cart” to more items you’d normally pass up.
Make as Specific a List as Possible
Imagine standing in the store, excited and ready to do some healthy shopping! You glance at your list and you see the word “Cereal”- Can you hear the air coming out of your excitement? When writing your list-be as specific as possible. Whether it’s using a particular type (ex. Bran flakes) or with dairy, a fat content or type of plant milk, or with meat, a particular cut or whether you want organic, grass-fed, etc, or firm, extra firm, or silken tofu. Are there particular brands you favor?
The more targeted the list, the more successful the trip can be for you and your family. It also helps to have a plan for each item. For instance, my virtual assistant Heather told me she meal plans for her autistic child by planning when he will eat literally each item she purchases. This helps her trip and her pocketbook.
Get as specific as will serve you. And if you need more flexibility because your schedule changes a lot, load up on items like frozen produce, frozen fish, and healthy shelf stable staples like beans, whole grains, and canned tomatoes. You can also stash items like raw meat and poultry in the freezer for later use as well.
Check The Nutrition Facts and Ingredients Lists
I encourage label-reading to give you an idea of what nutritional value those foods will provide. That way, if you’re paying attention to things like grams of protein or fiber, added sugar, or sources of healthy fats, or are trying to get enough of certain micronutrients, the nutrition label will help give you some insight.
Additionally, reading ingredients lists to help you choose nourishing foods with minimal added sugar and additives. Remember-the earlier it is in the list, the more the ingredient is in the product. Therefore, if you want to watch your sugar or preservative intake, take a look at where it is on your product’s ingredient list. This will educate you more on the product and help you make the healthiest purchase possible.
You also want to look out for hidden sources of trans fats, artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors, and to limit processed soy (think:soy protein isolate or texturized soy protein) and instead stick with soy in its whole form (ex: tofu, tempeh, edamame, and soy milk) when purchased soy foods.
Stock Up on Healthy Frozen Items
I’m asked a lot whether frozen foods are healthy, and the short answer is: absolutely! Minimally processed frozen foods have so many positives for healthy eating. My own freezer is stocked with fruits, vegetables, wild fish, and organic poultry, plus usually a few healthier meals.
For one they last longer than refrigerated and even shelf-stable items. Secondly, they will extend your need again for a trip back to the store and give you more options for when you are planning day to day. Also, having it in the freezer will allow you to choose it when you need it, not so it doesn’t go bad and waste your money. If you’re looking for recipe options-feel free to check out my faves.
Another plus? They tend to be more affordable than their fresh counterparts.
Embrace Healthy Shortcuts
When you’re short on time and/or energy for cooking and food prep, healthy shortcuts like pre-cut produce and single-serve containers of your favorite healthy items can make healthy eating feel so much more attainable.
I also am a fan of online grocery shopping and healthy meal kits to simplify healthy eating. Just be mindful that you still want to check ingredients and nutrition information.
Why I recommend them: Less opportunity to talk yourself out of preparing or eating something healthy because of the time or effort involved. These products can help make it convenient for you to eat more of the things that serve your goals and support your wellbeing.
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