Grocery shopping sets the stage for good food choices. When you bring healthy options into the home, then these are what you eat when you are grabbing something at the last minute. By focusing on what you purchase, you can prepare yourselves for success. Here are some good tips to focus on when heading to the store.
1. Stay in the Produce Aisle – You should spend 90% of your shopping time in the produce section. The more foods you buy which don’t need ingredient labels the better. Challenge yourself to try a new vegetable or a new preparation method. If you tend to like snacks, think about making your own snacks from the produce aisle. Kale or Zucchini slices can be made into delicious chips by roasting in the oven with a little olive oil and spices. If you crave crunchy foods, make sure you cut up some carrot, celery, and cucumber slices to keep on hand in the fridge. To avoid spoilage, cut up and prepare your veggies as soon as you get home from the fridge. You will thank yourself during your busy times when you open the fridge and see veggies all set to eat.
2. Read Labels – Strive to buy mostly whole foods which do not need an ingredient label. When you do buy food with a label, be sure to read the entire label. This is time consuming but very important. You want to know what you are putting in your body. The ingredients should be easily recognizable and not include chemicals, added sugars, artificial sweeteners or flavors.
Oils in the items should be high quality like olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil. Other options like canola oil, vegetable oil, and sunflower oil are more highly processed and should be used in moderation.
The nutrition facts label also contains information about fiber and sugar, which is important. Generally, for every 1000 calories in your diet you should be consuming 14 grams of fiber. Eating lots of fresh produce will load you up with fiber, but you can also ensure packaged items are whole grains and add to your fiber content. Fiber will help you to stay full longer and assist with weight loss and insulin sensitivity. Look at the sugar on the nutrition facts and avoid anything with added sugars.
3. Buy Organic – Do the pesticide residues really affect you? According to the Environmental Working Group an emphatic YES! They detected pesticides in 96 percent of people ages 6 and older! We can put our money where our values are – supporting organic farmers and our family’s by buying organic. Of all the things we spend money on, I am sure our health is most important. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has two great lists to guide your organic purchase, The Clean 15 and the The Dirty 12. The dirty twelve list contains the produce with the most pesticides, currently strawberries, spinach, nectarines, grapes, apples, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatos, celery, potatoes, and hot and bell peppers. You can printout versions of these lists plus more at https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/.
4. Frozen Foods – It is nice to keep some frozen produce options on hand for times when you are out of fresh produce and are too rushed to make it to the store. Frozen vegetables can be a healthy quick option. You can add frozen spinach or kale to a smoothie, use frozen cauliflower rice as a grain, or boil some edamame for a quick snack. Frozen cherries are a good substitute for ice cream. Frozen fruit makes smoothies sweet, creamy, and thick. If you have fruit passed its prime, then freeze it in little baggies to use for smoothies. Frozen bananas work great this way and they are extra sweet once they are overripe.
5. Seafood – Fish should smell like the sea – fresh but not overwhelming. Buy smaller, cold water, non-farm raised fish. Fish can be high in Omega-3 which will help reduce inflammation in the body. Some of the best high Omega-3 options are wild caught Salmon, Atlantic Mackerel (not king), Sardines, and Rainbow Trout. The EWG also has an informative and simple list of the best fish to buy https://www.ewg.org/research/ewgs-good-seafood-guide/executive-summary.
If I am to simplify my grocery shopping advice down to one sentence, it would be “Buy whole foods which don’t need an ingredients label.” Use this guidance for most of your shopping and you will be eating well, maintain a healthy weight, and have tons of energy.