The supermarket can be your best friend and a big help to your fitness and health plans, or a garden of temptation that threatens to derail you every time you walk in the door. The way you shop and the foods you select make a big difference in how your experience will turn out in the average grocery store.
Change the Way You Shop for Groceries
1. Eat something healthy and filling first. Everything looks good when you’re starving, and your resistance to items not in your nutrition plan will be lower. Shopping on a full (or nearly full) stomach makes it easier to resist buying that box of cookies and then tearing into them on the drive home.
2. Wear more fitted clothing. If your will power needs some reinforcement, wear clothes that fit close to the body and they’ll make you more conscious of your body. Jeans and dress pants will help remind you of your current size, and keep your progress at top-of-mind. All kinds of changes can sneak up on you if you spend your life in sweats or stretchy yoga pants.
3. Plan weekly menus. If healthy eating is not quite automatic for you yet, planning menus in advance may help to give you the structure you need. It will also help suggest what you really need to buy and what you’re better off skipping.
4. Make a comprehensive list. Having a list to refer to will help you remember to get the essentials for keeping your kitchen stocked – and use your menus from Step 3 to ensure you have everything at hand to cook healthy meals. As long as most of your purchases are sensible, you can add a special treat to your cart once in a while and still feel successful.
5. Read the food labels. Hidden fats and sugar lurk in many products – and you should be familiar with at least some of the ways they can show up in a nutrition lable. Read the side of that favorite cereal box to see if the ingredients live up to the claims on the front, and if they don’t, choose something else (see Step 6 below).
6. Try something new. Variety will help you enjoy your food more even if you’re eating less. Experiment with exotic produce – perhaps something you’ve always wanted to try, or found a new recipe for. Indulge in the tutti-frutti flavor of cherimoya (an exotic fruit with a flavor that’s a blend of banana, pineapple, papaya, peach, and strawberry. Roast a chayote squash (lightly cook to retain it’s crispy consistency) or grate it over a salad.
7. Enjoy free samples of healthy new foods. For the ultimate in portion control, stop for free samples. It will help you get used to appreciating one bite without going back for more, but if samples turn out to be a “trigger” for you, avoid them.
8. Continue your nutrition education. Many mainstream supermarkets are trying to appeal to health conscious consumers by offering store “tours”, cooking classes, and menu planning. Check out the free recipes and seminars that many stores offer, and get to know your local and regional stores well.
9. Shop the store’s perimeter. The highest quality foods – and lower in sugar, salt and preservatives) tend to be found around the outer rim of the store. That’s where you’ll find produce, tofu, yogurt and fish. Only visit the inner aisles for specific items on your list and you’ll bypass most of the empty calories.
10. Take a compatible, supportive buddy. Making shopping more social can reinforce your good intentions when you travel with a friend that has the same or similar goals. Friends can help friends reconsider buying bacon, and encourage you to try new items.
11. Stay busy while standing in line. The checkout line bombards you with impulse shopping options. Check your phone messages or read the magazine covers that provide inspiration and education.
Change the Foods You Select when Shopping
1. Fill up on fresh produce. Devote most of your purchasing to healthy fruits and vegetables. Buying a variety of colors is simple way to help ensure balanced nutrition.
2. Pick out whole grains. White bread and rice may cost less, but whole grains are a better value for your health. Try buying different brands and types of whole wheat bread and find a new favorite. Try purchasing and cooking more brown rice and oatmeal for more health benefits.
3. Look for leaner cuts of meat. Buy sirloin tip steak and skinless chicken breasts to keep protein high and fat content low. Ask the counter people for help identifying the leanest cuts, and see if they also have new recipes for featured products.
4. Buy more fish. Aim for at least 2 servings of healthy fish a week. Many recipes are fast and easy, and can come in handy during busy days.
5. Switch to low-fat or nonfat dairy products. Pass over the whole fat dairy items, as they can be detrimental to your weight loss or weight maintenance goals. Grab the nonfat yogurt and skim milk instead.
6. Limit the processed food. Your body pays a high price for convenience food. In addition to the higher price tag, frozen dinners and commercial crackers often contain trans fats, excessive sodium, and mysterious chemicals. On the other hand, it take just minutes to bake whole wheat pita chips at home, seasoned to your individual taste.
Learn to navigate the supermarket wisely and use pre-planning to help you achieve your goals. Enjoy your grocery shopping more and bring home nutrient-dense foods that you and your family will love.