Have you ever felt discouraged because your grocery cart is packed with things that aren’t very healthy? Or have you wondered why you spend so much money on groceries each week but aren’t able to make that investment translate into healthy meals?
If so, don’t despair. Grocery shopping with a focus on wholesome food takes a little effort, but with some practice, it will soon become a habit. Keep reading to get some nutritionist-backed shopping tips.
Study the Ingredient List and Nutrition Facts
One of the easiest ways to narrow down what to buy and what to leave on the shelf is to look at the food labels. If you notice a lot of ingredient names that you don’t understand, or if you find that a package of seemingly simple saltine crackers has at least 50 ingredients, those are cues to look elsewhere.
When it comes to nutrition facts, remember that the values listed are for individual servings. So, if you grab a package of peanuts off the shelf and notice it has 150 calories per serving, that might mean that product is a good snacking choice.
However, be sure to look at the section of the label that says “servings per container.” If that bag of peanuts you chose has two servings per bag and you eat all of it in one sitting, it means you actually consumed twice the amount of calories — and doubled the expected fat, sodium and carbohydrate intake.
Stick to the Perimeter Aisles Most of the Time
Grocery stores are usually arranged in a very strategic way. Specifically, the healthiest items, such as dairy products, fresh produce and frozen vegetables, are stocked within the perimeter aisles. The aisles that are nearest to the center of the store usually have foods that are highly processed, and those should be avoided.
Bring Recipes With You
Grocery store layouts are also intended to encourage impulse buys. You’ll often notice the meals that are easiest to prepare, but are perhaps not the healthiest, are situated within easy reach or at eye level. Compensate for that common marketing tactic by bringing your recipes you intend to make.
That should help you stay focused, and it may also cut down on the likelihood that you’ll get to the checkout and find you have several items that were never on your shopping list in the first place.
Get Some Healthy Frozen Foods
When you’ve just finished a busy day, sometimes it feels like the last thing you want to do is cook a nutritious dinner. Prepare for those inevitable occasions by stocking your freezer full of some good-for-you frozen items. Lean Cuisine’s Honestly Good and Healthy Choice’s Café Steamers selections are a couple of brands and product lines of frozen meals that are healthier than most.
Take the same approach as you would with non-frozen foods, however, and be sure to check the ingredient labels carefully. Frozen foods are especially likely to be loaded with sodium or other preservatives. It’s also a good idea to get some bagged frozen fruits and veggies. They can be handy for making a smoothie or for steaming, so you’ll have a healthy snack or light meal in minutes.
Go for Farm-Fresh Over Factory-Created
When you survey your cart at the end of a grocery shopping excursion, it should ideally look more like it came from a farmer’s market than a food laboratory. When you choose fresh, colorful and nutrient-rich items over foods that are primarily engineered for a pleasant taste and long shelf life, you’re taking a proactive step toward eating well and promoting good health.
These tips should get you off to a good start in embracing a concept that was mentioned at the end of the Food Inc. documentary: voting with your wallet. By taking care to purchase things that are healthy and avoiding those that are not, you’re doing your part to send a clear message about what you prefer to buy.
There are even apps that give guidance about whether your favorite brands support causes you believe in. Shopping for groceries can be overwhelming at times, and it often isn’t the most exciting activity.
However, when you practice these suggestions every time you start browsing grocery store aisles, you’ll be making changes that positively affect your life and help you spend money more wisely.