10+ Smart Grocery Shopping Tips for a Healthy Diet
Building a Healthy Diet Is Easier Than You Think
Cooking healthy meals every day is hard. But it’s even harder when you don’t have the right ingredients in your kitchen. With so much conflicting nutritional information out there and so many choices each screaming for you to buy them, it’s understandable when many people get so overwhelmed that they just settle for whatever looks good and is most convenient.
And that’s unfortunate. Because as long as you follow a few basic grocery shopping rules, you can stock your kitchen with nutritious essentials to build a sustainable, healthy diet.
Poll: Home-Cooked Meals
How often do you eat home-cooked meals?
What to Shop for to Build a Healthy Diet
When you’re heading out for your next grocery trip, this is what you should do when shopping for these grocery staples.
1. Fresh Produce
You should always make the produce section your first stop when entering the grocery store. Choose as many fruits and vegetables as you’d like in as many different colors as possible. Every color of fruit or vegetable reflects a different nutrient composition, so the more colors you eat, the wider variety of vitamins and minerals you’ll be putting into your body.
Dairy-based foods are a great source of calcium and Vitamin D but can be high in fat and calories. You can either do some portion control by yourself or choose lower-fat options. Steer clear of drinkable yogurts and other flavored dairy products because those products usually contain too much added sugar. If dairy isn’t your thing because of lifestyle choices or intolerance, soy-based products are an excellent and nutritious alternative.
3. Meats, Seafood, and Poultry
Choose lean cuts of red meat like round, top sirloin, and tenderloin. Go for skinless poultry like chicken breast or skinned drumsticks (or make sure to skin them yourself at home). Salmon and mackerel are widely available, are a great source of omega-3s and low-calorie protein. Since most seafood is lean and low in calories, don’t be afraid to try different kinds of seafood. Crab, shrimp, and scallops can be delicious protein alternatives.
The frozen foods section is a smart way to find out-of-season frozen fruits and vegetables so you can make sure that your diet doesn’t suffer during the colder months.
4. Bread and Pasta
Yes, you can eat bread and pasta! Just make sure to choose the least refined versions. Skip the white bread and pasta. Instead, go for bread and pasta that list “whole wheat” as its first ingredient. Pasta made with wheat alternatives is another delicious choice.
5. Cereal and Grains
For cereal, avoid the sugary or multi-colored breakfast cereals. Flavored instant oatmeals are also high in sugar. Granolas may taste great and seem healthy, but many health experts say that granola can contain a significant amount of fat and sugar as well. So, go for mueslis, steel-cut oats, and other whole-grain cereals that have at least 4 grams of fiber per serving and no added sugar.
For grains, choose less refined options like brown rice, mixed grains, quinoa, and barley.
6. Frozen Food
No, we’re not talking dessert here! We’re talking frozen produce. Fresh vegetables and fruit that are not in season are very expensive or completely inaccessible, especially in winter. The frozen foods section is a smart way to find out-of-season fruits and vegetables so you can make sure that your diet doesn’t suffer during the colder months.
7. Canned Foods
Canned foods can have a bad reputation in today's fresh, whole food, healthy-eating environment. But canned beans, seafood, and preserved/pickled vegetables can be a healthy and convenient way to throw extra fiber, nutrition, and protein into any dish. When choosing canned fish, make sure only to pick up the low- or no-sodium variety that’s packed in water, not oil. Also, when available, it’s also a good idea to choose cans that are marked BPA-free.
Poll: Favorite Fruit
What’s the one kind of fruit you always buy when you head to the grocery store?
More Smart Grocery Shopping Tips for Healthy Eating
1. Stay on the Outskirts
Avoid the inner aisles of the grocery store because that's where all the packaged, processed, and junky foods lie in wait for the opportunity to fall into your shopping cart. If you stick to the perimeter of the store, you’ll increase your chances of filling your cart with fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, and seafood - everything you need to build a healthy diet.
2. Fruit Over Juice
Avoid drinking juice as much as possible because any juice, no matter how fresh, is essentially liquid sugar. But when you eat a piece of fruit, the natural fiber in that fruit will cancel out the fructose. So if you’re craving juice, just eat the fruit instead. Fresh fruit is a lot cheaper than freshly squeezed juice too.
3. Check the Ingredients List
The longer the ingredients list, the more you should steer clear of the product. Especially when you see a list of ingredients you can’t pronounce or that have strange numbers attached at the end. Also, if sugar is anywhere in the top 4 of the ingredients list, it means there’s a lot of sugar in that product and that you should leave that item on the shelf.
4. Fortified Foods
Just because a food product is fortified with all kinds of vitamins and minerals, that doesn’t necessarily mean it's better for you. Most fortified food (like cereals) are highly processed and are inherently devoid of nutrients. That’s probably why the manufacturers had to fortify the food in the first place. You'll be much better off sticking with foods that are naturally nutritious instead.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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