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6 Tips for Healthier Grocery Store Trips

Good nutrition starts with smart choices in the grocery store. Cooking up a healthy meal is a challenge if you don't have the right ingredients in your kitchen.

But who has time to read all the food labels and figure out which items are the most nutritious and the best buys? Grocery shopping can be a daunting task, simply because there are so many choices.

"Markets perform a great public service, but keep in mind they are designed to get you to buy (and, therefore, eat) more food, not less," says Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, professor of nutrition at New York University and author of What to Eat: An Aisle-by-Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating.

But with a little guidance, healthy choices are easy to find in any supermarket.

1. Plan ahead for success

The process starts even before you head to the grocery store, experts say. Before you set out, plan your meals for the week, and create a shopping list. It takes a few minutes, but saves time in running back to the store for missing ingredients.

To save money, use coupons, check the weekly grocery ads, and incorporate sale foods into your meal planning. And don't shop hungry! A grumbling belly often results in impulse purchases that may not be the healthiest choices.

Fill your cart with plenty of fruits, vegetables, sprouted grains, lean meat, fish, poultry, beans, and nuts. Keep a variety on hand to avoid getting bored with eating the same foods over and over again. Variety is the spice of life after all!

1. Eat lots of green light foods (fruits and vegetables)

  • Fresh is best

  • Frozen can also be great

  • Choose canned vegetables without added salt and canned fruit packed in water not syrup

2. Read food labels no matter what section you are in

  • Be sure to check serving size and number of servings per container

  • Read the ingredient list to know what's really in your food.

If you eat breakfast cereal, choose one that passes the test

  • At least 3 grams of fiber, less than 6 grams of sugar, at least 3 grams of protein

  • Made from whole grains

  • 10 ingredients or fewer

4. Include a varied selection of yellow light foods 

  • Nuts and seeds or natural nut/seed butters

  • Whole grain rice, pasta, bread, or tortillas

  • Popcorn (buy the kernels and pop at home)

  • Eggs (pastured is best)

  • Lean red meat (grass fed is best), chicken, turkey, fish (wild caught is best)

  • Olive oil

  • Cheese, yogurt, kefir

5. Limit red light foods

Red Light Foods often contain:

  • High fructose corn syrup

  • Artificial sweeteners

  • Chemical preservatives

  • Artificial coloring (a color followed by a number)

6. Find a healthier compromise for the foods you can't live without.

Lover of ice cream? Skip the frozen food aisle and pick up fresh ingredients and make your own. Check out my Banana Protein Soft Serve as an option here.

Do you want to learn how to grocery shop for healthy food? Interested in healthy eating on a budget? Ever wish you could take someone with you to the grocery, and have them tell you exactly what to buy? Well, consider a grocery store tour where I accompany you to your favorite grocery and we decide what to buy based on your needs and current health goals. We talk about things like:

  • Reading food labels

  • Identifying marketing ploys

  • Healthy eating on a budget

If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, contact me for pricing and to schedule your savvy shopping tour!

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