Making the Most of Your Grocery Shopping Trip
Have you ever been to a grocery store with a list in hand only to return home with way more than you intended to buy?
Or do you find yourself throwing away rotting fruits and vegetables because you were too tired to cook or ended up ordering out or getting take away? Many of us face this problem in our busy and hectic day-to-day lives. One way to reduce wasteful spending, throwing away fresh produce or avoiding buying processed and unhealthy food is to become a focused grocery shopper. Being a focused grocery shopper gives you control of what you put into your grocery cart and bring home, and can ultimately save both money and time in the long run.
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Start by Making a Grocery List and Meal Planning
Making a grocery list and creating a weekly meal plan are essential components of a successful grocery trip. If you’ve ever meal planned, you know the importance of writing down exactly what ingredients you will need. By spending a couple of minutes to jot down a list of essential items you’ll need, you’ll know exactly which aisles to go to and what products to look for. Not only will a list help you while shopping, but also help to avoid making any unnecessary purchases.
Shop Around the Aisles
Have you ever thought about the particular layout and aisle locations of your local grocery store? Often times, you’ll find the healthiest and freshest products such as milk, vegetables, fruits, eggs and lean meats around the perimeter of the store. Try to get most of your purchases from there. That does not mean you can’t go through all the aisles, since you will find healthy products such as whole grains, beans, lentils and nuts within the center aisles. Knowing where to find products is key in staying focused and goal-oriented. Also avoid snack and beverage aisles if you are one to be tempted by cookies, chips, or soda pop.
Don’t Shop on an Empty Stomach
Ever gone grocery shopping with a growling stomach? Chances are you might have reached for your favorite snack or comfort foods to satisfy temporary cravings. Why? When your stomach is empty, your blood sugar levels drop and you begin to crave high-calorie and fattening foods in order to bring those levels back up. Before you know it, foods you would normally avoid start to look increasingly delicious at the time. As a result, you might end up buying such unhealthy and fattening foods.
Keep your Cart Colorful
Don’t we all wish we could reach for that bright orange box of crackers or that signature blue packet of cookies? As tempting (and yes colorful) as these food choices are, look for products with bright natural colors. From bright yellow bell peppers to purple sweet potatoes, try to add the full spectrum of colors from fruits and vegetables in your cart. If your cart is lacking in color, it might also be lacking in nutrient-dense foods.
Incorporating fresh foods is a foundational element when it comes to following a healthy lifestyle. Though, while essential, it could also be a bit on the pricier side. So, what can you do? Look for fresh in-season fruits and vegetables, which are picked and sold during the peak of its flavor. Not only tastier, but in return, buying in-season foods can save you money. Because in-season produce is in abundance, grocery stores often have great deals and sales. You can also find great deals on local produce at your neighborhood farmer’s market. Try freezing in-season produce (while still keeping their peak nutritional value when you first bought them) for future use. There is nothing better than making a smoothie in the fall with sweet frozen blueberries you bought in the summer.
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Read Food Labels
Reading and understanding a nutrition label is a fundamental skill to make healthier food choices. In 2016, nutrition labels were updated by the FDA to reflect newer nutrition research and scientific findings to help the public maintain healthy food practices. Food labels provide information specific to the products portion size and a breakdown of calories, fat, carbohydrate, and protein per serving size. It also indicates the amount of specific nutrients such as the amount of cholesterol, sodium, sugar and dietary fiber. Food manufactures are also required to list all the ingredients in the food and are listed by the greatest amount first, followed by in descending order to the smaller amounts. Be wary of labels that seem too good to be true. Ice cream labels may make themselves appear to be “healthy” by listing low calories or low sugar or fat. But if you look closely, the reason it appears as being low in calories is because the portion size is significantly smaller than what you would typically consume. There will be another article to follow going over nutrition labels in more detail so stay tuned!
ACE Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer
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