Six Tips For Healthy Grocery Shopping
Most of us eat the same foods day after day, and do our grocery shopping almost mindlessly, buying the same things week after week. But if you spend a few extra minutes in the store to read nutrition labels, or make a point to try a new fruit or vegetable each week, you can reap huge benefits when it comes to nutrition.
Supermarkets are generally laid out to tempt you, and to get you to shop every aisle. The fresh foods tend to be around the perimeter of the store, while most of the convenience and processed items line shelves in the middle. So in most cases, the fewer foods you purchase from those middle aisles, the more nutritious your diet is likely to be.
Take time to read your labels and take note of the serving sizes. Many people assume that small packages of cookies or crackers, or medium-sized beverage containers, are single servings. But this may not be the case. A small package of pretzels might have 2 or 3 servings so you'll need to double or triple the calorie count if you eat the whole thing.
Here are a few tips for healthier shopping:
- Most Americans don't eat enough fiber, so add more fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grain products. Check out the fiber content on cereals, breads, and grains. A food with at least 5 grams per serving is a good source of fiber.
- Visualize how much fat and sugar is in a serving of food. Every five grams of fat is a teaspoon (or a pat of butter), so if your favorite ice cream has 15 grams of fat per serving, that's like eating 3 pats of butter. With sugar, every 4 grams listed on the nutrition facts panel is equal to one sugar cube. Some large bottles of sweetened beverages can have as much as 60 grams of sugar. That is 15 sugar cubes.
- Frozen vegetables and fruits are just as nutritious and fresh, and you can enjoy out-of-season foods at any time of the year. They're convenient, too – you can toss loose leaf frozen spinach or chopped vegetables into soups, pastas and stews to boost nutrition.
- Healthy convenience items such as prewashed salad greens, pre-cut fruit and baby carrots are admittedly more expensive, but they could save you money in the long run. If you're buying fruits and vegetables and throwing them away because you don't take time to prepare them, it's money down the drain.
- If your market has a salad bar, you can buy pre-washed and cut veggies like broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower and carrots that you can take home and steam or stir-fry. The variety is usually good, too, so here's a chance to pick up something new to try.
- You've heard it many times, but don't shop when you are hungry. It's too tempting to pick up the wrong foods. Make a list and stick to it for the most part, but be flexible in case you come across a healthy bargain.
Susan Bowerman is a paid consultant to Herbalife.