Making positive lifestyle changes, whether just for improved health or for reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, can be tough. We all grapple with tight schedules that push us toward the quick and easy meal solutions—which aren’t always the best for us.
One thing that really helps is simply becoming a smarter grocery shopper. If you stock your pantry, fridge, and freezer with healthy foods and keep them clear of junk food, preparing healthy meals and snacks at home is much easier. You have all the ingredients you need. And you won’t have the stuff you shouldn’t be eating.
Below are some strategies and ideas for smart food shopping that will help you and your family eat more nutritiously and in ways that promote healthy body weight.
Tips for Healthy Food Shopping
- You’ve probably heard it before, but it’s important: Don’t grocery shop when you’re hungry. If you do, you’re more likely to buy food you don’t need—especially unhealthy snacks and packaged, processed convenience items.
- Only clip coupons for nutritious items. The drive to save money is powerful, and the option to get a bargain on unhealthy foods will prompt you to buy them. Let the extra savings from a coupon (or sale) offer a little extra motivation to choose wisely.
- Head into the store with meals planned out and a written shopping list. This ensures you don’t forget something you need for your healthy meals and end up resorting to something less desirable. It also prevents you from wandering around without a plan; that’s a major trap so many people fall into that leads to poor choices, overbuying, overspending, and not having all the ingredients on hand for smart meal prep.
- Choose whole foods over processed foods whenever possible. Whole foods are those found in nature, more or less as they’re found in nature. Fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, cuts of meat, poultry, fish, eggs… these are some whole foods. Whole grains are usually somewhat processed, but not nearly as much as their refined counterparts. As an easy general rule, the less processed something is, the better it is.
- Don’t even walk down snack aisles. Walking past all those bags of chips or packages of cookies is just unnecessary temptation.
- Grab the whole grain version of the foods you eat. Choose brown rice over white, whole wheat bread over white bread, and so on. It’s a simple substitution with a big impact on health and weight control. If you or certain family members don’t like it, don’t worry; just get through eating it a few times and your taste adapts pretty quickly.
- Opt for organic over traditional when possible.
- Buy a fruit, vegetable, whole grain, or legume you’re not familiar with on each major shopping trip. Do a quick internet search for inspiration on how to use it and to learn how to prepare it. It’s fun to teach yourself something new about food prep and experience a new healthy food. It won’t always be a hit, but this is a key to keeping things interesting and expanding your options.
- Spend a little extra on pre-cut produce and other pre-portioned healthy items if the convenience will make you and your family more likely to eat them.
- Buy fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors. Different colors come from different nutrients, so this is a simple way to get a broad range of healthful compounds.
- Look at the serving size of every packaged food. Something may appear low calorie, low sodium, etc. at first glance, but if the serving size is unrealistically small, this may not actually be the case.
- Keep reading past the serving size on the nutrition label. Avoid anything with trans fat and try to minimize saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. In general, high carbohydrate items should have high fiber content rather than high sugar content.
- Read over the ingredient list on packaged foods, too. Typically, the shorter the better. Steer clear of items with artificial colors or flavors. Remember, ingredients are listed in descending order by quantity. One example of why this might matter is a product that lists white flour before whole wheat flour; it’s made up more of refined grain than whole grain, even if the marketing on the front of the package leads you to believe otherwise.
- Don’t be afraid of frozen produce. Fresh usually tastes better, but frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious (in fact, they often have higher nutritional value if they’re frozen promptly after harvesting). Plus, the convenience makes it an easy go-to choice in the kitchen.
- Don’t overlook canned legumes, veggies, and fruit, either. These too are convenient, budget-friendly, healthy ingredients to toss into a wide variety of recipes. Just avoid cans with added sugar, syrup, or sodium.