So you’ve committed to eating healthier!? That’s great news, and making that decision is a tremendous first step toward a healthier life. But now that you’ve made the choice, where do you start?
When you’re trying to change your diet and eat healthy, sometimes the grocery store can be a bit overwhelming. Your previous grocery trips probably felt routine and normal, with few surprises, but in the first few shopping trips after making the choice to change, you may suddenly notice how many choices you have.
Personally, I love grocery shopping, and the sight of my fridge filled with colourful veggies, and healthy foods fills me with so much joy and gratitude. Although I’ve always known that a full fridge is something I am very fortunate to have had, I didn’t always love the grocery store, and finding my way definitely took some time and practice.
If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed when you step into the supermarket, take a look at my tips for navigating the grocery store below:
- First and foremost, don’t go shopping hungry. You’ve probably heard this one over and over, but it’s true. Shopping on an empty stomach can lead you over shop, you may end up leaving the store with way more food than you need, which leads to waste, and it can also lead you to make poorer choices in terms of the types of food you purchase
- Secondly, shop the perimeter. The outer perimeter of the grocery store is where you will primarily find the fresh foods. All stores have a slightly different layout, but for the most part you’ll find that the fresh produce, dairy (and dairy substitutes) , eggs, and meat/poultry/fish are all found along the outside edges of the store. Often you will also find the bakery on the perimeter as well, in which case, you should approach with your specific items in mind.
- Which leads me to my next point, come prepared, make a list! Grocery shopping without a plan in mind can also lead to buying excess or unnecessary items. In a perfect world you’ll have a plan set for the meals you’ll be making this week, and you can buy your groceries accordingly, however, you and I both know that things don’t usually work out that way. Make a set list of your staple items, and then for each trip you can add special items for certain meals you hope to make. Having a plan is the best way to ensure that you don’t go buck wild through the isles.
- Now that you have your list, and you’ve made your way around the outer edge of the store, stocking up on fruits, veggies, meats (if that’s your thing) and eggs, it’s time to head into the isles for some more specific items. Before you go browsing the isles, STOP, check your list, then look up and check the sign above the isle. You don’t need to go down there if that sign doesn’t match up with any items on your list. If you’re prone to impulse purchasing, or you tend to gravitate toward snack foods, this tip is for you.
- Speaking of isles, just because something is in the health food isle, or labelled as organic, or low fat or sugar free, doesn’t mean it’s healthy! Of course there are lots of great items in there, like coconut oil, or chia seeds, but even though those cookies are gluten free and organic, they aren’t any better for you than any other cookies. (For some tips on when and why it’s good to choose organic products, check out http://www.davidsuzuki.org/)
- My last, but not least, tip for navigating the grocery store, is to try as much as possible to stick to whole foods. This means that ideally, the foods you purchase and eat most often, should not come from a bag or a box. Fresh fruit and veggies, (canned or frozen is OK, but check the label for additives) lean proteins, whole grains, etc.
- To help make the most of this, its helpful to learn to understand food labels. Don’t be afraid to spend some time reading labels in the store, you deserve to know what you’re eating! A good rule of thumb is to look for products with a small ingredient list, and words that you understand. When looking at products like breads, or rice, avoiding white, is also recommended, as the process of refining those grains removes much of the vitamin content.
If you have questions about these tips, or any other nutrition related questions, please don’t hesitate to comment or send me a message!