We have discussed that preparation is important when it comes to eating healthy, and that we strive to make the “Healthier Choice the Easier Choice” for us and our families. Every week I find myself in the same place: making lists, trying to plan meals and allotting enough time at the grocery store to read food labels. But shopping at the local grocery store can be a daunting task! With more than 40,000 products on the shelves, this is no wonder. The grocery store WANTS you to wander up and down aisles and feel bewildered by the all the choices. A tremendous amount of research has gone into placing milk at the back of the store (you must walk through the middle aisles to get to what you need), bread right up front (where you can see it and smell it), and fruits and vegetables off to the side. Remember that grocery stores, (much like restaurants) are in the business of selling food for a profit, NOT selling food for health. So YOU need to be in charge at the grocery store, be your own health advocate; healthy choices can be made with a little guidance.
Here are a few tips as we wander up and down the grocery store aisles:
We often hear the expression “shop the periphery,” where produce, dairy, and meats are located, because these are “fresh foods.” Spend most of your time in the produce aisle; reach for the brightly colored fruits and veggies, like carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, blueberries and oranges. Colorful produce is full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and plant sterols, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Also reach for “green leaves,” like arugula, kale or spinach. This is where I advise you to spend a little extra money; buy organic when possible, and buy prepped and precut products that make your life so much easier during the busy week. If it helps you and your family eat more fruits and veggies, it’s money well spent!
What to look for: whole grains, less than 150 calories per cup, at least 3 grams of fiber and no more than 10 grams of sugar, but of course the less sugar the better. Remember that 1 teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams and let this help you make decisions regarding cereals. Be careful with granola! Even the low-fat variety tends to have more fat and sugar than other cereals.
I LOVE canned beans and always have them on hand to toss into soups, salads and pasta. They add protein and fiber to your diet. Look for low-sodium or no added salt. Look for canned tuna packed in water, low-fat, low sodium soups, olive and coconut oils. I also have a good selection of spices, because they have great health benefits and they help flavor dishes with little added fat. So go for the spices- turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, chili powders and curry are a few of my favorites.
Go for whole grains, and make sure you read labels! First ingredient should be “whole grain flour.” Carbs from whole grains offer additional vitamins, minerals and fiber. Whole wheat pasta, brown rice, grain mixes, quinoa and barley are all great choices. If you can’t get your kids to try them (I struggled with mine), add a little at a time; we did mostly brown rice and I started mixing it with a little quinoa, or barley, and it became more acceptable. Texture is a huge factor in not liking whole grains (or so my husband says) so adding them to soups may help!
Stay tuned for the next Blog where we will cover the rest of the store!