Navigating the grocery store
If we’re being honest- grocery shopping was a little overwhelming and stressful BEFORE the pandemic; now we want to spend as little time as possible waiting in line and wandering the aisles as we gather our snacks and staples for the week.
As someone who has spent a large chunk of my life working and shopping in grocery stores, I have learned a thing or two about how to best navigate the market in a way that will help you make healthier choices. If this feels relevant to you, check out these simple suggestions I put together for shopping smart.
1. Prepare Ahead of Time: Make a list before you go!
This first tip seems like a no-brainer, but how many times have we found ourselves wandering around the store without a plan, just reaching for foods that look good and hoping for the best?
Meal prepping? Think about what you are going to eat for the week.
Check inventory at home before you go- many of us end up wasting food because we simply forgot about that box of spring greens at the back of the fridge.
Know you staples- butter, milk, bread, greens, nut butters, olive oil….
2. Shop the PERIMETER
Have you ever heard this when it comes to shopping a typical grocery store? All the freshest, healthiest stuff will typically be around the edges- the packaged, processed items are usually stocked on the center aisles
Some important items like beans and grains and flours will be located in the center- know where these things are to spend less time cruising the aisles.
3. Watch Out for “Healthy Packaging”
Health food is a big trend these days and companies have jumped on the marketing bandwagon to trick you into thinking a product is healthier than it actually is. Get familiar with checking the ingredients on a product before you put it in your cart- how many grams of added sugar? What kinds of oils are they using?
Stay away from labels that say “fat free” or “low fat”. Remember that just because a product claims to be gluten-free or vegan doesn’t automatically give it a free pass to Health Food Land.
4. Include Booster Foods
At the top of my holistic food pyramid, I have something I call BOOSTER FOODS. This is anything you would use in relatively small amounts that pack a serious nutritional punch. Spices are a great example of a booster food- many of them contain phytonutrients and antimicrobial properties. Superfoods like spirulina, chia, hemp, or nutritional yeast will also take your overall nutrition to the next level.
5. Don’t Shop Hungry.
We’ve all heard this one before, and we’re all guilty of doing it on occasion. Everything is going to look good to you when your hunger hormones are telling you to eat NOW. Keep some nuts or sprouted seeds in your car for emergencies, or try my favorite protein packed meal bar.
6. Buy Seasonal and Local and Eat the RAINBOW
This especially applies to produce as the second a fruit or vegetable is picked, it begins to lose nutrients. If a fresh product is coming from across the country, or across the world for that matter, it will have a less desirable vitamin and mineral content by the time it reaches you, not to mention a pretty hefty eco footprint. Depending on where you live, seek out the Farmer’s Markets or check the tags in the grocery stores to determine how far something has traveled before you buy it. When choosing fruits and veggies, go for a variety of colors- ideally something from every color of the rainbow. Each color signifies a specific nutrient that you may be missing out on by eating a monochromatic diet!
7. Keep it Simple
Shopping healthy doesn’t have to be difficult! Eat foods close to their whole, original form to ensure the maximum intake of nutrients and valuable fiber. If a particular fruit or veggie is expensive in fresh form- check the frozen selection. It will typically be less expensive and is just as healthy! This can also be true for fish and seafood in general.
Shop during “off hours” if possible to avoid the crowds- my brother likes to hit the grocery store at 8pm because it is completely empty and navigating is a breeze. Stick to your plan, and the tips above to keep from stressing out.