My Tips For Healthier Grocery Shopping Part 1
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be difficult, but going to the grocery store and finding those nutritionally best options for you can be quite exhausting. Aisles full of options that seem to be good and maybe some people who are in a hurry and jostling, don’t make your mission certainly not any easier. But no worries, I’m here to help you!
I made an aisle-by-aisle guide to help you to make healthier and nutritionally better choices while doing grocery shopping. And as the list became so long, I decided to divide it into two parts. The first part you have here and the second part will be published the day after tomorrow, on Thursday 🙂 .
Before I share my tips, I want to remind you that we don’t have any diet restrictions or allergies in our family, and that we use a wide range of all the food groups. If you have any food restrictions, please remember always to check that the food items you choose are suitable into your diet!
First, few basic rules:
• Make a list. And stick to it! Super markets are full of temptations, mostly unhealthy ones, but don’t let them distract you. You’ll save some money and probably extra calories. If you want to speed up your grocery trip, make a list according to your weekly menu and write down the items based on which category they fall into (e.g., fresh fruits and veggies, meats, dairy products, dry products, canned foods, frozen foods, etc.) to make it easier.
• Read the ingredients and nutrition labels. The only right way to know whether you are making healthy choices is to read the product labels, that will tell you the exact nutritional values of food items. At first it can be time consuming and maybe even frustrating, but believe me, ones you realize how much crap there might be in your favorite items, you don’t want to put that stuff in your mouth anymore. Comparing similar foods can be done quickly and easily once you get the hang how to properly read nutrition labels. The shorter the list, the better!
Here’s my aisle-by-aisle guide to help you to make healthier choices at the grocery store:
Produce aisles. This is the place where you should fill most of your shopping cart. Choose colorful and bright (those are chock-full of phytonutrients) vegetables, frits and berries, which are in season to get most nutrient rich foods. Reach for sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, oranges and blueberries, for example. I also try always to buy something, that I’ve never tried before or haven’t had for a long time, to get variation!
Remember also fresh herbs from this aisle, like basil, mint, cilantro, sage, parsley and rosemary! They’re flavorful and most importantly, packed with valuable nutrients and antioxidants.
Bakery aisles. Reach for whole-wheat (provides fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals for your body) bread, rolls or tortillas and forget those, ahhh so yummy, white breads. White breads with refined carbs will cause fast blood sugar spikes, that crash before you even realize it, leaving you hungry.
Most bread products also come with a dose of sodium, which is added to help control the yeast activity and for flavor. So check the amount of salt/sodium, and choose breads with 1g or less salt per 100g or less than 0.4g per slice.
I always try to choose bread with at least 10g/100g of fiber, and never under 5g. Fiber helps keep you full, encourages healthy bowel movements, and improves gut health. We also eat a lot of crisp bread and thin crisps, as they have a high fiber content and they will remain good for ages.
Grains and cereals aisles. Again, leave all the “white” products and read the labels. Whole-grain pasta, tortillas and brown rice, are always good options. Bulgur (cracked wheat), barley, and quinoa are also something that I always try to keep at home, because those are easy and fast to prepare and a nice change for rice.
Choosing a healthy box of cereals can be like searching for a needle in a haystack, so look for products with highest fiber content, and aim to choose the one with dietary fiber ≥ 3 g, sugar ≤ 7 g and sodium ≤ 240 mg per serving. Seriously, read the product labels, because even though it says “healthy”, “fit”, or “low fat” you could just as well eat candies and sweet rolls for breakfast!
Also oatmeal is a perfect breakfast (and snack, lunch and dinner, oooh how I love oats <3) option, but choose it carefully; don't buy flavored instant oatmeal, because those are full of additives and added sugar. Go for rolled or old-fashioned oats, even though they take a little bit more to prepare. If dried lentils and beans aren't on this aisle, look for them at the canned goods aisle. Those are a perfect plant based source of protein, good carbs and fiber, and will be nice extra to your dishes even when you're not a vegetarian!
Dairy aisles. Choose low-fat or skim milk products to cut the saturated fats from your diet. If you don’t have problems with weight or health, you can also choose full-fat products, but eat them a little less often. Reach always for unflavored and natural products, because most flavored yogurts etc. are high in added sugar which can contribute to weight gain and elevated blood sugar. And those “berries and fruits” in those yogurts can’t even be compared to fresh ones if you think about nutrients!
If you can’t tolerate cows’ milk, buy goat milk or soy milk products instead. Also eggs (loaded with high-quality proteins, vitamins, minerals, good fats and various trace nutrients) are quite often somewhere near, don’t forget them!
Nowadays there are also a lot of plant based products, to replace milk products, if you can’t or don’t want to use them. My favorites are almond and cashew milk at the moment, that I use in smoothies, chia pudding and overnight oats every day. Also soy yogurt may find its way into our fridge every now and then.
Cheese aisle. I can’t or don’t want to live without cheese, even though I know that it can be high in saturated fat. I think that when you choose the right cheese, it is a fabulous source of calcium and protein, that keeps you going. Each type of cheese has a different nutritional profile, but my choices are low fat cottage cheese and queso blanco here in Spain which are loaded with casein (a type of protein that is very good for muscle tissue) and some really strong flavor cheese (full fat), like Gruyere or cheddar, that you can use sparingly and still get plenty of cheese flavor.
If you’re watching your calorie intake (and getting your calcium from some other source), your best bet is to opt for low-fat cheese. Also tofu (made of soybean curds, is naturally gluten-free and low calorie, contains no cholesterol and is an excellent source of protein, iron, and calcium) is quite often somewhere near cheeses.
This was the first part of my listing, and on next Thursday I’ll share the second part with you, which includes, for example, snacks, freezer and condiments aisles. Don’t miss them!