9 Tips for Healthier Grocery Shopping

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Ryan Day Coaching

I’m a sucker for a good grocery store. In fact, I once chose an apartment based on its proximity to my favorite grocery stores. I had a Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Publix, Sprouts, and Trader Joe’s all within 10 minutes. A dream, I know.

Anyhow, every grocery store (except for some very niche, local grocers) is going to have a lot of healthy options and even more not-so-healthy options. And even some of the not-so-healthy options look super healthy.

So with all the obviously unhealthy options out there and so many unhealthy things masquerading as healthy, what are we to do?

Well, here are a few strategies that you might find helpful.

1. MAKE. A. LIST.

I can’t stress this one enough. Plan out your meals and snacks for the week, then write down everything you need. When you get in the store, you already know everything you need. Get those things and get out. But if you happen to walk by the Milanos and throw some in your cart, I can’t blame you. Those things are good.

2. Shop the Perimeter

This is a popular one, and for good reason. In most grocery stores, the fresh produce, meat, fish, and dairy sections are located around the perimeter. These areas typically house whole and minimally processed foods. Filling your cart with items from the perimeter is a great way to prioritize nutritious choices.

3. Focus on Whole Foods

Not the Amazon-owned grocery store itself, but the actual whole foods. Opt for whole foods as much as possible. Single-ingredient, whole foods are in their natural state, providing essential nutrients without added sugars, preservatives, or artificial flavors. Fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, you get the idea. If you’re unsure where to find these things, see Tip #2.

4. Read Labels Wisely

When venturing into the central aisles where packaged goods reside, become a label detective. Do NOT believe the front of the package if it says “High Protein!” or “Low Fat!”. Check for yourself.

You know they make organic gummy bears now? I don’t give a shit if they’re organic, they’re still gummy bears and they’re still full of sugar. Not that I never eat gummy bears because, like Milanos, I love gummy bears and will occasionally indulge.

Anyway, if there are 20 ingredients that you can’t pronounce on the ingredient list, that food probably isn’t the healthiest despite what the front of the package says. The ingredient list is invaluable for insight into the nutritional quality of the product – read it.

5. Color Your Cart

You know that top section of the cart that’s usually reserved for things like bread or eggs or a purse or a small child? See how pretty you can make that section of the cart by filling it up with different colored fruits and vegetables. The more colorful, the more diverse spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants you’ll be putting in your body. Just make sure to flip up that little plastic thing so your apples don’t roll out the holes where the baby’s legs are supposed to go.

6. Prioritize Protein

After you finish your lap around the perimeter of the store grabbing your meats, fish, eggs, and dairy, head to the middle aisles to pick up some beans, lentils, and even tuna packets. You know we love protein around here, so maybe go back to the perimeter to grab a rotisserie chicken before heading to the register.

7. Mindful Snacking Choices

Snacks can be a part of a healthy diet despite what you may read on the internet. That said, try to make smart choices if you’re chasing health goals. This is where your list will prevent you from sabotaging yourself. Write down snacks you know are healthy – nuts, greek yogurt, fruit, hummus with vegetables, cottage cheese – and stick to those as best you can. Once you leave the store, just be cautious with portion sizes to avoid mindless munching – especially with nuts.

8. Frozen Can Be Fantastic

Don’t underestimate the frozen food section. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often just as nutritious as fresh ones, and they have the added benefit of a longer shelf life. Here’s a tip within a tip – Costco has bulk frozen fruits and vegetables for dirt cheap. If you keep your freezer stocked with a variety of options, you’ll always have some easy, quick, and convenient meal additions.

9. Don’t Forget the Liquids. Or Maybe, Do Forget Them

Water, tea, black coffee. These are the primary liquids you want to consume if you’re trying to lose weight or improve your health. Water you don’t need to buy and coffee & tea aren’t liquid (at least in the form you buy them at the store). If you get home, and the only liquid you unpack is milk – that’s a win. That means you didn’t buy any soda, energy drinks, or high-sugar fruit juices.

There are, of course, exceptions to these tips. For this last one, specifically, coconut water, kombucha, and kefir are great options – just watch out for the added sugars (read the label).

If you’re trying to get on top of your health, mastering the art of healthy grocery shopping is a key step toward achieving your goals. I know if I have ice cream in the house, I’m going to eat it. Best way to prevent that – don’t bring it in the house. And that starts with what gets put in your cart at the grocery store.

I hope this list was helpful. Let me know if you have any that I didn’t include. Happy shopping.

Ryan

P.S. If you want some tricks on saving money, read my post on eating healthy on a budget here.