5 Tips for Making Good Choices at the Grocery Store

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New products – both healthy and unhealthy – enter stores each year. Here are a few tips for making good choices at the grocery store:

  1. Shop the perimeter
    • This is where you will most likely find fresh produce, meats, dairy products, bulk foods and breads. More processed foods (frozen and boxed meals, highly processed foods) are usually in the center aisles and contain larger amounts of fat, calories, and sodium.
    • Pick foods that are low in fat, like skim or 1% milk, low-fat yogurt and cheese, lean cuts of meat, whole grain breads, cereals, and any whole fruits and vegetables.
    • Frozen vegetables are a great way to get more vegetables in your diet. They are processed without sodium and added fat and are lower in cost than fresh or even canned vegetables.
    • Bulk foods are a great way to stock up on shelf-stable or frozen foods that you use regularly. Buying in bulk when there is a sale can save a lot of money.
  2. Make a goal to choose a new or unfamiliar item each week
    • Trying a new fruit or vegetable can be a fun experience. Or find a new cereal that has more fiber and tastes great. Try a new bread each week until you find one that is nutritious and delicious. This can be a fun way to add more healthy foods to your diet!
  3. Avoid shopping when hungry
    • When we are hungry we are more likely to buy foods impulsively. Most foods we choose in that condition will likely be less nutritious. Before hitting the store, ask yourself if you are hungry. If the answer is yes, eat a healthy meal or snack prior to your trip.
  4. Meal plan firstmake a list - shop last
    • Multiple trips to the store and down the aisles can increase your total shopping expenses and lead to impulse buys that are rarely healthy.  
    • Take time once a week to do a quick inventory of your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer to see what you need. Also make a list of meals you will prepare for the week, and don’t forget breakfast and lunches. 
    • Go to the store with a list in hand, organized by sections of the grocery store, to speed up shopping and limit time spent wandering up and down the aisles.
  5. Spending a little money now on healthier foods will save on healthcare costs down the road.  Think of it as an investment in your current and future health!
    • If you are shopping on a budget, focus on foods like in-season produce, whole grains (breads, cereals, pasta), beans and legumes. This can be both economical and a healthful way to eat. 
    • Focus on fresh, seasonal foods or even frozen foods (such as frozen vegetables)
    • Try making meals from scratch instead of opting for pre-prepared foods, which are often more expensive and less healthy.   

RELATED: Avoid Falling for Grocery Store Food Traps

Taking the time to focus on meal planning and grocery shopping can make you a healthier eater. Try it today – make a goal to starting meal planning and shopping smarter and see what changes you can make!