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Nutrition

The Healthy Shopper’s Guide to the Grocery Store

Overview

What you buy during your weekly trip to the grocery store has a major impact on what you and your family eat throughout the week. The grocery store is filled with hundreds of healthy options and even more nutrition landmines, which can make shopping a daunting task. Use the grocery store guidelines below to put the healthiest products in your cart and take the guesswork out of grocery shopping.

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General Grocery Store Guidelines

Shop the Perimeter

Fresh food like fruit and veggies, dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry, and bread are typically around the perimeter, while less healthy, processed foods are shelved in the aisles. Sticking mostly to the perimeter will help you make the healthiest choices.

Plan Ahead

Plan your weekly meals and snacks before going to the grocery store. Once at the store, avoid wandering aimlessly, don't shop the end-of-aisle displays, and stick to your list. You'll save time, money, and shop healthier.

Leave the Kids at Home

Junk food marketers target kids by positioning their products at a child’s eye level and wrapping their food in colorful, fun packaging. If possible, leave the kids at home while you complete your grocery shopping to help yourself stay on track.

Shop on a Full Stomach

When you're hungry, your blood sugar dips and hormonal changes increase cravings for fat, sugar, and salt, making shopping for healthy foods more challenging. Eat a healthy snack of carrots and hummus, peanut butter with apple slices, or Greek yogurt before heading to the grocery store.

Read Labels

When buying packaged foods, nutrition labels are the first thing you should look at. Skip foods with artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Instead, opt for foods that are low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and trans fats, and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Read "How to Make Sense of Food Labels" for more tips.

What to Buy in Each Section of the Grocery Store

Produce

  • Opt for darkly colored fruits and veggies to maximize your nutrient intake.
  • Choose whole fruit and vegetables over pre-chopped or pre-washed items.
  • Buy seasonal produce. 
  • Select organic fruits and veggies when possible.

Seafood

  • Choose omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines.
  • Select fish with a firm, bouncy flesh and clear eyes.
  • Pick wild fish over farm-raised.
  • If you're pregnant or nursing, avoid mercury-rich fish like shark, tilefish, ahi tuna, mackerel, swordfish, and other predator fish.

Meat and Poultry

  • Look for greater than 94% lean cuts of meat with little marbling.
  • Choose select over fattier grades such as prime or choice.
  • Avoid discolored meat and poultry and look for firm, bouncy flesh.
  • Choose organic meat and poultry when possible.
  • Go for grass-fed products over corn-fed.

Dairy

  • Choose skim and low-fat varieties.
  • Buy antibiotic- and hormone-free milk or calcium-fortified soy milk.
  • Select Greek yogurt over regular yogurt.

Bakery

  • Look for 100% whole wheat or grain on the label.
  • Choose items with whole wheat flour listed as the first ingredient.
  • Pick products with more than 3 g of fiber per serving.
  • Avoid commercially-prepared baked goods like pastries, muffins, and scones.

Freezer

  • Select frozen fruit or veggies that are unsalted or unsweetened.
  • Choose low-fat ice-cream cups or bars or 100% fruit popsicles.

Aisles

  • Opt for whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, cous cous, and oats.
  • Pick high-fiber cereal with more than 3 g of fiber and less than 7 g of sugar per serving.
  • Choose canned veggies and beans with no added salt.
  • Select canned fruit in extra light syrup or natural juice.
  • Buy all-natural nut butters and raw or dry roasted nuts.
  • Look for canned chunk light tuna and salmon.

Tags: Food, Home, Family, Health, Cooking

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