Grocery Shopping 101: Healthy eating habits start at the store
A healthy lifestyle, including eating habits is about making healthy choices, and many of those choices start right at the grocery store. In order to prepare healthy meals and snacks at home, you must have the right foods in your cart when you check out at the store. Unfortunately, grocery stores are stocked full of foods high in preservatives, sugar, fat, sodium and numerous other unhealthy ingredients.
How do you go make your trip to the grocery store healthy? Five general rules for grocery shopping:
- Shop the outside aisles. In general, the outer aisles of the grocery store are where you will find natural foods, including fresh produce, meat and seafood. It is in the inside aisle where processed, sugar loaded foods are usually located. Next time you go to the grocery store, avoid the inside aisles as much as possible, sticking to the natural, unprocessed foods. In doing so, you’ll also notice a difference at the checkout: fewer barcodes for the cashier to scan, and more PLU codes for the cashier to type in. Think bags, not barcodes.
- Focus on nutrition labels, not packaging of products. “The front of a food package is real estate owned by the manufacturer, whose goal is to sell you something,” says Men’s Health weight-loss advisor David Katz, M.D., M.P.H. in this 2011 Men’s Health article. It is on the back of the packaging where you will find the Nutrition Facts label, which is regulated by the FDA.
- Look at the ingredients. Being unable to pronounce the names of ingredients found on food packaging is a good indicator it is a food you should avoid. You want to eat real food. That means plant-based foods, animal meats, vitamins and minerals. If a food contains chemicals or other ingredients you are unfamiliar with it, do not put it in your cart.
- The more colorful the items in your cart, the better. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, purchase a rainbow of colors. The various colors of food represent different phytonutrients, all of which have health benefits for various parts of the body. Brown and beige-colored foods typically contain higher amounts of refined starches, sugars and fat. Orange foods, for example, tend to contain high amounts of beta-carotene, an essential nutrient that may even help prevent cancer. For more on the colors of your food, check out this article from EatingWell.com.
- Take your kids shopping with you. Allowing your children to help with the grocery shopping is one of the best ways to instill healthy eating habits in your kids. This may be a struggle for you at first, as many kids tend to beg parents for sweets and junk food at the store. Hold your ground and train them to avoid unhealthy, processed foods, which can lead to obesity and other diseases by shopping the outside aisles of the store, paying attention to ingredients and learning to avoid common marketing and advertising tactics.
When it comes to healthy grocery shopping and healthy eating, if you don’t keep junk food in your home, you’ll be less likely to eat it. Stock your fridge full of natural, healthy foods, and when the craving for potato chips comes, enjoy some fruit or vegetables instead.
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