Sometimes you need a PLAN! Grocery shopping can be fun, but you don’t want to get caught into marketing traps in the aisles. A lot of the food out there pretends to be good for you, but here are some quick tips on how to shop smart, savvy, and healthy.
- Go in with a list: The smartest, fittest, and most efficient shoppers plan the week’s meals in advance and make a list before hitting the aisles. It will ensure accuracy (“Damn, I forgot the eggs!”), save time, and help you resist tempting treats.
- Shop the perimeter of the store first: Michael Pollon’s In Defense of Food taught me years ago to shop the outermost areas of the supermarket first, as these shelves are full of the most important food staples like fruit, veggies, yogurt, eggs, and lean protein, as well as bulk bins of whole grains.
- Look past label lingo: Not sure what makes “low-fat” different from “light”? Don’t fret. “All things in moderation” still reigns as the rule of thumb here, so prioritize clean eating over a quest for guilt-reducing vocabulary. For example, go for all-fruit spreads or natural nut butters. Ask yourself: would Grandma have bought this product when she was my age? If the answer is yes, add it to your cart!
- Identify each ingredient: Less is definitely more. Look for a short list of ingredients (organic where possible), and if you can’t pronounce any of the ingredients in the product, don’t buy it! Mystery ingredients are usually added for taste, appearance, or to preserve freshness. When fat (oils), sugar (high-fructose corn syrup, anything ending in “ose”), or salt are at the top of the ingredient list it is usually a sure sign that the product is full of bad stuff – set it down.
- Compare nutrition facts labels: Always check the serving size first! Don’t ever assume that what looks like a serving is just that. You’ll feel like a glutton after realizing you’ve downed 650 calories of juice or 900 calories of chips instead of what you thought was a good snack. If you’re comparing two or more labels, pick the product with larger numbers next to protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and back away from the product with higher numbers next to the fat, sodium, sugar, and calories.