14 Strategies for Healthy Grocery Shopping

Mike's Grocery Cart

The grocery store is ready for us, but are we ready for them?  The battle is on. Foods are strategically placed for temptation.  Aromas of freshly made breads and donuts waft passed our nose.  Super-sale specials are piled on the end caps encouraging us to grab and go down that aisle.  Samples are often served as we walk by. Be aware:  the grocery store manager has a different goal for you than I do!

The grocery store manager and owner want us to spend as much money as possible.  We can't blame them, they are a business.  Studies have shown that the longer a shopper stays in the store, the more money they spend.  To that end, stores are set up to keep us there and to encourage us grab extras along the way.  Perishable foods are carefully placed along the perimeter of the store:  produce, meats, milk products, eggs, juices and breads. These are the foods we need to replace often, so that it pulls us into the entire store. Some items are actually priced below cost (loss leaders) to entice us to get in the store with idea that we will buy other things while we are there.  Booby traps abound; it's time to take control!

12 Strategies for Healthy Grocery Shopping:

  1. Make a list of what you want to purchase, and be sure to take it with you when you go (I've been known to leave the list on the kitchen table...) Little notepads work great for this, or use an envelope where you can tuck in coupons as you use them.
  2. Take any coupons you have that match the items on your list.  Be careful with coupons; many of them are for more highly processed, less healthy foods. Many times the store brand foods are a better buy even if you do have a coupon for the name brand.
  3. Have a healthy meal or snack before you go.  Nothing spells impulse buys like an empty tummy.
  4. Take a pen to cross off items on your list. Go for a fun color if it makes it seem more like a game.
  5. Pop in a piece of long lasting sugar free gum to chew.  Keeping your mouth busy can help with the free sample temptations. If a sample tray looks too tempting, I think about someone Having sneezed on the tray---it work every time!
  6. Focus on the perimeter of the store.  These are the foods that tend to be the less processed and more healthy for you:  fruits, veggies, meats, milk products, and breads.
  7. Theoretically, at least half of your cart should be fruits and veggies. Keep this idea with meals, too: every time you fill your plate, half should be fruits and veggies.  Results? Lots of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and great portion control!
  8. Be cautious around the end cap displays.  Sometimes you'll get a great deal on canned tomatoes or beans, which is great.  But, when you see great buys highly processed, low nutrient dense foods such as Oreos or Lays chips, these are not good buys for your health! Choosing them occasionally is fine, but don't stock up because you think they are a great price.  When you stock up on them in your body, the cost rises...What is the real price of your health?
  9. Look high and low in the aisles:  stretch high and squat low. That's where you'll find the healthier choices:  brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain pasta, dried beans, whole grain cereals. What's at eye level? Captain Crunch, white rice mixes, cookies, etc.  The next time you are in the store, take note of where the healthy choices are placed on the store shelves.  
  10. Stick to your list. Cross of the items as you pop them into your cart. If there seems to be a great buy not on your list, think it through carefully before it goes into the cart. What will happen when you bring home those bargain Hershey's kisses?  Can you stay in control and eat one or two each day, or will they control you?  If you really want a bit of chocolate and fear your control, decide to make a date to go out to a candy shop and buy one special piece to enjoy.
  11. Be aware of the candies and chips at the check out aisles.  This is a last ditch effort by the store to get us to impulse buy.  You are stronger than that
  12. When you get home, unload your groceries with pride.  Chew a new piece of gum if you need help not nibbling the new supplies.
  13. Get those veggies prepped and into the fridge, putting some of them on a shelf right at eye level to encourage yourself to eat them.
  14. If you need a reward for a great shopping trip, try a skinny latte, a cup of tea, bubble bath, or something you love that has nothing to do with food---you've earned it!

I'm visiting my oldest son and daughter-in-law in San Francisco right now.  The first trip we took was to a grocery store, and I was so proud of the food choices my son made, I took a photo of his cart.  With a list in hand, his cart was perfect with whole grains, lots of fresh fruits, and non-fat dairy.

I know we can all do better at the grocery store. What we choose to bring home from the grocery store sets up our food choices for the week.  Take initiative and bring home healthy foods for a healthy you.

Remember:  you are worth what it takes to be healthy!

Fire Up, You Can Do It!