Grocery Shopping Savvy For The Health Minded Slacker

There’s nothing like promising yourself a hot new bod at the beginning of the year to make the everyday mundane goings-on take on new meaning – things like walking (counting your 10,000 steps versus the old rambling shuffle), drinking (it’s water in Mama’s sippy cup now instead of “adult” beverages) and grocery shopping with a new eye towards healthier selections. I’ve been doing grocery shopping for so many years that I could do it in my sleep. It has long since lost its charm for me and has its place of dread right up there along cleaning toilets and taking out the garbage. I used to send my husband out shopping but because it is still such a novelty to him, he winds up spending way too much money on brand names and exotic items. But now that I’m in full health-conscious mode, I’ve had to smarten up and pay more attention to how and what I’m buying.

I'll have what she's having.
Photo: autiscy

With so many of us pressed for time, we often take the quickest route to meal time. I must confess that in the recent past if dinner preparations required more than opening one box or two cans, I was over-thinking it. No more. Here are some easy tips on navigating the grocery store with a healthier mindset.

1) Plan ahead and make a list. This keeps you on task and focused. Trying all those new light recipes will require new ingredients so write them down. No more excuses for “wandering” over to the Hostess aisle. There’s no way you can make a Snowball fettuccine under 500 calories (It’s not important that you know how I know this – just trust me).

2) Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. I used to think this was kind of a lame tip until one day I shopped while ravenously hungry and wound up buying lots of fast, easy, fattening food that I could inhale as soon as I got home. Once home, I had buyer’s remorse but not quite to the point of throwing it out. My thinking then was better to eat something bad for me instead of wasting food and money. If I’d been better prepared ahead of time, I wouldn’t have been faced with this problem.

3) Shop the perimeter of the store. This is generally where the freshest, more wholesome, less processed foods are such as fruit, veggies, dairy, meat and fish. The aisles can be real junk food minefields.

4) Keep the ingredient count as low as possible. The lower the number of ingredients (5 or less), the better, as this means the food is less processed. Avoid artificial and multi-syllabic ingredients requiring a chemistry degree to decipher. And be really careful about buying anything with corn syrup in it. If it’s listed in the first 4 ingredients, you don’t want it. (Some experts think that the introduction of corn syrup into the food system might be one of the reasons for the obesity epidemic.)

Never trust a smiling toaster pastry.
Photo: Tracy Hunter

5) Shop for colors. I’m talking about fruits and veggies here – not the kind of food/cereal that changes the color of the added milk to something resembling Chernobyl run-off.

6) Avoid foods targeted to kids. If it’s got cartoon characters on the label then that may be pretty much the extent of its appeal. Nutrition has taken a back seat to entertainment. Also, be wary of labels “certifying” its nutritional value as many of these are merely marketing ploys.

7) Bag your own groceries (my own personal recommendation). Why spend all this time and thought on food shopping when Zeke the bag boy is going to place the watermelon on top of the blueberries and you’ll need a freaking payloader to lift the bag when he’s done?

"501, 502, 503...I'll help bag those for you in a second.
Just 497 more."
Photo: isa fmedia

What little shopping tricks are you using at the grocery store to stay healthy? Or are you just winging it and hoping for the best?

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