Thursday, March 17, 2016

4 Tips for Healthy Grocery Shopping

Making healthy choices begins in the grocery store. You won't be able to prepare nutritious meals if you don't start out with the proper ingredients. March is National Nutrition Month, so here are some tips from Katie Perry, a registered dietitian at GBMC, to help you stick to your plan.

1. Plan
Planning your meals in advance will help you stay on track and only buy the items you need. Bring a list to the store that will help you keep track of what you're running low on and what ingredients you'll need for the week ahead. Having a plan and committing to it can help prevent impulse buys. Bringing home unhealthy food means you will eat it, so stock your pantry and refrigerator with nutritious options that will be there when you need them.

2. Shop the perimeter.
The outer aisles of the store are where the more natural, whole foods are located, such as produce, deli and dairy. (We do want to avoid the bakery though!) The goal is to buy and eat food in its most natural state because this is how it provides the most nutrition. Most foods found in the inner aisles of the stores are highly processed, containing large amounts of fat, sugar, salt and other additives. Steer clear of aisles full of cereal, chips, crackers, cookies, granola bars, candy and soda. However, there are some aisles worth venturing down. Head down the canned food aisle for canned tuna in water and for beans, which add a healthy dose of protein. The frozen aisle is another to explore: frozen fruit and veggies are great in a pinch and are often flash-frozen to preserve freshness.

3. Don't shop when hungry.
Shopping on an empty stomach can lead you to indulge your cravings and make less nutritious choices. When you're hungry, everything looks good, especially tempting junk food. To prevent impulse buys, be sure to eat a healthy snack containing protein and/or fiber before going to the grocery store. Some examples include veggie sticks and hummus, a piece of fruit or a Greek yogurt.

4. Understand food labels.
Food labels are great tools to use. They tell us about the nutritional value of the food we are buying and eating. Pay attention to the serving size, which is located at the very top of the label. The information on the food label pertains to the serving size listed. Sometimes a food will seem a lot less healthy when you realize it is meant to be consumed in two or three servings instead of one.

Investigate labels to make sure you're getting the correct amount of nutrients. The protein value should be higher than the amount of fat per serving. Keep your sodium down by buying low salt foods, which have less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving. Foods with sugar should contain less than 6 grams of sugar per serving. When buying yogurt, make sure it does not have more than 15 grams of sugar per serving.

Keeping these tips in mind when you shop for food will help to ensure that you get balanced nutrition and maintain a healthy weight.

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