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9 Healthy Grocery Shopping Tips

Author: Cara Walsh

July 22, 2014

9 Healthy Grocery Shopping Tips

Author: Cara Walsh

July 22, 2014


Everyone has to grocery shop.When you are busy, tired and rushing through crowds of people, making healthy grocery shopping choices can be difficult. The last thing you want to do is stand in the aisle for 10 minutes staring at a nutrition label. The following healthy grocery shopping tips will help you navigate quickly and efficiently through the grocery store, choosing the healthiest items possible!

1. Plan your meals for the week before you go to the grocery store.

2. Follow the grocery list and don’t shop hungry (to avoid impulse buys such as a candy bar at checkout).

3. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store where fresh foods are located. Avoid the center aisles, except for a few choices items. Fill your cart with fruits, vegetables, lean meat, beans, nuts and less boxed items. Aim to try a new fruit or vegetable each week and a new grain once a month. Choose a rainbow of colors to get a variety of nutrients.

4. Choose 100% whole grain or 100% whole wheat carbohydrate products. Check the ingredient list. Is enriched white flour the first ingredient? If so, then this product is not a whole grain. Strive for at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Cereals should have less than 6 grams of sugar per serving. Keep your eyes high and low! Grocers will place unhealthy, high sugar, high fat items at eye level.

5. Carbohydrates are broken down into complex carbs and simple carbs. Choose complex carbs such as oatmeal, yams, beans, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, Brussels sprouts and celery. Minimize simple carbs such as white breads, sugary treats and items high in saturated fats and hydrogenated oils.

6. Do not only look for a sale. It is tempting to save some money, but just because it’s on sale does not mean it’s the best choice. Saving 50 cents is not worth having a salad dressing in your pantry that has 3 times the fat and calories than recommended. Always check the labels!

7. Select Lean cuts that are labeled as round top, sirloin or tenderloin. Try seafood at least two times per week. Beef is graded based on the amount of marbling in the meat and the age of the animal. Marbling is the flecks and streaks of white fat you find distributed throughout the meat. In general, the higher the degree of marbling, the more tender, juicy, and flavorable the meat will be. However, that also means it has the highest fat and calorie levels as well. Consume red, high fat meats only on occasion as they are high in calories and saturated fat.

8. Frozen fruits and vegetables are a great source for out of season items. Remember to avoid products sold in sauces. Purchase canned products without added salt and packed in water or its own juice, not syrup.

9. Avoid ingredients with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.

Listed below are food labeling terms you will often see on packaged foods. It is important to know what these terms actually stand for, as they can help you make better choices while grocery shopping.

Understanding terms advertised on packages:

Calorie free                        =          less than 5 calories per serving

Sugar free               =          less than .5 gram per serving

Fat free                   =          less than .5 gram per serving

Low fat                    =          less than 3 grams per serving

Reduced fat            =          at least 25% less fat than its original product

Low in sat fat          =          1 gram or less of saturated fat per serving

Lean                        =          less than 10 grams of fat and 4.5 grams of saturated fat per serving

Extra lean               =          less than 5 grams of fat and 2 grams of saturated fat per serving

Light                        =          1/3 fewer calories or ½ fat of its original product

Cholesterol free     =          less than 2 mg and less than 2 grams of saturated fat

Low cholesterol      =          20 grams or less and 2 grams of saturated fat

Sodium free            =          less than 5 mg per serving

Low sodium=          140mg or less per serving

Reduced sodium     =          at least 25% less than its original product

High Fiber               =          5 grams or more per serving

Good Source of Fiber          =          2.5 to 4.0 grams of fiber per serving

Reduced cholesterol           =          at least 25% less than its original product

About the Author:

Cara Walsh
Counselor at The Carmel Mountain Ranch Medifast Weight Control Center
Cara Walsh is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Weight Control Counselor. Cara received her bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science from San Diego State University and completed her dietetic internship to become a registered dietitian through the Utah State University. Cara is currently completing her Masters in Dietetic Administration through Utah State University. Cara has always had a passion for healthy eating and cooking. She loves to focus on how food can heal and provide nutrition-while tasting delicious. Cara thrives on helping others reach their full potential nutritionally. In her spare time she enjoys reading, going to Pilates and running the boardwalk on the Pacific Ocean with her son and husband.

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