It can be challenging to stick to healthy options when grocery shopping. The grocery store can be overwhelming, especially with all of the seemingly-healthy products on the shelves that actually aren't! Here are 5 tips to help you plan and shop for a healthier grocery list without breaking your budget.
Tip #1: Avoid the middle of the store
Most packaged foods don’t have nearly the same nutritional value as whole unprocessed foods like produce, fresh dairy, fresh meats, and whole grains. You end up paying a lot more for a lot less nutrition when you visit those middle aisles. Sticking to the perimeter of the store and cooking meals at home will ensure that the groceries you bring home are the healthiest for you and your family.
Tip #2: Buy frozen
Frozen produce is just as good as fresh produce, and in fact sometimes it retains more nutritional value because it's frozen as soon as it's picked. It works perfectly if you’re looking to spend a little less, especially on out-of-season items, and it will last forever in your freezer so you don't have to worry about the produce going bad early.
Tip #3: Buy bulk
Many grocery stores now have a bulk section where you can get everything: spices, nut butters, oils, honey, maple syrup, grains (like oatmeal and quinoa), pasta, beans, cereals, the list goes on. These are often some of the most unprocessed and healthiest ingredients you can find, since each bulk item literally has one ingredient (like “lentils” or “oats”.) For example, instead of buying pre-packaged flavored instant oatmeal (which is highly processed and has tons of sugar), you can just buy regular rolled oats or plain quick cooking oats from the bulk section, and add some fresh fruit to your oatmeal at home. Another plus: you can buy exactly the amounts you need, so you don’t end up wasting food.
Tip #4: Don’t shop hungry
This is mainly to help you avoid those "impulse" purchases that tend to be on the less-healthy, more-processed side of things (cookies, candy, etc.). Eat first, then shop so your stomach doesn't drive the grocery list.
Tip #5: Choose meatless protein sources
Foods like beans, lentils, etc. are wonderful protein sources and are also extremely good for you! They’re also insanely cheap – especially if you buy them dry and in bulk (although canned is pretty cheap also) Switch to meatless a couple of nights a week and your health and wallet will thank you!
Tip #6: Make a list
And stick to it! Oftentimes the grocery store can be super overwhelming, and if you don’t go in with a list, you may end up not being able to buy the healthiest choices for you and your family. A great tip is to meal plan for the entire week, make a list based off of that meal plan, and only buy the items on that list. That way you aren’t distracted by any of the unhealthy indulgences you might come across during your grocery trip. When you get home, you’ll know exactly what you’re making every day so your grocery list keeps you on the healthy track all week long!
Anjali Shah is a food writer, board certified health coach, and owner of The Picky Eater, a healthy food and lifestyle blog. Her work has been featured on Oprah.com, Women' s Health, Cooking Light, Reader's Digest, CNN, Food Network, Glamour, Ladies' Home Journal, Whole Foods, and SHAPE Magazine. Anjali grew up a “whole wheat” girl, but married a “white bread” kind of guy. Hoping to prove that nutritious food could in fact be delicious and desirable, she taught herself how to cook and successfully transformed her husband’s eating habits from a diet of frozen pizzas and fast food to her healthy, yet flavorful recipes made with simple, wholesome ingredients.
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