7 Tips for Healthy Grocery Shopping
You are what you eat. You eat a Dorito, then you are a big, orange triangle! All kidding aside, next to family and faith, the foods you and your children consume are the most important aspect of your life. The foods you eat will contribute more (or less) to your mental health, job performance, energy, disease, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stress, sleep, behavior in kids, academic performance, self-esteem and overall happiness than any other aspect of your life.
And eating optimum, healthy foods isn’t about buying the frozen meals that boasts “only 350 calories!” on the cover. Nor is it about buying everything labeled “fat-free”. Nor is it about living on lettuce and water.
If you can understand that food is either the greatest medicine you can put in your body, or the biggest cause of needing very expensive medicine down the road (like chemotherapy or insulin), you will change the way you shop for food.
And maintaining a healthy lifestyle starts with how you shop. If you bring the bag of orange triangles home, you will eat them. Plain and simple.
I used to be the gal who loaded my shopping cart with nothing but chips, sodas, sandwich meats and white bread – and never bought fruits or vegetables. One day my friend who is a nutritionist came to my house. He was hungry so I told him to help himself to a snack. As he rummaged through my kitchen he said, “Where are your fruits and vegetables?” I was mortified to tell him, “I don’t have any.” He immediately drove me to the grocery store and said, “Kate, I care about you. I am going to teach you how to shop properly for your groceries. You are killing yourself buying the groceries I saw in your kitchen.”
He took me aisle by aisle and taught me how and why to shop for certain foods. In recent years I have added a few rules of my own. Below are the 7 Grocery Rules that will help your family live happy, healthy, optimum lives:
- Know Before You Go – Make a detailed grocery list before you get to the store – and stick to this list. This will help you avoid grabbing the pint of ice cream you know you shouldn’t bring home. I make my grocery list for the entire week on Sunday. I look through healthy recipes and make a list of random ingredients I might need. If you get to the store and see something you want but it’s not on your list, don’t buy it. Coach your kids on these rules also.
- The Terrible Three – There are 3 aisles at every grocery store that you should never buy anything from. Don’t even walk down these aisles – it’s too tempting. The Terrible Three are:
- The aisle with sodas
- The aisle with chips and cookies
- The aisle with packaged meats like hot dogs (Why? Did you know that the number one cause of Type 2 diabetes isn’t sugar? It’s actually processed foods like hot dogs, frozen pizzas and sandwich meats!)
And if I had to add a 4th aisle to this list, it would be the frozen aisle with frozen pizzas and ice cream.
- Start your grocery shopping in the produce section. Go through this section methodically and slowly. Did you know that kids and adults need 4 servings of fruits daily and 3 servings of veggies daily? That’s 49 servings of fruits and veggies per week. Include fruits and veggies at every meal. Shop accordingly.
- Learn that there is a healthy substitute for almost every single grocery item. Learn what they are and only buy the healthier alternative. For example, instead of white bread buy whole grain bread. Instead of regular cow’s milk, buy organic milk. Buy whole wheat noodles instead of white, starchy noodles. And so on….
- Buy organic, preservative-free, chemical-free foods every chance you can. Why? The chemicals in the foods we eat are a huge contributor to cancer, ADHD, allergies and serious neurological disorders. READ THE FOOD LABELS. If you can’t pronounce something, you shouldn’t be eating it.
- Beware of the Killer Coupons! What’s this? Have you ever noticed that almost all coupons are for junk food? Just last week I bought a chicken breast and it came with a coupon for a bag of Doritos, packaged macaroni and cheese, Ranch dressing and a pint of ice cream! Don’t fall for this trap. Until the day comes where a chicken breast comes with a coupon for 10 bananas, a bundle of fresh carrots and organic yogurt, stay away from food coupon. I am a big fan of saving money, but not at the expense of my family’s health.
- Return your shopping carts! I recently incurred $800 of damage to my car because someone left their grocery cart in the parking lot and a gust of wind slammed it into my car. If you have young children, get in the habit of parking near a grocery cart return station. No excuses.