Going to the Grocery Store
by Judy Molnar
Don't go to the grocery store when you are hungry. Otherwise, you will grab foods out of impulse. If you must shop when you are hungry, buy a piece of fresh fruit, go outside and eat it, and then commence shopping. Make a grocery list. A list is a plan that will help you stay on track. I try to think of each meal as a selection of servings from the basic food groups, then plan my list around that.
Usually on the weekend, I make one trip to the grocery store to stock up for the week. If my schedule permits, I prepare a list of dinner meals and shop accordingly. I try to have a selection of foods in the house so that I can put a meal together easily when I get home. Based on this meal plan, my shopping list usually looks something like this:
Bananas, Apples, Carrots, Cucumbers, Lettuce, Tomatoes
Cottage Cheese, Eggs, Light Cheese, Skim Milk, Tofu, Yogurt
Lean Ground Turkey, Skinless Chicken
Bottled Water, English Muffins, Fiber One Cereal, Oatmeal, Pretzels, Salsa (great on baked potatoes), Water-Packed Tuna, Whole Wheat Bread, Whole Wheat Pasta.
Every few weeks, I buy staples such as pasta, peanut butter, nuts, cans of soup (such as bean or lentil) vegetarian chili, cereal, oatmeal, spices, frozen vegetables, and canned vegetables and mushrooms. These are things I know won't spoil and can be used anytime.
Going Through the Store
Stick to one or two grocery stores so that you really get to know the layout. Avoid certain aisles, such as the cookie and snack aisles. I've found that a little planning and following a consistent route around the store saves time and helps me make healthy choices.
In most stores, the produce section is in the front as you walk in. This is the one area of the store where I urge you to go a little crazy. Here you have endless choices of foods packed with vitamins and healthy benefits. These foods will help you get the two to four servings of fruit and three to five servings of vegetables each day that the USDA food pyramid suggests.
I urge you to try fruits and vegetables that you've never had before. You might find something you like. Try to buy in batches - four pieces of three kinds - so that you'll have enough around for snacks.
As you come out of the produce section, sometimes you are faced with the bakery. Keep pushing your cart past here, unless you are looking for fresh bread.
Use caution here; many of those salads are high in fat due to the use of mayonnaise. Make sure to ask how the salads are prepared. By contrast, you can find low-fat turkey slices and chicken breast for sandwiches here.
Fresh Meats & Fish
Depending on your store, you will find a variety of fish in this section. If you are looking for meat, go for the lean cuts. Instead of ground beef, look for ground turkey or chicken. When choosing chicken pieces, try to select skinless cuts. And for faster cooking, go for skinless boneless cuts.
For the healthiest choice, stick with whole-wheat or multigrain bread. But make sure that whole-grain flour is the first ingredient. If wheat flour or unbleached wheat flour comes first, the bread is made mainly of refined flour, which is not as good for you. Don't buy white bread; it's just empty carbohydrate calories. But just because a bread is dark doesn't mean it's whole grain. Some dark breads may appear to be healthier, but if they're made with molasses or brown sugar, they are actually less healthy. Rice crackers are a great alternative to bread. Choose the plain ones - not the ones that are flavored with sugar or cheese.
The fat adds up fast in this aisle, but making a choice such as baked over fried chips can save you up to 50% of the fat per serving. Don't buy fat-free chips that are made with artificial fats such as Olestra. They may seem healthier, but they're not, because they have synthetic ingredients which are not good for you.
Tortilla chips can have as much fat as potato chips, so look for low-fat or baked chips instead. Choose pretzels over potato chips or corn chips. Pretzels have no fat and are a great snack compared to the other options on this aisle. (Remember, they do have salt.)
You'll also find microwave popcorn and traditional popcorn in this aisle. Air popped corn is always the healthiest choice, but many microwave brands are low fat or fat-free. Just remember to read the labels.
If you drink sodas, you are taking in hundreds of empty calories of sugar. Even diet soda contains artificial sweeteners, which are not healthy. Try to abstain from all soda. As an alternative, check out the bottled water section, usually at the end of the aisle or one aisle over. You can jazz up your water by purchasing flavored seltzer or adding fresh lemon, lime or orange slices to plain water.
Frozen Foods Section
Consider giving the vegetable patties a try. They are low in fat and sometimes taste better than beef burgers. Another great option is Pierogies, a type of pasta filled with potatoes that makes a great side dish or low-fat meal in itself (just add some vegetables). Look for recipes on the package.
Watch out for frozen dinners. I picked up a box of chicken recently, and the label reported 22 grams of fat per piece. Chicken is healthy, but not this chicken! Aim for low-fat frozen entrees, but beware: just because they seem to be healthy doesn't mean that they are.
Another option is frozen pasta or veggies with sauce that you just have to add meat to. Make sure that the sauce doesn't have too much fat, however.
Generally stay away from ice cream and frozen treats. They are just empty calories. But if you must indulge, avoid high-fat ice cream. Instead, choose a low-fat option with a taste you enjoy. Sorbet and frozen yogurt can be great-tasting, healthier alternatives. You may have to experiment with several brands to find one that is right for you.
Here you can find numerous choices for sandwich meats, bacon, sausage and hot dogs. Really be aware of the fat content of these items. For example, look at this breakdown of common sandwich meats:
Bologna: 13 grams of fat
Ham: 3.3 grams of fat
Salami: 18 grams of fat
Turkey: 5 grams of fat
And that is usually for two to three slices of meat. Read the labels, as manufacturers are offering some lower-fat versions of all sandwich meats. Also watch for salt content.
In terms of bacon and sausage, all I can say is they have a lot of fat for a small portion. If you really want these items, make sure you have a small amount and not every day. Also look at the new options for turkey sausage and bacon, as well as vegetarian versions, which are pretty good. Hot dogs have 15 grams of fat each, so limit your intake and look for turkey or vegetarian dogs instead.
Juice and Dairy Products
You have all kinds of options for juices. There are even lots of options just for orange juice - with added calcium, with or without pulp, and so on.
Juice is not a bad item. There is sugar in it, though, so don't drink juice instead of water, and don't drink too much each day. Generally, one or two glasses are all you need. Sometimes it's better to go for the whole orange instead of just the juice. In this section, you will also find eggs, which are a great source of protein. Limit your intake to a few eggs a week as part of your daily meals.
Cheese is good for you, but you can really bulk up on fat by eating too much. Try the lower fat or fat-free versions. You may have to experiment to get a good-tasting alternative. For example, if you want cream cheese, you can choose from these options (fat cand calories per one tablespoon):
Regular: 4.8g fat, 50 calories
Light: 2.5g fat, 31 calories
Low-fat or fat-free: 0.7g fat, 18 calories
Choosing a lower-fat alternative can make a big difference in your diet.