Eating Free Basics Part Three: The Grocery Store Is Your Friend

Without healthy food around you, it’s impossible to successfully manage your weight.  Being prepared is a great thing, and I want to encourage you to be prepared by going shopping for food at least once a week.

By planning ahead and cooking or assembling your own meals, you will lose weight.  Schedule one day a week as your appointment with the grocery store, and make it a priority.  Without access to the right food it’s really easy to fall back on convenience items which are usually energy-dense and nutrient-poor.

Since we’re all so busy, appointment food shopping may seem like a daunting task, but with a little forethought and commitment, you’ll find that it’s easier to do than you thought.  Plus, I can provide you with some basic shopping lists to assist you in choosing foods that taste good and that fit in with your weight loss goals.

Here are some easy-to-use tips when heading out to the grocery store:

1. Know your store layout

Learning a little about the grocery store will make you a smarter shopper and a healthier eater.  Most major grocery stores are set up similarly.  The outer areas contain whole foods—produce, milk/dairy, and meats—while the center holds all of the packaged and processed foods.  Most of walk right into this part first!  Not anymore!  When you enter, stick to the outer perimeter, always come prepared with a list, and never shop when you’re hungry!

 2. Understand what food labels are really saying

Most food products contain marketing ploys on the front of the package in order to catch your eye.  They may claim to be “whole grain” and “trans-fat-free,” but when you read the ingredients listed on the back of the package, you find that high-fructose corn syrup is listed as the first ingredient, whole grain flour as the last, and that the food is filled with partially hydrogenated oils.

Keep in mind that the first ingredient listed is the one that is most abundant within the product, so if junk precedes quality, this food is not a healthy choice.  Also be aware that partially and fully hydrogenated oils are rich sources of trans-fats and that the FDA allows food manufacturers to market a product as being trans-fat-free if there is less than 0.5 grams per serving.  So if you eat more than one serving, you’re consuming unknown amounts of these unhealthy fats.

 3. Beware of fortified foods

These are foods that have lost nutrients through processing, which manufacturers have “added back” in order to market the product as nutritious.  Remember that no processed food is as complete as a food in its whole state, so try to choose foods that are as minimally processed as possible.

 4. Take account of the trade-offs

Many foods claim to be low-fat or low-carb, but please realize that in order to take something out, something else must be added.  So this low-fat food is probably high in sugar or salt, and the low-carb food is probably high in fat.  Food companies want their foods to taste good so that you want to buy them, not because they’re truly good for you.  It’s best to eat whole foods that taste good since they’re often naturally nutritiously balanced.

5. Don’t fall in to the beverage trap

There are dozens of fancy “smart” beverages being marketed to us every day, and most of them are really just sugar, flavorings, and water.  Rather than trying to reach your nutrient goals with these empty-calorie beverages, eat fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and stick to drinking water for the best nutrition.  You’ll also be doing the planet a big favor by not contributing more plastic bottles to landfills—or the ocean!

To Do Today:

  1. Don’t forget to schedule an appointment with your local grocery store and make a list of healthy whole foods and snacks to have on hand to keep your hunger satisfied.  And be realistic.  Choose a time and date that you’re likely to stick to, and put foods on your list that you enjoy and will actually eat.  It does no good to schedule an appointment that you can’t keep.  Nor will it help you to have foods around that you won’t enjoy eating.

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