Tips for healthy grocery shopping
GOOD nutrition starts with smart choices in the grocery store. Cooking up healthy meals is a challenge if you don’t have the right ingredients in your kitchen.
But who has time to read all the food labels and figure out which items are the most nutritious and the best buys? Grocery shopping can be a daunting task, simply because there are so many choices.
“Markets perform a great public service, but keep in mind they are designed to get you to buy (and, therefore, eat) more food, not less,” says Marion Nestle, PHD, MPH, professor of nutrition at New York University and author of What to Eat: An Aisle-by-aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating. But with a little guidance, healthy choices are a cinch to find in any supermarket.
Plan Ahead for Success The process starts even before you head to the grocery store, experts say. Before you set out for the market, plan your meals for the week, and create a list to shop from. It takes a few minutes, but saves time in running back to the store for missing ingredients.
Heading to the grocery store armed with a list may make it easier to follow a healthy diet, a study of shoppers in Pittsburgh suggests. Researchers surveyed more than 1,300 mostly overweight and obese residents in two poor, primarily African American communities and found that shoppers who regularly made grocery lists also made higher quality food choices and had lower body weights.
To save money, check the weekly grocery ads, and incorporate sale foods into your meal planning. And don’t shop hungry: An empty belly often results in impulse purchases that may not be the healthiest. When faced with rows of treats, it’s tempting to fill our trollies with food we know isn’t particularly good for our health.
But new research suggests eating an apple before going to the supermarket may help us to resist the lure of crisps and chocolate.
After eating an apple, shoppers buy 25 percent more fruit and vegetables than they would otherwise, the study says.
Researchers from Cornell University completed three experiments to draw their conclusions.
In the first experiment, the scientists split 120 shoppers into three group. The first group were given an apple before they arrived at the supermarket and the second group were given a cookie. The third group ate nothing at all before shopping.
After analysing their trollies, the researchers concluded that those who ate an apple bought 28 percent more fruit and veg than those given a cookie.
The apple eaters also bought 25 percent more fruit and veg than the group who ate nothing at all.
“What this teaches us, is that having a small healthy snack before shopping can put us in a healthier mindset and steer us towards making better food choices,” one of the study authors Aner Tal said in a statement.
In the second and third experiments, participants completed a virtual shopping test.
For the second experiment, 56 participants were split in half, with 28 of them eating an apple and 28 of them eating a cookie before the test began. Each group was shown pictures of foods that are either high or low in calories. You should be filling your cart with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, lean meat, fish, poultry, beans, and nuts, she says.
Most of us tend to eat the same foods over and over again. But variety really is the spice of life, says Ward.
“One of the tenets of the pyramid is variety, so instead of white potatoes, choose sweet potatoes, which are much richer in beta-carotene, or baby spinach instead of iceberg lettuce,” she advises.
Be adventurous; aim to try a new fruit or vegetable each week, she advises.
Both Ward and Nestle say organic foods are a great option, but note that they may not be the most economical choice.
“You get the same nutritional benefits with fewer pesticides [with organics], but eating plenty of produce is more important than choosing organic foods,” says Ward.
it pays to make good choices at the supermarket.