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Shop Healthy, Be Happy: Grocery Store Tips and Tricks

Fitday Editor

Between the trendy buzzwords, the vast number of choices and the amount of time you'd rather not spend reading nutrition labels, even the savviest of shoppers can end up overwhelmed in the grocery store. But, going in with a few tricks up your sleeve are guaranteed to make healthy shopping a little less overwhelming and a little more successful.

Bring a list.

And stick to it! Healthy decisions start before you even walk through the front doors of the store. Planning ahead can not only keep you from throwing in unnecessary items (hello, cookies!) but can also save you time and money. Have everyone in your family help contribute on the list as well. Kids (and adults too) are more willing to try new foods when they help pick them.

Start with the perimeter.

Do the bulk of your shopping in the perimeter of the grocery store where the more wholesome fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat and fish reside. Aim for meat or fish items that are 95 percent lean or higher, low-fat dairy and a variety of fruits and vegetables. While the junk food tends to lurk in the center aisles, that is also where you will find many other healthful additions to your grocery cart including beans, frozen fruits and vegetables and whole grains. But, as a general rule of thumb, take your time loading up on whole, nutritious items on the perimeter and then make your way through the middle to get specific items on your list.

Buy a few health foods in bulk.

Items such as meat, nuts, yogurt and some grains can tend to run on the higher end, price wise. To get more for your money, try buying these items in bulk. Whether this means a large tub of Greek yogurt for the week or a big bag of quinoa and almonds to last you a few months, your wallet will thank you. Meat is also a great thing to buy in larger amounts, allowing you to freeze any extra. Ground turkey, for example can be turned into chili, turkey burgers or a hearty spaghetti sauce. Plus, buying in bulk helps keep your pantry stocked with basics, ensuring you always have a plan B when scrounging up dinner ideas.

Don't forget the frozen aisle.

Studies are showing that frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthful, if not more, as some of the fresh produce sold in supermarkets. Fruits and vegetables that are picked for freezing are usually processed when they are at their peak ripeness. On the other hand, fruits and vegetables that are destined to be shipped to the fresh-produce sections around the country are typically picked before they are ripe. Shortening the ripening process gives them less time to develop a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals.

The fewer the ingredients, the better.

If you stick to that general concept while grocery shopping, you're automatically starting at a healthier place. This will help to eliminate added sugars, fats and preservatives and focuses on the most wholesome version of the food.

Be wary about big nutrition claims.

Advertisers design their packaging to sell. So taglines like "no cholesterol" or "no sugar added" are meant more to draw you in than to represent the truth. A lot of these claims are not regulated and therefore the extent to which they apply is often left up to the imagination. For example the word "lite" can indeed mean fewer calories, though there is no standard set for exactly how many calories you are saving. If you're wary of a certain item, take a peek at the nutrition label - those numbers can't lie.


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Sarah Dreifke is a freelance writer based in DeKalb, IL with a passion for nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease. She holds a Bachelor of Science in both Dietetics and Life Sciences Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she is working towards a combined Master's Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics as well as a dietetic internship at Northern Illinois University.

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