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How to Shop Healthier at the Supermarket

You walk into the grocery store, and 30 minutes later, you come out with a cart full of junk food that you hadn’t planned to buy. It happens to the best of us, but you can’t expect to maintain a healthy lifestyle when you fill your kitchen with fatty, low-nutrient foods. One of the biggest battles of the healty-eating struggle is at the supermarket. Use these tips to keep your next grocery store visit productive and healthy.

  1. Make a list:

    And we don’t mean a list of five things you really need that you make five minutes before you leave your house. Plan dinners, look at recipes, consider what snacks will get you to your goal of a healthier lifestyle. A complete list will discourage you from throwing things into your basket that don’t belong, so it’s definitely worth the added time.

  2. Stick to the list:

    Seriously! Your list is no good if you don’t follow it almost exactly. If you get to the store and realized you’ve forgotten things on your list, make sure to do a more thorough job creating the list next time. To avoid impulse buys, don’t go to the store when you’re hungry and stay away from aisles that hold your weaknesses, be they chocolate, chips, or sodas.

  3. Use apps:

    Smartphones have invaded every other area of our life (and mostly to our advantage!) so why not use them while grocery shopping? Apps like Fooducate let you scan barcodes to see how healthy a product is and why — particularly helpful for those who are still learning the ins and outs of labels and what you should look for. In Bloom will give you advice on produce, including which fruits and veggies are in season and how to pick the best ones. The Dirty Dozen and Seafood Watch show you what produce has the worst pesticide residue and the safest fish to eat, respectively.

  4. Shop the edges:

    Have you ever noticed that most of that junk food you love is located in the block of aisles in the middle of the store? This isn’t a coincidence, since the stores want you to have to walk by tempting foods on your way to what you want so you’ll buy more. Beat this tactic by shopping mostly around the perimeter of the store where you’ll likely find your produce, meat, fish, and dairy. If you have to go down other aisles for something specific, try to employ tunnel vision to make sure you aren’t swayed to pick up something less-than-healthy and unnecessary.

  5. Spend time in the produce section first:

    The fresh produce section of your store is where you’ll want to find the items that will give you a large portion of your nutrients for the week. Start here and spend time choosing a variety of vegetables and fruits. When your cart is full of produce, you’ll have less room for things that aren’t on your list and may think twice about throwing in that bag of candy.

  6. Go for the least processed foods:

    When choosing between products, take a look at the ingredients. You always want to choose the one that has the fewest processed components. Stay away from foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce, and if possible, choose an option that has five ingredients or fewer. This will give you a food that’s more natural and much better for you.

  7. Pay attention to serving size:

    Even if you know what to look for on a product’s label (fiber, sugar, calories from fat, etc.) you could make some poor decisions if you don’t understand how large the serving is. If you’re looking at something you’re going to eat in a single sitting, but it’s labeled as three servings, the manufacturer is probably hoping to fool you. Always look at the serving size, and teach yourself what various measurements look like so you won’t underestimate how much of something you’ll actually use.

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