Emily Hoffman, MS, RDN, Logan Regional Hospital

grocery store shopping tipsThe grocery store can be a hazardous place for anyone trying to eat healthy. There are thousands of unhealthy food products lurking at every turn. New products — both healthy and unhealthy — enter stores each year. Here are a few tips for making good choices at the grocery store.

  1. Shop the perimeter. This is where you will most likely find fresh produce, meats, dairy products, bulk foods and breads. The processed foods in the center aisles contain larger amounts of fat, calories and sodium. Pick foods that are low in fat, such as skim or 1% milk, low-fat yogurt and cheese, lean cuts of meat, whole grain breads, cereals and any whole fruits and vegetables. Frozen vegetables are a great way to get more vegetables in your diet. They are processed without sodium and added fat, and cost less than fresh or even canned vegetables. Bulk foods are a great way to stock up on staple foods. Buying in bulk can save a lot of money.
  2. Choose new or unfamiliar items. Trying a new fruit or vegetable can be a fun experience. Find a new cereal that has more fiber and tastes great. Try a new bread each week until you find one that is nutritious and delicious. This can be a fun way to add more healthy foods to your diet.
  3. Avoid shopping when hungry. When we are hungry we are more likely to buy foods impulsively. Most foods we choose in that condition will likely be less nutritious. Before hitting the store, ask yourself if you are hungry. If the answer is “yes,” eat a healthy meal or snack prior to your trip.
  4. Meal plan first, then make a list. Multiple trips to the store can increase your total shopping expenses and lead to impulse buys that are rarely healthy. Take time once a week to do a quick inventory of your pantry, refrigerator and freezer to see what you need. Make a list of what you will prepare during the week, including breakfasts and lunches.Go to the store with a list in hand, organized by sections of the grocery store, to limit time spent wandering up and down the aisles.
  5. Spending more on healthier foods now will save on healthcare costs later. Think of it as an investment in your present and future health. If you are shopping on a budget, focus on foods like in-season produce, whole grains (breads, cereals and pasta), beans and legumes. This can be both an economical and healthful way to eat. Focus on fresh, seasonal foods or even frozen foods (such as frozen vegetables). Try making meals from scratch instead of opting for pre-prepared foods, which are more expensive and less healthy.

If you decide to splurge on a snack, opt for a healthy snack. Intermountain Healthcare, Associated Foods and Utah Department of Health have teamed up to offer Live Well lane check stands in all 43 Associated Foods stores across Utah. These lanes feature healthy fruit, vegetable and other healthy snacks handpicked by dietitians. As long and you practice portion control, these snacks can offer a great treat for kids and adults.

Taking time to focus on meal planning and grocery shopping can make you a healthier eater. Make a goal today to start planning your meals. Shopping smarter can cut unnecessary grocery spending, helping you to live a healthier and wealthier life.