HOW TO SHOP HEALTHY: Master These 2 Important Strategies
We don’t automatically come biologically wired on how to eat or shop healthy. We do come wired knowing to eat what we need, but because of all the media messages we don’t listen to our bodies. So if you feel confused when you enter the supermarket, take a deep breath. Chances are almost everyone around you is confused, too. When I say we come wired to know what to eat, it simply means that as children, believe it or not, if left to our own devices we will gravitate toward the nutrition we need. I know you think kids are fussy eaters, and maybe you were a fussy eater, too when you were a kid, but parents intervene and we tell our kids things like, “finish that food there are kids starving in the world.” I always imagined sliding my food into a large envelope and putting a stamp on it so I could mail it to those “starving children.”
The other reason we are confused about eating healthy and shopping health is that the rules of the healthy eating game seem to change constantly. Plus, if you don’t check out your sources on the articles you are reading, you will find that there is misleading information out there, too. Do you remember the journal article that went viral on the chocolate diet? News media outlets picked up a story from a “scientific journal” that stated, eating chocolate would help you lose weight. The problem was no one actually checked out this supposed “scientific journal.” Turns out you can buy your way into a few journals out there and pay to have a “study” published. These journals don’t even check if any research has actually been done. So be wary of the “it seems too good to be true” genre of health information.
But lying about research is at one extreme, and although I have cautioned you about that, what of the true nutritional science that keeps changing. Back when I was a teen it was all about calories in and calories out and heaven forbid you ate avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil! Currently, we talk about the quality of calories and we love avocadoes, nuts, seeds and olive oil! Remember when eggs were evil? Not so much anymore. What is happening? Why were those things bad for you and now they are good? It seems confusing.
Our understanding of the human body keeps evolving. So for one it is important to keep up to date with what science is learning. With that said, I don’t want you to get stressed out about learning all the new information. Really, it comes down to something very simple and if you keep this basic rule of thumb, you will generally be ok. It comes back to eating whole foods. The best you can do for yourself is to eat foods that basically have one ingredient. So for example when you buy spinach, the main (and only) ingredient is spinach! If something comes in a box, bag or can, think twice. It probably has chemical and additives that fill you up with calories but do little to nourish you.
The second important piece of information is to keep things in moderation. If one orange is good, 40 is not better. Get my point? These days there is lots of talk about healthy fats like coconut oil and avocado oil. That’s great. But we really need to watch how much we are using. We need some fats in our diets, and preferably unrefined types, however, we don’t want to trade off fat calories for proteins and carbs. We need all these nutrients to be in our best health. So don’t overdo anything. If you have a medical condition that warrants you limit or leave out certain foods than that’s fine if you are under the care of a doctor or if you are listening to your body and understand what works and doesn’t work for it. It is important to ask yourself, 15 minutes after eating something, do I feel good or not so good. Keep eating the foods that make you feel good and stop eating the foods that make you feel not so good.
What kinds of strategies are best when you are shopping to be sure that you make the most of your time and your money so you can get the healthiest foods?
Strategy 1: Make a Quick & Easy Plan for the Week
First thing is to make a plan. If you don’t want to be starving at 4pm and first thinking about what you are making for dinner, you need to make a plan. Do this early in the week or on the weekend. Think about what meals are reasonable for you to make that week. If you currently cook no meals now, then it is not reasonable to go all “gung-ho” and say you are cooking 21 meals at home. That is unrealistic and if you know me I want to set you up for success. So think about a reasonable number of meals you could make that week. Maybe go from 0 meals to 3 meals and cook enough for leftovers. Also, think about quick things you can make for yourself in advance to have on hand, like hard boiled eggs, steel cut oats, salad. I highly recommend a meal planning tool like Plan to Eat: https://www.plantoeat.com/ref/470ed80bb6 (yes if you click on the link and sign up I get a small reimbursement toward my own membership, however, I never recommend anything I don’t believe in. Also, when you sign up you can find me and come share my recipes. Won’t that be fun?)
If you use this planning tool it will also prepare a shopping list for you that is organized by supermarket section. I have found that it saves me money because then I only buy what is on my list for the week and I won’t impulsively buy a big bag of avocados when I only need one for a recipe. Use Plan to Eat as a tool to save recipes on your computer, plan out your meals for the week and shop. Plan out snacks and meals, too. You can put recipes into your calendar or you can just type in meals and snacks, too. One of my favorite features is that I can make a large batch of a recipe and freeze it and then plan out when I am going to defrost it and make it with the planner tool. It is all really easy to use.
Strategy 2: Navigate the Supermarket Like a Boss
When you are in the supermarket, think geographically. Think about shopping on the perimeter of the store for the majority of you food shopping. Why the perimeter? Well, think about how most supermarkets are laid out. In your mind’s eye walk to the produce section of your supermarket. Where is it? Not smack dab in the middle of the store. It is against one wall. Now take a little tour with me through the produce section to the back of the store. Pick up some fresh fruits and veggies while we are here. Can you grab me an avocado? What’s next as you turn the corner? My guess is the bakery area (if it isn’t I know we will pass it on our tour). Pick up some Ezekiel or other sprouted bread, if you like. Next, we are probably coming to the “dairy” area. Since we are here already you might as well pick up eggs, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, maybe some goat cheese for the pear, goat cheese & walnut salad you might be making later, coconut or Greek yogurt; you get the point. Now where to next? Oh yes, it is the meat section. Time to pick up the organic chicken and grass fed beef. Now we have pretty much shopped the perimeter of the store and our cart is almost filled up. What’s next? Well check you list for ingredients you didn’t get and head right for those aisles steering clear of browsing the other aisles. Why? Well, if you planned out your meals on Plan to Eat, and if you made a conscious effort to use whole foods, you won’t need that bag of chips so don’t bother going down that aisle. Go pick up your brown rice, quinoa and beans and spices.
It was lots of fun shopping with you. You know I am here if you need me! So next shopping trip take me along with you. Remember, make it fun and don’t complicate it. A few minutes of planning on the weekend and sticking to a plan to navigating the supermarket can set you up for success for the week!
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