Shopping for Healthy Foods at the Grocery Store

Women shopping together in grocery store
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Healthy meals don't start in your kitchen. They start at the grocery store. Grocery shopping may not be the most enjoyable activity, but it's important, and with these tips, you'll be able to buy healthier foods and save a little money.

Begin with your grocery list. Think about the meals you want to prepare for the next few days, and then look around your kitchen to see what you have on hand. Write down all the foods and ingredients you'll need.

 

Eat something before shopping. When you're hungry, there's a good chance you'll buy more foods that you don't need. And don't be tempted by the candy and treats at the checkout, they're just extra calories you don't need.

Know the floor plan. When you're at the grocery store, pay attention to how the store is laid out. You'll probably do most of your shopping around the perimeter because the most nutritious foods (fresh produce, seafood, meats and dairy products) tend to be placed around the edges. Stay away from heavily processed foods that are higher in fats, sugar and sodium are usually in the middle aisles.

Most people need to eat more fruits and vegetables, so start in the produce section of the store. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables that are firm, ripe and unblemished. Watch out for mold, especially on berries and produce that's packed tightly together. 

Don't overdo it. Buy only the amount of fresh produce you need for a few days so your fruits and vegetables don't spoil in your refrigerator.

Pick up frozen fruits and veggies if you need to store them longer.

Look for high-quality meat, seafood, and poultry. The color is not the best indicator of freshness, so follow your nose. Meats and seafood should smell fresh and clean. The flesh should firm, and not sticky or slimy.

Take a few clear plastic bags from the produce department to the meat department.

Raw meat should already be wrapped securely, but why take a chance on leakage? Put each selection into its own bag to be sure there will be no cross-contamination of raw meat juices onto the rest of your grocery items.

Don't forget the calcium. Low- or non-fat dairy products will provide your family with calcium. If you don't want milk, then look for other calcium-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables or dairy alternatives. 

Choose healthier grains. Bread, rice, and cereals are a staple in most people's diets. Choose whole grains whenever possible, at least half your grains should be whole grains. That means things like whole wheat bread and pasta, tortillas, oatmeal, popcorn, whole grain cereal and brown rice.

Read nutrition labels and ingredients lists. This is especially important if you're following a special diet or watching your weight. All packaged foods are required to have this information, usually on the side or the back of the package.

Source:

Research, Education and Economics (REE), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the National Agricultural Library (NAL). "Nutrition.gov: Build a Healthy Diet with Smart Shopping." Accessed July 5, 2016. http://www.nutrition.gov/shopping-cooking-meal-planning/food-shopping-and-meal-planning/build-healthy-diet-smart-shopping.

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