Have you ever unloaded your groceries after a trip to the store, only to find you have nothing to prepare for dinner? NARMC Dietitian Debi Arnold gives us tips on how to plan your shopping trip and what to look for to ensure you walk away with nourishing food items for satisfying meals.
According to Debi, focusing on the perimeter of the store can help you become a smart shopper.
“This is where you will find fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products,” Debi said. “Processed foods are typically in the center aisles. If you stay on the perimeter of the store, you will find fresh, nutrient-packed options.”
Debi added the following tips to help you shop efficiently:
Plan ahead. Plan your meals for the week. This also helps you plan how you can use leftovers.
Eat before you shop. Hungry shoppers tend to buy more.
Check store tags for the unit price to compare sizes and brands of similar products.
Store food right away once you get home in order to preserve freshness.
If you buy food in bulk, divide into single servings before putting food away.
Wash and chop vegetables before putting away. Having them ready to eat makes produce more enticing when it comes to snack time!
When it comes to specific food items, Debi offers the following tips:
Fruits canned in natural juice, water, or light syrup
No salt added, low sodium, or reduced sodium vegetables and vegetable juices
Choose a variety of colors
Color = phytochemicals
Provide health benefits beyond essential nutrients
Lean beef (flank, sirloin, tenderloin, round, rump roast chuck)
Lean pork (ham, Canadian bacon, pork tenderloin, loin chops, roasts)
“Select” or “Choice” grades have less fat than “Prime”
White breast meat from chicken and turkey has less fat, but also less flavor, moisture, and iron than dark meat thighs and legs.
Fish should be moist and firm with bright eyes and red gills
Fish high in omega-3s (salmon, tuna, mackerel, rainbow trout, anchovies, sardines, herring)
Pouches or cans of tuna or salmon packed in water
Recommendation: 8-12 oz. of seafood each week
Store fresh fish in the coldest part of your fridge. Use within 1 to 2 days
Cereals with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving
Quick-cooking, old-fashioned, and steel-cut oatmeal
Crunchy granola bars with at least 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber
Instant hot cereals (plain or flavored) are often higher in sodium and lower in fiber
A serving of dry cereal can range from ¼ cup to 1 ½ cups—be a good label reader!
Whole grain or multigrain
Whole grains provide fiber, B vitamins, and minerals
Examples: whole wheat, barley, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, brown rice
Products labeled “High in fiber” or “Good source of fiber”
Some brands of white bread contain the same amount of fiber as whole wheat bread, but have a softer texture
Fats and oils
Look for heart healthy oils
Olive, canola, safflower, sunflower, corn, sesame, cottonseed, walnut, grapeseed, and soybean oils are all heart-healthy!
Avoid products with the word “hydrogenated” on the ingredient list
Margarines or spreads that have a liquid vegetable oil as the first ingredient are good choices
Replace solid fats with oils when possible and use oils in moderation
Extra virgin olive oil but has a bit more flavor than other olive oils. Cheaper olive oils are fine for most cooking purposes.
Whole grain options
Cookies and crackers made with whole wheat flour and other whole grains
Single-serving bags or container
Or save money by purchasing in bulk and portioning into small zip-top bags
High protein snack foods, such as string cheese, cheese sticks, jerky
Try graham crackers to satisfy a desire for something sweet—they’re cheap and have a pretty good nutrition profile
Dip makes fruits and veggies more exciting
Sugar-free pudding makes a great fruit dip!
Raw milk is prone to Listeria, Salmonella, and E.coli. You cannot tell that raw milk is contaminated by smelling, drinking or sipping.
Fat-free and low-fat dairy products
Yogurts, milk, cottage cheese, cream cheese
Neufchatel is a great tasting alternative to regular cream cheese
Look for cheese with 5 grams of fat or less per serving
Note: They do not melt like full-fat cheeses
Fermented dairy products (yogurt, buttermilk, and kefir)
Greek yogurt works great for making dips and salad dressings
You can use low-fat yogurt, light sour cream, or low fat whipped cottage cheese instead of sour cream in recipes
Packaged meals labeled “healthy”
Frozen/boxed meals that have a protein, grain, and vegetables
Frozen entrees with 350 calories or less and 10 grams of fat or less
Frozen or ready-to-bake pizza with thin whole grain crust and veggie toppings
Frozen veggies with cream or cheese sauce usually pack in extra sodium and saturated fat
Most frozen meals don’t contain a full serving of veggies. Add a green salad, steamed vegetable, or whole grain bread to boost the nutrition.