When walking in the doors of a modern grocery store we are immediately faced with an almost bewildering level of choice. There are so many options that we often aren’t sure what to choose. It will simplify your food choices if you think of yourself as a problem solver and clarify your goals. What is most important to you? Serving healthy meals? Saving money? Simplifying meal preparation? Speed? Once your priorities are firmly in mind, shopping becomes a lot easier and you will be more likely to be satisfied with your choices. Here are a few ideas that will help you to prioritize.
1. Shop alone whenever possible.
Usually kids (and husbands!) are the ones who want ‘junk food’ that may be cheap but do nothing to promote health. If you’re less pressured, you’re more likely to make choices that are in line with your priorities.
2. Don’t shop when you’re hungry.
When I go to the grocery and I’m hungry, everything I see looks tempting! Foods that I would never consider seem delectable and enticing because I can visualize eating them and stopping the growling in my stomach. It’s harder to be smart when your tummy is screaming, “Food, food, food!”
3. Read labels and avoid “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oil.
This oil isn’t natural but is manufactured by forcing hydrogen gas into the fat because it makes the oil last a long time without going rancid. This chemical process alters the Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) necessary for health into a new and dangerous compound called “trans fat”. Trans fatty acids increase LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, and decrease HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol.
Keep in mind that the higher up the hydrogenated fat is on the product label, the more of it is in the food you’re considering.
Further, since the human body doesn’t know what to do with this new substance, it will build up in your tissues and make you heavier.
4. Beans – especially dried ones – are a great food.
Beans are great if you’re interested in healthy meals and saving money. They are meat substitutes because they’re high in protein but are low in fat, high in fiber and loaded with vitamins and minerals. If you put them in a crockpot before you leave home in the morning, they can even be ‘fast foods’. There are so many varieties of beans, and thousands of recipes for preparing them, so it will be hard to get bored.
A tip: if gas is a problem, wash your beans, cover them with water and boil them for about two minutes before putting them in the crock or other cooking pot, draining and refilling the water before cooking. This will reduce the enzymes in beans that cause gas.
5. Choose jellies, jams, canned fruits and tuna wisely.
There are jellies and jams that are made with only fruit juice, rather than large amounts of sugar, and they are commonly available in supermarkets everywhere. Likewise, many canned there are many canned fruits in juice and they don’t contain loads of sugar. Tuna is available canned in water, rather than oil. Eliminating all these extra calories is good for both your health and your waistline.
6. Choose whole grain products.
It’s easy to find crackers, breads, cereals, rolls, English muffins, tortillas and pitas in whole grain versions. The most nutritious part of the wheat and other grains in the “germ” and white flour products have the germ removed. When white bread and other such foods claim to be “enriched”, know that this claim is a joke! Through manufacturing, dozens of vitamins and minerals have been removed and one or two is added back into the product. Look for products that have “whole grain” as the first ingredient.
7. If you have a sweet tooth, seek out low fat desserts.
Some desserts are wiser choices because they are sweet but not so loaded with calories and fat. For instance, a serving of angel food cake (1/12 of a cake) or 28 grams contains 72 calories, only two of which are fat. A 32 ounce serving of oreo cookies is 162 calories, 63 of which are from fat or a half cup of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream is 270 calories, 135 from fat.
Pretzels are lower in calories than chips fried in oil and some ginger snaps are low in fat. There are other dessert choices and they’re easy to find if we just read labels.
8. Cut down on the soft drinks.
Milk and water are cheaper, and definitely healthier, than multiple bottles of soft drinks. We all know that, however much we love our soft drinks, they’re nothing but water, sugar and chemicals which can’t possibly be healthy. Make them an occasional treat rather than an every-day occurrence.
Whatever your priorities, these ideas can help you to make wiser food choices.
Food prices are skyrocketing and health concerns are prevalent in our culture.
Becoming clear on your priorities and having a plan will help you shop wisely.
Just wandering around the store, buying whatever strikes your fancy, is not the way smart shoppers behave.