Eat Before You Go
First of all, I have found it easier to always eat before heading to the grocery store. Sound strange? Well, when on a low-calorie diet and hungry, the last thing you want to do is expose yourself to the many, many varieties of less than optimal foods! The craving that you feel is greatly magnified when running low on fuel. To me, it's like resistance training on an empty stomach. It's hard to "resist" when all you can think about is eating. Get my point? Shopping while your hungry makes you notice all those less than nutritional items that you would normally walk past without a blink of the eye. With your body continually signaling to your brain that it is in dire need of something and it could care-less what that something is.
Research Nutritional Contents
Finding out the nutritional facts of all foods that I plan to buy is essential. In order for me to know exactly what I'm taking in and its content provides invaluable knowledge. It will provide a road map to success when a goal is achieved and provide me the exact diet that helped me get there. It will also provide a chance to decide on alternatives when dieting. I will easily know what foods I may substitute for others when I just need a change. Most of all, it allows me to know the optimal foods to buy versus the ones that are marketed as optimal foods. For instance, foods advertised as "low-fat" are not always a good buy! If you look at the number of grams of carbohydrates, particularly the grams of sugar, it can be astronomical. Likewise, some so-called "sugar-free" foods are high in saturated fat or use sugar alcohol! I many times visit the USDA nutritional fact web site to help me decide whether a food is sufficient or not. The address is the following: http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/cgi-bin/nut_search.pl. The information I get from here I use to build mutiple diet plans that vary the types of foods I eat per meal.
Eating 6-7 meals a day requires a little creativity. I have built for myself a master list of all the foods I like and are acceptable for attaining my dietary goals. As I discover more about food, I continually add to my master list. Each food that I list includes its calorie count, fat (saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated) grams, carbohydrate (dietary fiber, sugar), protein grams, sodium grams, and potassium grams. The counts are based on serving size which is very important information to pay attention to. As an example, a particular snack food I love is popcorn! Some nutritional labels will detail the facts per serving. Problem is that a single bag of popcorn may consist of multiple servings! Be careful! Servings do matter in relation to nutritional value based on serving size!
One other thing I have discovered is how to break down the carbohydrate facts into something more meaningful. An example of a carbohydrate breakdown may list Total Carbohydrates grams as 48 grams (Dietary Fiber 16 grams and 10 Sugar grams). Question is, "That only adds up to 26 grams. Where's the rest"? The answer is, Complex Carbohydrates are the missing count! Active carbohydrates (simple and complex) are the ones most important to bodybuilders and can be determined by the following equation: Total Carbohydrates - Dietary Fiber = Active Carbohydrates. So in the example above my total active carbohydrates will be 48 - 16 = 32 of which 10 are simple making 22 complex! It seems like a very tedious and time-consuming process to document all the nutritional facts for all the foods that I include in my dietary plan. However, doing so is well worth the investment and you will realize great benefits when grocery shopping.
Prepare a Shopping List
Preparing a shopping list before heading to the grocery store is just as important as eating a small meal and even more, I think. The shopping list I build will contain several types of meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, and dairy products that I will need. When building the list, I take advantage of the master list I have created that includes the nutritional contents of all my possible selections. The benefit I realize is that my master list has taken the guess-work out of your shopping experience which translates into lower stress! Although I usually won't purchase everything that makes it on the shopping list, it serves as a guide. For example, I may list fish as an item and a list of fish sub-items like salmon, whiting, tuna, orange roughly etc. The sub-items provide a list of one or many choices of the current item type "fish". Some weeks I may be in the mood for salmon and tuna. Other weeks I may have a taste for whiting and orange roughly.
Some weeks my decision for buying is purely based on my calorie requirements. The fact that I know the nutritional value of everything on the list makes this possible. The sub-item list gives me the flexibility when buying and relieves the stress associated with trying to make good nutritional food choices.
The importance for building a shopping list goes even further. When shopping for groceries, having a list prevents you from wandering around looking and trying to decide what to buy. Wandering will put any nutritionally conscious person in danger. Wandering around a grocery store exposes a person to the "Goodie" monster. The "Goodie" monster is lurking everywhere trying to get your attention. You can almost hear it whispering, "Buy me. I taste good. Don't feel guilty. Nobody has to know a thing. I won't tell a soul." Next thing you know, the Goodie monster is in your shopping cart and on the way home. To make things worse, it has a cell-phone and called the other Goodies to give them your address. Next thing you know, your shelves are stocked full of Goodies of all types and flavors!
Seriously though, making a thorough and complete shopping list of the different foods required by your diet program, prevents you from wandering aimlessly through the store and making you less susceptible to the irresistible Goodie monster. Remember, always know and record the nutritional contents of all the food on the list. This makes it easier to decide on alternatives when trying something new or just for a change!
As I have mentioned, many rewards can be found with proper grocery shopping preparation. First of all, you lower the stress associated with the indecisiveness that plagues us all while shopping. It enables you to have a definitive list of all the things you know you can eat without guilt and still have alternatives from which to choose. You learn more about what to look for on labels and what foods meet your specific goals. You have documentation of how you arrived at your goal. Most of all, you save valuable time!