With thousands of food choices out there and numerous name brands to choose from, how do we go about choosing the right foods to provide proper nutrition? Here are some smart shopping solutions for navigating the supermarket and making the most of your grocery shopping experience.
1. First And Foremost, Plan Ahead:
Write down or at least have an idea of the meals you plan to eat for the week. Keep in mind how much time you have for cooking and food prep. If you only have one or two days to cook, prepare meal options for the entire week and/or stock up on some healthy convenience foods.
2. Organize The List To Match The Layout Of Your Favorite Grocery Store:
It is too easy to become tempted by the thousands of processed junk food items, strategically placed to tease you as you walk down aisle after aisle. To avoid this, only go down the aisles that contain items on your grocery list.
I rarely venture down the cookie or chip aisle because even the low fat or low sugar varieties are not on par with my goal to lean out. Those items are still loaded with artificial fillers and preservatives.
I like to compare food to gasoline for a car. Food may be food and gas may be gas but there is such thing as "bad" gas. With "bad" gas your car will still run (we hope) but it will likely kick and sputter and could ruin your car in the long run. Poor food choices can do the same to our bodies, so choose "clean", unprocessed foods.
3. Learn To Read Labels:
- Food Labels 101! - By Jeremy Likness
- Deciphering The Food Label Code! - By Mauro Di Pasquale
- Deciphering Product Labels! - By Reform Mag
- Other Food Label Articles...
- High fructose corn syrup
- Lard Shortening (any kind)
- Oil (any kind)
- Artificial ingredients (coloring, flavoring, etc.)
- Sodium (salt)
- Any ingredient that is partially hydrogenated
- Any other high fat or high sugar ingredients
Manufacturers of food products are required to list all the ingredients of most products available to us. The first ingredient listed will usually be the largest amount of any of the other ingredients. The second item will be the second most abundant and the last item will be the least amount of all the ingredients in that particular product.
Try to avoid products that contain the following items when listed in the first few of the ingredients list. Large amounts of any of these ingredients will certainly stall any progress to maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle. I personally try and avoid all products with any of these ingredients, with the exception of sodium, which if you train intensely, is necessary to replenish and can even help you grow.
4. Know What To Shop For In Each Section Of Your Supermarket:
Since produce does not last very long, buy only the amount you will eat for a few days. Raw vegetables, such a broccoli and cauliflower are great snacks when boredom sets in and your feel like noshing.
Also, freeze fruits like blueberries for when you need a quick little snack fix. However, try not to munch on fruits all day. Many are loaded with natural sugars and we want to control our glucose levels so that we do not experience spikes in blood sugar that lead to eating too much. A small apple in the early afternoon can be a great pick me up, full of fiber, that will not derail your efforts.
Meat, Fish, Poultry & Eggs:
White meat fish, such as halibut, tilapia and orange roughy are certainly low calorie but high in protein. Also, do not forget the eggs. Avoid eating too many yolks. Instead, separate the yolk from the egg white, discarding the yolk, or use a fat free egg substitute. Eggs are one of the cheapest choices for a high quality protein.
Milk, Cheese & Yogurt:
It is certainly important to take in calcium each day; however, too many dairy products can really hinder body fat reduction. Many of today's dairy products are so laddened with hormones and antibiotics that they are no longer the "cleanest" choice.
Many contain high amounts of saturated fat and are loaded with sugar. Look for varieties low in fat AND sugar and limit your intake. Some manufacturers now make yogurt with as little as 3 grams of sugar, as opposed to the estimated 23 grams in most regular brands.
Also, fat free milk, does not necessarily mean that it is a good choice. Check the sugar on these labels as well. It might surprise you to learn that one 8 oz. glass of fat free milk has 12 grams of sugar. I have found one brand of fat free milk with only 3 grams, so read the labels.
I prefer to get my calcium by consuming leafy green vegetables and broccoli, as well as by taking a multi-vitamin. Just be sure not to skimp on getting your calcium for the day, especially if you weight train. Calcium supports bones already in a healthy range beneath that fantastic muscle we work so hard to build.
The frozen food aisle is a great place for convenience items. Although there is an abundance of frozen, pre-packaged meals, these are not the convenience items you should stock up on.
Many of these convenience meals are loaded with artificial preservatives and tons of sodium. Remember the bad gas analogy? Sure, some items are low in fat and calories, but the way our bodies process these foods, is not the same as unprocessed, more natural foods.
If the item had a laundry list of unidentifiable ingredients, chances are it should stay in the freezer. Instead, look for convenience items such as frozen vegetables, pre-chopped onions and peppers for cooking and even sugar free/fat free frozen popsicles.
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Bread, Cereal, Pasta & Rice:
Choose unprocessed varieties of these foods, such as natural rolled oats, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and breads (Ezekiel, a brand made by Food for Life, is a wonderful choice for these items, and the only items I will eat for bread and pasta).
Try and get an equal amount of carbohydrates from vegetable and grains each day. Carbs work in conjunction with protein to, in a sense; sweep the protein into the muscles. Avoiding bad carbs, such as white flour and sugar is smart, but avoiding good carbs will do little to promote lasting fat loss and will only hinder brain function.
Legumes, Lentils & Nuts:
There are quite a variety of lentils and legumes, both dry and canned. Pinto beans, kidney beans or black beans provide fiber, folate and protein. Nuts and all natural peanut butter, where the ingredients list just peanuts and salt (no added oil), contain monounsaturated fats (healthy fats), vitamin E, selenium and protein.
Canned vegetables, provided that there are few preservatives added, including sodium, can be great convenience items to have on hand. They are very similar to the fresh options and sometimes contain more nutrients because their fresh counterparts tend to deteriorate quickly, losing nutrients.
Jamie's Suggestions For A Healthy Grocery Shopping List
- Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast
- Tuna (water packed), or White Meat Chicken (water packed)
- Fish (tilapia, cod, halibut, and on occasion salmon and sea bass)
- Extra Lean Ground Beef or Ground Round (92-96%)
- Protein Powder
- Egg Whites or Eggs
- Rib eye Steaks or Roast
- Top Round Steaks or Roast (aka Stew Meat, London Broil, Stir Fry)
- Top Sirloin (aka Sirloin Top Butt)
- Beef Tenderloin (aka Filet, Filet Mignon)
- Top Loin (NY Strip Steak)
- Flank Steak (Sir Fry, Fajita)
- Eye of Round (Cube Meat, Stew Meat, Bottom Round , 96% Lean Ground Round)
- Extra Lean Ground turkey, Turkey Breast Slices or cutlets (fresh meat, not deli cuts)
- Oatmeal (Old Fashioned or Quick Oats)
- Sweet Potatoes (Yams)
- Beans (pinto, black, kidney)
- Oat Bran Cereal
- Brown Rice
- Ezekiel Bread (frozen healthy section of Kroger's)
- Farina (Cream of Wheat)
- Multigrain Hot Cereal
- Pasta (Whole Wheat)
- Rice (jasmine, basmati, Arborio, wild, brown)
- Potatoes (red, baking, new)
- Kashi Low Sugar Cereals (less than 6 grams of sugar)
- Whole Wheat Pita (Low Carb Variety - Joseph's Pita Bread)
- Carbdown Flatbread (Wal-Mart)
- Corn Tortillas
- Whole Wheat Pasta
- Rice Cakes (lightly salted only)
Fibrous Carbs & Vegetables (Fresh First, Frozen Second, Canned Last Choice):
- Green Leafy Lettuce (Green Leaf, Red, Leaf, Romaine)/Bagged Salad
- String Beans
- Black Beans
- Bell Peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
- Green or Red Pepper
- Berries (blueberries and raspberries)
- Lemons or Limes
- Melons (not watermelon)
- Eat bananas, strawberries, peaches or plums sparingly (lots of natural sugar)
- No dried fruits, including raisins (loaded with sugar)
- Natural Style or Organic Peanut Butter, even better, Peanut Wonder (Whole Foods Market)
- Olive Oil or Safflower Oil
- Nuts (peanuts, almonds)
- Flaxseed Oil
Dairy & Eggs:
- Low-fat or Fat-free cottage cheese
- Low or Non-Fat Milk
- Non-fat yogurt (look for low sugar only)
- Fat free String Cheese
- Fat free Cream Cheese
- Bottled Water
- Iced Tea (decaf)
- Coffee (decaf)
- Diet Soda
- Crystal Light or Wal-Mart Brand Sugar Free Drink Mixes
Condiments & Misc.
- Fat Free Mayonnaise (on occasion)
- Ketchup (Heinz One Carb brand only)
- Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce
- Reduced Sodium Teriyaki Sauce
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Balsamic or Raspberry Vinaigrette (Farm Grove)
- Salsa or Fresh Pico De Gallo
- Steak Sauce
- Sugar Free or Low Carb Ketchup
- Sugar Free Maple Syrup
- Sugar Free Jelly (Polaner or Smuckers)
- Chili Paste
- Tomato Paste (low sugar)
- Mustard (yellow or Dijon)
- Extracts (vanilla, almond, etc)
- Low Sodium fat free beef or fat free chicken broth
- Plain or reduced sodium tomatoes sauce, puree, paste (look for low sugar)
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Fat free cooking spray
- Sugar Free Applesauce for baking
Herbs & Spices:
- Chili powder
- Mrs. Dash (all varieties)
- McCormick's (all varieties)
- Butter Buds
- Bay leaf
- Onion Powder
- Garlic Powder
- Curry Powder
- Red Pepper
- Dry Mustard
- Pumpkin Pie Spice
- Black Pepper
Other Items to Purchase:
- Fat-Free Cool Whip
- Sugar Free Jell-O
- Sugar Free Popsicles
- DaVinci Gourmet Sugar Free Syrups (www.davincigourmet.com - my best kept secret!) Add to oatmeal for breakfast or to make a variety of different muffins, cookies or pancakes.
- Tacori Sugar Free Syrups (World Market)