Does grocery shopping feel like an overwhelming chore to you? With the endless aisles, shelves, and different brands of the same food, how do you navigate a supermarket? How can you make sure you’re making the healthiest choice? In this post, we are going to teach you how to grocery shop like a dietitian in just 5 easy steps!
1. Plan your meals and go with a grocery list
We recommend grocery shopping around once a week, and always do it with a list! Write down what meals you will be having throughout the week, as well as what snacks you will need. Click here to download our FREE weekly meal planning template! Once you’ve generated your weekly meal plan, do a quick review of what you already have in stock to determine what you actually need to buy. If you’re feeling extra keen, you can also peruse the store’s special offers to see if anything you need may be on sale! From there, create your grocery list and make sure you take it to the grocery store with you. This list will give you direction and purpose while you are grocery shopping to make your shopping more efficient and minimize time spent wandering the aisles wondering what you need.
2. Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store
As you may have noticed, the perimeter of the grocery store is normally where the whole, unprocessed foods are, such as: vegetables, fruit, dairy products (and alternatives), as well as meat/fish/poultry. As much as you can, avoid going into the aisles as this is where the highly processed food choices are kept. When you consult the grocery list you made in step #1, you may need to venture into these aisles for foods such as legumes, nuts/seeds, crackers, spices, herbs, etc. however you will only need to venture down a few aisles and you can stay focused on your goal - healthy eating!
3. Choose whole, unprocessed foods most often
Choosing unprocessed, whole foods is always going to be the healthier choice over processed or refined foods because whole foods don’t have anything added to them (like fat, sugar, salt) or stripped away from them (like fibre, vitamins, and minerals). For example, choose to make your own pasta sauce or soup rather than buying the premade products. When you use whole foods in your cooking at home, you can prepare and cook them with much less added fat, sugar, and salt. As in step #2, you’ll find these foods primarily in the perimeter of the grocery store.
4. Compare food choices by comparing their labels
For those foods that do come in a package, always compare foods by examining their Ingredients List and Nutrition Facts Table. Fortunately for us, food products (or any food which comes in a package) are legally required to have both Ingredients Lists and Nutrition Facts Tables in Canada.
When looking at the Ingredients List, it is helpful to know that ingredients are listed in order of weight (from greatest to least). Select foods with shorter ingredients lists that contain words which you are familiar with.
When comparing Nutrition Facts Tables, make sure you first compare the serving sizes. Serving sizes can be found near the top of the Nutrition Facts Table, but they are often different for similar products which can make comparison tricky! It can also be helpful to compare the serving size to the amount of the food you would probably eat. Once you have taken serving sizes into consideration, we recommend comparing similar food products and selecting the food which is higher in fibre and lower in fat, sugar, and sodium. For example, if you are purchasing granola bars - compare your choices based on serving size (is it for half a bar or a whole bar?) and then choose the bar which is highest in fibre and/or protein, and lowest in sugar.
5. Store all your groceries correctly and conveniently as soon as you get home
The easiest way to know how to store your groceries is to copy the supermarket - if they store it in the refrigerator, you should too. If they don’t, then store in a pantry or on the counter! You can click here for Global News' piece on when to store food in the refrigerator versus the counter.
What can really help make healthy eating easier is to pre-wash and cut-up your vegetables and fruit to make them a convenient, easy snack to grab during the week. Having an organized, well kept pantry and refrigerator can help make meal preparation and healthy snacking an easy, convenient part of your day.
Wondering whether or not buying organic is worth the extra money? In terms of nutritional value, organic and non-organic food are comparable. However, there are some foods which you may want to buy organic due to their high pesticide content (which may have some adverse health effects), you can click here to read more. Some people choose to buy organic produce for environmental sustainability and/or animal welfare reasons also.
And that’s it! Grocery shopping doesn’t have to feel like you’re getting lost in the supermarket if you make a list, stick to the perimeter, and choose whole, unprocessed foods as much as you can. Did you know that you can book Alex or Stephanie for a Grocery Store Tour? They’ll meet you at your local supermarket to help you with your weekly grocery shop and teach you all about choosing the healthiest food options, please contact us for more details!