By: Lauren Wingent
As a holistic health coach, I see grocery shopping as one of the most important steps you can take towards healthier, more intentional eating. But with the thousands of products lining the shelves it can be overwhelming. Is gluten-free best? Should you spend the extra money on organic and grass-fed meat? And what the heck do those food labels really mean? It can be confusing, but it doesn't have to be that way. Take a virtual tour with me and let’s get that cart full of nourishing, feel good food!
1. Plan ahead. Make a list. Pick your grocery day.
I find it helpful to go to the grocery store (or place an online order) on the same day every week - usually after breakfast when my stomach is full, and with my meal ideas and ingredient list on hand.
I typically break down my list by food groups; fruit and vegetables, whole grains and healthy carbohydrates, dairy and fats, and lean proteins. And it is never a great idea to shop on an empty stomach or when emotionally charged; this is when we tend to go into food tunnel vision and head straight for the snack section – hello Oreos!
If you do find yourself buying more than expected at the store, online shopping is a great way to stay in control and avoid impulse buys. Prices can be better online, but you don’t always know what you’re getting, and that alone can take more time than visiting the market yourself.
2. Game Plan: Navigating the Aisles.
Nutritious food is everywhere, but let’s start with the perimeter! Vegetables and fruit should be the mainstays of your diet, and it’s important to shop for fresh, in-season and organic produce, but know that frozen options are just as nutritious as their counterparts. This is because most are packed within 24 hours of being picked.
Your veggie and fruit selection should include the highly nutrient dense dark greens like spinach, kale and collards, as well as blueberries, blackberries and dark cherries, when in season. And don’t be afraid to try something that’s totally new to you; a varied diet keeps things exciting!
The middle aisles have great options: whole grains like oatmeal, millet, spelt, as well as canned and dried beans and lentils, which are great plant based proteins. This is where you’ll also find nuts and seeds, spices, and all the great seasonings. Stick to the lowest sodium options, when possible. I also make sure to include both avocado oil for high heat cooking, and a cold pressed olive oil when sautéing and for homemade salad dressings.
This is the area of the store you’ll also find the not-so-good-for-you treats. PLEASE treat yourself, but know what you’re getting into, especially where added sugar is concerned.
3. Added Sugar on the Mind.
I don’t want you to obsess about added sugar, but keep it in the back of your mind when cruising down the aisles. Always check the labels on your breads, cereals, cookies, and other treats, and choose items with ingredients you can pronounce, and ones with at least 5g of fiber per serving and less than 8g of sugar, especially if the sugar is coming from a non-fruit source. But just because it’s in a box or bag doesn’t mean it’s not good for you!
4. Dairy & Meat: Moderation, Please.
For dairy, I grab ghee or grass-fed butter, and manchego or goats’ cheese. Sheep and goat’s milk is typically less inflammatory than cow’s milk. I stay away from anything less than 2% fat as there is no real compelling health reason to not enjoy full fat. It tastes better and the overall nutrition profile is better.
As for meat, fish, and eggs always opt for local, ethical, free-range and organic (wild for fish) when available to avoid the added antibiotics and other toxins used on conventional farms. It is more expensive, but your body and the planet will thank you in the long run.
Swap out meat at least 1 day per week. Replace beef with beans, or consider the wide variety of options like lentils (spice them any which-way), tempeh, tofu (sparingly), and even grilling a portobello mushroom like a burger is delicious!