Shop Smart

Tips for Navigating the Grocery Store

Shop Smart - Tips for Navigating the Grocery Store
To get the physique you want, you have to watch what you eat. Of course you need a good, consistent workout plan, but I always like to say nutrition is 80 percent of the equation.

Where does good nutrition start? At the grocery store! This can, however, be a daunting task, considering how many choices there are. But with a little guidance, healthy choices are a cinch to find in any supermarket. Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be a tedious task. It is fun learning about new foods and reading the labels to understand what you are putting into your body. Remember— we only have one body, so be sure to treat it right!

8 Tips To Shop By

Plan Your Meals. Before you even set out for the market, plan your meals for the week and create a list to shop from. It takes a few minutes, but it will save additional trips to the store for missing ingredients and it will help you avoid getting sidetracked and making unhealthy choices.

Use Coupons. Eating healthy isn’t cheap — but it’s worth the investment. Check the weekly grocery ads and incorporate sale foods into your meal planning. Buy in bulk.

Don’t Shop Hungry. An empty stomach often results in impulse purchases that may not be the healthiest. If you don’t have time to eat or have a protein shake, grab an apple in the produce section and snack on it as you’re shopping.

Stay On The Perimeter. Center aisles usually contain the junk food— so avoid the temptation by steering clear. Fill your cart with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, lean meat, fish, poultry, beans and nuts.

Mix It Up. Most of us tend to eat the same foods over and over again— which is OK of course, since those are (hopefully) healthy foods. However, this can be easily adjusted for some variety by switching white potatoes to sweet potatoes (which are higher in beta-carotene) or spinach instead of iceberg lettuce. Try a new fruit or vegetable each week.

Go Organic. You get the same nutritional benefits with fewer pesticides with organics, but eating plenty of produce is more important than choosing organic foods.

Ignore Your Inner Child. Stay clear of foods with cartoons on the labels that are targeted toward your children, as they typically are very unhealthy choices. If you want to keep your kids from eating junk foods, the best way to do that is not to have them in the house.

Be Real. Choose real foods with as few additives as possible. Avoid foods that contain more than five ingredients (especially if one of the first three is sugar), artificial ingredients or ingredients you cannot even pronounce.

The Fit Friendly Five

I like to split my grocery shopping up into five categories. Check them out below!

1. Produce. I spend the most time in the produce section— it’s usually the first area you encounter in most grocery stores. Choose a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables.

Try This: Baby spinach. I love putting this in my egg whites for extra flavor and texture.

2. Complex Carbohydrates. Choose the least processed foods that are made from whole grains. For example, regular oatmeal is preferable to instant oatmeal. But even instant oatmeal is a whole grain, and a good choice. If you like cereal, choosing whole-grain cereals, aim for at least four grams of fiber per serving, and the less sugar, the better. If sugar is listed as one of the first three ingredients, it is probably not the best choice. Also, avoid granolas, even the low-fat variety; they tend to have more fat and sugar than other cereals. Choose whole-wheat bread and pastas, brown or wild rice, quinoa, bulgur and barley.

Try This: Ezekiel bread. There is no sugar in the bread, it’s a great source of fiber and it has more protein than most other options.

3. Protein Sources. I shoot for one to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight every day, which means I have a protein source at every meal. Fish, beef, chicken, turkey— all are great choices to keep things interesting. Avoid processed, sodium-loaded lunch meats and watch your portion sizes.

Try This: Salmon. It’s widely available, affordable, not too fishy and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Definitely my favorite!

4. Dairy. An excellent source of bone-building calcium and vitamin D.

Try This: Greek yogurt. A great high-protein snack! Also, for those who do not eat dairy and are lactose intolerant, try almond milk. It’s lactose free and a great alternative to cow milk.

5. Canned and Dried Foods. Keep a variety of canned vegetables and beans on hand to toss into soups, salads, pasta or rice dishes. Avoid high-fat gravy, high-calorie dressings and soups. Whenever possible, choose vegetables without added salt, tuna packed in water, low-sodium chicken broth, nut butters, olive and canola oils, and assorted vinegars.

Try This: Sodium-free black-eyed peas. They are a great source of fiber, protein and a good alternative for a complex carbohydrate.

Nicole Wilkins

Nicole Wilkins is three-time Figure International and four-time Figure Olympia champion, as well as a Met-Rx sponsored athlete and certified personal trainer. For more with Nicole, check out "The Fit Life" column in each issue of FitnessRx for Women. Also check out her DVD, "In Pursuit of a Dream," for tons of detailed information on training, nutrition, and life of a top pro athlete! You can order the DVD now at Nicole's Website!

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