6 Strategies to Help You Shop Healthier
I find that one of the easiest ways to stick to a healthy diet is to surround myself with healthy food to help minimise temptation. Therefore, I tend to avoid buying any junk food at the supermarket so that my fridge and pantry is stocked with only the finest fresh and healthy ingredients. I mean it’s simple, if you don't have junk food in the house then you won't eat anywhere near as much of it.
Now comes the tricky part, learning how to go grocery shopping without buying all your favourite junk food. I know this part can be difficult, especially when supermarkets are full of delicious food products that have been specifically designed and packaged to attract and engage customers.
When you enter a supermarket you are bombarded by discounted specials, bright product packaging, bold health claims and a plethora and tantalising aromas. It is therefore completely understandable that you might need a little extra help in this domain.
Here is my guide on how to navigate your way through the supermarket to ensure you leave with a trolley filled with the healthiest ingredients possible.
1. Write a shopping list and plan your weeks’ worth of meals in advance.
At the beginning of the week, sit down and plan what meals you will be having for the rest of the week. Be sure to write an ingredient list and take it with you to the shops. This will not only help you avoid over buying food but it will also help you stick to your list, eliminating temptation.
In contrast, if you just wander through the shops with no direction, waiting to see foods that appeal to you then you are likely going to leave with more unhealthy food in your trolley than you expected. So give your grocery shopping some structure and make shopping lists. Trust me, it helps.
2. Don't go down aisles that you do not need ingredients for.
This advice works in combination with the one above. If you write a shopping list, then you know exactly what ingredients you need to make your meals for the week. Therefore, if you know what ingredients you need, only go down the aisles that contain the ingredients you need to purchase. You will notice that many of the confectionary junk foods (chips, biscuits, chocolates, soft drinks etc.) are located in the same aisles. So therefore if you don't need something from those aisles move right along to the next aisle. Don’t torture yourself by walking through these aisles as they are filled with temptation and will test your willpower.
3. Never shop hungry.
If you shop hungry your eyes will be bigger than your stomach and you will leave with far more food than you need for the week. I also find it harder to manage my cravings if I shop hungry and often leave with at least several treat in my trolley. If you shop hungry you are more likely to purchase unhealthy convenience or snack foods to consume immediately.
I know from personal experience that the last thing I want to do when I am overly hungry is go home after grocery shopping and cook up a healthy meal. Instead I am much more inclined to grab a bag of chips, crackers or pre-made meal, that I can consume on the way home to subdue my immediate hunger. Therefore, if I have a light snack before grocery shopping (e.g. carrot sticks and hummus, an apple, a handful of nuts, a tub of yoghurt), then I am much more likely to make desirable health choices when it comes to buying my ingredients.
4. Don’t be tricked by specials or promotional campaigns.
Discounted specials are EVERYWHERE in the supermarket. The bright colours are designed to entice customers to purchase multiple items of one product. However not all specials are really that special. Look closely at the special and compare it to the original price. Is it really saving you much money, or is it just causing you to purchase more food than you really need.
The concept is simple really, if you have more food than you need in the house, you are likely to consume more of it on a daily basis. Also try to avoid being tempted into purchasing junk food because they are on special. If you are going to indulge in the occasional treat, opt for your favourite product, so that it seems like more of a reward and leaves you feeling satisfied.
An analogy that I like to use to explain this concept is to think of calories in the currency of dollars. If you can only have a set number of calories per day how are you going to spend them? It makes sense to spend the majority of your calories on a well-balanced diet, and when you do have the occasional treat to spend those calories on a high quality treat and not a mediocre discounted special.
5. Think about the shelf life of your ingredients
If the food you are purchasing is perishable, then consider how much of it you will truly need and try not to over buy these foods. The rationale for this is that if you have food you know is going to go off soon in your fridge, you are more likely to cook in bigger portions and consume more food each day so that your money doesn't go to waste.
6. Learn to read food labels.
Learning to read food labels can be an extremely valuable skill when navigating a supermarket. Acquiring these skills means that you can compare two alike products against each other and pick the healthier option based on either their calories, fat content, sodium etc.
These tactics may seem fairly straightforward, but I promise they work. At the end of the day, I am human too and although I understand the nutritional concepts behind certain foods, it doesn’t mean that I don’t have cravings. So these are the tactics that I use to help manage my cravings and maintain a healthy diet.
About the Author
Rachel Parfitt is the creator and director of The Nutrition Playground. As an APD Dietitian, Rachel is a firm believer that a healthy diet should include and abundance of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low fat dairy with the occasional treat. Rachel lives and breathes nutrition and aims to teach the everyday person how to love healthy food, manage cravings and optimise health. Rachel loves spending her free time in the kitchen experimenting with healthy recipes. Follow her on Instagram at @thenutritionplayground or visit her website www.thenutritionplayground.com.