Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How to Make Healthy Choices in the Supermarket

Through the years I have found many ways or tricks if you will, to make maintaining my weight loss more manageable. I realized early on if I created a plan when I was going grocery shopping it would work much better for me.

Before I leave to go grocery shopping I make dinner menus for the week. Then I prepare my shopping list from the menus. If I go grocery shopping with a purpose and not just wondering through the store aimlessly I save money and when I get home I have everything I need to prepare meals for the week. There is nothing worse than trying to prepare a meal and realizing I don’t have all the ingredients and I have to make another run to the supermarket.

When preparing my list I focus primarily on the outer perimeter of the supermarket. Most fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meats, and natural foods are usually located on the outer aisles. Often these foods contain the most nutrients and the least amount of preservatives and added chemicals. Ask yourself a simple question when looking at food to buy. Is this food processed in any way? The easiest way to find out is to look at the ingredients. The lower the number of ingredients, the better! Most foods on the outer perimeter will usually have less than 5 main ingredients. These are called "clean burning" foods and are exactly what you want to focus on. Also make sure you can pronounce or know what the ingredients are. If you can’t chances are it is filled with many preservatives. Sometimes the product may say “Healthy” or “Low-Fat”, take the time and actually read the specific nutrients on the back of the label. Even though it may look healthy or even say healthy, the calories, fat content or amount of sugar could sabotage your healthy eating plan.

Many supermarkets have started putting large baskets of their “Week’s Deals” as you walk into the store. You have to pass by them and they are there to entice you to buy them. Sometimes they are things you never would buy, but there they are calling your name as you walk by. Buy me, you really want me. Don’t do it! Just walk by, and stick to your list.

In my supermarket the first area I come to is the Deli. While in this department there are so many things that can get you in trouble, all the readymade fried foods and salads that have lots of mayonnaise. I focus on the deli meats that are healthy for me and my family and move on.

You are aware of the next area before you even see it. The alluring aroma that pulls you in, like you were entering Grandma’s kitchen, The Bakery; I personally do not eat anything in this department. In the past these items were my weakness, my addiction. I enjoy the smell of the bread baking and also seeing the decorated cakes, pies and pastries the bakers have prepared. I just walk straight through without hesitation because I would be doomed to gain weight if I stopped to browse.

The Meat/Seafood Department can be the most expensive component of your meal. Since protein is an important part of our diet, we can make wise choices or not so wise choices. I try to stick to low fat protein such as boneless, skinless chicken breast (which can be prepared in so many different ways); Salmon, Tilapia, and other white fish are my favorite. Instead of hamburger meat try ground turkey (make sure it is skinless ground turkey, this information is found on the label). I do on occasion like a good steak. All steaks are not the same; some are lower in fat than others, so once again read the labels, and if you see marbling (that is fat) pass if up for a leaner cut. Stay away from the processed meats such as hotdogs, bacon, and sausages. If you looked on the food pyramid you would find bacon and sausage in the fat category not the protein category and they also have a very high sodium count.

The Egg/Dairy/Cheese/Yogurt Department search for low fat/low carbohydrate items in this department. For example most people think yogurt is always healthy, it can be if you make the right choices. But some yogurts have toppings such as cookie crumbs, sugary fruit toppings, etc. and they are packed with calories, sugar and fat. I love all kinds of cheese but I have to tell myself there is a lot of fat in cheese and although I do need some fat I can tend to go overboard in this department. So, if I go for the lower fat cheese and try to eat it sparingly it is so much better for me.

The Frozen Food Department can be a very tempting place. You will find frozen pre-made meals, pizza, pies, ice creams all sorts of things that can really add to the waist line and possible make you blow your budget. You are in this department to get frozen vegetables (with no creams or butter added) and possible frozen fruit (with no sugar added). Refer to your list and don’t deter from it.

Vegetables/Fruit Unprocessed Foods is a department I like to spend a lot of time in. I look over all the “in season” fruits and vegetables. I like to try new things, and often find I really like them and start putting them into my menus. You will be amazed at how many healthy items are in this area. I will also substitute for example butternut squash in recipes that calls for potatoes. It tastes really good and your family will not even miss the potatoes. This department is also where I buy my salad dressing. I think it tastes fresher and once again I go for the low fat/low carbohydrate choices. As I leave this department I go by the dried fruit and nuts and choose these items for my healthy snacks. Dried blueberries and dried mangos, mixed with nuts are some of my favorites. You get the salty and sweet all in one. I prepare them in small snack bags to control my portions.

As I prepare to go to check out I run through my list and down the aisles that have cleaning solutions, paper products, and storage products that I might need.

Once I am at the checkout line I ignore all the tantalizing treats that are on both sides of me. It is amazing how once you are in line and waiting to be checked out all you can see are candy bars, chips, and all kinds of snack items. And if you are not careful you can reward yourself with one or more of these unhealthy items. Remember it is not a reward, and if you do decide to grab something quick it still counts as part of your calorie intake. Sometimes we feel like if we are in a hurry, or in our car, just getting something quick doesn’t really count, but it does. This is why I always try to eat something before I go to the supermarket. This way I don’t have the cravings I feel satisfied and don’t feel the need to partake in any of the many goodie that are all around me calling my name.

If you follow these guidelines and spend the majority of your time in the perimeter of the supermarket you will make better choices and prepare healthier meals. Try it you just find it to be true.