For many busy families, grocery shopping can be just another thing on the to do list that needs to be crossed off each week. We normally don’t spend much time on actively searching out the healthier options, and unfortunately oftentimes fall victim to the marketing signage, sales, and BOGOs rather than what are really the best options for the family. Especially during the holidays, the desire to just “get in and get out” can thwart our efforts to put healthy meals on the table. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Follow the 6 tips below to have a healthy strategy the next time you go to the store.
1. Shop the perimeter of the store first. Most stores are laid out in a similar way. The perimeter of the store is normally where you’ll find the healthier options such as fresh produce, dairy, fresh meat, and fish. Heading to these sections of the store first ensure that you’ll get the healthier options into your cart first.
2. Choose a variety of proteins. When you think “protein,” you might think mainly of meat and chicken. However, consider that there are many other options for getting protein onto your plate including sustainable, wild-caught fish and legumes. Some grains, like quinoa, are also loaded with a good amount of protein, according to medlineplus.gov.
3. Choose single-ingredient foods more often. Much of the food in the aisles today is what’s considered processed foods. These are foods that have been “modified” in some way, and which may contain undesirable ingredients such as artificial ingredients, hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides. Minimizing your purchase of these products is a wise way to ensure your dinner table contains nourishing meals.
4. Select brightly colored fruits and vegetables. These are the ones that will contain higher amounts of phytochemicals (no they’re not the “bad” kind of chemicals). Also known as phytonutrients, these substances are becoming more widely credited with having a positive effect on human health. According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, phytonutrients “may provide medical health benefits including the prevention and/or treatment of disease and various physiological disorders.”
5. Become familiar with nutrition labeling. If you’re trying to remain healthy through the holidays, you’ll want to pause to read the nutrition labels before placing items in your shopping cart. Reading food labels is one of the first steps to healthy meals and good health. Inform yourself by turning over the package and looking at the ingredient list and the nutrition label. You may be returning some of those items to the shelf.
6. Plan your meals in advance. Being prepared with a menu plan is a surefire way to keep a steady stream of healthy meals flowing to the dining table. Rather than scrambling to put something together at the last moment – which is usually a set up for the less healthy options – you’ll have your meals planned, spend less time in the kitchen, and ultimately get the healthy foods you really want to provide for your family onto the table.