I used to view supermarkets as huge temptation palaces. As I rolled my cart down the aisles, all I could think about was how on earth I’d avoid the “bad” foods and choose the “good” ones. It was miserable. But I’m a problem solver, and my fear of supermarkets stopped once I developed 5 shopping strategies.
- Make a list…and stick to it.
Always shop with a list, and once you’ve created it don’t deviate. Organization helps—as opposed to randomly scribbling items on a piece of paper. Create a master shopping list on your computer, with favorite fat-burning foods, recipe ingredients and staples. Categorize the items on the list according to their placement in the store—for example, fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, dairy, canned foods, etc. Post it on your refrigerator or in a convenient place, and check off the items you’ll be buying on your next supermarket trip.
- Shop the perimeter.
The freshest foods are around the perimeter of the store—as long as you cut short your perimeter search before you get to the bakery section.
Always start in the produce section and fill up on healthy vegetables and fruits. What you buy here will inform the rest of your shopping. Next go to the fish, meat and poultry sections. Your weekly menu should include at least two servings of fish a week; salmon is a great choice because it’s delicious, versatile and super healthy. Choose lean cuts of meat (such as round and top sirloin) or fresh sliced meat or turkey from the deli section. Boneless, skinless chicken or turkey breast is the best poultry choice. In the dairy aisle, stock up on healthy Greek yogurt (without the fruit or other fillings) and low fat cheese, cottage cheese and milk.
- Wisely navigate the inner aisles.
There are plenty of landmines in the inner aisles, so stick closely to your list. Go for the least processed foods, choosing whole grains, rice and oatmeal. Canned tuna and beans, frozen vegetables and fruits, non-sugar nut butters and oils, vinegars and spices can be found in these aisles.
- Become a label reading pro.
The biggest danger lurking in canned and frozen foods is sugar. There is sugar in the unlikeliest places—pasta sauces, barbecue sauce, teriyaki sauce, ketchup, salad dressing, canned fruit, some instant oatmeal, fruit-blend yogurts. But there are also other fat-storing ingredients—fillers, sodium and wheat. For example condiments like soy sauce, gravies and flavorings contain wheat gluten—and often they’re high in sodium as well.
If you don’t have time on the spot to read every label, check them out online in advance. Just Google a packaged food and read the nutrition panel.
- Avoid impulse checkout purchases.
Browse the magazines at the checkout but stay away from the impulse foods—sodas and sugared ice teas, single serving chip bags, candy bars, and even protein and granola bars. These items are near the checkout for a reason. The psychological pull is there, especially if you have children along. Some supermarkets now have candy and snack-free aisles just for this purpose.