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December 11, 2015

Shop Right to Eat Right

by Amanda MacMillan

Shop Right to Eat Right

Have you ever walked into the supermarket with the best of intentions -- only to walk out with a cart full of questionable items? Getting into and out of the grocery store can be the most challenging part of healthy eating, but done right, it can also be a great way to improve your diet in the midst of holiday overindulgence. Fortunately, Stephanie Di Figlia-Peck, RD, program nutritionist for POWER Kids Weight Management Program at Cohen Children's Medical Center, is used to helping families with these challenges. Here are five tips that will help you make the most of your grocery shopping so it's easier and faster to get healthy meals on the table.                                                                                                             

Write it down
Jotting down a shopping list is one of the best ways to keep your meals healthy and balanced, says Di Figlia-Peck, who is also a Certified Diabetes Educator. It can help keep you from buying things you don't need, and reduces the risk of forgetting ingredients for the meals you’re planning for the week.

“It doesn't have to be fancy -- you can just scribble things down so you know why you're going and have a plan,” says Di Figlia-Peck. Many people keep an ongoing list on their smartphone, and add to it throughout the week as they run out of items or plan their upcoming meals.

Stick to the sides

“Shopping the perimeter of the store is your best bet for healthy foods,” says Di Figlia-Peck. “That's where you'll find your produce, dairy and lean proteins. When you get into the interior of the store, you're more likely to see lots of processed foods.”

Don’t head for the processed food section just because you’re short on prep time, she adds. “In many supermarkets you can find items like fruit and veggies cut up and ready to serve, or kabobs already skewered with lean beef or fish. Even a rotisserie chicken from the deli section can be a quick way to get a healthy family meal on the table.”

Be cautious of sale items
Saving money is great -- but buying things just because they're marked down can backfire. “Often, sale items have a shorter shelf life,” says Di Figlia-Peck. “It might seem smart to stock up when healthy yogurts are on sale, for example, but check the expiration date and make sure you'll be able to eat them all before they go bad.”  

Frozen foods and nonperishable pantry staples will last much longer—so feel free to take advantage of sales on healthy products like whole-wheat pasta, canned or frozen vegetables, oatmeal, low-sodium soups and extra-virgin olive oil.

Read the label
Ingredient and nutrition labels on products like bread, cereal and snacks can be intimidating, but the basic rules are simple. “In general you want a product with as few ingredients as possible, and ideally ingredients you can pronounce,” says Di Figlia-Peck.

She also recommends using 10 grams of sugar per serving as a cut-off, though 5 grams per serving is a better goal -- whether you’re looking for a cereal, snack or dessert. It's also smart to avoid anything with partially hydrogenated oils, a kind of man-made fat that's been shown to have harmful effects on cholesterol.

Don't shop on an empty stomach
“When we are hungry, our brain sends us different messages,” says Di Figlia-Peck. “We crave sweets, which can lead to impulse purchases and buying things that are higher in sugar.”

Schedule your supermarket trips for right after a meal, or grab a healthy snack before you shop. A recent study from Cornell University found that when people ate an apple before buying groceries, they put 25 percent more fruits and veggies into their carts. Just remember the name of the study: “An apple a day brings more apples your way!”