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Becoming a Grocery Store Guru

If you are like most Americans, you probably have a weekly trip to the grocery store. Maybe you make a list, have a specific route for shopping, or just wing it each time. You are also probably aware that the purchases you make each week are going to dictate your diet for the next 7 days, so it’s important to shop well.

Avoiding the traps:

Grocery stores sink millions of dollars into research in order to give you the desire to buy items that you never intended to purchase before you entered the store. Avoid buying anything from an end cap, the extra items they stick on the end of each aisle. These sections usually are selling cookies, chips or soda, and they’ll try to trick you with sales or buy one get one free.  Also don’t buy anything from a separate display in the center of an aisle. When have you ever seen spinach in the middle of the soda aisle?  I rest my case. Lastly there is nothing good to be had in the line at the register. Candy, soda and jerky are just a few of the empty calorie foods they push at you, so stick to what is on your list and already in your cart.

Navigating the store:

It was actually my mother in law who taught me this shopping trick; she told me one way to eat really healthy is to shop only on the perimeter of the grocery store. You can find bread, fruit, meat and veggies and avoid cookies, potato chips, soda, Oreo’s, candy. Also another trick to go along with this technique is avoiding foods that have to use a commercially applied UPC code. Buy your fruits and veggies loose or avoid the grocery store all together and go to a farmers market. Also, when buying produce, try to pick one from each color of the rainbow to maximize your dietary needs. Outside of the Brach’s candy, you can find some of the healthiest of foods in bulk including granola and oats and mixed dried fruits. Just check the nutrition facts first.

The nutrition facts:

Bottom line: if you care at all about your diet, you are going to have to read the nutrition facts. You may need upwards of an extra thirty minutes  of shopping time to stop and read the labels your first few times, so be prepared. Most people think that the calorie section is the most important; however this count is only based on serving size. They could sell you deep fried bacon and have the label read 10 calories if the serving size is that of a thimble, so pay attention to how many calories are in a serving size you typically eat. The label will let you know what percent of your recommended daily caloric intake is in each size, based on a typical 2,000 calorie diet. Next, we move on to fat.  There are many types some good (mono and poly-unsaturated), and some bad (saturated and trans).  You should know what you’re consuming and how much of it. Aim for no more than 25% of your daily fat intake to come from saturated or trans fats. Next is sodium.  The higher the sodium the more processed the food is.  A good rule of thumb is your food should have less sodium than calories. Last is sugar.  You know it’s bad for you because there is no % of daily value next to it meaning you don’t need any refined sugar! A good rule of thumb is try to keep the sugar 1g for every 10 calories. Now lower down on that label is the ingredient list.  It is truly hard but try to limit the amount of high fructose corn syrup you consume, especially when it comes to bread.  You don’t really think of break having a large amount but they sneak it in there. Also try to avoid foods that have ingredients that you have to Google to know if it could be an animal, fruit, mineral or vegetable.  

Good luck this week with your shopping!

-Kevin

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