If your new year’s resolution is to lose weight or get healthy the first place you should start making changes is the grocery store.
Changing grocery shopping habits isn’t any easy task. Most of us walk in and do the task on autopilot. No list, no plan, and no budget. What ends up in the cart is a variety of easy to put on the table dinners and lunches, a host of snacks and whatever the kids are willing to eat. If you are like me, on the weeks I don’t plan our meals, you shop every few days and spend more than you ever intended and eat food you never intended.
There are probably many reasons for this that range from comfort to easy. Not to mention the grocery store has become a place filled with so many products it could take hours to navigate. Add in that it has quickly become a dreaded chore in our culture and it is no surprise we as a country eat so much processed food. Even after processed food has been shown study after study to be a leading cause of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
The first key to any diet change is a change in shopping habits at the grocery store. Here are 5 easy steps to help you get started.
5 easy steps to grocery shopping success
Plan before you go
There is no step more important to changing your grocery buying habits than making a plan before you go to the store. Walking into the grocery store without a plan is like walking into Target without a mission. You are coming out with a whole lot more than you bargained for.
With a plan of the meals you want to cook, even just a loose plan, you will come out with what you need for the week and minimal add-ons. If the unhealthy food doesn’t make it into the cart it can’t make it into your house which means it won’t be eaten by you.
Don’t believe the hype
All those claims and labels on the box aren’t there to help you make healthy choices. They are there to make you spend money. 99.9% of them are marketing ploys to get you to buy. While my percentage isn’t scientifically proven and was chosen purely to make my point, it is likely not that far off. After over 12 years working in grocery stores, I have some insight in this.
In case you haven’t heard yet, fat-free doesn’t equal healthy. It can actually be quite the opposite. Unless you are talking about a fat-free vegetable, fat-free probably means add sugar and salt. So most things with fat-free in the label are just marketing. Those labels are not your friend. Don’t believe the hype.
Keep to the edges
You want the healthy food, stay to the edges of the store for all your grocery needs. Every store is laid out in a very similar way. Refrigerated perishable products up front and around the edges. Canned goods and pantry staples are either on the same aisle or in adjoining aisles. This tip just saved you so much time. Now there is less store you even need to cover!
Have you noticed that produce is always the first section in a store? This isn’t by accident. Nothing in a grocery store is by accident. The produce is upfront and center because out of all the products in the store it is the most appealing. The section that makes you come in for more because all the vibrant colors draw you in and make you want to shop.
So there are probably some items you will need in the aisles, but with the plan you made before you got to the store (see the first step) you should be able to get in and out of those aisles with only the items you came for right?
Review your receipts
Tracking your purchases and the money spent is a huge step to changing what you buy. Keep an eye on your receipts and notice where the majority of your money is going. Some of the big stores even break it down for you. If the majority of your shopping didn’t come from produce, this includes frozen vegetables, add more to your plan for next week. What we track we change. If you don’t pay attention to your habits changing them will be that much harder.
Making your resolution a success
You have already made the decision to be healthier and that in itself it a huge step. Following through with good food choices is the key to making this plan a success. What you choose to eat is the most important decision you make on a daily basis. If that is the most important decision then what you put in your grocery cart, to in turn put in your cupboards, is high up there in importance as well. Before your next trip to the store make a plan, don’t fall for the marketing, stick to the edges of the store and track your purchases and you will be on the way to grocery shopping that matches your goal of being healthy.
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