Healthy Grocery Shopping 101From Kathy Smith
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Food shopping. It's something we
all have to do - even those of us who don't consider ourselves cooks and prefer
to dine out. When you're trying to control your weight, going to the market can
be intimidating and a bit baffling. That bright, abundant space suddenly
becomes a place full of forbidden goodies and unhealthy choices. No need to be
nervous. Follow my strategy for painless shopping and you'll see food shopping
can actually be easy, healthy, and fun!
The first step to enjoyable
and effective shopping should be done at home. Decide what you need before you
shop. When making your shopping list, think about your upcoming week and how
much food you'll need to buy. Plan healthy meals and snacks in the amounts that
your diet guidelines require. Be realistic as you add items to your
listreally look at how many meals are on your plan each day. And
remember, if you have good food in your kitchen, that's what you'll eat.
1. Know the lay of the land.
Most markets have a similar layout. Meat, produce, and dairy are found
around the perimeter, with processed foods (those junk "goodies" and other
items almost devoid of nutritional value) in the center. When you stick to the
perimeter, you're sticking "close to the earth," buying foods closest to their
natural state and avoiding "convenience foods" full of unnecessary fats,
sugars, carbs, and salt.
2. Select beautiful produce. A
popular misconception is that packaged foods are quicker and easier to prepare.
Not so! Most vegetables take only a few minutes to cook, and a proper portion
of protein takes only minutes as well. Cook them at the same time, and you've
got really fast food. Look for produce that's in season. It will be bursting
with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and flavor. Truly fresh produce doesn't
need much effort. Just slice, chop, or peel it, toss it in a healthy salad, add
a bit of tuna, and presto - a satisfying and super-healthy meal in minutes! Or
slice your veggies, put a bit of water in a pan, bring it to a quick boil, drop
in your veggies briefly, and you've got a healthy steamed side dish. Add a dash
of low-sodium soy sauce and some thinly sliced cooked chicken, and you've got a
delicious Asian feast.
Cooking with fresh food eliminates ripping
open boxes, tearing open "flavor packets" that contain enormous amounts of
sodium (and heaven knows what else), juggling can openers, etc. Fresh food has
crunch! Fresh food has personality! Fresh food has color! Fresh food has zest!
And speaking of color . . . mix it up! It's not only nicer to look at, but
foods of different colors have different benefits in terms of nutrients. Select
a bit of deep red, a little bunch of vibrant green, a handful of yellow, a few
white items, and you've got a party on a plate.
Still craving bold
flavor? Snap up a nice plump head of garlic, a sassy shallot, a plume of
chives, and a tiny bouquet of mint or basil. They're big flavors that can take
your quick dishes to a new level of satisfying flavor without adding any fat or
And don't forget the fruit! It's great for snacks,
desserts, smoothies, grilling, or as a special addition to salads. Blueberries
and kiwifruit are actually classified as "super foods," and nothing perks up a
salad like little chunks of pear or apple. Lemon zest and a squeeze of fresh
lemon or lime are good to have on hand.
No time to clean and chop?
Then take advantage of packaged precut produce, or visit the salad bar to buy
an excellent array of produce by the pound. Also consider frozen vegetables -
they're easy to prepare, and because they're frozen immediately after harvest,
the nutritional values are about the same as for fresh produce. Canned
goodslike beans, legumes, and tomatoes are also nutritionally sound
alternatives to perishable fresh produce, but watch the sodium content, and
always go for fresh produce first.
3. Get to the meat of the
meal. From the produce section, head over to the meat and fish sections of
the market. Talk to your butcher and ask what's best today. Fresh, fresh,
fresh! If you get a beautiful fresh cut of steak, you won't have to fuss with
too much seasoning. A shake of salt and pepper, and some of that garlic you
already have in your cart, and you're minutes away from dinner again. The same
goes for fish. If they've just received some beautiful trout filets, you can
brush them with a bit of olive oil and lay them on a grill pan. If you add
sliced veggies to the grill pan, again, you guessed it, you can have dinner in
If you find cooking with raw proteins intimidating, most
markets have a service deli with wonderful prepared foods you can enjoy (like
whole roasted chickens or poached fish). Just be sure to avoid fatty sauces and
preparations. Canned proteins, like tuna or salmon packed in water, are also
good to have on hand for quick salads and sandwiches (make sure to drain them
4. Quick dairy tip. In the dairy section, look for
low-fat choices, which contain less saturated fat, such as 2% cottage cheese or
low-fat or nonfat milk. Hard cheeses are also available in several good-tasting
Kathy Smith is one of
the most admired fitness and wellness leaders in America, with 16 million
workout titles sold worldwide. Her latest creation is Project: YOU.