How to stay healthy at the grocery store

Keep a clear head

Keeping yourself focused at the grocery store when surrounded by both good and bad foods can be difficult, because maintaining a healthy diet is more of a psychological battle than a physical one. In this article we will give you tips to avoid your cravings, save money and make the grocery shopping less painful.

Never go to the grocery store hungry. Your body will be craving carbohydrates and you’ll be more than tempted to load up on simpler, sugary foods that will satisfy that need quickly. Beyond that, you’ll probably be tempted to buy more food than you need. The eyes are always bigger than the stomach.

You don’t need to eat a full meal, but the fuller you are going to the grocery store, the less appetizing that quick sugar spike is going to be. If you have low willpower, go to the store after a larger meal. It will really help keep your head in the game and your choices on the right track.

The isles are usually where processed foods are kept, and around the edges of the grocery store are where you will find the fresh fruits, vegetables, bread and meats. The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” can really help when it comes to avoiding unnecessary foods. Obviously if you walk down the chip and pop isle without needing to, there’s a higher chance you’ll convince yourself that they belong in your cart. Stick to the perimeter and don’t stray from your grocery list.

Always keep in mind that the food in your basket or in your cart and on your grocery list should reflect the food that you want on your plate. What you're buying is what you’ll be eating, so you should have at least half your groceries should be fruits and vegetables and then about a quarter grain products and a quarter meat. Meats and breads often come in larger packages, but you get the idea.

Another thing that you may not think of is the amount of space in your cart. Could you get away with only filling up a basket? It may not seem like it, but filling up a basket instead of a cart is like filling up a small plate instead of a big plate. It looks like there’s more food on a small plate, because it takes up a lot of space. If you have the same amount of food on a larger plate, you’re tempted to add more to fill up the empty space.

In order to be healthier, you will have to buy fresher food that will unfortunately go bad much faster than processed foods. This means that you shouldn’t load up your grocery cart unless you plan to eat everything within a week to a week and a half.

Also make sure to always bring a grocery list. An easy way to stop yourself from buying too much is to plan a few meals ahead of time and use them to create that list. That way you know what you’re going to be eating during the week and you can buy accordingly.

When you don’t plan ahead you can end up buying something fresh, forget to use it and then have it rot in a drawer in your fridge. It can be a waste of money and food, so buy what you’re going to eat, because you can always go back to the store and buy more. It can be annoying to go back and forth from the store during the week, but once you get more settled into common healthy meals and you have a better sense of how much you eat over time, shopping will become easier.

Sales can be both a blessing and a curse. On fresh produce, sales are fantastic, as long as you will eat what you buy. Don’t buy more than you need, even if it seems like a good idea. Usually sales last a full week or longer, so if you want more, you can always go back. If half the produce you bought on sale goes bad, you’re just wasting the money you thought you were saving.

Usually if you like a handful of fruits and vegetables, at least one of them will be on sale at a time. Rotate between some favourite fruits and vegetables as they go in and out of season. Keep some variety in your life to keep your meals fresh and interesting.

Great sales on meat can be a lifesaver. When you buy meat it’s really easy to take it home, portion it right away and then freeze it. Bread products freeze fairly well too. When these things go on sale it’s okay to save money and buy in bulk, just don’t go overboard. There will always be more sales, and if you feel like you will eat too much of those bread products if you know you have them, it might be better to leave the extra on the shelf and buy more as you need it.

Processed foods are fine in moderation, and sales can be damaging to that mentality. For packaged foods, it’s all about your own willpower. If you have two packages of cookies in the house, are you going to portion yourself some properly or are you going to binge eat a whole bag because you know you have another one waiting? Sometimes it’s better to avoid having a lot of processed in the house until you get a better mentality on food, so keep that in mind.

Creating a budget for yourself when you go to the grocery store is great for a number of reasons. You can give yourself a base budget, plus a higher budget for when you buy meat, or other foods/condiments that you only buy on occasion (meat can sometimes add an extra 15+ dollars to your total), or you can give yourself a budget range.

Obviously a budget is great for people who are low on funds and need to be careful how much they’re spending, but even if money isn’t a problem, a budget can be like a conscience. When you get used to buying healthier, spending $10 on pop and chips can start to feel less worth the money. They take up a lot of space in your basket and can take a large chunk out of your budget. Other things like nice cheeses, breads and more expensive meats can prove to be more worth the money. They can last a bit longer and fill you up a bit more than an air filled bag of chips, and they can taste better and be more enjoyable as an occasional snack/treat.

Going to the grocery store doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. Keeping a clear head and making healthy choices is easier when you’re prepared.

Here’s a recap of ways to keep your head in the game:

  • Eat before you go to fight cravings.
  • Stick to your grocery list and the edges of the store.
  • Fill your cart like you’re filling your plate.
  • Buy less, more often.
  • Take advantage of things that freeze well.
  • Think before you jump on a sale.
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