Your Healthy Grocery Shopping Guide
I used to hate grocery shopping. I would only go once every two weeks and just live off basically nothing when I ran out of most things, because I despised it that much. I especially hated grocery shopping for healthy stuff because it was all so confusing to me. One day you’re told you should buy everything low fat. Then you’re told fat is good but you shouldn’t be buying any carbs. I never knew what I was doing! But over the past nine years on my journey to healthy, I have learned a few things, and I now look forward to getting groceries every week. Especially when I open my fridge to see it stocked full of fresh fruits and vegetables (#winning). So I’m going to share with you my healthy grocery shopping guide that is sure to help stop any confusion in its tracks and make grocery shopping easier.
Don’t Go Hungry
This one is at the top of this guide because it’s something that can derail all of your efforts in a short amount of time. If you go to the grocery store hungry, you’re not only rushing because you want to get somewhere to eat something, and you might forget something off your list, but all healthy thoughts go out the window because you want something to eat now, and most things that are available right this second are not healthy.
Make sure you eat something nutritious before you go, and if you want to be extra prepared just in case, bring something healthy from home to put in your purse. Mini carrots, dates, an apple, or even a Larabar.
Stick To The Perimeter
If you can, you should do most, if not all, of your grocery shopping around the perimeter of the store. This is where all the fresh food is kept – vegetables, fruits, meat, dairy. People who are extremely healthy and fit spend most of their time in the produce section.
There are so many different kinds of in-season fruits and vegetables you can choose from, it can sometimes get a little overwhelming. If you followed my meal prep guide then you probably already have a plan and know what you need to get, and getting something that isn’t in your menu might result in that item going bad. However, if you see something different that you’ve never tried before, take a picture with your phone, and when you get home, Google ways to use it in healthy recipes. Put it on your menu for next week, and give it a try! Like I always say to my nine year old, you’ll never know if you like something unless you try it.
When I look at my grocery list and see that I only have one or two things from the middle section of the store, I do a little happy dance. Especially when those things are something like coffee, tuna, coconut milk, or toilet paper. 20 points for me!
Read Your Labels
Always read your labels! This is extremely important because there are a lot of hidden additives and different forms of sugar in “healthy” food items. Believe it or not, just because something says “all natural” or “no sugar added” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. You might think something is good for you, but as soon as you read the label, the first or second ingredient could be something like dextrose, or sorbitol. It doesn’t matter if these are artificial sweeteners, or “natural” sugars – sugar is sugar is sugar. And you want to limit your sugar intake as much as possible. Instead go for the natural occurring sugars in fruit.
Something else to make note of is that fat is not bad for you. In fact, some fats are essential for proper bodily functions. For example, your body can’t dissolve some nutrients into your blood stream without the help of fat. Also, when you see something that says “low-fat” or “fat-free”, I’ve noticed they usually add some form of sweetener to it to help balance it out. I’d rather fat than sugar.
Fat = Good
Sugar = Bad
Buy Local or Organic
If you can, shop from your local food market as much as possible. When you buy produce from the supermarket, you’re most likely buying items that are several weeks old. Especially if you’re buying produce that is out of season, because it has to come from warmer climates. Food starts to change as soon as it’s harvested, and it loses a lot of its nutrient quality. It’s also probably picked hard and unripe to avoid bruising during transport, and put in a dark cooling truck, where it loses even more nutrients due to lack of photosynthesis (exposure to light). I know, your mind is blown right? Mine was too when I learned about this!
And as I’m sure you know, organic is best because it contains little to no pesticides or fertilizers. If you can’t afford all organic fruits and vegetables, be sure to wash them extremely well before consumption.
When shopping for meat, fish, and eggs, look for terms like “grass fed”, “grass-finished”, “pastured”, “wild caught”, and “certified organic”. If you can’t afford or can’t find these items, buy the leanest cuts possible, and be sure to cut off any fat, as things like antibiotics, pesticides, feed additives, and hormones are fat-soluble, meaning they’re stored in the animal’s fat. And as Michael Pollan says, “You are what you eat eats too.”
Consider Shopping Online
If your local supermarket offers online shopping, I highly recommend you give it a try! Not only does it save you so much time at the supermarket (you literally just pull up to your store at a time you chose in advance, and they load your groceries in your car for you – bonus points if your store actually delivers to your home), but you also eliminate the temptation to purchase things that aren’t on your list!
I don’t actually do my grocery shopping online anymore, but that’s only because I collect points with my card and the points get me free groceries, and every single time I’ve done the online shop/pick-up option, I haven’t gotten any of my points, and I’ve missed out on a lot of free groceries because of it. But when I did do it, I found I actually saved some money because I just typed in what I needed, and put it in my online shopping cart. There was no browsing mindlessly and putting things in my cart because I saw it and I thought I needed it, or I was hungry, or it was an “amazing deal”.
If your store offers online shopping, do it! You might just get hooked.
What To Avoid
I’m probably sounding like a broken record at this point, but avoid all forms of added sugar as much as possible.
You might want to avoid grain products, as they aren’t good for your digestive system and can cause leaky gut. If you’re unsure whether or not you can tolerate them, try doing an elimination diet, that way you know if it’s worth it for you to be eating them. For me, I chose not to eat grains, except for the odd occasion, because they make me feel bloated and tired.
Avoid products with a huge list of ingredients, or ingredients that you can’t pronounce or have never heard of. You want to eat foods that are as close to nature as possible. To help you out, try and think of whether or not our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have had access to it – if not, you might want to avoid it.
Every Body Is Different
Grains and sugar might make me feel bloated and tired, but they might not affect you at all (although sugar is just plain bad for everyone and you should steer clear of it 99% of the time). Try different things, make some tweaks here and there, until you find out what works for you and makes you feel good.
What’s In My Cart Every. Single. Week?
Every week I have a few things that always make it in my grocery cart, no matter what’s on the menu. Some weeks I don’t need to buy it if I still have a good selection at home, but they are always in my house:
Bananas (lost and lots – I freeze any brown ones to make Nice Cream)
Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream
Chicken or Bone Broth
Lemon and Limes
Sweet Potatoes (lots and lots – I cook up a bunch at a time for sweet potato “toast” in the mornings)
I’d love to know what sort of things are always in your shopping cart! Comment below or reach out on social media!
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