Good-for-You Grocery Shopping Habits

Navigating the grocery store intelligently means having a plan. And with the overwhelming amount of options on the shelves, it’s easy to see why it’s necessary! Without a shopping strategy, “many folks fall into the trap of buying bulk food items just because they’re cheap,” says registered dietitian Jenny Champion.

While buying bulk on sale is an effective way to save money if have a large family or are stocking up for a gathering, “most likely, you don’t need all that food, especially if it’s just two of you,” she says. Also, both impulse buys and over-purchasing may mean choosing “bad” food options and overeating, which can be detrimental to your -- and your loved ones’ -- health.

If you’ve been known for making a grocery faux pas or two in the past or just need a refresher on supermarket best practices, review these smart tips from Champion. She provides some guidance on bringing home the healthiest picks that are still cost-effective:

1. Don’t shop hungry.
You’ve likely heard this one before, but it’s incredibly easy (and likely) that you’ll make impulse purchases if you head to the grocery store on an empty stomach. Before you shop, “eat a breakfast containing fiber,” says Champion, as well as other good-for-you ingredients.

2. Shop the perimeter.
The outer aisles of the grocery store contain much of the fresh produce and dairy you need for a healthy diet, says Champion. Plan to spend most of your time there, while of course making a pit stop to pick up essentials, such as bread, rice, pasta and cereal. If you aim to spend the majority of your time browsing fresh produce, you’ll have less time to be tempted by calorie-laden candy.

3. Visualize your meals.
As you shop, think about the delicious meals you’ll create with each ingredient. Not only will this motivate your meal creation, but it will enable you to weed out the extras and prevent mindless shopping. “As you pick up the candy bar, think to yourself, ‘Does my meal include this item?’” says Champion. If not, put it back and focus on the foods and ingredients that do make the cut.

4. Always check nutrition labels.
The National Institutes for Health recommends you consider serving size and number of servings the package contains as you scan the labels. Get the best option by comparing the total calories in similar products and choose the lowest-calorie items.

5. Plan ahead.
Make a list and stick to it. Not only will this mean thoughtful purchasing of nutritious ingredients, but it can also help you stay within a budget. Unless the item is on your list, don’t pick it up! A list keeps you from seeing increased numbers on your bill -- and the scale.