Healthy Grocery Store Checklist And Tips

Healthy Grocery Store Checklist And Tips

Maybe the most famous doctor of all time, Hippocrates (the guy they named the Hippocratic Oath after) said “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food”.

It’s still good advice. But Hippocrates never saw a modern grocery store or tasted an Oreo. If he had, he probably wouldn’t have been so glib about eating right.

The entire processed food industry is set up to make you binge. The grocery store is now a minefield, and getting out with a cart full of veggies is a battle.

But with a little knowledge and a proper grocery store checklist, you can start making better nutrition decisions and protect your health. Read on to learn more!

The Problem With Processed Foods

In his book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Michael Moss looks at what makes processed foods so pernicious. The answer, not surprisingly, is salt, sugar, and fat.

The processed food industry has created its products to fit the bliss point: the precise amount of salt, sugar, and fat that will deliver the maximum amount of pleasure possible. Changing that ratio, up or down, would make their products less appealing.

They also engineered processed foods to avoid sensory-specific satiety. That’s the tendency for big, bold flavors to overwhelm the brain, making you feel full sooner. Most successful food products pique the tastebuds with an overriding flavor.

All this is in a package that is cheap and convenient. Moreover, those packages typically contain multiple servings. But we usually keep eating until the package is empty.

Our bodies are working against us. They are hard-wired for sugar. Children, in particular, are drawn to sweet (and salty) tastes.

The same goes for fat. As Moss explains, fat produces effects on the brain’s reward center that are just as strong as sugar. And unlike sugar, there is no bliss point where adding more makes food less appealing: manufacturers can add fat indefinitely.

Together, fat and sugar are more powerful still. Combining the two enhances the effects of both. Adding salt takes the addictive potential even higher; these foods have us hooked.

Sweet liquids like soda or juice are an even greater problem. Although they can contain massive amounts of sugar and calories, the body doesn’t recognize those calories like it would in solid food.

Avoiding Temptation: Shopping the Outside Aisles

Setting up the right environment for yourself is the key to healthy eating and weight loss. Psychologists call it stimulus control. Without the sights and smells of that delicious processed food, you will not be so tempted.

The issue is that willpower is a finite resource. None of us have the stamina to keep telling ourselves “No” all day long. But if there isn’t any junk food around, you don’t have to use any willpower.

All of which is to say: you can’t eat what isn’t in the house.

So in the grocery store, you want to focus your efforts on the outside aisles. These are the aisles that cover fresh produce, lean meats, and dairy (ideally low-fat dairy).

A simple shorthand is to think of foods that do not have an ingredient list. You’ll never see ingredients printed on the side of a carrot or a chicken breast.

But look at the ingredients on the side of your favorite snack food next time. It’s practically a chemistry textbook.

Make Things Convenient for Yourself

One of the primary reasons people opt for processed foods or TV dinners is because they are easy. We are all busier than ever and don’t have time to plan and cook a recipe each night.

The good news is there are some solutions.

Meal Prep for the Week

Meal prepping is having a bit of a moment right now. People are starting to see the value in buying ingredients in bulk and doing all their cooking at once, perhaps during the weekend.

Batch cooking like that can save you time and money. It will also keep you from reaching for a frozen meal just because it’s easy: there’s already a healthy meal waiting for you in the fridge.

Avoid Boredom With Versatile Ingredients

Of course, one of the downsides of meal prepping is boredom from repetition. Unless you want to cook 21 different meals, you’ll end up eating the same thing sometimes. That isn’t a problem for some people, but most of us crave variety.

The solution is to invest in versatile ingredients. You can turn these pantry staples into a range of different dishes just by varying your combinations, cooking method, or spice blend.

Try to always keep your pantry stocked with:

  • Basic starches like rice, pasta, or potatoes
  • Dried or canned beans and legumes
  • Spices and dried herbs

These ingredients can be combined to create more dishes than you would ever need. Plus, they’re cheap and will last forever.

Fruits and Veggies: Embrace Frozen

Stocking fresh fruits and vegetables can be tougher. All of us could stand to eat more produce, but it can be expensive and spoils quickly if you don’t eat it in time.

One solution to both problems is to buy frozen produce. Self-proclaimed Instagram authorities like to weigh in on the fresh vs frozen produce debate. People like to claim frozen vegetables no longer offer the same nutrition.

The truth is, depending on how and when they are frozen, such fruits and vegetables offer just as much nutritional value, usually for a fraction of the cost. Make things easier for yourself: turn your freezer into an icy garden.

Budget and Bring Your Grocery Store Checklist With You

Still, even if you embrace frozen produce, eating healthy can get expensive. The sad truth is that processed products will always be cheaper than fresh, wholesome foods on a per-calories basis.

Nevertheless, you can afford to eat healthy by making an effective budget. In addition to opting for frozen produce, you can save money by:

  • Taking advantage of those cheap pantry staples
  • Buying in bulk whenever possible
  • Skipping the alcohol (it’s expensive and unhealthy)
  • Seizing deals and coupons

It will take some extra effort, but the payoff for your health will be worth it.

Remember your list when you go to the store too. A lot of effort has gone into designing grocery stores to promote impulse purchases. Bringing your list with you will encourage you to stick to it and avoid temptation.

The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Health

There’s nothing more important for your health than eating right. Make a grocery store checklist and stick to it, and you’ll be happier and healthier with minimal effort.

For more articles on food and health care, browse some of our other posts.