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Healthy Grocery Shopping Tips


QUESTION:

Do you have any tips for successful grocery shopping?  I always go with the best intentions but always end up buying things that sabotage my healthy eating!

ANSWER:

The grocery store can be a dangerous place because it's you against the million-dollar marketing schemes put forth by food manufacturers.  Grocers place enticing products at aisle ends and at eye level on shelves to catch your attention and draw you in for the purchase. 
In fact, food manufacturers typically pay high dollar to place their products in these prime spots because they know that product placement dramatically increases sales.  Maneuvering through the store without giving into impulse buys is possible but it takes a little bit of planning and effort.

You've probably already heard the tip about shopping on the perimeter of the store.  This is because most grocery stores are designed with the produce, meat and dairy sections along the outer walls – although recently, I have seen more groceries putting the dairy section in the center of the store.  The point is, get familiar with your favorite store and know where the healthy products are that you will frequently buy.  If necessary, plan a shopping day in which you can go explore your favorite store and identify where all the products are that you need, writing down the aisle number for each.  Also take time to read labels and choose which products you will be buying on a regular basis.

As always, shop on a full stomach!  Shopping when you are hungry spells disaster.  If need be, plan to reward yourself with a small, non-food treat for making it through this shopping trip without making any impulse buys.

Getting familiar with your store will allow you to prepare a game plan prior to subsequent shopping.  Your game plan includes your shopping list of foods, along with the aisle number or general direction in which you will move through the store.  If you're a sale shopper, browse through the sale flyers prior to getting to the store and note which sale items you will purchase. Stick to your list!  A well thought-out plan will enable you to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible.  The longer you meander around the store, the greater the likelihood that you will purchase an item that was not on your list.  Set a time limit and challenge yourself to see if you can complete your shopping in less than 20 minutes… or whatever time you deem reasonable.  As with the initial "get familiar with your store trip", reward yourself with a non-food treat each time you achieve your shopping goals.  The weekly price of a magazine or lip gloss is a small price to pay in the long run.

Lastly, consider shopping at one of the many health food stores.  They are becoming more mainstream and thus are more available now than ever before.  Remember that although these stores do offer a wider variety of healthy items, you can still go wrong by making poor choices.  Health food stores still have candy and snack food aisles!  Stick to the game plan tips mentioned above and you'll greatly improve your chances of healthy shopping.

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Our expert, Dr. Sharon E. Griffin, holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in the areas of exercise science/physiology.  She also holds a second M.S. degree in Nutrition and is a licensed nutritionist and an ACSM certified health and fitness instructor.
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