Food Shopping – To Market, To Market!


Arguably dieting comes down to one specific item – food. While exercise plays a significant role in helping you reduce weight and tone your body, food is the most important item. Yet, in spite of its centrality, many dieters do not pay attention to one important aspect of food. This is a basic concept. It is called food shopping.

How to Prepare for Food Shopping

At one time, grocery shopping was not complex. It was a simple and enjoyable pleasure or a basic and necessary chore – depends upon your outlook. You prepared a list. You went in. You bought what was on your list. You paid. You left.

Today, the variety of goods vying for your attention can be overwhelming. This does not simply refer to the quantity but also to the different types of the same products. There are so many different variables that come into play when you enter a grocery store. It makes a once facile task incredibly complex when you are not feeling up to it or prepared.

Take for instance – whether you are dieting or not dieting, the environmental and health issues involved. Do you buy a product that is organic? Do you purchase something that is more environmentally friendly with less packaging? Do you require something that is salt-free or low-in-salt? Perhaps it is best to consider sugar, sugarless or a product without fat, sodium or coloring or so-called additives. Are you vegetarian, with a child who is a vegan and a partner who is a meat-eater?

The result is confusing, overwhelming and requires you to sit down before you go to the market, specialty store or grocery store. Yet, the matter can easily be taken into hand. Your first item for preparedness is a simple one. It requires some thought on your part and the knowledge of what you need (not want) in the line of food products.

Sit and make a list. Make sure it is complete. Make sure it contains what you need and specifies the exact products or a substitute. Be aware of the choices you can make and be ready to do so without weakening or making an unsatisfactory and unhealthy substitute.1

The second matter is also basic and easily done. You need to consider the state of your stomach. In other words, eat before you go. Never, ever shop for food on any empty stomach. This leads to impulse buying. It results in purchases that go beyond the boundaries you have for your diet.

With these two matters taken care of, you can then consider how you can make healthy choices at the grocery store.

Making Healthy Choices

There are several ways to make sure you make healthy choices during your shopping trip. Focus on these basic points:

  • Shop for healthy products over the cost or value
  • Purchase wholesome foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables – consider only those in season or opt for frozen ones. If you are concerned about the environment, buy local produce.
  • Avoid buying too many packaged products
  • If you have to buy food that comes in packages, be sure you know how to do one thing – read labels

How to Read Labels

In today’s world, weight watcher or not, it is important you know how to read the labels that are on the various food items. While each label may be product specific, there are certain items or references that remain constant and require your comprehension of them if you want to make a healthy choice. They are the result of guidelines put into place by the FDA. As a result, there are several basic things common to all food labels.2 These are:

  • Serving size: the FDA guidelines result in a standardization of all serving sizes listed on the packaging. The intent of this is to make it easier for you to compare similar items. The units utilized are pieces or cups. The identical information is then provided in the metric system.
  • Servings for each container
  • Calories: If there is something Americans get too much of it is calories. If you want to eat healthy or are part of some type of weight loss plan, you need to understand the role calories play. Your portion amount will always influence your total calorie intake.
  • Percentage of daily value or DV. This helps you to know whether the specific nutrient is found in low or high amounts in the food product.
  • The ingredients listed: This section is always in the smallest lettering. It can even be half-hidden. Sometimes it is best to take a magnifying glass with you. It is also wise to understand what the ingredients actually are. Consult a book on additives and this may help clarify what exactly is in the product.3 In many instances, you can assume that the healthier foods, the safer foods and the best for your diet are those with the least ingredients and, certainly, those with fewer ingredients that fall into the “I-don’t have the foggiest idea-what they are category.”
  • Nutrient Content: These list such things as proteins, trans fat, sodium, cholesterol and the amounts of various other vitamins and minerals.
  • Any health claims made by the product e.g. low in fat, no sugar, organic, for those watching their weight, heart healthy. Make sure the contents verify this product to be truly what it says it is.

Research and Labeling

Although the Nutrition Labeling Act of 1990 – with its variations and updates since then, governs labeling, you still need to be aware of what is said and what is actually meant. While the basic format of a label remains an evolving process, research indicates product labels do play a significant role in making choices in favor of healthier food.4 In recent years, healthier shopping goes hand-in-hand with the consumer’s ability to read and understand the label.5 Consumers are becoming more aware of their food and learning about what a label says ands actually means.6

The Purpose of Labels

Always remember one thing when you are reading labels and shopping. Labels and product packaging are not only meant to inform you. They are made to tempt you into purchasing the product. Keep this in mind whenever and wherever you shop. If you do so, you may be able to shop easily, healthily and keep a solid handle on your ability to lose weight.


1 Fishback, A. L. (2008). Women’s Health. The Daily Fix. Rodale Press.

2 FDA (2011). “How to Understand and Use the Nutrition’s Fact Label.” www.fda.gov/food/labelingnutrition/consumerinformation/ucm078889.htm

3 Farlow, C. N. (2007). Food Additives: A Shopper’s Guide To What’s Safe & What’s Not.Escondido,CA: Kiss For Health Publishing.

4 Teisl, M. F. and Levy A. S. (1997). “Does Nutrition Labeling Lead to Healthier Eating?” Journal of Food Distribution Research. 3(28):19-26. (Teisel & Levy, 1997) (Mandel, 2010)

5 Mandal, B. (2010). “Use of Food Labels as a Weight Loss Behavior”. Journal of Consumer Affairs. 44:516–27.

6 Hassan L. M.; Shiu, E. M. K. And Michaelidou, N. (2010). “The Influence of Nutrition Information on Choice: The Roles of Temptation, Conflict and Self-Control.” Journal of Consumer Affairs. 44 (3): 499–515.


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