Get Smart! Make Healthy Choices At The Grocery Store


Before you even think about eating healthy meals, you have to go to one place – the grocery store. This is the place where the battle for good nutrition starts. As you walk along the aisles, you will find temptation calling you again and again to forget about healthy foods and good nutrition. At the grocery store it is far too easy to choose what is convenient, cheap and looks good over what is healthy, nutritious and can be slightly more expensive.

Before your Trip

Before you head off to the grocery store, take some time to prepare a list. Make it as complete as possible. Check in the fliers and online for any possible sales that will help your budget. Make sure you understand what you need and decide to stick to it.

Consider what is on your list and be prepared to read labels. If there is a sale on a comparable item, know you will need to read the label to see what product is more nutritious. If you want to make your weight loss plan a success, you have to understand that quality is better for you than quantity and inexpensive.

One more thing you need to do before you leave is eat. Whether you are coming straight from work, from dropping the kids off or from your home, you need to have a happy stomach. A hungry stomach can lead to impulse buying. Your diet program cannot fall prey to the vicarious desires, not true needs, of a hungry stomach.

Making Healthy Choices

Once you have your list and are sure you do not crave some food item, head off to the grocery store. Here, things can become complicated with the bright lights, shiny displays, sales items and lots of available choices. You can increase your chances of making healthy choices by staying focused on the following points.

  • Head to the fresh fruit and vegetable aisles first. They are usually located on the perimeter along with such things as meat, poultry and fish. Try to purchase fresh – the products in season. If not available, opt for frozen over canned1
  • When selecting fruit and vegetables, make sure they come in a variety of colors and textures. These reflect their ability to be nutritious and act as antioxidants. Consider broccoli, eggplant, beets, carrots and pomegranate along with peaches, apples, peas and lettuce.
  • Restrict your purchase of red meat, poultry and fish. Select lean cuts and remember fish is an excellent source of onega-3 fatty acids.
  • Dairy products are also found in the outer aisles. Remember to look for low-fat or fat-free products. Look carefully at the types of yoghurt available. Avoid those with fruit at the bottom. These contain frightening amounts of sugar. Remember there are always healthy milk substitutes such as rice and soy milk. Check out their caloric content before you buy.
  • Select the items you need and only those. An exception can be made if the product you need is on sale and you can freeze or prepare it before it can go to waste
  • Ignore the items placed at the end of the rows. These tend to be sales of food that is high in package attractiveness and low in nutritional value.
  • Beware of the central aisles. This is where the junk food lurks. Zip in for popcorn, if necessary but do not allow yourself to be lured to grab chips and pop and cookies
  • Head to the bread aisle and be ready to check the labels. See how much fiber content is in the loaf. Be sure the product is whole wheat or at least contains the entire grain.
  • In the cereal aisle be wary of the colorful packaging. Read the ingredient labels. Know what each contains and abandon the high sugar products. Know oatmeal is better for you than packaged cereal and that granola may be healthy in some respects but it is also high in sugar and fats. Always look for those high in fiber and low in fats and sugars. Remember, a little sugar is not bad. Cereals are, after all, made to be paired with milk. Just don’t add sugar on top of the sugar when you serve it.
  • When it comes time to head to the check-out counter, make sure you are prepared. This is the place where many a resolve has crumbled. Beside and among the plethora of sensational magazines and newspapers are candy bars, and junk food galore. If you must give in to temptation, buy a pack of gum.

Two other rules: avoid too much packaged food and opt for healthy products over cheaper products

In addition to these aids to healthy shopping, there is one more you need to consider – label reading.2

Reading Labels

If you want to truly make healthy choices, you need to have at least a basic understanding of the labels. Sites for online weight loss programs and government pages contain information about how to read and understand the labeling system.3 This may help simplify. Yet, there are a few ways for you to make the entire system more compatible for fast and easy shopping. Here are a few tips:

  • Check out the core ingredients. Understand that the ingredient mentioned first is what the product contains the most of. If this is sugar or fat – step away from the shelf.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts label to see how many calories, fats, sodium and fiber are present in the product. Select those products higher in fiber with fewer calories, fats, sugar and sodium
  • If the ingredient list seems to be endless, leave the package behind
  • If the ingredient list is replete with what look like indiscernible chemical equations, leave it behind. The contents may be more additives than real food.4
  • Whenever possible purchase real food and real juice that is 100% what the label says.


Making healthy choices at the grocery store is essential if you are to adhere to your weight loss program. Dieting can be trouble enough. Don’t complicate it through poor shopping habits. Learn how to prepare a list. Stick to it and avoid products with ingredients labels that are hard to decipher and lengthy. If you do so, you are more likely to eat proper nutrition and be successful in completing your weight loss plan.5


1 Beck, Leslie (2010). The Complete A-Z Nutrition Encyclopedia.Toronto: Penguin Books.

(FDA, 2011)

FDA (2011). “Food Label Helps Consumers Make Healthier Choices.” Retrieved from www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm094536.htm

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

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

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


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