I LOVE the grocery store. It’s one of my favorite places. I love looking at all the food and picking out things I want to try. It all started with the big trips my mom and I used to make to the commissary to stock up on groceries. The best trips were when we drove all the way out to Wegmans and made a day out of it. What a treat! I know that this love of the grocery store does not translate to many people. Grocery shopping can be a chore or overwhelming. Just one more thing on the ever growing to-do list. Not only can it be difficult to find the time to get to the store, but once you’re there, what do you buy? How do you know if something is healthy and nutritious?
That’s where dietitians come in to make it simple for you! We want you to feel confident in your choices at the grocery store and understand all those numbers on the nutrition labels.
We’re going to go on a virtual tour right now and discuss the ins and outs of navigating the grocery store.
Tips for Navigating the Grocery Store
Let’s start the grocery store tour with the produce section. When you first walk in to a store, you will typically find yourself amongst the produce. Now this is my favorite section and a time when you can get a little creative with your shopping list. I mostly purchase fruits and vegetables based on what looks (and smells) good. If you planned to have broccoli one night, but that purple cauliflower is catching your eye, go for it! Have you ever tried purple cauliflower??
When it comes to many fruits, smell is key. I want to be able to smell the berries, peaches, and melons. That’s how you know they’re ripe! Now we’re staring at all the piles of fruit and I know what you’re thinking…”but Kaitlin, what fruit should I NOT eat? Aren’t some fruits too high in sugar?” No fruit is off limits! Fruit is a great source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants…so many good things! Yes, some fruits have smaller serving sizes than we would think (bananas and grapes, for example), but that doesn’t mean you can’t have them!
Don’t miss the small refrigerated area in the produce section that holds all your soy products. Make sure to stop here if you want to add silken tofu to your smoothie (or create a high protein chocolate peanut butter mousse) or get extra firm tofu for your next stir fry.
The next section at my grocery store is the natural foods section. Now this is definitely not a requirement, but I like to peruse it for some unusual items. Like roasted chickpea snacks and my favorite Ezekiel English muffins.
On to the dairy aisle. The wall of yogurt is a wonderful thing. I can’t say that I have a favorite. Greek yogurt is going to have more protein, so I usually go with the Greek. No matter what yogurt you choose, try to get one that’s lower in added sugar. Yogurt is typically going to have about 7-10 grams of natural sugar, so choosing one closer to that number (rather than like 19 grams of sugar) is going to be best. Other great options in the dairy aisle include cheese, low fat milk, and cottage cheese!
Somewhere around here, you’ll probably find some eggs as well. Don’t be afraid of those yolks though! They’re chock full of vitamins and minerals, and actually not bad for cholesterol (contrary to popular belief).
Next up is the bread. I love bread. But there are just so many choices! How do you decide?? My number one rule is to check the fiber content. I’m looking for more whole grains! That fiber will keep you satisfied for longer, and is great for heart health as well!
Now we’ve made our way to the deli. Here, you can grab some sliced lunch meat or cheese, but be careful if you’re watching your salt intake! Most deli products tend to be quite high in sodium. If you need a quick dinner option, grab a rotisserie chicken! You can also use the leftovers for chicken salad.
Don’t forget the hummus and fancy cheeses! If you’ve never tried hummus, it’s a great dip for raw veggies and a good source of protein and fiber! I hit up the fancy cheese section for some goat cheese, Parmesan, feta, or blue cheese. These cheeses pack a punch of flavor and you don’t need to use a whole lot of it!
Next stop on our grocery store tour is the meat department. The meat section can seem pricey, so buy in bulk to save money, and put half of it in the freezer for another time! When you’re buying meats, try to choose more lean meats like chicken, turkey, pork chops, tenderloin or sirloin steaks. Right next door, you’ll see the fish counter. Pick up some heart healthy fish like salmon and tuna!
What about the frozen foods? Don’t be afraid to stock up on frozen fruits and veggies. They’re just as nutritious as fresh! When purchasing frozen meals, make sure you’re looking at the label for sodium if you’re watching your salt intake! Aim for meal that have less than 300 mg of sodium per serving.
Now we’re ready for the center aisles. I’m a proponent for “shopping the perimeter,” meaning, I like to fill up most of my cart with the fresh foods available in the sections discussed above. But that doesn’t mean the shelf stable items are off limits!
I just like to pay attention to the ingredients and the nutrition facts label. I like to know what I’m putting into my body! But the center aisles are great to stock up on beans, nuts, seeds, heart healthy oils, high fiber cereal, oats, dried fruit, snack foods, etc.
And that brings us to the end of the grocery store tour! Any questions?
We are here to help! If you need help navigating the countless items at the grocery store, please call 301-474-2499 or click here to make an appointment with a registered dietitian today! We want to make the grocery shopping a simple and enjoyable experience!
What is your favorite grocery store? In Maryland we have so many to choose from including Safeway, Giant, Trader Joe’s, Wegman’s, Whole Foods, Aldi and more.
Updated March 2020
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