Healthy food shopping just makes sense. If you buy the right foods, you'll eat the right foods. If you eat the right foods, you will have more energy, you will be able to control your weight, and best of all you will have a healthier cardiovascular system.
But where do you start? And who has time anyway!
There's no doubt that grabbing groceries on the way home from work when you're tired can be daunting. And even when you have lots of time, superstore food markets are so large it can feel overwhelming and you might wonder where on earth to start. And being creatures of habit, it's easy just to pick up the same foods you've bought for years. Right?
Well, small changes can make a big difference so here are some simple but effective strategies to help you shop for healthy food for your smart heart eating.
Not only will a grocery shopping list help you remember everything you need and want to get, but it will help you focus on purchasing the healthy food you want in your house and avoid impulse buying or falling back into old habits.
Some people find it quite helpful to plan their menu for the week so they know what ingredients to buy.
My first comment on this is to avoid foods that come in a package. Whole foods don't need packages or labels. If a food is packaged, that means it has been processed. And that means you really don't know what you're eating or feeding to your family.
If you do need to buy packaged food, read the label very carefully. Here are just a few tips.The list of ingredients presents the contents in order of quantity - largest first, smallest last.
Look for minimal ingredients - and as Michael Pollan suggests in In Defense of Food, if you can't pronounce it, you probably don't want to be eating it! You want healthy food, not pseudo food.
Look for sugar - and remember, sugar can be listed as any of the following (and they often use several so the sugar does not appear at the top of the ingredient list): Raw sugar, Corn sweetener, Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids, High-fructose corn syrup, Glucose, Dextrose, Fructose, Sucrose, Maltose, Barley Malt Syrup, Agave Nectar, Dehydrated Cane Juice, Dextrin, Maltodextrin, Saccharose, Fruit juice concentrate, Honey, Invert sugar, Lactose, Malt syrup, Molasses, Rice Syrup, Maple syrup, Sorghum or sorghum syrup, Syrup, Treacle, Turbinado Sugar and Xylose.
Look for trans fats - if it contains trans fat you don't want it!
Check out the sodium. Many processed foods are extremely high in sodium.
Why? Think about the way most grocery stores are laid out. The healthy food - the fresh produce, bakery, meat and fish, dairy and eggs, are all on the outer edges of the store. The inside is primarily processed and packaged goods. The less time you spend in the middle of the store, the less processed food you'll take home!
Close your eyes, hold your breath, and keep going! And if you're tempted, buy and read Wheat Belly
Meat and fish counter
You may not eat meat and/or fish due to religious or ethical reasons. If you do enjoy meat and fish here are some tips:
If at all possible, find a local farmer who raises grass fed meat. Most meat you buy in supermarkets has been grain fed. And grain is not the natural diet for these animals. To get a better understanding of the way most meat is produced read The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.
Eggs and Dairy
We buy organic eggs fresh from the farm. The difference is remarkable. You can often buy organic eggs at the supermarket too. Brown or white eggs? It makes no difference. We get both and we often have an extra treat - a "green egg" or two in our carton. The farm we buy our eggs from has Ameraucana hens who lay green eggs (they're really more of a robin's egg blue) and we love them.
Egg substitutes - avoid them! These are highly processed and can't be considered real food.
Milk in bottles, plastic bags, or cartons? Your choice. It makes no difference to the nutritional value. Be sure to check the expiry date.
Non dairy creamers - read the label. Do you really want to put all those chemicals in your body?
Yogurt - the stuff in the grocery store really can't be considered real yogurt. They're all loaded with sugar making them an unacceptable choice.
Choose "real" cheese as opposed to processed cheese.
Butter or margarine? The typical heart healthy diet will recommend a non saturated fat margarine. We now know that butter is a healthy choice and after reading Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats and learning how margarine is manufactured (it's truly disgusting!) we no longer by margarine - instead we buy organic butter and use it freely and without guilt.
Fruits and vegetables
Fill your cart with as many different colors as you can. Not only will you be getting a wide range of nutrients and healthy food, but your meals will look delightfully appealing.
Green - lettuce, broccoli, peas, green beans, zucchini, spinach, avocados, green peppers, kale, swiss chard, celery, brussell sprouts, cucumber, cabbage, asparagus, kiwi
Yellow - squash, grapefruit, bananas, yellow peppers, corn, grapefruit, pineapple, pears
Red - tomatoes, red peppers, apples, beets, red cabbage, cherries
Orange - carrots, yams, squash, pumpkin, apricots, oranges, turnips, papaya, peaches
Buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Stay away from canned. They're convenient but when they are processed damage may occur to the vitamins and minerals. As well, canned vegetables are often heavily salted and fruits may be packed in sugar syrup.
Avoid dried fruits as they are a source of concentrated sugar.
The bulk food section
Buy unpackaged "bulk" foods - the advantage is you can buy the healthy food you need, with less wasted food and no wasteful packaging - it's better for the environment.
Nuts and seeds - unsalted! At first you may miss the salt but once you get used to it, you'll love the taste of nuts without salt.
Nut butters - peanut, almond, cashew. Avoid heavily processed, heavily sugared, and salted types. Go for the natural.
Instant noodles - high in sodium and highly processed - avoid them! Not a healthy food - sorry!
Avoid rice - a source of carbohydrates.
Steer clear of potatoes. As with other starches, it turns to glucose very quickly, raising your blood sugar just as though you ate a chocolate bar.
Stay away from anything with trans fats.
Cereals - most cereals, even the so-called "healthy" ones, contain high quantities of sugar plus they often contain ingredients that you should not ingest such as hydrochloride, hydrogenated vegetable oils, artificial flavors, etc. These are highly processed products that offer no nutritional value. We believe they are harmful.
How many times have you seen someone at the checkout counter reach for a chocolate bar or bag of chips at the last minute? How often have you done that?
Be aware of the store's merchandising - things are arranged to be enticing. If you shop with a list, and avoid shopping when you are hungry, you can resist the temptations.
Hope these healthy food shopping tips help you! One final tip - buy local when you can. Consider buying your food from farmers in your area. Bon appetit!