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October 13, 2017

Healthy eating starts in planning: From mapping out your meals for the week to coming up with a grocery shopping list. Keeping a list when food shopping helps you save time and money given that you stick to your list.

You may choose not to prepare a list, or you may have grocery trips where you don’t have a list in hand. In times like these, it’s easy to be tempted to buy junk food while you wander around the aisles. But when healthy eating is your goal, here is a section-by-section strategy to help you shop healthy food without planning and preparing a list.

  1. Perimeter

    Walk the perimeter of the grocery store, and you will find whole foods, with minimal to no processing and with light to no packaging. Watch out, however, for items marketed as health food, such as energy bars, which are high in sugar, or juices which may be a good source of fruit and vegetables but with minimal to no fibre.

    a. Vegetable and Fruits

    Get as much as you like. You get the idea. A good rule to follow is to buy 6 varieties of vegetables, and 4 varieties of fruit in your trip. This is a good way to limit waste and still give you good options for the whole week.

    b. Dairy

    Look at the nutritional labels on milk alternatives and yogurts; some of these products have high amounts of added sugar. I recommend buying a big tub of plain yogurt. You can sweeten it up by yourself with your own fruits and nuts, which allows you control over how much sugar you take. You can also use plain yogurt in marinades and cooking.

    c. Meats

    Avoid pre-marinated meats - these packages are high in sodium and surprisingly high in sugar. Lean beef and pork cuts are a good choice. You can buy poultry with the skin-on - just take it off before consuming. When buying fish, you may choose between farmed raised or wild caught. If you see labels such as “organic”, “colour added”, “certified sustainable”, “farmed responsibly”, or other similar labels, that means the fish is farmed.

    d. Bread

    If you’re shopping for whole grain breads, don’t read the packaging, and pay attention to the nutrition label and ingredients list - the first ingredient must have the word “whole”. Look out for the sodium content, and check the fibre content.

  2. Middle Aisles

    Have you ever heard of the “avoid the inner aisles, stick to the perimeter” rule? This rule may serve you well, but may also cause you to miss out on key healthy items.

    a. Freezer Section

    Do not fear. Just know what to take from this section: frozen vegetables and fruits. They are quick, convenient, and since they are immediately frozen from their fresh state, these frozen goods retained most of its nutrients.

    NOTE: Frozen berries are great with plain yogurt.

    b. Grains and Dried Goods

    Rice, quinoa, barley, whole wheat pasta. Nuts and seeds for healthy snack items. Beans, which are a great source of protein, affordable, and a lifesaver when you’re out of fresh produce for cooking. Stock up on these healthy items in your pantry.

    c. Canned Goods

    Beans, seafood, tomato in different forms, pasta sauce. Just check the sodium and sugar levels on the label. Other canned goods you might find useful: fruits in its own juice, and evaporated milk.

    d. Oils and Condiments

    Avoid pre-made sauces and dressings. Stick to the less processed bottles. If you must have that barbecue sauce, pay attention to the sugar content, and pick the bottle with the least amount of sugar.

    e. Drinks

    Tea and coffee. Powerful and healthy beverages.

    Have a goal of healthy eating in mind, and this will dictate your shopping habits.

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