Yes, lets. First, I will mention that I do not have a degree in nutrition. That aside, I think I’ve picked up some good habits over the years that have kept my relationship with food in check.
I had the good fortune of a mother who was diligent about healthy eating. She was/is an avid label reader. It was something that I saw her do every time we went to the grocery store. Likewise, when I started grocery shopping for myself as an adult, I did the exact same thing. If the ingredient list was full of things that I couldn’t pronounce or didn’t recognize, the product went back on the shelf. She also focused on the perimeter of the store. That means that she didn’t walk down every single aisle browsing everything in the store. Sometimes she would beeline down the cookie aisle for those Stella Dora Anisette Toasts that she liked, but that was only every so often. But for the most part, we were perimeter shoppers which mean that very few, if any, processed foods made their way into our house.
My mom also cooked dinner pretty much every single night. This mean that she was creating what we ate, which in turn meant that dinner always included a lean protein, a green vegetable, a salad, and maybe a starch. That went a long way towards teaching me what a dinner plate should look like. I learned that proteins could be baked, grilled, or perhaps sauteed. They were never fried. I also learned that one could cook vegetables by steaming them, but not steaming them so long that all of the dark color was removed. We talked about why we ate dark green vegetables and why they were important.
Snacks in my house were usually a piece of fruit. Sometimes I was allowed to have crackers and cheese, but I was mostly encouraged to eat a pear or a banana if I became hungry before meal time. To this day, I am not much of a snacker.
Desserts were few and far between, but when we had them they usually involved ice cream. I was not allowed to have soda at all, or juices in excess. I was made to drink milk, which I always despised. For the record, I still despise milk, and these days I’m lactose intolerant, so perhaps my lifelong hatred of milk was foreshadowing. Other than milk, I drank water and the occasional glass of Lipton’s iced tea.
I think that being a smart grocery shopper and eater is not as difficult as it sounds. Here are a few guidelines that you might find helpful:
- Shop the perimeter of your grocery store – that’s what all of the fresh food is located!
- Speaking of fresh food, always try to have fruit in your house. It’s great with breakfast, for snacks, etc. Stone fruit is great to take to work as a snack or lunch side.
- Eat salad. You have to be willing to eat salad. And it’s best not to cover it in blue cheese or ranch dressing 🙂 (Click here for some great vinaigrette variations!)
- Read labels. This is important! The ingredient list shouldn’t be 100 items long, nor should it be full of items that you don’t recognize/can’t pronounce.
- Just say no to processed foods. Yes, Hostess Cupcakes taste good. No, they’re not good for you. As a policy, if it comes in plastic wrap, just say “No.”
- Plan your meals, and be prepared, to the best of your ability. Think about what you’re going to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner ahead of time and try to make healthy choices. If you’re looking for easy to pack, healthy foods, there are lots of websites out there with great recipes and ideas.
- Avoid sugar as much as you can. Try not to add it to things that you have on a daily basis, like coffee. I know this is a big request, but try your coffee without sugar for a few days. You can do it!
- Prioritize protein. This is a big one for me. I like to make sure that I have protein at every meal, especially breakfast. If my day doesn’t start with protein, I lack energy and don’t feel well during the day.
- Eat dark green vegetables, ideally steamed. You can dress them with a little bit of olive oil and S&P. If you’re unwilling to eat salad, you have to eat dark green vegetables.
- If you want to get really fancy, check out what your body’s caloric intake requirement is! You can click here for a calculator. It’s not a free for all!
Here’s another quick list of things that I make sure to have in my grocery cart that help lead me to good food choices:
- Fruit – bananas, apples, oranges, berries. What ever you like! Also, there’s usually a sale on some sort of fruit, so keep your eyes peeled!
- Eggs – a great source of protein. And yes, unless your cholesterol is out of control, you can eat the egg, yolk and all.
- Chicken – I’m also a huge fan of Costco Rotisserie Chickens!
- Other lean meats and fish – pork chops/loins, turkey, lean ground beef, ground turkey
- 15 Grain bread – great for toast!
- Greek Yogurt – I can’t eat this, but Jay can. Greek Yogurt is low in fat and packs a LOT of protein. It’s a great breakfast option.
- Almond Milk & Organic dairy milk for Jay
- Kale/Spinach/Arugula – I know, I know…. we still like kale.
- Steam Fresh broccoli, snap peas, Brussels sprouts, green beans – these are great when you’re trying to make dinner in a jiffy!
- Sweet Potatoes – delicious and so good for you.
- Stop light peppers – great for slicing or baking!
These are just a few of my staples, but they’re good items to keep in mind that will help you to always have healthy things on hand to use for meals.
Pro tip: Even though we are only 2 people, we love Costco. They have fantastic produce and meats. Yes, you do have to buy things in bulk, but 1.) you can freeze meats and fish, 2.) If you eat your produce everyday, you’ll go through the produce that you buy there in a week or so before it spoils. Costco is the perfect place to buy apples and citrus fruit because they have a longer shelf life. They’re great items to bring to work for a mid afternoon snack before an evening workout.
Hopefully this is helpful. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not a dietitian, but these are some habits that I’ve learned and think are easy to apply to every day life. What sort of grocery shopper are you? Do you often find yourself making good food choices? What do you do when you’re in a rush and hungry? I’d love to hear from you!