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Are You Supermarket Savvy?

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If you’re like me, going to the grocery store is one of life’s annoying chores. But what are your options?

Well, if you can afford it, you can use an app and have food delivered but even then, they often pick out stuff you’d never choose if you went yourself. And besides, that’s just not realistic for most people.

So, in this short read, you’ll learn tips to help you get through the store quickly with the right kinds of foods ending up in your grocery cart and in your kitchen cupboards. Which ones of these do you use?

Avoid entering a grocery store when hungry!

True hunger causes the body’s blood sugar level to drop.  In response to this dip, the body will exhibit physical symptoms such as headaches or a growling stomach to remind the brain it is time to eat.  If we ignore or delay these signals, the brain will desire food sources that quickly bring the blood sugar back into equilibrium.  Refined carbohydrates (such as cakes, candies, and juices) provide fast energy and will be the foods that your grocery cart will navigate towards.  Save the supermarket trip until after a balanced meal or snack is consumed.  Shopping in the earlier part of the day is also advised. Hunger levels tend to increase during the day as the body moves more and the brain is stimulated with activity.

Make a list of food items needed…

and the hard part is to stick with it.

The concept of advanced planning is never more important than in healthy eating and weight maintenance.  Take a few minutes before shopping to think about what meals to prepare during the week and build a grocery list from that.  If you frequent the same store each week, list needed food items to correspond with the layout of the store.  You can also create a list that has food group columns (like fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy) and document the specific foods from each category to be purchased.  Sticking to the food items listed will help prevent impulse grabbing of “extras” just because they are on sale or look good (and beware of caving into the checkout isle unhealthy food traps!).

Shop the perimeter of the store.

Grocery store layouts are designed with psychological and marketing components in mind.  Essential, healthy foods (fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, low fat dairy products) tend to line the outside or perimeter of the store.  Consumers will have to travel through the store to get these items and can fall prey to “not so healthy” foods they encounter on the way.  Running into the store for “just a carton of milk” that is in the store’s back corner can lead to a cart full of other non-planned items before returning to the store front.  The interior aisles of the store contain the majority of packaged, processed and convenience-based foods.

Be prepared for a little exercise while shopping.

Large food companies pay premium dollar to have their brands placed in pristine advertising spots on the shelves.  Healthier food items will be housed in harder to reach spots, typically the top or lowest shelves. The breakfast cereal aisle is where you will get the most exercise. Sugary, processed cereals are strategically placed at eye level (and kid eye level as they sit in the cart) while it takes some work to get the healthy ones.  You may need to stretch upwards or lunge down for the best cereal, but your waistline will eventually thank you in the end if you make choices that work in your favor. You can also take advantage and just walk a couple laps around the perimeter of the grocery store to squeeze in getting some extra steps.

Use the Nutrition Facts Label…

but not in the way it is intended to be used.

The nutrition label provides too much information. What? A dietitian just said that? Yes. The last thing you need is your grocery store trip turning into a marathon event when studying all the label components.

Simplify your label reading by using the “5 and 20 rule”

  • Focus your efforts by looking straight at the percent daily value (%DV) of nutrients on the right side of the Nutrition Facts Label.
  • If the food item has 5% or less of a nutrient, then it does not have too much of that nutrient in it.
  • If it has 20% or more, then there is a significant amount of the nutrient in it.
  • Need more fiber? Look for a higher percentage number for fiber.
  • Watching your fat intake? Look for a low percentage number for fat.

Becoming supermarket savvy takes time and effort, yet your path to nutritious and delicious eating starts there. Getting to your health goals starts there. Preventing and managing diabetes continues there.

And if you happen to see me in the grocery store, don’t turn your cart the other way.  I promise not to look at what’s in your cart because here at the Sweet People Club, we demand a “no judgement zone”. Instead, you can imagine a mini-me on your shoulder, cheering you on and helping you make decisions to improve how savvy you can be while loading up on groceries.

Ok, maybe that won’t work, but you can be even more savvy by leaning on your support team, of which I’m honored to be a part. And speaking of which, we’re all in this together, so share other tips you’ve found helpful!

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