5 steps to healthy grocery shopping

Last year, you resolved to start eating more nutritious foods, but you fell off the wagon midway through the year. Make it happen this year — starting at the grocery store!

You have the best of intentions. You know you should fill your diet with fruits and vegetables supplemented by lean proteins and healthy carbohydrates. But that’s hard to do when your refrigerator and pantry shelves are filled with foods that aren’t so good for you.

Get started on the right foot this year by rethinking your grocery-shopping strategy:

1. Fuel up first. Ever been to the grocery store with an empty stomach? You probably ended up with a cart filled with foods that looked good to the eyes but aren’t so good for you.

So, rule No. 1 of healthy grocery shopping is to never shop when you’re hungry. Head to the store after you’ve eaten a meal or a healthy snack that’ll keep you full and focused on getting the nutritious foods you need.

2. Put a plan in place. Heading to the store without a list is another way your healthy intentions can go by the wayside. Take time before shopping to plan out your meals and/or the foods that you’ll need for the week.

Ever thought about planning out your family’s dinner meals in advance? Now’s a good time to give it a try. Search through cookbooks and online for healthy recipes that sound like they’ll appeal to your family. Choose a week’s worth of meals, then make a list of all the ingredients you’ll need.

Also consider the items you’ll need for nutritious, filling breakfasts and lunches, and add those to the list. Supplement the list with fruits and vegetables and other healthy snack items — then stick to it!

3. Shop the perimeter. On the perimeter of the grocery store, you’ll typically find fruits, veggies, dairy, meat and seafood. These items should form the foundation of your meals, so you can do most of your shopping there.

Once you’ve filled up your cart with the fresh items, you can head to the center aisles to supplement your shopping.

4. Choose your produce carefully. Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables are the best, nutrition-wise. Frozen produce is frozen when it’s at its ripest, which is also when it contains the most nutrients.

If you don’t have access to fresh or frozen produce, canned fruits and veggies will still benefit your health. No matter what type you choose, make sure to select varieties packaged in their own juice or water, not syrup or additives.

5. Watch the labels. Be sure to read the labels on the packaged foods you’re selecting. You’re looking for a couple different things — ingredients and nutritional information.

In general, choose foods that have a limited number of ingredients, and make them ingredients that you recognize. When looking at the nutrition label, aim to choose products that have a good amount of fiber or protein and low levels of sugar, sodium and saturated fats.

Looking to take a step forward toward weight loss this year? Erlanger offers medical weight management programs at the Chattanooga Lifestyle Center. Call (423) 778-9400 to learn more.