Making the decision to change your body and life through healthy eating is the easy part. Tackling the steps necessary to make it part of your everyday life, that’s what gets tough.
The truth is, we may think we know what’s healthy and what we should be eating, but there are so many mixed messages, false claims, and bad advice out there it can be hard to know what’s what.
This week I took a couple clients on a guided tour of their grocery store, to explain the ins and outs of meal planning, which foods are best, how to read labels and which foods give you the most bang for your buck.
It got me thinking- many of us are making big mistakes every time we shop, without even knowing it. These mistakes can be costly, not only for your wallet but especially your waistline!
Read on for my five biggest mistakes you’re probably making at the grocery store.
1) Not planning ahead. If you’re going to stay on track, you’ve got to have a plan. Start by planning all your meals for the week in advance. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Do this for all members of the family. Then make your list from this plan. When you shop, don’t buy anything that isn’t on your list! Don’t shop hungry or grab things on a whim. Stay focused and stay on track.
2) Not reading labels OR only paying attention to calories. At the grocery store you need to be a detective. You’re seeking as much information possible about the foods you’re buying. Look at labels. Compare brands, not just the price but also the ingredients and nutrition content. Choose the foods with the fewest ingredients- these are the least processed. If it has a list of ingredients a mile long with many you can’t pronounce- put it back! Also, don’t make the mistake of only paying attention to calories. Check the fat, sugar, protein and sodium content. Limit or avoid trans and saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Choose foods higher in poly and monounsaturated fat, dietary fiber, protein, Vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron.
3) Choosing frozen over fresh. This one is actually two-fold. Generally, fresh is better than frozen. You want to avoid frozen pre-packaged meals as much as possible. Buy fresh chicken and freeze what you don’t use right away instead of frozen bagged chicken. However, frozen vegetables and fruits are just as good as fresh nutritionally. In my opinion the taste and texture isn’t as good, but they are a great option if you’re concerned about shelf life or buying out of season. Keep in mind you can buy many fresh veggies pre-cut and bagged that can be steamed in the microwave in minutes, so frozen isn’t necessarily a time saver over fresh, but it can be less expensive. If you choose frozen, just be sure there aren’t any added ingredients, syrups or seasonings that could pack on calories and sodium.
4) Believing package claims. Food manufacturers are lying to you. Point blank. Government regulations are lax enough that companies are allowed to make claims on their packaging that flat out simply are not true. Trans fat free? That claim can be applied to any food with less than .5 grams per serving. All a manufacturer has to do is manipulate the serving size to meet that requirement, then advertise their product as free of trans fats when it really isn’t. Companies can also call something sugar free, even though it contains sugar alcohol which is still a form of added sugar. Other products are often labeled as “a healthy choice” or diet friendly, when there isn’t anything remotely healthy about them. The point here is do your own research. Don’t believe anything you read on a box. Know what to watch for and which foods are the healthiest choices.
5) Thinking it doesn’t matter. Believing you can eat any foods as long as you exercise or count calories and still be healthy, fit and reach your weight loss goals is simply wrong. What you put in your mouth is more important than anything else. Proper nutrition builds the strong foundation to not only make you look and feel great but also prevent disease and improve your chances of living a long, happy life.
So before you hit the store, remember these points:
– Shop the perimeter
– Read and compare labels
– Be skeptical
– Shop smart to save money