How Can You Make Smart Food Choices at the Grocery Store?

The grocery store and our food choices are by far the best tools we have for protecting our health. Therefore, learning how to make smart food choices to get the biggest nutrition bang for the buck is essential.  Here are some tips to get you started.

Going to the grocery store without a list is like taking a road trip without a clear destination. You may buy food you don’t need, the shopping trip will take longer than you want and you may have to make additional trips to the store later in the week to complete a meal. In fact, studies show you’ll spend 54% more without a plan. Build a shopping list for a week. Plan at least 5 dinner meals you’d like to prepare along with various breakfast and lunch options. You’ll shop faster if you organize your food list into categories such as produce, dairy, meat, baked goods and household supplies. And keep the list handy during the week so you can jot down staples that need replacing.

The nutrition facts panel on the label is like the table of contents in a book. A quick glance can persuade you to buy it or put it back on the shelf. The best way to use the nutrition facts is to comparison shop between similar products. Just make sure serving sizes are comparable. Comparing the % Daily Value is critical if eating more fiber, calcium, Vitamins A and C or the mineral iron is important to you. 

Sometimes the convenience of pre-cut and prepared foods saves time and effort and helps to minimize waste in the kitchen. Convenience foods like bagged precut lettuce, shredded parmesean cheese, pasta sauce and dry spaghetti noodles are great if your goal is a quick, pasta meal with no clean-up.  Need to save money? Buy a head of lettuce, a small block of parmesan cheese, fresh garlic, and canned tomato sauce to make your own sauce with spices from your pantry instead of the convenience items.

  • Fruits and Veggies: Enjoy fruits and vegetables in all forms. Fresh produce maybe more expensive when it’s out of season so be sure to check the frozen and canned aisles for produce too.  Frozen produce is convenient, often cheaper, and can easily be added to soups, rice, pasta, casseroles and more.
  • Canned Beans and Fish: Add rinsed beans and fish to salads, soups and pasta in a pinch.
  • Canned or Powdered Lowfat Milk:  Dry or canned milk lasts longer. Use in recipes instead of fresh milk if you are running low.
  • Whole Grain Cereal: Stock up when on sale. Use in trail mixes, or as crispy coating on poultry or fish.
  • Oil: Canola and olive oil are the best oils to keep on hand as well as a cooking oil spray.
  • Vinegar: Homemade salad dressing is cheaper to make. Combine equal parts vinegar and oil, and add a bit of Dijon mustard for a quick and nutritious salad dressing.  
  • Nuts and Dried Fruit: Keep California walnuts and dried fruit on hand to add to cereals, baked goods and yogurt for a quick, nutritious snack. You can find California walnuts in the baking product aisles and also the produce department of most grocery stores. Just be sure to confirm the California USA origin stamp on the label.
  • Dried Herbs:  Use herbs in place of salt to add flavor and a nutritional boost to all your meals.
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