Making Clean, Healthy Food Choices When Shopping
You want to make healthy choices when shopping for you and your family at your local grocery store, but it can be so hard to sort through the marketing messages and hype to find what’s truly wholesome, minimally processed, and actually good for you.
That’s why so many people have turned their focus toward “clean” eating. Clean eating is essentially the same thing as healthy eating, because there’s a big focus on eating a balanced diet full of fruits, veggies, whole grains, healthy proteins, and healthy fats. On the flip side, clean eating just takes it a step further by eliminating things like processed foods, refined sugar, preservatives, and other unnecessary additives.
How can you learn what’s really “clean” in the grocery store? What are some dead giveaways on the nutrition labels of unhealthy foods? Keep reading to learn more about how to figure out what’s healthy, and what isn’t, in the grocery store.
Start with the produce section
There’s a reason experts suggest shopping the perimeter of the grocery store first — it’s where the most wholesome foods are found. Before you dive deeper into your grocery list, start with the staples. If you fill your cart with fresh, whole foods at the beginning of your shopping trip you’ll be less likely to grab unhealthy, processed snacks and meals. Choose fruits and vegetables of every possible color to maximize your micronutrient intake, and try something new every once in awhile.
However, if getting enough fresh produce year-round is difficult where you live, canned and frozen veggies can be just as nutritious. Dried fruits and veggies are another great option.
Do I need to buy organic produce?
Buying organic produce is great, but don’t sweat it if you can’t afford to go fully organic. Many people try to avoid the “Dirty Dozen,” which includes thin-skinned foods like apples, peaches, celery, grapes, and cucumbers. Foods with thicker peels, like bananas and oranges, can’t absorb pesticides as easily.
How to read nutrition labels
If you really want to know how to keep things clean and nutritious when grocery shopping then you’re going to need to learn how to read nutrition labels. Ignore the promises of health and wellness on the front of the package and turn your attention to the nutrition facts on the back. There’s a ton of data on these little labels, so don’t worry about processing every last piece of information.
If you want to learn more about reading nutrition labels, the FDA’s guide to reading nutrition labels is very comprehensive.
Go for the least processed option
Here’s another golden rule to finding the best foods in your grocery store: the cleanest choices are minimally processed and have recognizable ingredients. I know how easy it is, at the end of a long day, to pull a frozen pizza out of the freezer for a quick dinner. But, try to ditch those prepared foods and cook from scratch — it’s fun, too!
Things like frozen meals, cereals, and canned soups are all processed foods, and they often contain more preservatives, sugar and sodium to extend shelf life and improve flavor and appearance. Your body doesn’t need that stuff, so try to buy foods that are closest to their natural form. And, like I mentioned earlier, shop the perimeter of your grocery store. The next time you reach for something on an inner aisle shelf, say “Self, could I make this with fewer and fresher ingredients?”
Do you know how to find the “cleanest” foods in your grocery store? Do you read nutrition labels before buying packaged foods? Let’s talk about how we shop in the comments!