When it comes to losing weight and keeping it off, smart food shopping is a must. If the thought of navigating your local supermarket makes you wish for a map and compass, let these tips guide you on your next trip.
1. Don’t shop on an empty stomach. This is the cardinal rule of grocery shopping. Instead, plan your trip after a meal and bring a large water bottle to sip while you shop. Also, make sure you steer clear of the samples table if your supermarket has one.
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2. Have a list. Think about what you need ahead of time, and write it down. Start with the staples you need to make basic recipes and meals you like that fit within your plan. Then, add a couple of new foods you’d like to try—maybe a fruit or vegetable that’s in season or a new grain, like couscous or quinoa (it’s actually a grass!) to mix things up.
3. Stick to the outskirts of the store. When you enter the store, make a beeline to one side or the other, but not the middle. Most stores place their healthier foods, which tend to be the perishables, on the perimeter (where the refrigeration is). Load up on fresh fruits and veggies, low-fat dairy products like goat cheese, yogurt, and egg substitute, and lean meats and fish. Once you’ve finished with the perimeter, head to the grains and legumes aisle to finish up. Look for canned or dried beans, peas or lentils, choose some grains like whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, or couscous. Finally, pick up some low-fat condiments like tomato sauce, low-sodium soy sauce, and low-fat salad dressing for added flavor.
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4. Avoid aisles of temptation. Try to ignore the baking aisle and even the cereal aisle. These middle sections of the store tend to be loaded with high-sugar, ready-to-eat foods that will just cause you to overindulge. And we’re not even going to mention the snack food or candy aisles—unless you use them as a runway to burn calories on your way to the checkout!
5. Avoid big boxes. Buy-in-bulk stores may offer great values and convenience, but research shows you’ll eat much more from a large package than a smaller one. So, avoid buying large quantities of any ready-to-eat food (yes, even those baked apple chips from Costco add up when you eat half the bag). If you can only buy them in bulk, parcel them out into small snack-sized portions as soon as you get home (try 10-15 pretzels, or a small handful of dried fruit and nuts). Then, you can grab them quickly when you’re ready for a snack, but not worry about overeating.
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