- Hannah Aylward
Top 12 Tips for Healthy (and Stress-free) Grocery Shopping
Top 12 Tips for Healthy (and Stress-free) Grocery Shopping
By Hannah Aylward
When I work with clients, we often discuss how we can simplify eating well and living better. There is so much noise out there. It can feel like one day you are being told to avoid all fat, and the next day you are told that coconut oil is the key to long-term health. I get it, and it can be so frustrating!
One of my biggest tips is: listen to your body. It will tell you what it likes and what it doesn’t like if you tune in enough to hear it.
My second biggest tip is: keep only healthy food in the house. It all starts in the kitchen. What we keep in our kitchens, we will eat — whether that is a big bag of chips or fresh cut fruit. I know, it sounds so simple, but sometimes the simplest concepts can make the biggest difference.
Personally, I keep only good stuff in the house. That way, I always know I have beautiful, nourishing food in my fridge readily there to support me. I also don’t have to “keep away” from certain things and have to resist the urge to eat the chips if there are no chips! If it is not around, you can’t eat it. It is as simple as that.
In order to fill your kitchen with healthy food, you have to go grocery shopping, which can actually trigger a lot of anxiety. I’m here to help!
Here are my top 12 tips for navigating the grocery store — stress-free. Feel free to take this list with you when you go shopping, or even pin it on your fridge as a healthy reminder. You can do it!
1. Shop the perimeter of the store.
2. Stick to whole foods.
Always start with whole foods which are foods with one ingredient. An organic apple only contains one ingredient: apple. Even though some brands are coming out with wonderful healthy packaged goods, I guarantee you that you will feel best when sticking to the simple, whole foods. For example, some crackers are manufactured with healthy ingredients like brown rice flour, almond flour, herbs, flaxseed and salt, but these ingredients still have been pulverized and processed to form the cracker. Don’t get me wrong, this is a better option and has a place in a healthy diet in moderation. But why settle? We want to feel our best. Real food heals.
3. Buy organic whenever possible.
It is best to avoid pesticides and herbicides whenever possible. The dirty dozen list is super helpful. If you are unable to shop entirely organic, then refer to this list on what is most important to buy organic and what you can get away with buying conventionally.
4. Visit your local farmer’s market whenever possible and shop there.
This is where you will get good, seasonal produce and locally raised and farmed meats (most of the time). Produce that is local and in-season contains many more nutrients than produce that has been grown in some other area of the world, traveled a long distance, and then sat on the grocery store shelf. Always ask! Just because things are being sold at your local farmer’s market does not mean that they are organic or even local.
5. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it.
When reading a label, you should be able to pronounce all of the ingredients listed!
6. Always look at labels.
You will be surprised! Sugar, gluten, and soy seem to sneak into everything. It is best to check.
7. Avoid additives like chemicals, nitrites, nitrates, colorings, artificial flavorings, and preservatives.
8. Don’t be fooled by marketing.
Things are often labeled as “healthy”, “low fat” and a big one nowadays is “natural” (which in reality means nothing). These labels can be very misleading. Always read the ingredients list. We aren’t interested in calories here. We are interested in ingredients. The body processes random chemicals and preservatives manufactured in a facility differently than ingredients grown on a tree.
9. Check out large bulk stores and the bulk section at the grocery store.
Large-scale retailers like Costco and Sam’s Club have dramatically improved in quality. You can find great organic, healthy staples there now like chia seeds, flaxseed, almond butter, frozen berries, etc. Also, most grocery stores contain a “bulk section”, where they sell loose goods and you can gather whatever quantity you want. This section is super helpful and can be cheaper. Especially when you get involved in trying new ingredients, maybe coconut sugar and almond meal OR if you only need a small amount for a recipe. Shop the bulk section to avoid buying an entire bag of something and never using it again.
10. Choose frozen over canned.
Many frozen fruits and veggies and picked and then immediately frozen, retaining a large quantity of nutrients. They also typically come already washed and cut (amazing!). Canned fruits and veggies on the other hand often contain syrups, added sodium, preservatives, and BPA from the lining of the can.
11. Cart check.
When you are all done, you want your shopping cart to be filled with colors and variety. Think 80 percent from the perimeter (veggies, fruits, fish, chicken, etc.) and 20 percent from the interior of the store (teas, spices, condiments, etc.).
12. Have fun with it!
Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be a pain. Let it be fun! Experiment with different ingredients and recipes, spice things up a bit. Cooking a beautiful, healthy and satisfying meal is such a form of love. Let this feel good!
**We recommend that you do not rely solely on the information presented and that you always read labels, warnings, and directions before using or consuming a product. You should consult your health care professional before making any changes to your regular health care routine.
Hannah Aylward is a Certified Health Coach, nutrition consultant, fitness instructor, healthy living expert, and founder of HAN. She helps both men and women around the world lose weight, heal skin disturbances, balance hormones, heal gut imbalances and feel at home in their bodies through healthy eating, movement, mindfulness and positive self-talk. Her goal is to help others “learn the tools that they need to live the lives they deserve”. Get to know her by visiting her website and following her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.