5 Steps to Balanced Grocery Shopping

by Together Counts Partner | February 26, 2013 at 3:28 pm | comments

Shopping for groceries, it’s something we all need to do and it can be a joy or a chore depending on your approach. Many people find grocery shopping for more nutritious items an even bigger challenge, but equipped with a few easy tips you can make your trip to the grocery store a stress-free part of the week.

1. Plan your meals ahead.

This one critical step has numerous benefits. Not only do you know what you need, gone is the daily “what should I cook tonight?” stress. It also may help you avoid the urge to order fast food at the end of a busy day. I like to plan my meals during the weekend, and even cook a few items to pull out during the week.

2. Use a list.

It may seem obvious, but a lot of people skip this step. A list is critical to work from if you want to avoid impulse purchases, particularly of empty-calorie foods. If it looks appealing at the store but isn’t on your list, you should think twice. Those may be the extra calories you likely don’t need.

3. Shop the perimeter first.

There are many items in the central aisle that can make a healthful grocery list – quinoa, extra virgin olive oil and walnuts are three. However, the perimeter of the store is where you will find the fresh foods. Vegetables, fruits, lean proteins such as fish and poultry, fresh eggs and Greek yogurt are just a sample of what should be in your cart before you head for the interior aisles.

4. Don’t forget the frozen aisle.

The frozen food aisle should no longer be associated with the TV dinners of our youth. There are a multitude of nutritious, low calorie options that can be the basis of a great meal. Some of my favorites include:  vegetables for soup, stir-fry or simply steamed as a side dish; berries for smoothies; cereal and yogurt; whole grain breads; fish and even low calorie frozen fruit bars to enjoy as an occasional treat.

5. Engage your picky eater.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from the family shopper is how to provide nutritious meals for picky eaters. I always say to start at the store.  Engage your children, spouse or family member in the process. Encourage them to come along and choose some items they would like to try. You may be surprised when your child chooses those shiny red apples, or the pink grapefruit you would have never guessed they’d enjoy.

Grocery shopping requires some thoughtful planning and a little effort. Once conquered it also leads to low stress, healthful meals that are packed with enjoyment!

How do you make trips to the grocery store a stress-free experience? Share in the comments below!

Beth Avery, RD, MPH, wrote this blog post on behalf of the Together Counts™ program. Beth is a nutritionist in Charlotte, North Carolina and has been part of Harris Teeter’s yourwellness team since 2006.