Committing to a healthy lifestyle brings a load of changes to your routine. While spending more quality time at the gym is essential, there's another location you might not be expecting to get as well acquainted with: the grocery store.When you start making big changes in your diet, the days of frozen dinners and junky takeout are occasional occurrences, not everyday activities. Having healthy essentials in the pantry to complement all the fresh produce and protein is a great start, but it's not enough on its own. To offer the body all the nutrients and fuel it desperately needs, heading to the grocery store more often becomes another healthy ritual — and a necessity. The fresher foods that offer the highest quality of nutrition don't last as long as their preservative-laden counterparts and alternatives. Not sure how to make the most of your time at the store? Keep reading for helpful and healthy grocery tips.
Couponing can seem overwhelming, but it's so rewarding. LearnVest shares the inside scoop from an avid couponer.
We've always been intrigued by the idea of couponing.
So we found an expert who spends just a couple hours a week couponing, and saves anywhere from 50 to 70 percent off her groceries. Oh, and did we mention this expert is only 20 years old?
Brandi LaBarre is a student at University of Maryland who runs the blog Savvy Student Shopper, where she shares her saving insights and coupons with families and other money savers like her. Best of all, she's not a crazy couponer — just a girl on a tight budget!
The savvier shoppers become, the sneakier food companies are in changing how they phrase ingredients. Many items, like high fructose corn syrup and trans fats, are still in foods but listed under new names. Know what's in your food, by being familiar with the following food aliases companies are using.
- Natural flavors: There is no official description of how food companies use the word "natural." Although the word natural isn't supposed to apply for any artificial or synthetic substances, there is still a lot of wiggle room with the rule. For instance, some companies use the term natural additives when describing high fructose corn syrup.
- Organic: Labeling something organic is a surefire way to increase a company's sales. In order for a company to label a processed-food product organic, only 80 percent of the ingredients need to actually meet requirements. Unless the food is labeled 100-percent organic, it isn't made completely from organic ingredients.
- Glutamate: Although glutamate can occur naturally in cheese, milk, mushrooms, fish, and vegetables, monosodium glutamate is an artificial version of glutamate commonly referred to as MSG. MSG does not legally have to be labeled as such, or even as monosodium glutamate. MSG is the sodium salt of glutamate so by labeling an ingredient low in sodium, it could actually mean it contains MSG, which has been shown to have a correlation to both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, among others. Other key phrases include autolyzed yeast, textured protein, gelatin, and barley malt.
By now, you know that the grocery store can be full of tricks to get you to spend more or otherwise choose unwisely. From extra-large carts that encourage you to buy everything in sight to placing expensive packaged foods at eye level, there are many sneaky ways your grocery store is making you spend (and eat) more. A recent opinion piece in the New England Journal of Medicine talks about another well-known mind trick that groceries play on you that just may be making you fat: those impulse buys at the cash register.
Impulse buys — usually candy, sodas, chips, and other "emotion-related" foods — spur reflex-like decision-making, much faster than when you mull over healthy foods like fruits or vegetables. Studies have shown that you're more likely to give into these bad-for-you foods since these products are placed at the end of a shopping trip, conveniently after you've exhausted your healthy decision-making skills. The constant barrage of these sugar-, fat-, and salt-laden foods makes it hard to not give in, even if you're normally conscious about making healthy-eating decisions.
The authors make an interesting point: impulse-buy tricks don't just affect people who lack self control, but are in fact so sneaky and permeating that they are hard to resist. Have you fallen victim to these high-calorie impulse buys, or do you usually recognize and ignore the strategic marketing?
It's always easier going into the grocery store when there's a plan. And why not skip unneeded paper lists for a handy tool that's stored in your phone? Each of these awesome apps offers a helping hand when it comes to tackling food shopping and keeping it healthy. From offering info on the healthiest options available to pointing you in the direction of the best produce, hitting the checkout line is forever changed with one of these apps under your belt.
Buying fresh produce, lean protein, and whole grains are easy ways to make grocery shopping healthier, but as with everything, there's always room for improvement, right? Here are some ways to make a trip to the market even healthier.
- Skip shopping on Sundays: On the weekend, Saturday is often the day to relax or do something fun, and Sunday is for errands like grocery shopping. With so many people shopping on this day, you're left with one quart of rotten strawberries and a few bunches of wilted kale. Ask someone in the produce department what day they normally get a big shipment in, and switch up your shopping days to ensure the best supply of fresh fruits and veggies.
- Once is not enough: The produce you buy may be crisp and fresh when you bring it home, but when you go to make a salad five days later, it's so wilted or bruised that it ends up in the compost bin. Even when you store fruits and veggies so they last a long time, you can't always prevent these delicate foods from going bad. To get the freshest produce possible, head to the grocery store twice during the week — once for a big run and then a few days later to pick up some necessary perishables.
Keep reading for more healthy grocery shopping tips.
- Create a list: Come prepared! When you're first tackling a plant-based diet, the whole process can be pretty overwhelming. Go through recipes in cookbooks or online before you shop in order to inspire new or unexpected ingredients you're going to need on hand. This will also be a great way to save money and keep you from just grabbing everything that looks good.
- Walk the perimeter: Don't get caught up in the center aisles! While all those bagged and prepackaged foods may have been your go-to moves from the past, the back corners of the grocery store are your future. Loading up on natural foods and produce will be the cornerstone of your shopping trips from now on.
- Buy frozen, not canned: Canned foods may seem like an ideal option if you don't have yummy fresh produce readily available, but frozen foods are a better choice. Veggies like nutrient-rich frozen spinach have far more health benefits than their canned counterparts, but be sure to get vegetables in a bunch of colors. All green may seem like the obvious option, but grabbing for other frozen veggies like carrots and cauliflower will help you get all your essential antioxidants.
- Shop smart: Everyone will tell you that a plant-based diet is going to be wildly expensive, but this need not be the case. There are plenty of easy ways to save money on healthy food when you're at the store, and shopping for fresh, delicious produce at a farmers market is way cheaper than store prices.
Keep reading for more grocery shopping tips for a plant-based diet.
- No steadfast lists: Showing up to a farmers market with a definitive list will not serve you in the end. There are certain things you may be sure of, but you never know for certain what will be available. Eat with your eyes — look for bright colors and unexpected produce you've never tasted! This is one of the parts of the farmers market experience that sets it apart from a traditional grocery store.
- Scope out the scene: You don't have to shop at the first booth you see. You may be craving some Summer berries, but someone farther back in the line may have a better deal or even more beautiful blues than the first ones you spot. Walking around will not only give you an idea of what each booth has to offer, but it will help you get your creative cooking juices flowing.
- Be realistic: It's easy to get excited about all the beautiful, bountiful produce around you, but just because it's sitting pretty doesn't mean you need to buy it. Think about how much time you can actually commit to cooking in the week to come.
Keep reading for two more strategies for farmers market success.
What better time than the present to assess your diet and start making some healthy changes? Choosing to eat a cleaner diet can give you more energy, strengthen your immune system, and even help shed those pesky holiday pounds. Here are a handful of ways to get your diet back on track with a clean makeover.