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Be a Smart Shopper! Don't Let Grocery Shopping Destroy Your Healthy Diet!

Updated on March 11, 2010

Here I stand, looking at all of the food that I just purchased at the grocery store. Did I really need a box of chocolate doughnuts? Need, no. Want, YES! I guess my mother knew what she was talking about when she said to never shop for food on an empty stomach! In order to stay focused and on track when it comes to your healthy diet, you must be a smart and efficient grocery shopper. Healthy grocery shopping can be difficult. After all, there is a new temptation around every corner and down every aisle. Just keep in mind that you are in control, not the Twinkies! And for goodness sake, stay away from the cookie aisle!


Always prepare a grocery list before you shop!
Always prepare a grocery list before you shop!

Make a List and Check it Twice!

So you are following a healthy diet. Good for you! Not only do you need to change your unhealthy eating habits, you need to change the way you shop for food as well! Did you know that shoppers who make a list BEFORE shopping for groceries are less likely to purchase junk food? This is because they went into the store, bought exactly what they wanted and left. Shoppers without lists tend to linger and, more often than not, are sucked in to the world of cookies, cupcakes and ice cream. Below are some tips for making sure that your grocery list is diet friendly and that your trip to the grocery store is fast and cheesecake free.


  • Know your grocery store! I know this sounds a bit strange but the better you know the layout of the store that you shop in the less likely you are to get lost in the candy aisle. That would be bad; very bad and not part of your healthy diet plan.
  • Plan your weekly menus BEFORE going to the store. Sticking to a healthy diet is easier if you have all of your meals planned out in advance. Never go to the grocery store without a list. Lord only knows what you will end up with in your cart!
  • Using coupons is a great idea if they are for healthy foods! Don't sabotage your healthy diet by bringing coupons for junk food to the grocery store. If you have coupons for healthy foods then, by all means, bring them with you and save a few dollars!


Use the Dietary Guidelines When Grocery Shopping!

Following a healthy diet means following the dietary guidelines. Every five years since 1980 the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture join together and publish the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans." The guidelines provide advice and information about how good dietary habits can promote health and reduce the risk of disease. These guidelines are the core of all federal food and nutrition education programs.

Think back for a moment to when you were in elementary school. Do you remember learning about the Food Pyramid? If so, then you are ahead of the game. The food pyramid is, in my opinion, the heart of the Dietary Guidelines. The next time you go shopping for groceries, allow the food pyramid to guide you. Below is a graphic of the food pyramid. Notice that the smallest part of the pyramid represents the good stuff…oops, I mean the fats and oils and the larger parts represent the whole grains, fruits and vegetables. When you are done shopping for food, your filled cart should be in the same proportion as the Food Guidelines Pyramid. If it is, then you are most certainly following a healthy diet by limiting your intake of fats, sugar and oils! Good job!

The Food Pyramid
The Food Pyramid

Meat, Poultry and Fish! Oh My!

Most healthy diets include meat, poultry and fish; unless, of course, you are a vegan or vegetarian. Many dieters either make the mistake of eating too much meat or not enough. Some even cut meat out all together.  It can be difficult to get enough protein, zinc and iron without meat in your diet. These are three nutrients that your body NEEDS for energy. When it comes to purchasing meat, poultry and fish at the grocery store it is important that you shop smart! Below are a few helpful hints.


  • When it comes to self-basting turkey, beware! Many of them have fat injected into the meat. Can you say GROSS! If you are trying to maintain a healthy diet, avoid the self-basting birds!
  • Meat that the butcher labels as select is leaner than meat that is graded choice. Obviously, select meats are healthier.
  • Avoid fish that is packed in oil. Buy only water-packed tuna and sardines. You would be amazed at how many calories oil-packed tuna contains!
  • If possible, buy only fresh seafood or frozen seafood that does NOT have breading. Breading adds a lot of unnecessary calories.
  • As you probably already know, chicken and turkey skin is very high in fat! Avoid the skin at all cost! Boneless or skinless chicken or turkey breasts are your best bet.
  • Always read the labeling on hotdog packaging! Not all low-fat franks are good for you! Also, don't be fooled by chicken and turkey hotdogs as some of them have just as many calories as regular dogs!

The Supermarket Maze!

The layout of your local grocery store is no accident. Trust me when I tell you there is a calculated strategy behind every display! After all, they are in the business of making money. If you are trying to follow a healthy diet, don't worry; you too can learn how to avoid food traps such as the wonderful smell of roasting chickens and free pastry samples. Yes, I will admit you need to put your will power into high gear before going food shopping. But, there are other things you can do to ensure that you don't fall off the wagon only to land in a large bin of chocolate frosted cupcakes.

  • I've said it before and I'll say it again - DO NOT SHOP ON AN EMPTY STOMACH! Eat before you leave the house. If you are hungry as you shop, you are twice as likely to buy junk food! Hunger makes controlled shopping difficult!
  • No, you DO NOT need to try the latest and greatest Jimmy Dean Sausage Link! Bypass the free samples. Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars. No free sausage for you!
  • Learn to read the labels! Know what you are buying and putting into your body! Labels will tell you the serving size, calories, number of servings per package and the ingredients. As I always say, knowledge is power!
  • If possible, avoid the middle aisles! Think about it, all of the natural, healthy foods are usually found on the outer ring of the grocery store where vegetables, fruit, milk, meat and bread are located. Most of the time, the middle aisles contain all of the processed or packaged food items such as cookies, chips and Ding Dongs™. Very interesting, wouldn't you say?
  • Be sure to check the end of aisle displays as they often contain sale items.
  • Be sure to look both up and down as your shop as the most expensive items are often placed in the middle at eye level. The bargains are often found on the bottom and top shelves. Very clever, wouldn't you agree?

Stay on the outter aisles! The inner aisles include processed, packaged foods. Avoid temptation at all cost!
Stay on the outter aisles! The inner aisles include processed, packaged foods. Avoid temptation at all cost!

So there you have it. These are just some grocery store tips and tricks that will make shopping for healthy food much easier! If you are new to the world of healthy dieting, don't worry. Improved shopping habits will get easier as time goes by. Learning to avoid grocery store food traps by doing simple things such as making a grocery list and eating BEFORE you go food shopping will help to ensure that you stay on your healthy diet plan. Before you know it, the healthy diet that you are on will magically turn into a healthy way of life and you can throw the word diet out the window once and for all! Good luck!

Be a smart grocery shopper and learn to love your healthy diet!
Be a smart grocery shopper and learn to love your healthy diet!


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