List: 31 Tips for Healthy Shopping for Weight Loss or Maintenance

Family with a shopping cartFamily with a shopping cart

Advice on smartly navigating the weight loss landmines in the supermarket.

Couple Shopping

Couple Shopping

When trying to lose weight, one of the most difficult activities you must do is grocery shopping. Since weight loss is 80 percent diet, going to the grocery store can be an exercise in torture. All those tempting goodies on the shelves, the delicious aromas coming from the in-store bakery, the eye-catching displays of tasty but fattening foods. How do you make it through this minefield blowing up your diet?

Here are some tips to help shop:

  1. Plan your menu. Pay attention to serving sizes, cutting the recipe down if need be. It does not have to be a fancy menu, just a healthy one.
  2. Make a list. Make a shopping list that includes the amount you need for each item. Purchasing just what you can help prevent the temptation to snack on the extras. This action can also reduce waste.
  3.  Shop with blinders on. Know what you are looking for and don’t casually browse along the way. If an item is not on the list, it does not go in the cart. No ifs, and’s, or buts about it.
  4. Avoid busy shopping hours. The anxiety and stress of crowded stores can lead to poor choices. Which times are busiest will depend on where you shop. Not just the store but the city. Use trial and error to learn what is the best time or ask the manager of the store.
  5. Avoid busy shopping days. Weekends tend to be the most bustling and mid-week tends to be less so. Only about 11% of shopping occurs on Wednesdays.
  6. Don’t shop hungry. You are more likely to buy with your eyes and not with your brain.
  7.  Have a snack before shopping.  This choice goes back to don’t shop hungry. But don’t eat a large meal either. If you feel too full, you may rush through your shopping without paying attention to the labels and serving sizes.
  8. Use a smaller cart or basket. There is a limited amount of space, so you do not feel the need to fill the entire cart.
  9. Couple Shopping Photo 2

    Couple Shopping Photo #2

    If you must have a treat, buy a single serving. Don’t eat it in the car on the way home. Wait until you can sit, relax, and enjoy your special treat.

  10. Bring your reading glasses or a magnifying glass. The writing on labels – particularly ingredients lists – can be small and difficult to read.
  11. Avoid the snack aisle. There may be a rare, healthy gem down that aisle but they are so few, and far between that you are better off just skipping the entire aisle altogether.
  12. Avoid the middle shelves. For some mysterious reason, the healthy stuff is either on the top shelf or the bottom shelf.
  13. Shop the perimeter of the store. The freshest foods tend to be located on the perimeter of the store.
  14. Buy more foods without nutrition labels. Nutrition information is available for all foods but foods that are not prepackaged, such as fruits and vegetables, tend to be the freshest and least processed.
  15. Get handsy with your produce. Learn how to use your sight, smell, and touch to know when produce is its freshest.
  16. Shop alone. Every parent knows the pitfall of taking your children down the cereal aisle. No one needs the added pressure to give in to the temptation of sweet cereals.
  17. Check yourself out. Not in the mirror! Use the self-checkout. These lanes have fewer chip and candy displays.
  18. Consider the farmer’s market. Food is at its freshest. Not always the cheapest but less processed items to tempt you.
  19. Decide for yourself if organics are worth it. Some organic food is grown in fields directly adjacent to conventional farms.
  20. Read all labels. Remember to check serving size, nutritional information, and ingredient list. Knowing what you are eating is too important to skip this step.
  21. Consider whole grains. Instead of white or brown rice, branch out and try whole grains such as farro, barley, millet, or buckwheat.
  22. Avoid bread with less than 4 grams of fiber per slice.  Anything less is not worth the calories.  
  23. Couple Shopping #3

    Couple Shopping Photo #3

    Bring a smartphone or calculator. This addition can help you compare items based on serving size or price per serving.

  24. Avoid foods to which you are sensitive. This limitation sounds simple, but sometimes manufacturers can sneak them in where you least expect them.
  25. Avoid buying in bulk. It may be cheaper upfront but having all that food hanging around in your cabinets makes it almost irresistible to eat.
  26. Consider eggs and dairy (unless you are vegan). They are great breakfast options.
  27. Consider frozen fruits and vegetables. If you have the freezer space, this is an excellent way to stock up without the waste of produce spoiling in just a few days.
  28. Organize your food storage area. If you cannot find an item, you cannot eat it. This change can lead to food waste and guilt.
  29. Become one with your freezer. Freeze any leftovers you have in single-portion sizes. These are a great replacement for store-bought microwave meals.
  30. Live on the edge. Try new recipes and foods. You may find a healthy alternative that you like even better than what you were eating before.
  31. Have someone else do the shopping for you. Check out some of the food delivery services such as Blue Apron, Home Chef, Green Chef, etc. Many of them have healthy and even vegetarian options. Most of them deliver 2 to 3 meals per week so you may still need to go to the store, but this may limit the number of times.

Bottom Line: “A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.” If we are only purchasing healthy options, then keeping it off the hips (and everywhere else) is a bit easier. Have a plan and take your time when shopping. Decisions made in the store can have repercussions for a long time.

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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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