Have a Plan to Shop and Eat Healthy

Have you ever gone grocery shopping and found yourself wandering aimlessly through the store? If you have, you know that it’s easy to add a lot of impulse items to your cart and add unnecessary pounds to your body. Have you ever stared aimlessly into your fridge, wondering what you’re going to make for dinner, only to give up and go out to eat? Following a simple plan will help you get organized, shop more wisely, and eat healthier at home.

Have a plan in place

Having a menu or a plan in place is an important step to achieving a healthier diet. According to the Mayo Clinic, menu planning can be beneficial for your health because you can create a diet that is more balanced and nutritional.[1] It curbs fast food dining as well.

First, pick a day of the week when you have some time to make a menu. With some online resources and apps, you will be able to finish in no time.

One such website and app called Food on the Table helps you conveniently get food on the table by providing you with customizable coupons, a meal planner, and an aisle by aisle grocery list.[2] The site claims to save you money– $40 on average and time. The subscription is free for three meals a week. Losing weight is a possible perk, too. One subscriber told ABC Sacramento that she lost 25 pounds.[3] 

Another website, www.mealsmatter.org, allows you to submit your favorite recipes and create menus—all for free.[4] You can also move and save your menus to make a recurring schedule. For those with iPhones, iPod Touches or iPads, there are many apps available which offer similar benefits.

A meal planning idea from the Mayo Clinic is to assign a theme to each day.[5] For example, Monday could be Mexican food and Tuesday fruit salad and sandwiches. Wednesday could be ‘Wild Card’ day– let the kids pick from healthy choices. Customize the plan to incorporate your family’s schedule and preferences.

Next on your to-do list is to create a shopping list. Whether you use the online resources or you hand write it, plan a balanced meal plan. For help doing this, you could use “The Healthy Eating Plate,” Harvard School of Public Health’s version of the USDA’s “My Plate”.[6]

Nutritionist Shereen Jegtvig suggests that your grocery list have more fruits and vegetables than any other items.[7] She also recommends including fruits and vegetables from the different colors of the rainbow. Researchers have found that increasing your intake of fruits and veggies controls blood pressure and reduces the risk of some types of cancer and other serious diseases.

Another tip is writing your list in categories, such as fruit/vegetables, beans/legumes, whole grains, etc. This way when you get to the store, it will make it a lot easier to find the items. That will save you a lot of valuable time. Think of your organized meal plan and list as a G.P.S. (Grocery Plan System) that will efficiently guide you through the store and effectively help you eat healthier.

Before heading to the grocery store, make sure your gas tank and tummy aren’t on empty. When you shop on an empty stomach, you are likely to buy more than you need. It is also more tempting to buy items that the store is promoting through taste tests and sales, not to mention, the snack foods.

Whole foods and the whole truth

When you get to the store, focus on whole foods and finding the whole truth. Start in the fruits and vegetables section. Remember that fruits and vegetables should make up most of the list. They should fill a good portion of our carts as well. Make sure you get a variety of colors to enhance your health and make your food more appealing. Look for deals and new fruits and veggies to try.

Next, head in the direction of the whole grains and the beans/legumes section. These foods have numerous benefits. Not only are they delicious and versatile, they are filled with protein, fiber, B vitamins and minerals that help combat diseases.[8]

There are many foods that claim to have “whole” grains, but they aren’t telling the whole truth.[9] Closely read the packaging of food to see if it says “whole” grain. 100 % wheat, multi-gran, bran, stone ground, etc. don’t equate to “whole” grain. 100% “whole” wheat, “whole” oats, quinoa, brown rice, popcorn (air popped) are good examples of “whole” grains. If a processed product, like bread, is “whole” grain, the label will say “whole” and the name of the grain (whole wheat bread).

Also, for other processed foods, look carefully at the ingredients on food labels. If an ingredient list is long, it generally means a product has a lot of sugar and additives. Steer clear of highly processed foods, which generally have GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) ingredients. They have been genetically engineered to enhance taste, lower cost, and preserve the products. Corn, canola, and soy are the big GMO edible crops.
Some scientists speculate that GMOs cause food allergies and other health problems.[10] Although the science is not conclusive, to stay safe, look for certified organic products or those labeled non-GMO. As for whole fruits and vegetables, say no to GMO Hawaiian papaya. There are also a few types of zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, or sweet corn that may be GMO.[11] In these cases, buy organic.

With a clear purpose and a plan, you can plan on healthier eating. You can even save time and money. That’s smart shopping!

[1] “Menu Planning: Eat Healthier and Spend Less – MayoClinic.com.” Web. 26 July 2012.

[2] “Food on the Table.” foodonthetable.com. Web. 26 July 2012.

[3] “Plan Inexpensive, Quick, Healthy Meals with Food On The Table | News10.net.” news10.net. Web. 26 July 2012.

[4] “Meal Planning Made Simple From Mealsmatter.org.” Web. 26 July 2012.

[5] “Menu Planning: Eat Healthier and Spend Less – MayoClinic.com.” Web. 26 July 2012.

[6] “Healthy Eating Plate Vs. USDA’s MyPlate – Healthy Eating Plate – The Nutrition Source – Harvard School of Public Health.” Web. 25 July 2012.

[7]  “Make a Grocery Shopping List.” About.com Nutrition. Web. 23 July 2012.

[8] Zelman, Kathleen M. MPH, RD, LD. “Tips for Reaping the Benefits of Whole Grains.” WebMD. 23 July 2012

[9] Ibid.

[10] “Genetically Engineered Foods May Cause Rising Food Allergies.” Web. 26 July 2012.

[11] “What’s In Your Food? How to Find Non-GMO Products.” Nutrition Advice by Registered Dietitians – HealthCastle.com. Web. 26 July 2012.

Rachelle Diaz

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” – Proverbs 17:22

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