Grocery Shopping Hacks to Lose Weight
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Weight loss is a personal journey, but like many things in life, being able to make informed decisions can lead to desired outcomes, and this is also true when shopping for food. Your weight loss journey starts in the grocery aisle — and not just the outer aisles where the fruits and veggies reside. The middle aisles can have nutritious options too, especially legumes and whole grains.
To lose weight you must be eating fewer calories than you burn, and while weight loss happens with a reduction of calories consumed, eating nutrient-dense foods rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and lean protein is the key to sustainable weight loss and improved overall health. The best diet for you is the one that you can stick with for the long term. Filling your refrigerator and pantry with nutritious foods and having quick, easy and healthy ingredients on hand can help you avoid filling up on empty calories.
Editor's note: Weight loss, health and body image are complex subjects — before deciding to go on a diet, we invite you to gain a broader perspective by reading our exploration into the hazards of diet culture.
Never Shop Hungry
This can lead to making impulsive purchases. Go to the store with a plan and a list and choose nutritious whole foods over processed foods high in refined sugar and sodium.
Replacing sugary sodas and fruit juices with water and/or low-calorie flavored seltzers can be a first step for many people trying to lose weight. This swap alone can eliminate hundreds of calories per day for some.
Prepare Simple and Mindful Meals
Meals don't need to be complicated. Choose a lean protein (i.e., chicken, turkey, fish, beans), veggies, a whole grain (i.e., quinoa, wild rice) and a healthy fat (i.e., sliced avocado, a drizzle of olive oil) as your meal. Instead of eating in front of the tv, eat at a table with minimal distractions so you can enjoy every bite. Studies show that mindful eating may be an effective tool in weight management.
Planning meals ahead of time can help with weight loss and weight management, according to research. Preparing your menu beforehand can help to create balanced meals, increase variety in your diet and may even assist with portion control if meals are individually packaged. It can also help to reduce waste.
Keep it Social
As with everything, having a strong support system will help to keep you on track. Join an online forum or do it with a friend or family member.
Take a walk after dinner or lunch or whenever your schedule allows and aim for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommended goal of "150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week."
Produce Shopping Tips
Fruits and vegetables are some of the top foods associated with weight loss and weight maintenance because they are low in calories and high in fiber. That means you can eat a lot of them, and the fiber they contain helps to keep you feeling full longer. Aim for five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. According to studies, a higher intake of these foods is associated with improved long-term health and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes.
When on your grocery run, keep your eyes peeled for this fresh produce...
An apple a day keeps the doctor away!
Try avocados in salad, guacamole, or just on toast.
Bananas are delicious, and rich in potassium and magnesium.
You can't go wrong with most berries, but blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries are great for you.
You may be used to having these in sugar-laden juices but grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges are great on their own or part of a meal too.
Grapes are delicious and beneficial for your heart, brain and colon health.
Kiwis taste delicious fresh, and among other benefits, are good to eat to promote healthy skin and hair.
From the universally loved Watermelon to the more controversial Honeydew and Cantaloupe, melons boast a ton of variety and hold down a fruit salad in a way that isn't appreciated by the haters.
Pears are sometimes under-appreciated when it comes to hand fruits, but they have a more subtly sweet flavor. Poached Pears are also a yummy and relatively healthy dessert.
Pomegranate seeds are satisfying to munch on, plus the fruit is rich in antioxidants, fiber and vitamin c.
Tomatoes are a great fruit to keep in your diet. They're rich in vitamins and some research has shown that tomatoes could help with lowering cancer risk and reducing the effects of diabetes.
Asparagus can be cooked in a myriad of styles, and reportedly improves digestion due to its high fiber and helps lower blood pressure.
Broccoli is great for eye health, helps fight inflammation and supports immune function.
Brussels sprouts are known for being beneficial to combatting high blood pressure and heart disease
Cauliflower is beneficial for lowering inflammation, rich in vitamin C and K and has been linked to lowering blood pressure.
Celery is a great source of antioxidants and minerals like magnesium, iron and sodium.
Cucumbers are high in water, so the snack is naturally hydrating, and is also great for staying regular due to its fiber content.
Eggplant is high-fiber and low-calorie, and is a great basis for some delicious recipes.
Garlic is tasty, fragrant and healthy! It may reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and also seems to have a beneficial effect on gut health.
Green Beans are high in calcium as well as vitamin K, which are both very useful for healthy bones.
Kale is a tasty and easy addition to many recipes, and super healthy with tons of fiber, calcium and more.
Lettuces are a staple side and topping for a reason! Like many leafy greens, lettuces are low calorie, rich in fiber and many other nutrients.
Mushrooms divide some people in terms of taste, but if you like them, they're reportedly great for cognitive health and heart health.
Bringing some onions into your diet not only adds flavor, but they've got lots of antioxidants, dietary fibers and vitamin C.
Bot hot peppers and fresh, crisp bell peppers are great to have in your meals.
Spinach has a great amount of minerals like iron and magnesium, and highly beneficial vitamin C.
Zucchini is low in calories and sugar and also has the antioxidants including lutein and zeaxanthin which reportedly are beneficial for eyesight.
Frozen Food Shopping Tips
Frozen fruits and vegetables may contain more nutrients than fresh foods because, often, they are flash-frozen right after harvest. Keep frozen fruit in your freezer for a quick smoothie or to add to yogurt. Frozen veggies can boost any omelet and can be used in soup and stir-fries. Add some frozen spinach to your smoothies. Avoid prepared frozen meals that contain high sodium and high sugar counts.
These foods are great frozen options...
Artichokes are delicious in a dip, but also has benefits on its own to digestive health and may even lower cholesterol. Frozen artichoke hearts keep very well and can be a delicious, hearty addition to salads.
Obviously, frozen berries will add a punch of flavor to a smoothie or granola yogurt bowl, and they're a more healthy dessert option as well.
Frozen broccoli will add a punch of green and health to your meals, and broccoli is a basis for some easy and delicious recipes.
If you're running a restaurant being visited by Gordon Ramsey, maybe avoid frozen seafood, but it's perfectly great to cook at home and packed with all the same health benefits fresh seafood has.
Edamame is a delicious snack, and keeps perfectly well in the freezer for whenever you want it.
Peas are chock full of vitamins and beneficial minerals, and you can get them tasting just as good as they were fresh from a frozen pack.
Refrigerated Section Tips
A lot of your lean protein options can be found in the refrigerated section. Yogurt, for example, is versatile, quick and easy although it can often be full of added sugar. We recommend choosing non-fat or low-fat Greek and/or skyr yogurts that contain more protein per serving than regular varieties. Plain or no-added-sugar flavors are best.
If you prefer plant-based yogurts and milks, keep in mind that they can be high in fat and sugar and low in protein, so be sure to read the labels. Aim to stay under 8 grams (equal to two teaspoons of sugar) or less of sugar per serving.
Here are some highlights from the refrigerated section...
Eggs (or Egg Alternatives)
Eggs are dense in protein, and other nutrients like vitamin B12.
Hummus is a classic healthy snack option, with lots of plant-based protein and heart-healthy fats.
These include fish, poultry and turkey.
We love cheese! Try to keep standard cheeses for special treats and also check out low-fat or fat-free cheese and cottage cheese at the store as well.
Dairy-alternative milks and yogurts
Consider picking up almond, oat or rice milk and seeing how you like them in your coffee and other recipes!
Soy (Tofu, Tempeh)
Soy products like Tofu and Tempeh are very healthy and a great source of fiber as well as plant-based protein.
Shelf Stable Shopping Tips
Pantry items are good to stock up on because of their extended shelf life. They can come in handy for quick and easy meals but they can sometimes be very high in sodium, such as canned soups and veggies. Make sure to read the labels and look for "no-added sodium" or "low-sodium" options. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends limiting daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day, the equivalent of 1 teaspoon.
Consider swapping out refined grains for whole grains that can contain more fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. With cereals, pastas and wraps, look for products that have 3 grams of fiber or more per serving and contain whole grain ingredients as the first ingredient, such as 100% whole wheat or quinoa. Watch out for added sugars and look for options that do not include them.
Here are great shelf stable foods to look out for...
Beans, beans, good for the heart! Black beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils can all make delicious meals and are great nutritional boosts on top of it.
Broths & Stock
These can be a foundation for a ton of delicious and healthy soups and other showstopper dinners.
Try canned tuna, wild salmon, and sardines while you're in the shelf safe aisles.
Highlights in the canned food department are green beans, jackfruit and tomatoes when it comes to produce.
This is a sin in some Italian households, but it doesn't hurt to rotate in a low-carb pasta in every once-in-a-while. Some of our favorite low-carb pastas are chickpea noodles, Palmini pasta made from hearts of palm and spaghetti squash.
Nuts & Seeds
Most stores will have a huge variety of nuts and seeds which are packed with protein, healthy fats and fiber. We particularly love almonds, cashews, walnuts, chia, flax, hemp and sunflower seeds.
Oil & Vinegar
Everyone swears by their favorite cooking oils and vinegars for dressing, and we recommend stocking up on apple cider vinegar, avocado oil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red or white wine vinegar and rice wine vinegar.
Salsa is not only delicious, but it's good for your heart, is both hydrating and filling and is a great helping of vitamin C.
Obviously there are many more great seltzers besides La Croix, but it's ubiquitous because it really is good!
Even as a sauce, tomatoes are delicious and still very healthy with plenty of essential vitamins.
Herbs & Spices
Some of the best options when looking for herbs and spices are basil, cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme, turmeric, red pepper flakes, etc.
We all love perusing the cereal aisle, and it's always good to keep whole grain cereals in mind as an option for our favorite breakfast treat.
Whole grains like oats, quinoa and wild rice are a great choice for your diet as well.
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