Grocery shopping tips

Your fridge is empty – the official motivator for a supermarket run. What you buy can have a significant impact on your weight and health. Registered dietitians at The Weight and Wellness Center at Tufts Medical Center suggest five tips to help you make good decisions when you start pushing that cart.

Don’t go hungry!

When your body is hungry, it is in a stressed state and craves sugar and fat for energy. So if you walk into the grocery store famished, you are much more likely to add cookies, chips, or sweets to your cart. One way to prevent this is to have a small snack or full meal at least 1-2 hours before you begin to shop to ensure there will be no impulse purchases. 

Make a list

Making a list, on paper or in your phone, can help you stay on track while shopping, prevent buying items you don’t necessarily need, and reduce the need for repeat trips during the week. Making a list can also help plan out meals ahead of time, which may even help you save money and reduce food waste during the week. 

Shop the perimeter

Fresh produce, meat, fish, and dairy are all on the outside perimeter of most grocery stores and should be the main focus of your purchases. By not going down all the aisles, you can avoid many of the temptations that can come with grocery shopping such as chips, cookies, crackers, candy etc. However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Drop into the aisles when necessary and use the Nutrition Facts Food Labels to ensure you are choosing the most nutrient dense foods. 

Make half your cart fruits and vegetables

Look for fresh vegetables and fruits that are in season. They are easy to get, have more flavor and are usually less expensive. Local farmer’s markets are a great source of seasonal produce. Buy small amounts of raw fruits and veggies more frequently to ensure you’re eating the foods without throwing them away. Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as good as raw, and will even last longer. Buy in bulk when these are on sale. Be mindful of added sauces, as they may increase the total calories and sodium. 

Read labels

Reading food labels can help to compare similar products on the shelves and allow you to make a more informed food choice. A great rule of thumb is to choose the product that has more protein and fiber combined than total grams of sugar.

  • Frozen meal guidelines: Look for items with <300 kcals, <25 grams of total carbohydrates, and <600mg sodium or less per meal. Brands that often meet these criteria include  WW Smart Ones, Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice.
  • Snack Tip: Choose foods where the total grams of protein and the total grams of fiber is more than the total grams of sugar per serving. For instance, protein + fiber > sugar.