1. Shop on a full stomach
If you shop with a growling stomach, you'll come home with more items than you planned, not all of them good for you. If you can't shop soon after a meal, have a snack before you go.
2. Shop the perimeter
Spend most of your time in the outer aisles of the grocery store. That's where all the healthy foods are -- the fruits, vegetables, dairy products, lean meats, poultry and fish and whole-grain breads. Visit only the central aisles for staples such as breakfast cereals, cooking oils, vinegars, spices, flour and canned goods such as beans, tomatoes and tuna fish. Resist the temptation to browse the cookie and snack food aisles.
3. Buy perishable foods last
The order in which you place foods in your grocery cart plays a role in keeping foods safe to eat. Shop for non-perishable items first and save refrigerated and frozen foods for last. At the check-out, ask that meat, poultry and seafood be bagged separately. Raw meat may contaminate other foods if it leaks, which may lead to food poisoning.
4. Check expiration dates
The "packaged on" date is the date the item was packaged by the manufacturer. It's mandatory for meats and tells you when the fresh food was packaged in the store. "Best before" dates refer to quality, not safety. They tell you how long an unopened product will retain its freshness, flavour and high quality. Once opened, best before dates no longer apply. "Use by" and "expiry" dates mean the product should be eaten by the date listed. If these dates on a food have passed, it's safer to discard them.
5. Buy in season
Fresh fruit and vegetables taste best when they are bought in season. This usually means they're grown locally. They not only cost less than imported produce but also taste superior.
Page 1 of 3 -- find more great healthy grocery shopping tips on page 2
6. Buy frozen produce
When produce is out of season -- or out of your budget -- don't discount frozen. Frozen fruits and vegetables can actually be higher in nutrients than their fresh counterparts because they're flash-frozen immediately after picking. The fact that some produce arrives at the grocery store up to two weeks after harvest, and often sits on the shelf (or in your refrigerator) for some time thereafter, results in nutrient loss.
7. Choose low-fat dairy
To limit your intake of cholesterol-raising saturated fat, buy skim or one per cent milk, yogurt and cottage cheese. When buying hard cheese, look for part skim (20 per cent milk fat/MF or less) or skim (seven per cent MF or less). Choose sour cream labelled seven per cent MF or less.
8. Select lean meats
Buy lean cuts of meat such as sirloin, flank steak, eye of the round, beef tenderloin, lean and extra-lean ground beef, pork tenderloin and centre-cut pork chops. Keep in mind that any cut of meat that comes from an animal's stomach area -- for example, rib eye steak, rib chops, spareribs -- will be high in saturated fat.
Lean poultry choices include chicken breast, turkey breast and lean and extra- lean ground chicken and turkey.
9. Use the Nutrition Facts table
Always choose products lower in sodium, saturated and trans fats and sugars. Look for products that provide more fibre per serving. If you're looking for a lower-calorie product, read the serving size information. If your usual portion is more than the stated serving size, you're consuming more calories than you think.
Look at the per cent Daily Value (%DV) to see whether a product has a little or a lot of a specific nutrient. Percent DVs are given for fat, saturated and trans fats (combined), sodium, carbohydrate, fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron. Foods with a daily value of five per cent or less are considered low in a nutrient. That's a good thing for sodium and saturated and trans fats. But for fibre, vitamins and minerals you'll want to choose a brand that supplies at least 15 per cent of the daily value.
10. Look for 100 per cent whole grains
When buying bread, crackers and breakfast cereals, look for the claim 100 per cent whole grain on the front of the package. That means the product does not contain any refined flours. If you don't see this statement, read the ingredient list. Look for the words "whole-grain whole wheat flour," whole rye, rye meal, whole oats, brown rice, whole barley and so on as the first ingredient listed. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight.
While 100 per cent bran cereals aren't made from the entire grain kernel, you can consider them whole grain since they’re a concentrated source of bran that’s missing from refined grains. Other whole grains to stock your grocery cart with include whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, millet, large-flake or steel-cut oats, kasha (buckwheat groats) and ground flaxseed.
Page 2 of 3 -- find advice for selecting foods with less sugar and buying healthy oils on page 3
11. Pick foods with less sugar
An excessive intake of added (refined) sugars has been linked with a higher blood triglyceride (fat) level, a greater calorie intake, a higher body weight and a lower intake of vitamins and minerals. The grams of sugar disclosed on a nutrition label include both refined sugars added during food processing (e.g. sucrose, glucose-fructose, honey, corn syrup) and naturally occurring sugars (e.g. fruit or milk sugars).
Choose breakfast cereals that have no more than six to eight grams of sugar per serving. Exceptions include cereals with dried fruit. When buying packaged baked goods or granola bars, choose products with no more than half the total carbohydrate from sugars. Look for yogurt with no more than 20 grams of sugar per 3/4 cup (175 g) serving. (Remember that some of the sugar in yogurt is lactose, the naturally occurring milk sugar.)
12. Look for foods low in saturated and trans fat
A food product with a higher amount of total fat grams isn't necessarily unhealthy. Higher-fat foods like vinaigrette salad dressings, packages of nuts and nut butters contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats. What's most important is to look at the grams of combined saturated and trans fats -- the two fats linked to a higher risk of heart disease because they raise LDL cholesterol.
The most saturated and trans fat you should consume in a day depends on your calorie intake. Current guidelines recommend consuming no more than 10 per cent of daily calories from these so-called bad fats. For a 2000-calorie diet, that means no more than 22 grams of saturated plus trans fat per day (The math: 2000 calories x 10 per cent = 200 calories; since one gram of fat = nine calories, then 200/9 = 22 grams.) Choose products with a low %DV for saturated plus trans fats, ideally no more than 10 per cent.
13. Buy healthy oils
Choose heart-healthy unsaturated oils such as extra virgin olive, canola, grapeseed, sunflower and safflower. If you buy margarine, choose a non- hydrogenated product that is low in saturated fat and free of trans fat. Look for commercial salad dressings made with extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil. Limit butter, hard margarine and shortening.
14. Stock up on healthy canned goods
Staples worth adding to your grocery cart include stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, canned beans, canned tuna and salmon and canned fruit (in its own juice, not syrup). Look for canned goods low in sodium or with no salt added. If they are not available in your supermarket, compare brands to find one lower in sodium. Or ask your grocer to stock them.
15. Choose prepared foods with fewer ingredients
When buying prepared foods, look for ones with shorter ingredient lists. Fewer ingredients usually means fewer synthetic additives.
Page 3 of 3
Excerpted from Leslie Beck's Healthy Kitchen by Leslie Beck. Copyright Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc., 2012. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Group (Canada), a Division of Pearson Canada Inc.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.