Optimal nutrition is fundamental to a life of wellness and achieving nutritional excellence begins with making the right choices in the grocery store. In fact, much of the work of healthy eating is done right in the grocery aisles. What follows are some basic rules of the road that will guide you through your travels in the grocery store to ensure a successful and nutritious trip. Keep the ground rules that follow in mind as you make your way from one area to another.
Here are the “rules of the road” for the basic destinations within the grocery store:
Produce – Go for variety, deep rich color, and more, more, more! All forms of produce have something beneficial to offer, but some are especially healthy. These superstars include: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, carrots, garlic, onions, leeks, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, winter squash, asparagus, red/orange/yellow bell peppers, berries, cherries, plums, any whole citrus, cantaloupe, kiwi, mango, peaches, pears, red grapes, apples, and dried or fresh apricots. Restrict white potatoes, especially if over weight or diabetic.
Dairy – Select reduced fat, low fat, or skim. Avoid whole milk and full fat cheeses. Choose trans fat-free margarine spreads instead of butter or stick margarine.
Meat/Seafood – Restrict red meat and processed meats like bacon and sausage. Choose lean cuts of beef and pork when you do. Concentrate your efforts on seafood and poultry.
Eggs – Choose the omega 3-fortified varieties. Look for omega 3 or DHA on the label.
Frozen Foods – Frozen fruits, vegetables, seafood, and poultry are just as nutritious as fresh. Avoid frozen vegetables with added butter or sauces. Avoid fruits with added sugar.
Grain Products/Starches – Choose 100% whole grain products. Look for “100% whole grain or whole wheat” on the label to be sure. Physically intact whole grains like brown rice, barley, oats, quinoa, etc. have a health edge over 100% whole grain breads. Choose multigrain brands of pasta, like Barilla Plus or whole wheat varieties.
Canned Goods – Generally inferior to fresh, but the following retain their nutritional value: any form of tomato products, beans, and 100% pumpkin. Choose reduced sodium varieties when available. Canned salmon, chunk-lite tuna, sardines, and oysters are convenient and healthy proteins.
Beverages – Coffee, loose leaf or bagged teas, herbal teas, V8 or 100% vegetable/tomato juice, water. If weight is not an issue, 100% fruit juice in moderation.
Condiments – hummus, bean dips, salsa, tabuleh, bruschetta, guacamole, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, are healthy choices. All vinegar, ketchup, mayonnaise (olive oil or canola-based best), hot sauce, mustards, tahini, horse radish, and light soy sauce are fine. All herbs and spices – dried or fresh – are fantastic. Select olive oil or canola oil based vinaigrettes for your salad dressings. Avoid fat-free (too much sugar) and creamy varieties.
Cooking Oil – Your best choices are extra virgin olive oil and canola oil. Nut-based oils (walnut, sesame, etc) are also healthy choices if called for in recipes. Canola-based pan sprays are wonderful.
Cereals – To make a healthy selection, check the label for 5 grains or more of fiber and 10 grams or less of sugar per serving.