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Many people say that grocery shopping on an empty stomach is one of the worst things you can do if you’re trying to lose weight. When you’re hungry, your hunger hormones can sometimes influence you to buy foods you normally wouldn’t buy — especially those that aren’t exactly healthy. When you make the decision to go on a diet, or make changes to your everyday diet to become healthier, grocery shopping can be challenging. All of a sudden, you’re tasked with buying more produce and lean meats instead of rushing through your typical routine of raiding the frozen and boxed food sections.
The main keys to grocery shopping on a diet is arriving to the store prepared with a list of healthy foods (and a full stomach), and knowing how to stay away from processed, unhealthy foods that will only add to your waistline.
Here are seven tips to follow when grocery shopping on a diet.
1. Head to the produce section
Stock up on as much produce as you can. A rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables will provide you with a wealth of nutrients and antioxidants, and will help you meet realistic weight-loss goals in a timely manner. Ask a worker at the grocery store when they typically receive produce, and try shopping on that day to get the freshest selection.
2. Choose low-fat dairy
Dairy products are rich in calcium and vitamin D, and contribute to good bone health. Choose plain, low-fat yogurts and keep your high-fat cheese purchases to a minimum. If possible, stop buying sour cream and use Greek yogurt in its place. If you’re not the biggest fan of skim milk, try using almond or coconut milk.
3. Stock up on rice and whole grains
If your diet mainly consists of meals such as pasta and sandwiches, you may want to scale it back a bit and try new recipes that call for rice and whole grains. If you do insist on buying pasta and breads, buy those made from whole grains. You’ll soon notice significant changes in the way you look and feel on a daily basis.
4. Aim for sources of lean protein
Stop buying large steaks and platters of hamburger meat, and veer toward the fish and poultry sections. Lean protein will supply your body with the energy it needs throughout the day without contributing to worsened heart health. Plus, fish is rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. If you can’t kick your red meat habit to the curb just yet, at least buy lean cuts of meat such as top sirloin and round steak.
5. Limit frozen food purchases
Although fresh, whole foods are the way to go when you’re on a diet, sometimes it’s hard to resist the convenience of frozen foods. Stock up on frozen fruits that you can add to smoothies, and opt for healthy frozen snacks such as whole-grain waffles. If you buy frozen pizzas, buy veggie pizzas without meat, or buy cheese pizzas and add your own fresh produce as toppings.
6. Shop the perimeter
Most nutritionists and dietitians recommend sticking solely to the perimeter of the grocery store when you go shopping. The perimeter of the store is where you’ll find your produce, dairy, meat, and fish. Avoid walking down the center aisles where chips, candy, boxed potatoes, sugary breakfast cereal, and other unhealthy foods are stored.
7. Stick to buying “real” foods
Always read the ingredient and nutrition labels thoroughly before adding foods to your cart. Avoid buying foods that contain more than five ingredients you can’t pronounce, or that you’re not familiar with, since ingredients such as these are usually man-made additives and preservatives that hold no nutritional value.