Making Healthy Choices At The Grocery Store
Sticking to a healthy diet can be simple.
Shopping for groceries is becoming more confusing with each new finding of a particular nutrient’s health benefits. Most packaged foods come in several varieties to reflect this.
Food labels can be baffling, claiming health benefits and yet may contain excess salt, sugar, and fat. Given our limited shopping time trying to decipher all the information, presents a real challenge. Let me offer some aisle-by-aisle suggestions to streamline your shopping and get more value for your grocery budget.
At the produce aisle choose a variety of fruits and vegetables to get a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale along with red bell, peppers carrots, tomatoes and berries these have the highest levels of anti-oxidants. Their frozen counterparts are good choices too. Look for in season fruits and vegetables for better prices.
If considering organic produce - apples, bell peppers, blueberries, celery, cherries, imported grapes, kale, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach and strawberries experts say have the highest pesticide residue. Peeling the skin off whenever possible is another way to avoid pesticide residue.
In the dairy case opt for fat free or 1 percent milk and nonfat or low fat cottage cheese. Also, 2 percent low fat cheese is a good alternative to the full fat. Reserve the more exotic or high fat cheeses for special occasions.
For fats and oils, olive oil and canola oil are the healthiest choices. Choose trans-fat free margarine- and if butter is a must, use the unsalted variety in very small amounts.
For meat, fish, or poultry picks, fish is the best choice for lean protein. Look for fish that was delivered to the store within the last 48 hours and cook within 36 hours after purchase. When I find really fresh fish I buy extra to freeze. I defrost it in the refrigerator for a day and it cooks up deliciously. Skinless chicken and turkey are also good choices. For red meat and pork, choose top or bottom round, sirloin, ground sirloin and pork tenderloin.
For bread choices look for 100 percent whole grain or whole wheat on the label and at least 2 grams of fiber per 1 ounce serving on the nutrition fact label.
For cereals, the ingredient list should have whole grain as the first item (such as whole wheat, whole oats, and whole corn). The nutrition fact label would list at least 2 grams of fiber per serving and 6 grams of sugar or less. I choose spoon-size shredded wheat or Quaker Oats and Life cereal for my son.
Whole grain or whole wheat pasta are better options. I find the angel hair whole wheat pasta and the special blends to be good alternatives if new to the whole wheat versions. Whole wheat couscous and Quinoa are other excellent grain selections.
Canned goods I like canned beans and chickpeas. Rinse before using to remove about 40% of the sodium. I also like Hunt’s diced or whole tomatoes to make homemade tomato sauce. Choose low sodium broths and stocks in re-sealable containers.
For snacks and treats, homemade are best as fat, sugar and salt can be better controlled. I do buy pretzels and slow churned ice cream a few times a month.
In general, limiting the foods with added fats, sugar and salt in your shopping cart is a good way to simplify shopping and get more nutritional value.
Anna Tourkakis is the author of the cookbook "Delicious Simplicity."