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Shopping for Healthy Foods at the Grocery Store


Updated June 09, 2014

Shopping cart in a grocery store
Robert Nicholas/Getty Images

Healthy meals don't start in your kitchen, they start at the grocery store. Start with a grocery list and use my tips at the grocery store.

First, the list. Think about the meals you want to prepare for the next few days, then look around your kitchen to see what you have on hand. Write down all the foods and ingredients you'll need. You can make it even easier by printing out a grocery list. Keep the list in your kitchen and whenever you run out of an ingredient, you can make note of it.

Then, at the grocery store. Stick to your list and do most of your shopping around the perimeter -- the most nutritious foods (fresh produce, seafood, meats and dairy products) tend to be placed around the edges. Stay away from heavily processed foods that are higher in fats, sugar and sodium are usually in the middle aisles.

What You Should Buy

Most people need to eat more fruits and vegetables, so start in the produce section of the store. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables that are firm, ripe and unblemished. Watch out for mold, especially on berries and produce that's packed tightly together. Buy only the amount of produce you need for a few days so your fruits and vegetables don't spoil in your refrigerator. Pick up frozen fruits and vegetables if you need to store them longer.

Look for good quality meat, seafood and poultry. Color is not the best indicator of freshness, so follow your nose. Meats and seafood should smell fresh and clean. The flesh should firm, and not sticky or slimy.

Take a few clear plastic bags from the produce department to the meat department. Raw meat should already be wrapped securely, but why take a chance on leakage? Put each selection into its own bag to be sure there will be no cross-contamination of raw meat juices onto the rest of your grocery items.

Low- or non-fat dairy products will provide your family with calcium. If you don't want dairy, then look for other calcium-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables or dairy alternatives. 

Breads, grains and cereals are a staple in most peoples diets. Choose whole grains whenever possible -- at least half your grains should be whole grains. That means things like whole wheat bread and pasta, tortillas, oatmeal, popcorn, whole grain cereal and brown rice.

Don't Go Shopping When You're Hungry

Eat something before you go shopping -- when you're hungry, theres's a good chance you'll buy more foods that you don't need. And don't be tempted by the candy and treats at the checkout -- they're just extra calories you don't need.

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