If you're trying to lose weight, you're probably eating out less and making meals at home more often. The more meals you cook at home, the more time you're spending at the grocery store facing down aisles full of temptation. Keep these quick weight loss tips for grocery shopping in mind the next time you're at the market and you'll not only make better weight loss choices, but choices that are healthier for your entire household.
Start with a List
Before you leave your home or office, make a list of the items you need. If you know what you're shopping for, you're less likely to buy on impulse. Having a set plan keeps you focused on the goal on hand-purchasing healthy foods that are part of your weight loss program-not what's on sale or new and improved.
Don't Go Hungry
Whenever possible, try to avoid grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Visit the grocery store after breakfast or if that doesn't fit into your schedule, shortly after having a snack or a small meal. Shopping when your blood sugar is low can lead you to make poor choices, buy more than you need or worse-snacking while you're shopping.
Shop the Perimeter
Almost all grocery stores share a similar layout where the store's perimeter is comprised of more whole and fewer processed foods including produce, meat and seafood, and dairy items like yogurt, milk and eggs. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store first to make sure you load up on the key items on your list. Then, scan the aisle descriptions to locate other items like whole-grain pasta, brown rice and legumes, or look for them in the bulk foods section.
Beware of the displays capping either end of the aisles. While you may find some healthy items that are featured on sale, more likely than not you'll be staring down processed foods and other snacks that aren't on your list. While it's difficult to avoid processed foods at the store, there's almost always a healthier alternative available to you. Look these alternatives-natural peanut butter versus processed and sweetened with sugar, for example-in the natural foods section.
Learn How to Read Labels
It's always a good idea to read food labels when you're shopping, but more importantly when you're shopping for weight loss. One of the most important pieces of information you'll be looking for is the serving size.
In some cases, manufacturers shrink the serving size to make the nutritional information read healthier. You might be thinking those whole wheat crackers aren't so bad for you, but a serving size of 6 crackers may not be realistic for you. Be honest with yourself and do the math to understand what it means if you know you'll eating multiple servings in a sitting-all of the information listed on label, from calories and fat to sodium and sugar are calculated per serving.
Look for Single Servings
If you still want those whole wheat crackers, look to see if they and other healthy snack alternatives are available in single-serving packages. Buying snacks and other products in pre-portioned amounts makes it easier to stick with your diet plan by doing some of the work for you. You'll still be responsible for limiting the number of servings you eat, but it's less of a challenge when you haven't got your hand inside a 10oz box or bag.
Fat Free Isn't a Free for All
While it's smart to limit your fat intake to the recommendations set by MyPyramid, that doesn't mean that fat free products are necessarily the best choice. Bakery aisles are filled with fat-free versions of snack cakes, coffee cakes and cookies, but those products often contain high amounts of sugar.
That sugar hits your bloodstream quickly, causing your blood sugar to spike. Whatever sugars aren't used immediately for energy are carried away to be stored in your fat cells and that runs counter to your weight loss goals.
Don't Be Fooled by Clever Packaging
Walk through any grocery store and you're bound to see a variety of products that carry weight loss claims. Whether they're made by well-known weight loss programs or not, you've no doubt seen rows of energy or protein bars, weight loss drinks and frozen dinners and desserts. But just because an item bears the name of a weight loss program, doesn't always mean it's the best choice for you or that it's any different than an item made by another manufacturer.
Convenient, yes, but these products are also processed to varying degrees. Be sure you read the label not just for the nutrition facts, but for the ingredients. If the ingredient list is too long or don't recognize most of the ingredients, skip the product in favor whole foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Your weight loss goals are important, but so is your health: don't sacrifice nutritional content for convenience.
Wanting to adopt a healthier lifestyle is one thing. Obsessing and hurting yourself in the name of fitness is something else entirely.