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National Nutrition Month Series: Food Shopping 101

So very often as a dietitian, I hear that patients are overwhelmed in grocery stores for one reason or another. Reasons range from “I don’t know what to look for with products, how to figure out what’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’” to “I always buy more than I need and end up wasting time, food, and money!”. This year, the American Dietetic Association is celebrating National Nutrition Month with a focus on ‘beyond the table’. A huge piece of this is taking a closer look at how we food shop. So, let’s go over a couple of my favorite tips to make grocery shopping easier for you!

Meal Planning

One of my most helpful tips for avoiding anxiety or confusion in the grocery store is to have a solid plan! Always start with a ‘staples list’. This will become the building block for your grocery list every week! Typically this includes a few key things:

  • Protein: 2-3 versatile sources of protein, which should be a piece to ever balanced meal or snack. Including things like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, plant-based sources, dairy, and nuts!
  • Veggies: Aim to include a minimum of 2 veggies every time you grocery shop. This can be things you consistently use for dinner or something you snack on. Veggies are an essential part of a healthy intake! Later this month, we will discuss advantages to local produce, differences with fresh, frozen, and canned, and more
  • Fruits: Another essential piece to a balanced intake, fruit offers a wide variety of health benefits. 1-2 fruits per week will help you get a variety, as well as avoid wasting fruit that you don’t eat in time!
  • Snacks: No staples list is complete without a few snacks to keep you fueled throughout the week. Aim to include satisfying and balanced snacks as often as you can.
  • Non-perishables and pantry goods: Having a list of your staple goods is a great way to keep track of what you need. This includes things like rice, pasta, spices, oats, peanut butter, and more.

Once you have a good foundation for your staples list, you can ‘copy & paste’ weekly to start with a good backbone! Then, when you have additional meals or snacks planned, add ingredients in as needed. This helps save you lots of time each time you sit for a list. 

Here’s an example of a staples list!

Meal planning will also help you avoid “panic purchasing” at the grocery store. This is the phenomena where we are unsure of what to buy for the week, so we buy far too much, and end up wasting it. Have a list before you enter the store, and you are far less likely to do so!

Label Reading

Although some may look at it as though it is an art, label reading can be quite simple once you get the hang of it!

Let’s look at each section of the label.

Now that we know how to read a label, what are we actually looking for?

Although there are no set ‘rules’ for each individual, I tend to focus on a few key things: low added sugar, low sodium, and high fiber! These parameters will differ depending on the product, but in general, they can be good things to keep in mind. If you would like more personalized recommendations, speak with one of our nutrition experts.

Although food shopping is often a least favorite chore, having a solid plan and knowing the basics of label reading will help you save time, money, and sanity! Keep an eye out for the remainder of our National Nutrition Month blog series, posting every Monday in March.

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