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Make Your Shopping Cart Work for You

How many of us have been to the grocery store and ended up either purchasing foods that we had no intention of buying, or buying a lot more food than we had planned? On a trip to the grocery store, a lot of us plan on purchasing only healthy, nutritious foods, but our intentions can fly out the window when we’re confronted with the snack aisle or smells coming from the bakery section.

I’ve heard several tips over the years that can help us avoid such pitfalls while grocery shopping. Certainly one of the most important tips, which I’m sure you’re all aware of, is to NOT go to the grocery store when you are hungry. You might have also heard about focusing your shopping around the perimeter of the store, as the perimeter is where the fresh foods and produce tend to be located. I’ve heard nutritionists give some wonderful tips about healthy grocery shopping–one I particularly liked was making sure your grocery cart looks like the plate method we use for meal planning. In other words, your grocery cart should be 1/2 filled with fruits and vegetables, 1/4 filled with whole grains, and 1/4 filled with lean proteins (including low-fat dairy or non-dairy sources of calcium). These tips, and many others, can be used to assist us in purchasing foods that will work in favor of our health rather than those that work against it.
Another idea is to use the small basket section of the cart for items that we should limit or restrict in our meal plans– foods like sweets, salty or savory snacks, highly processed foods or foods that are high in saturated fat. By doing this, we can be reminded that our purchase of these types of foods needs to be limited. In contrast, the main or large basket should be used for the foods we should be eating the majority of the time–foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
As you begin your shopping and proceed through the store, you will notice that certain decisions will need to be made. If your small basket is quickly filling up, you’ll have to opt for the whole wheat pasta rather than the refined pasta or the fresh chicken breasts in place of the hot dogs. Such decisions can assist you in eating well-balanced and healthy meals.
So the next time you go to the grocery store, give this a try and let your shopping cart work for you!