The top 5 ways for healthy supermarket shopping

Whether you love it or loathe it, we all have to do grocery shopping on a regular basis.

This simple chore is critical when making nutritious and healthy meals at home so we need to make sure we get it right. So to ensure you eat as healthy as possible, here are my top 5 tips when doing your weekly supermarket shop.

1. Make sure you are organised

Before I even go to the supermarket, I make a list of all the meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks) I plan on having for the week. I then check the pantry and fridge and work out what ingredients I will need and voila., my shopping list is ready to go!

Taking a list with you is the key to saving time AND money. You’ll focus on the ingredients you need and will use and you won’t have to keep going back to the shops to get the items you forgot therefore reducing the time you spend running around. And less time in the supermarket means less opportunity to be tempted to purchase things you don’t need!

2. Don’t go shopping when you are hungry, tired or cranky

Grocery shopping can be a challenge as it is, without doing it when you are tired or not in the best frame of mind. This often results in making unhealthy or impulse food choices that you will regret later on. Make sure you are well rested, have plenty of time and are in a positive frame of mind.

Never go shopping when you are hungry – you are more likely to buy junk food and blow your budget.

Think about shopping out of peak times too so you don’t feel so rushed and you make smarter choices. Or if you don’t want to face the crowds, consider ordering online and it home delivered or collect at your chosen time. You’ll avoid queues and save time.

3. Head to the fruit and veggie aisle first

As soon as you walk into the supermarket, make a beeline for the fruit and veggies section (usually in the outer aisles of a supermarket). Just remember we are supposed to be eating five servings of veggies a day – vegetables should take up at least a third or even a half of the real estate on your plate. Logically, this means that veggies (whether they be fresh or frozen) should take up at least a third of your grocery cart.

Stick to the edges of the store – this is where healthier produce tends to be stocked. Avoid the middle aisles – they tend to be full of soft drinks, junk food, chips, cakes and prepackaged items. Better yet don’t even go down the middle aisles to avoid the temptation of buying something you shouldn’t.

4. Be wary of the marketing messages

Just because it says “healthy,” “lite”, “low-fat,”etc doesn’t mean it is. This is straight out marketing and the laws in Australia regarding food packaging are still really quite loose.

Sometimes you have to do a bit of detective work to find out what ingredients are actually in prepackaged food. My advice is to bypass the front of the package and the marketing messages and rely on the nutrition facts panel and ingredients lists on the back – you may be shocked to read just what goes into that “lite” yoghurt or “natural” bread.

If an item has a lot of different versions or flavours (like yoghurt, cereals, pasta sauces, milk and so forth), try and stick to the original versions (most often plain-flavoured) as they are usually the most nutritious. When brands extend product lines, they often move into more decadent offerings that cost more and usually have a lower nutritional value.

5. Always read the labels on the back

The ingredient and nutrition labels on the back of an item never lie so it pays to read and understand just what the item contains.

When you find packaged food in the supermarket with a long list of ingredients on the label, just set it back on the shelf and look for a simpler version of the food. Many of those ingredients are various kinds of sugars and chemical additives to “enhance” the looks, taste, or shelf life — which is all about marketing and shipping and not at all about your health. So check the list of ingredients every time, the shorter the better.

If any of these ingredients are listed as the first three items, try to steer clear of them – sugar and all the variants, trans fats, additives, flavourings, artificial sweeteners, saturated fats and sodium. Instead look for items containing fibre, good fats (Omega 3, 6, 9), and protein.

Yes all the above may take a bit of time, but the end result will be more nutritious meals, a healthier you plus a bit of money saved by eating in more often.