Heart-Healthy Grocery Shopping Tips
How to make smart choices at the grocery store
- Before you head to the grocery store, take some time for planning. First, make a list of meal ideas for the week, keeping in mind which days you will have time to cook from scratch and which days you will be pressed for time to put dinner on the table.
- Use the nutrition labels to compare the nutrients and ingredients in similar products. Choosing items with 3 grams of fat or less per serving will help keep your diet heart-healthy.
- Try adding more beans, peas and lentils to your diet. There are many varieties, both dry and canned, available in the supermarket. Beans such as pinto, black and kidney are low in fat and rich in fiber, folate and protein. If you need to watch your sodium, it's a good idea to rinse them to get rid of some of the extra salt. Try adding them to soups and salads, or puree and season them for a healthy dip.
- If you find it too time-consuming to clean and chop vegetables, consider purchasing some items already cleaned and cut up (from the produce aisle or salad bar). Combined with precut meat or poultry strips, a stir-fry becomes a fast, easy-to-prepare dinner. Veggies are a great filler, and unless they're starchy, they can be great to fill up on, too.
- The U.S. Dietary Guidelines encourages us to eat 3 servings of whole grains daily. A bread that is brown or labeled as 7-grain or multi-grain isn't necessarily made form whole wheat. Look for bread labels that list 100% whole wheat as the first ingredient. Other whole grains to try are brown rice, bulgur, oats, corn (hominy), whole rye and barley. One cup of cooked barley packs about 6 grams of fiber. This fat-free grain contains complex carbohydrates, B vitamin and protein. It makes a great addition to soups, casseroles, salads and chili.
- Shop from a list. This will help you avoid impulse buying.
- Focus on the store's perimeter, where the food is most healthy. Begin your trip with the produce department, then work your way around. The less time spent in the inner aisles, the better.
- Don't be tempted by the end displays. These are usually impulse foods, highly targeted and usually highly processed, no-so-nutritional foods.
- Shop with a full stomach. If you're hungry, the temptation to buy more is there.
- Avoid the "P" foods—as in prepared, presliced and precooked. You pay a lot for that extra service, and often prepared foods are over-salted, over-sugared and over-processed.
- Think lean, and choose cuts of meat with the words "round" or "loin." For example, ground round and pork tenderloin are leaner cuts.
- Reduced-fat dairy products are great nutritional investments that taste good. You can hardly tell the difference in a dip made with reduced-fat sour cream or a cheesecake made with light cream cheese. Save lots of fat and calories with reduced-fat cheeses sprinkled onto steamed veggies or even a veggie pizza.
- Experiment with reduced-fat margarines. They make a great spread for garlic toast and are equally great for making a lower fat graham cracker crust. You won't miss the butter!
- Learn more about herbs, spices, flavored vinegars and even oils. You will be surprised at the intense flavor they give to foods. For example, a simple mixture of freshly minced gingerroot, garlic and reduced-sodium soy sauce makes a wonderful fat-free marinade for grilled meat.
- Ready-to-eat, low-fat low-sugar cereals provide extra crunch and flavor when used as toppings on fruit, yogurt or baked vegetables.
- Try a no-calorie butter spray found in the diary section of your grocery store. Use it on corn on the cob in place of butter or spray it on vegetables, chicken or fish fillets to help seasonings adhere to the food.
- Try evaporated fat-free milk in place of whole milk or cream in sauces, soups and baked goods.