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  • Haley Schlechter, RD, LDN

Filling Your Cart

Asking me to go to the grocery story is like asking a puppy if he wants to go on a walk. It is one of my favorite parts of the week. Unfortunately, similar to a puppy given an option of 10 different squeaky toys, I am easily overwhelmed with an aisle entirely devoted to bread. Do I want 16% whole grain? Oatmeal bread? Rye? What’s sprout bread? Is this even on my list, which I forgot on the counter for the thousandth time. These are all things that even I sometimes still struggle with. Regardless of what your nutrition goals are, everyone can benefit from some helpful grocery store shopping tips and tricks! Here are my top 5:

1. Shop the Perimeter:

A lot of people already know this one, but it is worth the reminder and is very functional. The perimeter of the store has the majority of the healthiest choices. It is where you will find your produce, fresh meats, dairy and eggs. These are largely the foods that I promote to incorporate into your daily diet.

2. Avoid Decision Fatigue (aka make a list):

There is this super fascinating thing called decision fatigue and it is the reason why candy companies put their products front and center at checkout. By the time you get to checkout, you have made a ton of decisions. On average grocery stores stock over 40,000 different items to choose from. It is overwhelming for your brain. So, by the time you push your cart into one of the 10 massively packed lanes, your brain is ready for a break, it’s fatigued; decision fatigued. Decision fatigue is directly associated with will-power and, as you make more decisions at the grocery story, you become more fatigued and your willpower to avoid delicious caramel and nougat decrease with it. Willpower is finite, like a muscle that gets tired when you use it too much. BUT like a muscle, willpower can be strengthened when it is exercised. The solution: Decide what recipes you want to make for the week before you get to the store, write a list and bring that list with you. If you are like me and forget your list… constantly, put it in your phone. This will decrease the amount of in-store decisions you have to make, which will sustain your willpower during your grocery trip.*

*Note: I am all for enjoying “junk” food, in moderation. I just want you to be aware of the marketing tricks companies are using on you and inform you how to avoid potentially unwanted purchases.

3. Do Not Go to the Grocery Store Hungry:

I repeat, do not go to the grocery store hungry. Going right after a meal or snack will help you stick to your list and keep your willpower up!

4. Choose the Least Processed Items:

Photo By: James Kennedy

It is no surprise that processed foods, generally, are not your best pick. Try to pick the items that are the least processed, which can be found on the perimeter of the store. Avoiding artificially flavored foods is a solid rule to follow overall as well. I do NOT like the rule that people should only choose items where they can say, know or understand the ingredients’ lists. Thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid are not easily recognizable to most people BUT are all B vita-mins (B1, B2, B3, B5 respectively) and contribute to overall health.

5. Canned, Fresh or Frozen?:

I generally stick to fresh or frozen for my produce and meat/poultry. Frozen produce is just as good as fresh, although sometimes doesn’t taste as good. I buy a lot of my bulk produce (broccoli and berries) frozen to avoid waste and save some money too. I will sometimes get my beans and legumes canned if I am in a pinch but avoid canned foods when possible as there is generally more additives and unnecessary salt. Conclusion: Grocery stores can be an incredibly overwhelming place, but you do not need to feel like a Labrador in the toy aisle at Petco. If you can follow these simple rules, you can increase the amount of healthy choices you make while decreasing unwanted, marketing based, purchases. Make a list, grab a snack and head to the grocery store! When you get there shop the perimeter first and fill your cart with whole foods whenever possible (fresh or frozen). Enjoy the adventure that is grocery shopping!

Grow Strong my Friends!

Have Questions? Ask!

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