Creating a healthy kitchen starts with learning how to shop at the grocery store. Believe or not, there are “rules” to follow when you go shopping. These will keep you from purchasing unhealthy items that will undermine your eating and drinking habits. Following these rules will ensure that you have exactly what you need, how much you need, and avoid having to throw anything away because it has spoiled (this will save you money too!)
#1 – Don’t Shop on An Empty Stomach – Eat a high protein and fat snack (protein and fat are the ONLY nutrients that satisfy hunger) prior to walking in (i.e. apple and cheese stick, banana and almond butter).
#2 – Prepare a Shopping List and Only Purchase What is On Your List – If you have to purchase something this isn’t on your list but a necessary ingredient to a recipe, meal or snack, then add the item to your shopping list for future reference. The key is to create and maintain a consistent shopping list (you will notice that you eat 18-25 of the same items every week) to carry with you to your farmers market or grocery store every time you go shopping. [NOTE: Your energy levels and performance results will help you determine if you should keep an item on your weekly shopping list. If your energy is high and your performance results are good, you know your food items are working and vice versa.]
#3 – Shop the Perimeter of the Store – Shopping the perimeter of your grocery store is where you will find fresh/raw food items. With the exception of small ingredients (salt, pepper, olive oil, etc.), there is nothing in the center of the store that you need to be eating. This is NOT to be confused regarding the dairy case – especially the organic items. Dairy items can be a good source of protein, calcium, etc. for those that are not lactose intolerant.
#4 – Eat Only What You Can Pronounce – If you can’t pronounce it, don’t purchase–much less eat it! You should be able to pronounce each ingredient in the product (the Paelo Bar is a perfect example of a convenient, real food snack bar). If you can’t pronounce the ingredient Trimethylxanthine, it is safe to assume that it isn’t good for you to consume!
#5 – Avoid Items in a Can, Box or Wrapper – Most packaged items are also processed items as evident from the many ingredients you can’t pronounce in Rule #4. As stated in Rule #3, stick to fresh vegetables, fruits and lean proteins.
#6 – Shop 2 to 3 Times a Week – Shopping two to three times per week will ensure that you have ripe, high quality fruits, vegetables and lean sources of protein readily available. Ideally, set your personal schedule to permit you visiting the store on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Shopping on Sunday allows you the opportunity to go home and prep, pack and store your food items for Monday – Wednesday. Wednesday allows you to purchase, prep and store for Thursday and Friday. Friday provides you the opportunity to purchase, prep and store what you will need for an active Saturday and Sunday. As we will discuss later, it is the lack of availability that keeps individuals from eating properly verses the lack of desire. If it isn’t available, you are forced to lean on convenience and you find yourself eating out of a drive through window or out of a package.
#7 – Increase Your Whole Grain Intake by Avoiding “White” – Avoid items made from white flour such as bread, pasta and rice. These items have been stripped of their nutrients. When eating white bread or others products made from white flour, you are losing out on the fiber, B vitamins and E vitamins. Instead, purchase dark grains such as bran, rye or multi-grains which contain many more vitamins and minerals.
#8 – Purchase Seasonings & Spices to Make Your Dishes Taste Better – A little seasoning can go a long way and make a dish go from meh to wow! When possible, buy fresh seasonings such as garlic, basil and cilantro, rather than dried and packaged seasonings. Other good seasonings to keep on hand include sea salt, black pepper, oregano paprika, and cayenne.
A few additional rules for the kitchen:
#9 – Keep Fruits & Vegetables Visible – Keep your fresh fruits and vegetables on the top shelf of the refrigerator, or on a shelf that is eye level. This way you can always see them and keep them top of mind.
#10 – Organize Your Freezer with Portioned Proteins – Purchase your proteins in larger quantities to save money and portion them off to freeze for future meals. Be sure to tightly wrap them to prevent freezer burn and allow space in the freezer to help the air circulate and keep an ideal temperature.