Great nutrition begins with smart choices at the grocery store, which can be quite a challenge. Who really has time to read all of the food labels and figure out which item are the most nutritious and affordable?
Plan ahead for success. Before you set out for the grocery store, plan your meals for the week and create a list to shop from. It may take a few minutes but it will save time if you find yourself running back to the store for missing ingredients. Save money by using coupons, check the weekly grocery ads and incorporate sale foods into your meal planning.
While in the store, many health experts encourage shoppers to stay on the “outer ring” of the store, where you’ll find all the veggies, produce, meats, dairies and grain we all need to eat healthy. To help meet suggested guidelines, make sure you’re filling your cart with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, lean meat, fish, poultry, beans, and nuts.
One nutritionist has compiled a list of how to stay supermarket savvy while shopping for healthy ingredients;
1. Produce; spend the most time in the produce section, the first area you encounter in most grocery stores. Choose a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables. The colors reflect the different vitamin, mineral, and phytonutrient content of each fruit or vegetable.
2. Breads, cereals and pasta; choose the least processed foods that are made from whole grains. When choosing whole-grain cereals, aim for at least 4 grams of fiber per serving, and the less sugar, the better. Keep in mind that 1 level teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams and let this guide your selections. Avoid granolas, even the low-fat variety; they tend to have more fat and sugar than other cereals. When it comes to bread, pasta and grains choose whole-wheat bread and pastas, brown rice, grain mixes, quinoa, bulgur, and barley.
3. Meat, fish and poultry; The American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish a week. Salmon, for example, is widely available, affordable, not too fishy and a lot of people like it! Be sure to choose lean cuts of meat, like round, top sirloin, and tenderloin. Opt for skinless poultry, and watch your portion sizes.
4. Dairy; dairy foods are an excellent source of bone-building calcium and vitamin D. There are plenty of low-fat and nonfat options to help you get three servings a day, including drinkable and single-serve tube yogurts, and pre-portioned cheeses.
5. Canned and dried foods; keep a variety of canned vegetables, fruits, and beans on hand to toss into soups, salads, pasta, or rice dishes. Whenever possible, choose vegetables without added salt, and fruit packed in juice. Tuna packed in water, low-fat soups, nut butters, olive and canola oils, and assorted vinegars should be in every healthy pantry.
6. Frozen foods; frozen fruits and vegetables (without sauce) are a convenient way to help fill in the produce gap, especially in winter.
Affordable opportunities to eat healthy;
Eating healthy can be a challenge if families can’t afford to purchase health food options. The Tennessee Department of Health helps families who need some assistance buying health food. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a federally-funded program designed to provide supplemental food assistance and nutrition education to low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants, and children until age five. The program serves about 130,000 eligible participants each month. Participants must be a Tennessee resident, meet the gross income guidelines and be determined to be at nutritional or medical risk. Find out if you’re eligible here.
The WIC program recently moved from a paper-based method to an electronic EBT system. Instead of issuing paper food vouchers, WIC food benefits are now issued into an electronic benefit account. Families use their TNWIC card and PIN to purchase their WIC approved foods at WIC authorized grocery stores and select pharmacies. Learn more here!