Processed Food (11): Navigating the Grocery Store Part 2: Shopping

Processed Food (11): Navigating the Grocery Store Part 2: Shopping


When planning your weekly or daily grocery shopping, my first bit of advice is to eat before you go to the grocery store. You'll be more apt to make logical decisions rather than gut decisions if you don't have to battle hunger while you're shopping.

The second bit of advise is to always shop with a shopping list. And the third piece of advice is to stick to your list... easy, right?

1. Eat before shopping
2. Make a list -- be specific.
3. Stick to the list!

Shop the perimeter

To reduce your intake of processed food, buy whole fresh or frozen fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains. The perimeter of the store is the most common location for these items. 

While shopping the perimeter, have fun in the produce section. Remember to buy the most colorful fruits and vegetables as they have the highest nutrient values, and buy organic when you can, according to your criteria

Also, on the perimeter of the store, you'll find the deli, the meat, and the dairy/egg sections. I skip those, but I do stop in the bakery section to pick up whole grain bread. Be sure to check the ingredient label on the bread, however, as it may contain ingredients that don't meet your criteria. If I don't find a bread in the bakery, I buy Ezekiel bread in the frozen foods section. It is yummy and packed with whole grains.

Home baking

Cooking from scratch takes some preparation before shopping. You'll want to analyze your recipes. Your old recipes may not work with your new style of eating. However, there are many good cookbooks on the market with delicious recipes that will show you the ins and outs of combining ingredients. As far as baking goes, I suggest that you avoid packaged mixes and make things from scratch. That way you can be sure to use ingredients that meet your standards.

This goes for meals as well. Following recipes for a while will help you learn what goes together, and you'll be sure that the ingredients help you meet your goals.

Label review

As you are shopping for ingredients, read labels carefully and get in the habit of buying the least processed form of an ingredient that will work in your recipe. In addition to analyzing the nutrient label and the ingredients list on the back of the package, be cautious in believing the terminology food companies use to grab your attention and your trust. For example, all-natural is not a regulated term, so it means little. Another example is that just because something is labeled low-fat  doesn't mean that item is healthy. Usually when they lower the fat in a product, they increase the sugar to compensate.

Here are some other words that signal an item is worth closer scrutiny. Generally, when manufacturers take something out, they replace it with something that is equally detrimental to your health.... 

  • low-sodium
  • fat-free
  • natural flavors
  • sugar-free
  • gluten-free
  • dairy-free
  • fortified

Shopping tips

  1. Buy extra fruit. Think about substituting whole fruit for processed snacks. After a short while, it will become a habit.
  2. Avoid juices. They generally don't fill you up and they cause your sugar to spike.
  3. Avoid canned foods as much as possible. Think about cooking a pot of beans to last for a few days.
  4. Remember that ingredients are listed on a product by volume with the most prevalent at the beginning of the list.
  5. While shopping, don't make impulse purchases. Stick with your list.
  6. Don't buy products with ingredients you don't want to eat or don't recognize. In other words, don't settle.


I hope this series on navigating the grocery store has given you a good start. Enjoy the process.  And don't be discouraged if it seems hard at first.  It's worth it.


be kind - be the change

be the healthiest version of yourself



Oh Yum: Peach Granola Breakfast Toast!

Oh Yum: Peach Granola Breakfast Toast!

Processed food (10): Shopping List

Processed food (10): Shopping List