10 Ways to Shop for Healthy Food Choices at the Grocery Store
Healthy eating begins with stocking up on healthy ingredients. These healthy ingredients are building blocks and without a solid foundation, it’s tough to maintain a healthy diet. If your refrigerator and pantry are filled with healthy choices, it will be easier to choose the carrot sticks over the potato chips when you’re craving a crunchy snack. Here are the National Kidney Foundation’s Top 10 Ways to Shop for Healthy Food Choices at the Grocery Store.
- Make a Grocery List and Stick to it. Plan ahead by selecting recipes for healthy dinners and making a grocery list that includes the ingredients needed to make those meals, as well as some pre-determined healthy snacks, breakfast items and produce. This way you’ll be focused on buying what’s on your list once you arrive at the store and avoid unhealthy impulse purchases as well as multiple trips to the supermarket for forgotten ingredients. Resolving to stick to only purchasing the items on your list will benefit both your health and your pocketbook.
- Shop the Perimeter of the Store. This is where you will find most of the fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as the refrigerated section where you can find dairy products such as milk, cheese, and eggs. By buying fresh products and making meals from scratch, you’ll know exactly what you’re putting in your body. For some new recipe ideas and meal suggestions, check out the Kidney Kitchen.
- Eat Before you Shop. Heading to the store on an empty stomach can be a recipe for disaster. When you’re hungry, it’s hard to stay focused on purchasing healthy items because everything in sight looks tempting. Eating ahead of time can help you to be less prone to make unhealthy food choices once you arrive.
- Stick with Bright Colors. Aim to create a rainbow on your plate and pay attention to the different colors found in fruits and vegetables so that you get a variety of nutrients. For example, orange carrots are high in beta-carotene and red peppers and red tomatoes are high in lycopene. Typically white-colored foods are lower in nutrients and more processed. For example, brown rice is a whole grain and is higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals compared with white rice which has undergone processing and in turn loses nutrients.
- Read the Product Packaging. In addition to reading the nutrition label to check for calories, serving sizes and nutrients (or lack thereof) in a product, make sure you know what the other terms on the food packages mean. For example, there are many types of fats and some are better for you than others. Beware of ingredients that are especially hard to pronounce, as these may be chemicals or preservatives.
- Don’t be Afraid of Frozen Fruits and Vegetables. If fresh fruits and vegetables are too expensive or out of season, check out the frozen food aisle for these items. When fruits and vegetables are frozen quickly after being harvested, they retain as many (and sometimes more!) nutrients than their fresh counterparts. Frozen fruits can be used to make delicious smoothies. Just be sure to check the nutrition label to ensure that they do not have added salt, sugar, or sauce. For example, choose plain chopped spinach rather than creamed spinach for a healthy frozen veggie choice.
- Choose Lean Animal Proteins. Lean proteins are lower in fat, but still satisfying and can typically be used in the same ways as higher fat cuts. Select white meat chicken or turkey, such as breast meat and remove the skin before eating. Purchase beef sirloin, rounds, or loins and choose extra-lean ground beef for your next chili recipe. Salmon is an example of a fish that is high in protein and healthy fats. Also, while consuming healthy proteins begins with making smart choices at the grocery store, once you get back home, watch your preparations. Proteins should be baked or grilled, and not breaded or fried.
- Buy Whole Grains. Whole grains contain proteins and carbohydrates and offer more nutrients than refined and processed grains. The category of whole grains encompasses many different types of foods and some examples include popcorn, quinoa, bulgur wheat, barley and brown rice. Additionally, breads and pastas can also be made with whole grains. For a healthy and filling snack that is high in fiber, make your own popcorn and don’t add salt or butter. Try to sprinkle on some salt-free seasonings or spices such as cinnamon to provide added flavor without added sodium.
- Avoid Frozen Meals. While quick and convenient, these pre-made meals are usually very high in salt which can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of kidney disease. It can also damage your other organs and lead to heart attacks or strokes, if not properly controlled.
- Limit Your Visits to the Candy Aisle. Candies are usually high in sugar and fat and add what are commonly referred to as “empty calories” to your diet. This means that they do not have much nutritional benefit. Also, it’s especially important that CKD and dialysis patients avoid chocolate products which are naturally high in phosphorus. Instead, if you have kidney disease and you’re craving something sweet, choose hard candies, fruit flavors or jelly beans which can satisfy your sweet tooth without damaging your kidneys, when eaten in moderation.
*If you have chronic kidney disease, diabetes or are on dialysis, you may need to limit certain foods in your diet, so it’s always important to check with your physician and renal dietitian to find out which foods are best for you.