2 Simple Keys to Healthy Grocery Shopping

I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of healthy shopping advise before, like, make sure you go to the store with a list, don’t shop when you’re hungry, blah, blah, blah…

All good advise, to be sure, but if you want to see real change in your health, here are some additional keys to shopping to keep in mind.

The #1 most important thing to do is choose REAL food. If you make this your priority it will make most of your shopping easy. On a side note, I believe buying organic whenever you can is best but I also know that can be tough. It’s expensive and sometimes hard to find. Do what you can and make the best choices for your family.

fruit

Fruity Deliciousness

 

  1. The produce section should be your first stop. Look for seasonal fruits and veggies and refer to the USDA’s Dirty Dozen list for produce that should be bought organically if possible. You can’t go wrong with fresh fruits and vegetables so load that cart! Pre-cut and packaged produce is super convenient just make sure its fresh and nothing else was added.
  2. In the meat department, choose lean cuts of meat and seafood. Beware of convenience packs of things like pre-made burgers and other meats pre-seasoned or marinated and meats injected with added fluids. Just check labels so you know what you’re getting. When choosing meals, remember that a small amount of meat goes a long way and meats don’t have to be the center of the meal!
  3. When buying grains like oatmeal and rice, look for whole grains with minimal or no processing and avoid packages with added spices or seasonings. You can always add your own. For example, individual serving packs of oatmeal are convenient but are usually loaded with sugar and other additives. Make your own with whole grain oats, a dash of cinnamon and some dried fruit or nuts. It takes about 10 minutes to make a weeks worth of breakfast packets. In the morning, combine the packet contents with water and microwave for a quick, healthy breakfast.
  4. Nuts and seeds are great non-meat sources of protein. Look for raw or lightly roasted sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, almonds and walnuts, to name a few! Avoid mixes with candy or other sweetened items in them and salted nuts and seeds. There are lots of options and grocery stores are carrying more and more varieties so experiment, mix some together and find what you like. Nuts and seeds are also great as a salad topper.
  5. In the dairy department, read labels and buy organic if possible. Look for natural cheeses. Not cheese-flavored products! Buy yogurts with whole fruit and no added sugar. Better yet, buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit since you’ve already been to the produce section! Honey is also a great, more natural sweetener.

The #2 most important thing to do is read ingredient lists. If you are buying packaged food, ignore the front of the box and never assume you know whats in it. Calories, fat and sodium content are important things to consider but if you opt for products with short, pronounceable ingredient lists, you’re probably doing ok! I realize this isn’t true 100% of the time but chances are, the less processed the food, the better it is for you.

Need dinner tonight?…

If you’re running short on time and you need to put something on the table quick, a fresh roasted chicken from the meat or deli department and a tossed salad are about as easy as you can get.

Ditch Your Store-Bought Sports Drink

Do you drink a commercial sports drink after a workout? There are quite a few on the grocery store shelves in too many flavors and colors to count. They certainly serve their purpose and there is plenty of research to indicate their usefulness in replenishing your body after a tough, sweaty workout.

Research also says that sports drinks are useful for workouts that last longer than an hour. You generally don’t need anything more than plain water for shorter workouts.

I prefer to avoid the added sugar and artificial flavors and colors of commercial drinks even when I do need more than just water.

Enter…the homemade sports drink!

You’re probably thinking “It’s just easier to buy them.” “I don’t have time to mix drinks.” I have a super simple recipe below that only has 3 ingredients and you probably already have 2 of them in your kitchen.

The benefits to making your own sports drink:

  • Usually, it’s cheaper. Ok, sometimes you can hit great sales at grocery or big box stores but in the long run, I have found it cheaper to make my own.
  • General health reasons. I personally try to avoid chemicals, added sugar and processed foods in general. Even though sports drinks are associated with exercise and health, they are still highly processed. By making your own you can avoid unwanted ingredients and allergens.
  • Reliability. By making your own drink, you can tweak it to your exact preferences/needs and know what your getting every time.
  • Less wasteful. You can mix when and how much you need in your own containers and not have to worry about the added waste of plastic bottles or the concern of questionable chemicals in the plastic.

 

So, to create my own drink, I wanted simple, common ingredients that didn’t need a lot of prep. I did an hour or so of research and created a recipe using watermelon, plain water or coconut water and a little salt. I told you it was simple!

A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that watermelon juice helped reduce recovery heart rate and muscle soreness after 24 hours. A naturally occurring chemical in watermelon accelerates lactic acid removal. This means you can recover faster and perform better.

Plain water is always a good choice and I don’t think that needs anymore explaining!

Coconut water is the clear liquid from young, green coconuts and contains easily digested carbs and electrolytes. It has less sodium and calories and more potassium than most commercial sports drinks. Various studies have shown that coconut water helps hydrate just as well as plain water or sports drinks. Make sure, when buying that you get plain coconut water. It will defeat the point of making your own drink if you purchase products with added sugar or juice.

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Watermelon Sports Drink: 3 Easy ingredients…water, salt and watermelon

The Super Simple Recipe…

1 c. cubed, seeded watermelon
1/2 c. plain water
1/2 c. coconut water
pinch of sea salt

Blend all ingredients and enjoy!

A couple of notes about the recipe:

* cubed watermelon can be frozen for those times of year when it’s not readily available (I have not personally had good success with this but I’ve heard other people have!)
* you can adjust the ratio of plain water and coconut water to your own taste. Some people don’t like the taste of coconut water or can’t easily find it at the store.
* I add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice sometimes to cut some of the sweetness of ripe watermelon

If you have your own homemade concoctions, please share in the comments!