We have never enjoyed more choices and varieties of products at the grocery store than we do today. Whether it's pre-cooked, fat free, organic, gluten free, or low calorie, it's there on the shelf, tucked inside the freezer, and stacked high and wide in the produce section. But with continually new offerings and specialization aplenty comes the need to be able to make sense of which foods are best for health, both as a fitness professional and as a client.
Unhealthy eating can lead to serious health issues. And while clients are not intentionally eating food that can do them harm, they may lack the info needed to choose what's healthy while also tasting good. When it comes to healthy grocery shopping there are a few key tips we should encourage clients to keep in mind before pushing that cart through the aisles.
Planning meals out for as much as a week makes sense in a lot of ways, including when looking to make healthy choices for a balanced diet. Each meal plan should include a lean protein as well as an appropriate mix of fruits, vegetables, and grains. Failure to do so can lead to a shortage of necessary nutrients and, in some cases, poor decisions. For example, grilled salmon, whole-grain rice, and fresh green beans make for a delicious and healthy option. Without proper planning the meal could end up being fried cod instead, of grilled salmon, and french fries—a missed opportunity for healthy grains and vegetables.
Plan snacks as well. Pick up fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis to use as a healthy snack option. When shopping for others in the household, check with them to see what kind of fruits or vegetables they would like you to bring home. That helps ensure that everyone is on board with the idea of eating healthy and food won't end up being tossed out when no one eats it. And don't make the mistake in thinking that drinking apple juice is always the same as eating an apple. Many fruit juices contain a high amount of sugar. Making those types of mistakes can be minimized by planning ahead.
Support your healthy grocery shopping by having something to eat before you go to the store. Impulse buying can add to the waistline and unnecessarily help thin the wallet. You are less likely to reach for a tempting item that's not on your grocery list if you aren't hungry and subconsciously thinking about tearing into something that tastes good. Another bit of advice: Keep those eyes straight ahead at the checkout line because candy bars and beef jerky are not "just rewards for a job well done" or to "take the edge off your hunger". Wait until you get home to make something healthy to eat.
Food loaded with preservatives to provide a long shelf life, such as packaged cookies, canned foods, frozen dinners, and fruit snacks, usually are high in calories and low in essential nutrients. While they offer a quick option for a meal or snack, they have a negative impact on your healthy eating.
Recommend to your clients the following choices:
Canned tuna can be a healthy choice, but opt for tuna packed in water rather than oil
Select canned fruit packed in natural juices and not syrup.
Choose breads, pastas, cereal, and rice made with whole grains
Bottom line: Make sure you read the list of ingredients before making a purchase.
Do not underestimate the lengths food companies will go to market their products. They are in the business to make money, of course, so when they identify a hot trend they won't hesitate to try to use it to their advantage. Healthy food doesn't always have a clear label, so know that:
Natural and organic products can still contain a lot of fat and calories
Low-fat items can be loaded with sugar
Light (or lite) is often used to catch the consumer's eye, but don't automatically equate to a healthy food
The best advice in this instance is to educate yourself and your clients so you can read the label to make sure that what you are buying meets your needs and expectations.
So, with a bit of meal planning, making a list, prioritizing your time at the store, and knowing the right lingo, you can make healthy grocery shopping a breeze. Plus, if you're looking to educate yourself more in the area of nutrition, ISSA offers a comprehensive course to become certified in nutrition. Support a healthy lifestyle for you and your clients with advanced nutrition information.