Shop Right for Weight Loss Success
Losing weight the heart-healthy way starts with buying the right food
Don't let your weight loss efforts get derailed at the grocery store. You'll give your healthy eating efforts a boost by shopping strategically and knowing what to buy. Planning your meals for the week will help. To do that, you'll need to know what foods you already have on hand and what you need to buy.
Write a list and make it as complete as you can. “Knowing what foods you want to keep in your home is important, so shop with a list and stick to it,” says Kristie J. Lancaster, Ph.D., R.D., associate professor of nutrition at New York University in New York City. “Don't be tempted just because an item has a good sale price.”Sandra Dunbar, R.N., the Charles Howard Candler professor of nursing at Emory University in Atlanta thinks it's okay to go with the flow—up to a point—if you can avoid temptation. “Make a list but be flexible,” she says. “If you get to the store and find heart-healthy foods on sale that you like, buy them. Those are the foods you want to fill your pantry with.”
Also, allow enough time at the store so you can read labels without feeling rushed into making poor food choices. “Reading labels is important but time-consuming until you get used to doing it,” says Dunbar. “Expect shopping to take longer the first few times. I have patients who tell me it took two hours to get through the store at first but they learned quickly.”
SAVE MONEY SENSIBLY
Unfortunately, many coupons are for unhealthy processed foods best avoided by people who want to lose weight and eat healthy. But there are exceptions. “You don't have to give up on coupons entirely,” Dunbar says. “Just be selective about which ones you use. Saving a little bit of money is not worth the effects of unhealthy food.” Here are four items for which coupons are often available:
* Whole grain pasta: Since these varieties can be more expensive than traditional pastas, manufacturers often issue coupons to tempt buyers.
* Jarred pasta sauces: “Just add frozen vegetables to jarred sauce and serve over whole-wheat pasta—that's a quick, healthy meal if you choose a low-sodium sauce with no added sugars,” Lancaster says.
* Non- or low-fat yogurt: Presweetened varieties contain lots of sugar, so you're better off buying unsweetened, then adding your own fresh fruit to taste.
* Seasoned frozen vegetables or meals in a bag: These can be huge timesavers, but compare the sodium levels of different brands before buying, even when you have a coupon.
As an added bonus, many grocery chains now give out coupons to their frequent shoppers for the good stuff: fresh fruits and vegetables. Those coupons are always worth using!
Coupons aren't the only money-savers out there. Take time to flip through store advertisements, since stores might run sales on healthy items that don't have a manufacturer's coupon. According to Lancaster, some good examples include produce, lean meat, fish, poultry and orange juice.
It's harder to resist unhealthy foods when all you can think about is your next meal, so avoid shopping when hungry.
Select most of your food from the store's perimeter. Nearly all stores stock their fresh produce, meat and fish along their outer walls, helping you to avoid the more processed foods on many aisles. But what else can you do to keep on track—and avoid busting the budget—once you get to the store?
* Buy fruits and veggies in season—or if you're concerned about waste, go frozen. “We always talk about the benefits of fresh produce but waste can be an issue if you buy too much,” Lancaster says. “Frozen vegetables are also extremely healthy as long as they have no added salt. Boil or steam them, or add them to homemade soup or an omelet.”
* Experiment with store brands. “Store brands have come a long way in terms of taste and quality,” Lancaster says. “There are some product categories like pasta and oatmeal where you really can't taste the difference compared to name brands.”
Finally, the American Heart Association can help you make smarter choices when grocery shopping. Look for products with the Heart-Check mark throughout the grocery store. Not all red heart logos are from the American Heart Association, so look for the AHA name to be sure. You may also visit heartcheckmark.org for more information and a list of certified foods.