For many people, supermarket shopping is a mundane, mindless activity, much like showering, taking out the trash or washing dirty laundry.
That is part of the problem.
Shoppers often go to the grocery store without a plan. They graze up and down each aisle, tossing food and drinks at random into their shopping cart. The cashier rings up their purchases, and surprise, it’s much higher than anticipated. At home, they’ll realize they bought a lot of junk food, but nothing of substance that constitutes a healthy meal, so they’ll eat out. And then they’ll repeat the process week after week.
Nutrition is a very important component of functional medicine. While no two patients’ nutritional needs are the same, healthy food is the key ingredient in a healthy lifestyle and it all starts with advance planning for your grocery shopping! Now more than ever, we want you to be educated about how to shop quickly and eat healthy.
Below are five tips to make your next supermarket shopping trip a success:
Shop the sides
The center aisles of a grocery store are filled with pre-packaged and processed foods in bags, plastic containers, metal cans, cardboard boxes and glass jars. Although you may need to hit a few of those interior aisles, the majority of your supermarket shopping time should be spent along the periphery. That’s where you’ll find the produce section, as well as meat and seafood departments.
After completing a nutritional analysis, doctors of functional medicine often recommend dietary and lifestyle changes. If you’re practicing a Keto diet or Mediterranean plant-focused diet, below are some of the top items to place in your grocery basket while shopping the periphery:
- Fresh vegetables: artichokes, beets, cilantro, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, onions, ginger, mushrooms and other leafy greens.
- Fresh fruits: blueberries, cherries, grapefruit, pears, strawberries and lemons. Consume fruits that rank low on the glycemic index scale.
- Meat: Chicken and turkey (either ground or whole boneless, skinless breasts), as well as lean cuts of beef.
- Seafood: Wild or sustainably farmed fish, including salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel that are high in brain-boosting omega-3s.
READ MORE: 4 quick tips to reset your stomach and recharge your brain
Shop with a list
School cafeterias have distributed monthly menus for generations. This helps parents know whether their children will be buying or bringing their meals based on the entrée choices. However, the main purpose of a menu is for planning. If they’re serving grilled chicken sandwiches, for example, schools aren’t going to stock refrigerators with hamburger meat.
The same principles apply to households. Purchase a dry erase board to plan every meal for the week – breakfast, lunch and dinner. List the entrée and side dishes. Assess your inventory at home, and then add all items to your list based solely on your weekly meal plan.
READ MORE: Packing a school lunch that boosts brain performance
Whether your favorite store is Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Publix, Aldi or another location, identify where organic products are offered in the store, especially when it comes to produce. We recommend using the Environmental Working Groups “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists to inform
you on which vegetables are the most and least likely to contain pesticide residue. Those on the “Clean 15”
list may be purchased from non-organic sources, whereas those on the “Dirty Dozen” list should ideally be
purchased from organic sources. Always be sure to wash your produce well regardless of the source.
READ MORE: Top foods to fuel your brain health
Shop once a week
Pick one day and a time that works best in your schedule, and make that your weekly shopping appointment. It could be in the morning before work, after dinner or on the weekend. Setting a time is easier if you already drafted a meal plan and shopping list. Shopping only once per week helps ensure you aren’t overbuying.
Also, shop after you eat. Impulse hunger buys often aren’t healthy foods and will inflate your total at the cash register… and scale.
READ MORE: 3 reasons to avoid processed sugar and what to eat instead
Shop on a mission
Supermarkets are full of sales signs, product displays, background music, employees restocking and beeping at the cash register. Eliminate the distractions. You are there on a mission to buy the items on your shopping list, and nothing more. Once you become familiar with the supermarket’s floor plan, draft your shopping list in order of where items are located. This saves time since you only visit one section or aisle one time. Challenge yourself to see how quickly you can get in and out of the store. Twenty minutes sounds short, but it’s doable if you go in with a plan.
READ MORE: What is functional medicine?
Ready to start your grocery list or order? Start by reviewing the ingredients for some of our favorite healthy recipes:
*As always, consult with your physician prior to making any substantial lifestyle, health or nutritional changes. For questions, please contact our office at 239-649-7400 or submit an appointment request through our online form.