TIPS FOR A HEALTHIER GROCERY SHOPPING
How many times have you been to the supermarket to grab something for dinner and you came back with a bag full of random items and junk food? Are you missing half of the ingredients to make anything decent?
Yes, I am guilty too.
So often in the past I went to the supermarket for my weekly shopping, bought a trolley full of goodies and came back home to realise that I could not make many meals out of it. Then I had to go out again in few days and buy more things. Such a waste of time and money, right?
Having experienced many trials and errors, let me tell you what it has been working well for me.
When going to the supermarket, you can follow these rules, to make better choices:
1-Do not go food shopping when hungry, otherwise you will end up potentially making poor choices.
2-Go with a list! Check what you have at home and what you need. Or else you could forget to buy important things that you have run out of.
3-Start your journey in the produce isle. In this way you can stock up on seasonals, fresh fruit and vegetables, which should be the bulk of your shopping.
4-Frozen and canned are good. It does not have to be all fresh, you can buy frozen fruit and vegetables (particularly if it’s something out of season), but also canned, although I recommend glass jars and tetra pack containers.
5-Read the labels, always. There is nothing wrong in buying pre-made products, however you should pay attention to the ingredients. Usually, these products have higher amounts of sugar and salt, in addition too many additives. Stick to products that have a short list of real ingredients, and by real, I mean ingredients that you recognise.
Now that we know the rules, let’s go into more details on what you can actually buy. Firstly, we must divide your food into categories in order to have ingredients for a balanced meal: fruit and vegetables, grains, proteins, fats.
Fruit and vegetables will give your body the fibre needed for elimination of toxins and to feed the good bacteria in your intestine (working as a prebiotic, AKA the food for good bacteria). They also contain an array of antioxidants that helps to fight free radicals in your body and phytochemicals. It is best to buy seasonal, for two main reasons: firstly, you will always have a different variety in your diet, and secondly you will spend less money. If you can afford it, buy organic to limit your consumption of pesticides, alternatively you can follow the clean fifteen and dirty dozen list to avoid the worst offenders. A staple in my diet, regardless of the season, are dark leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, rocket, bok choi, swiss chard, collard greens, dandelion greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, which contain an array of vitamins and minerals.
Grains/starchy veg unrefined whole grains that are closer to their natural state deliver greater benefits, so switching from white pasta to brown is a good step, but switching from brown pasta to a whole grain is even better. Grains deliver fibre, vitamins (especially B vitamins) and minerals.
Proteins are vital for cell function and integrity. There are different types of protein that you can choose from, like meat, fish, eggs, dairy, but I tend to rely more on the vegetable ones such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, lentils, chickpeas, spinach, asparagus, peas, beans and, to a certain extent, nuts. This form of proteins has the added benefits of containing fibre and phytonutrients. Animals are the most abundant sources of protein, however I advise to limit meat consumption, particularly the processed types. Fish is slightly different, as it contains omega 3 fatty acids that help brain and body functioning, and it can be consumed up to three times per week.
Fats have been stigmatised for years for the fear of heart disease and cholesterol. Finally, many studies have debunked this false myth and we can enjoy them as part of a healthy diet. But which ones are ok to eat? Olive oil has been a staple of the Mediterranean diet for centuries, avocados are both a source of fibre and omega 3; fish, nuts and seeds are all healthy fats.
As a rule of thumb, each meal should incorporate all categories, with half of your plate dominated by vegetables. These are general guidelines for a healthy meal template that you can customise based on your personal taste and the specific season. Let me give you an easy example: 1/2 plate stir fry vegetables, ¼ plate chickpeas in tomato sauce, ¼ quinoa, half avocado, and some kimchi on the side. During winter time, my half plate of vegetables is usually some form of soup or stew. During summer time, my half plate will be mostly salads, but I keep it interesting by swapping the type of leaves on a regular basis.
Remember that if you suffer from a heath condition, you should speak to a healthcare practitioner before changing your diet. Just because is healthy, does not mean that is a good fit for you.