Smart Grocery Shopping

Stores are specially designed so you shop for more than you need and especially what you don’t need (cheaper but highly profitable items), so you’ll see most of those items at hand reach or very accessible or they’ll tempt you by offering samples or sales. Temptation is everywhere so… sticking to your essential list is imperative for anyone with a goal in mind. 

Make a list of the foods you’ll need to cook for your planned recipes or that you can put together in a pinch when coming home. Making sure that foods that nurture our bodies, give us the energy we need to thrive, and solve our daily nutrition needs are there on the list. Then we can add snacks and other foods depending on our goals, lifestyle, and needs. 

One trip to the store should consist of the basics that can be kept in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry (making sure we have a well-stocked pantry with all our basics can save us from calling delivery instead). 

A second trip is usually required for fresh items that need to be restocked such as produce, fresh vegetables, leafy greens, some fruits, etc. 

Stick to your list, don’t add extras because they are on sale or in case you may need them or because you like them, don’t shop while hungry, and if you must, make part of the list of what you’ll pick to take the edge while driving home, don’t open anything, get to the one or two specific items you pick for that (apple and tea; liquid yogurt and a banana; a one serving package of something with good macronutrient profile; etc.)

Shop from the whole foods section (ingredients only) and skip the prepared meals or frozen meals section; lean meats, frozen meats, fish, turkey, alternative protein sources, eggs, canned vegetables, spices, frozen and fresh vegetables, and fruits, rice, potatoes, etc. 

Build a foundation of foods you’ll keep in the house consistently and learn to use those foods that will make for a balanced meal (protein, carbs, and a little fat) as well as pre-portion snacks to grab on the go when needed that won’t change the outcome of your plan and goal. Think about making it as simple and as ready as possible. The least you have to think about it, the easiest this process will be and the more likely it is to be successful. But we want to fill our pantries with ingredients we can combine ourselves, not ready-made foods. 

Foundation ingredients

Lean Protein (poultry, beef, fish, pork) Alternatives (tofu,  soybeans, edamame, seitan, quinoa) ALL the lean proteins! Fresh and frozen. 

Vegetables (Spinach, leafy greens, celery, cabbage, peppers, sprouts, cucumbers, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, spaghetti squash, mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, etc). Bagged spinach and greens are a lifesaver!

Starches (potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, Rice, grains, quinoa, corn, beets, canned or frozen) ALL the vegetables! Fresh and frozen. 

Fruits (apples, berries (all of them fresh or frozen), oranges, bananas, cantaloupe, melons, watermelon, grapefruit, peaches, mangos, etc. ALL the fruits! Fresh and frozen. 

Dairy or Alternatives (milk, nut milk), plain fat-free Greek yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese). Not all the dairy, we are mostly looking for high protein-low fat.

Dry and pantry staples (coffee, teas, calorie-free water flavors or enhancers, 100% cacao baking powder, oatmeal (plain quick oats, not the flavored sugary kind), rice cakes, tuna, fish packets, tomato sauce, marinara, high fiber/low sugar cereals, lentils, beans, rice, quinoa, whole grains, high fiber tortillas, high fiber flatbread or wraps, spices, stock cubes, sriracha, canned (fruits, vegetables of choice in water or juice), sweeteners, oil spray, vinegar, balsamic, ranch powder packets, taco seasoning, ketchup, light or calorie-free syrups.

Fats (olive oil, light mayo, smart balance or low-calorie cooking spread, avocados, small parmesan cheese if needed, other cheeses mostly for cooking if needed (replace with Greek yogurt when possible), part-skim mozzarella (freeze it), hummus, make dressings with greek yogurt and ranch packet or other flavorings. 

Emergency ingredients

Canned fish, deli turkey or lean meats, rotisserie chicken, smoked salmon, pre-cooked chicken

or beef, hard or soft boiled eggs, frozen veggies, canned veggies (beans, corn, beets, tomatoes, 

etc.), tuna/salmon flavored pouches, high protein pancake/waffle mix, whey protein powders,

low sugar/high protein bars, low calories bottled coffee or drinks, sugar-free jello. Nuts and nut 

butter only if you can moderate around them or pre-portion them. If you buy them, buy small 

packages and plain options. 

Tricks and strategies to simplify things:

Make your environment goal friendly; pre-cook lean proteins (when you cook or bake other meals, toss in another pan with chicken breast or other lean meats, keep them in the refrigerator or freezer readily available to make a wrap or grab on the go. Keep hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator, have tuna/salon pouches in visible areas, and be ready to grab and go (wraps with spinach can be done in a minute and taken for a quick lunch or on the go). Place protein-ready and easy-to-grab vegetables on the front of the refrigerator so you can see them first, have Greek yogurt handy, and add plain Greek yogurt to the little flavored cups to have more protein. 

Keep a bowl with fruit in a visible area on the kitchen counter, store other foods, freeze leftovers or pre-portion tempting foods and store them away from view or easy reach, freeze and wrap in aluminum foil those triggered foods that if you see them you have to have them even if not hungry, that way you won’t see them and they won’t look tempting. You can still reach out to them when you want them but you won’t be tempted each time you see them.

Coffee creamer: Pre-mix a scoop of good-tasting vanilla or chocolate powder, keep it in the refrigerator and use it as a creamer for a smooth and tasty coffee treat. 

Pasta cheese sauce: Smart balance, Greek yogurt, salt & pepper to taste, parmesan cheese. 

Sweet spread: Greek yogurt, protein powder, sugar-free jello of choice, spread over rice cakes. 

Salty spread, dip, or dressing: Greek yogurt, ranch packet, balsamic vinegar for dressing consistency. If we can afford the fats and extra calories of Greek yogurt and blue cheese.

Overnight oatmeal jars: Layer quick oats, protein powder, frozen fruits (berries), and Greek yogurt, repeat until full, and add kefir or a little water if it is too dry at the top. 

Replace some pasta with mushrooms in the same sauce.

Add Greek yogurt to your lean tomato sauce for a creamy delicious protein-packed sauce. 

Use protein powder as a sweetener for oatmeal, fruit, frozen fruits, smoothies, etc. 

 Weigh oils or dressings added to salads and while cooking. 

Weigh nuts and nut butter, pre-portion if needed. 

Beware of too many choices or tempting varieties. 

If you aren’t used to cooking yourself, this may sound overwhelming, so it’s OK to start small, so if you are used to eating out or take-out daily, start by replacing one or two meals with home-cooked or home-tossed together, add more as you get the hang of it. I can assure you that once you have the ingredients at home, it’s easier to toss something in a pinch than to order something out. You can pick your ingredients according to your needs and learn how to season to your taste, you can balance the buying with what you know you need and keep your home stocked up with those nutritious basic ingredients. Yes, I want you to see ingredients everywhere and learn to get creative with food combos rather than asking for help on what to eat at your local fast food place. Ingredients are fantastic to combine for a quick lunch, a home-packed lunch, a quick breakfast, an overnight breakfast, a timed dinner or a quickly tossed one. 

This doesn’t mean that other food choices can’t be made, these are basics, and take-out and eating out can still be included, but when you have a goal in mind, those are going to be considered treats. 

Excellent article from Jamie Hale (Researcher, professor, and friend)

So Many Food Choices:

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