How to Navigate the Grocery Store

Before PA school, I used to volunteer with Cooking Matters. During one of the weeks, we would bring participants to grocery stores and talk about ways to navigate while searching for healthful options. This is something I incorporated into my group visit curriculum, so thought I’d dedicate a post to it!

  1. Start by planning first. Going in with a plan drastically saves time and money. I often advise checking coupons and weekly sales prior to planning your list. Incorporate sales items into weekly meal prep can add up to significant savings!
  2. Shop the perimeter. This typically has the most nutrient dense items, ie produce, eggs, dairy, meats. The middle aisle are where most of the snacky foods are.
  3. Aim to make your cart colorful! This often means shopping seasonally and adding lots of different variety to meals.
  4. Don’t forget about canned and frozen items! While I think fresh produce is often gazed upon as ‘healthiest,’ this is actually a misnomer. Canned and frozen items are usually packaged at peak ripeness. They are also sometimes cheaper! (hint: if you have to be mindful of sodium for health reasons, you can definitely just rinse off canned items that contain added sodium)
  5. If there are a ton of different options for one single item, remember to focus on label reading. Look at ingredients first – can you read/recognize all of them? Also check the order of the ingredients; those that are in highest abundance will appear first in the list. Then look at sugar, sodium, and trans fats before finally glancing at serving size and calories. Calories are simply a unit of energy. If there aren’t enough calories in something, you won’t feel full and satiated for very long!

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