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June 11, 2013

Aisle Epiphanies: 5 Keys to Smarter Grocery Shopping

As a registered dietitian, it is easy to counsel our clients on healthy eating, but the challenge is encouraging them to apply the nutrition information we give them. To help with this challenge, we recently hosted a Grocery Store Tour at a local grocery store in Columbia Heights. We all know that eating more fruits and vegetables is beneficial, but how do we get produce from the shelves to our baskets? Armed with measuring cups and label reading tips, we hit the grocery store shelves, aisle-by-aisle, working to demystify the shopping experience. We learned, we laughed and we shopped. In the end, we made smarter, budget-friendly choices, and so can you! Here are 5 tips for becoming a savvy shopper:

1. LBL (Live By the List). Make a grocery list and stick to it. Shopping without a list leaves you susceptible to impulse buying. I like a good deal just like anyone else, so leave a little wiggle room for produce or meat that may be on sale. Scanning the sales paper as soon as you hit the store can help, too.

2. Eat in season. Do you like honeydew, strawberries, or radishes? If so, summer is their time to shine! Buying produce in season is the best way to get fresh, ripe produce for a low price. Buying in bulk and freezing what you do not use is a great way to keep fruit that doesn’t stay in season long.

3. Don’t be fooled by flair. Dazzling labels touting health claims may not be worth the extra cost. If an item is “reduced sodium”, it has 25% less salt than the original, but can still contain a lot of salt. Instead opt for “no salt added” items. When it comes to fiber, “12-grain”, “multigrain” and breads sprinkled with seeds can be deceiving. Look for items that have 3 grams of dietary fiber or more per serving. Want a high fiber bread or cereal? Look for 5 grams or more.

4. Buy long-lasting produce. Broccoli, bell peppers, cauliflower, apples, onions, oranges, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and carrots last longer than bag salads. Instead of tossing a half-eaten bag of wilted lettuce away, keep these fruits and vegetables around to make other side dishes like fresh coleslaw or fruit salad.

5. When in doubt, check the unit price out. Not sure if you’re really getting a deal? Look at the unit price on the shelf. This tells you how much an item costs per serving. For comparable products of the same size, use the unit price to make sure you get what you need while staying within your budget.

Next month, a few clients and I are headed to a farmer’s market. I wonder what fun things we will find there! Stay tuned for more tips on shopping savvy, no matter the setting!

Brandy Love, RD, LDN is a Community Dietitian at Food & Friends. She received a Bachelor of Science in Food Science & Human Nutrition at the University of Hawaii and completed her dietetic training through the Mayo School of Health Sciences. In addition to counseling clients, Brandy teaches CHEW (Cooking Healthy to Eat & Win), a 2-hour cooking class for Food & Friends clients. 

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