Healthy eating starts at the market. Avoid these grocery shopping mistakes to ensure you get the best foods for your health and budget.
Shopping at eye level
A lot of research goes into product placement at the supermarket. The next time you visit, pay attention to the products at eye level. They are often prepared foods or meal kits and they are not always the healthiest option. Look high and low for less popular foods and generic brands with lower prices, which are often less processed. For example, regular dried beans are almost always on the bottom shelf.
Shopping when hungry
It takes self-discipline and commitment to resist the temptation to splurge when surrounded by unhealthy foods. Arriving at the supermarket hungry, makes it even harder to resist grabbing a quick, high-calorie snack. Avoid this scenario and shop right after a meal, or pack a healthy snack to eat on the way. If you must get something at the store, opt for a piece of fruit, a single serving bag of unsalted nuts, or a low-fat yogurt.
Not consulting the staff
Don’t settle for produce that isn’t at its peak. Ask members of the produce department if there is more available. If you know you will use it quickly and it hasn’t completely passed it’s prime, ask for a discount. At the meat counter, ask for the cuts with fat trimmed or smaller portions. Inquire about where the food came from, how it was raised, and when it was harvested. Fresher, more natural foods are often the most nutritious.
Rushing through the supermarket
Poor choices are often made when under pressure. While it is difficult to avoid a quick stop at the store for a last minute item, make food shopping a priority on your to-do list just like you do for your workout. Committing time to search for foods, reading labels, and asking questions will help you find the healthiest options. Sprinting down the aisle will only lead to impulse purchases that you may regret later.
Missing an opportunity to stock up
Fruits, vegetables, and lean meats freeze well for up to two to three months. When these foods are on sale, plan to buy extra to freeze and use throughout the coming weeks. Stock up on berries to add to smoothies and oatmeal. Freeze broccoli and cauliflower for soups and stews. Grab extra naturally-raised meats and sustainable fish when you find the best prices.
It’s frustrating when you find a great sale, but you have to pass because you aren’t headed home right afterward. Keep a small cooler in the trunk of the car and add ice packs before you leave each day. When you run into an unbeatable deal on cold foods, you won’t have to skip out on stocking up. Also, always come to the market prepared with a list. Even if you don’t follow it exactly, it will serve as a guideline for the foods you need to stay on track with your eating plan.
Using food to celebrate good news or to comfort yourself when you feel down is not uncommon. The problem arises when these emotional triggers begin to drive cravings that lead to overeating. If you struggle to control emotional eating, try following these tips.
The first step to controlling emotional eating is to recognize the triggers. When you feel cravings coming on, stop for a minute and assess your situation. What are you feeling? Happy, sad, or stressed? Did something occur before you got hungry, such as a stressful work meeting or an argument with a loved one?
Recognize true hunger
Once you recognize the cause of your food craving, assess your hunger level. How long has it been since you ate? Is your stomach grumbling? True hunger usually occurs about four hours after a healthy, balanced meal or snack. If you are truly hungry, eat something. Choose a meal or snack that is balanced in protein, healthy fat, and complex carbohydrates. If you simply cannot put off your craving for a sugar-filled treat, limit it to a few bites. The goal isn’t to deprive yourself. It’s to slow down and stay in control of your food choices, which can save you from downing a whole bag of chips or a box of cookies. Often just a taste will satisfy a craving and it will save you from overdoing it on calories.
If you identify that your hunger and cravings are directly connected to an emotional trigger, the best course of action is to distract yourself. Respond to the email in your inbox, run an errand, or take a 10-minute walk. If you can get your mind off of the situation that created the craving, even for a few minutes, you can often bypass the urge to overeat.
Find healthy substitutes to satisfy cravings
If you can’t seem to kick the cravings caused by emotional triggers, create a healthy list of substitutes that you can keep on hand. Do you crave salty foods when you are stressed? Try lightly salted, air-popped popcorn. Need a sweet treat when you feel like celebrating? Have one square of dark chocolate or make a natural frozen yogurt. Vegetables with hummus are great for crunchy food cravings, or try a slow cooked oatmeal for something rich and creamy.
A new season provides an opportunity to get back on track and accomplish your weight loss goals. A few changes to your plan and environment will refresh your attitude and give you a renewed sense of motivation.
Revamp your menus
As seasons change so does the availability of fresh, nutritious foods. Don’t stay in a rut of canned green beans and frozen pineapple when you can incorporate fresh asparagus, pea pods, strawberries, and raspberries. Take the opportunity to lighten up your menu with soups, salads, and grilled fish.
Take things outside
Whether it’s shopping, exercise, or dining with friends, take things outside and enjoy the warmer weather. Farmers markets offer some of the freshest, best tasting fruits and vegetables to add to your meals. A light and healthy lunch is more satisfying when enjoyed outdoors whether it’s a picnic or on a patio. Hiking, biking, tennis, softball, and even yard work are all ways you can blast calories while enjoying the pleasant weather.
Out with the old
Take stock of the things in your closet and get rid of clothes that no longer fit, whether they are too big or too small. Keeping your “fat pants” around means you think one day you might need them again. Eliminate that option by donating them. Rid yourself of unrealistic goals and the pressure of fitting back into the dress you wore 10 years ago. Even if your weight loss goal is similar to the weight you maintained back then, your body changes with weight gain and weight loss. You may become leaner in one area and develop larger muscles in another. Focus on a new you and avoid trying to go back to something you once were.
Grow your own
You don’t need a large garden to grow some of your own foods. A few herbs on the windowsill or a potted tomato plant on the patio is fun for the whole family. A sprinkle of herbs in your sauté and a few of your tomatoes on a salad, not only tastes delicious, it adds a nutritional boost and growing it yourself saves you money.
Renew your support system
Surrounding yourself with people who share your interests in health and support your goals makes your journey easier. Step out of your comfort zone to find new sources for this support. Find a group that meets regularly to do an activity you have always wanted to try. Leisure and training clubs for rowing, nature hiking, rock climbing, distance running, or a triathlon can introduce you to new activities and to new people to keep you accountable for your exercise.
Recognizing hunger cues is the key to controlling your appetite and reaching weight loss goals, but hunger can be deceiving. Pay attention to how these four things affect your appetite to prevent overeating.
Too many cocktails
Despite the grumbling stomach you might feel after a few drinks, most research doesn’t directly link alcohol to increased hunger. But alcoholic drinks gradually decrease your inhibitions making it much easier to order nachos instead of a salad or add dessert at the end of a meal. These extra calories, plus the calories in your drink, can result in weight gain. Pay attention to how much you snack while sipping.
Lack of sleep
Surveys show that most people get only five to six hours of sleep per night, but research suggests you need seven to nine. Skimping on sleep causes an increase in appetite stimulating hormones and a decrease in hormones that signal fullness. The increased cravings and hunger that result can lead to a higher calorie intake and weight gain.
Stress causes spikes in cortisol levels, which lead to increased hunger and emotional eating. Cravings for high-carbohydrate, high-fat, and high-sugar foods are common during times of stress because these foods trigger feel-good chemicals in the brain that help relieve tension. Without alternatives to relieve stress, like deep breathing exercises and physical activity, emotional eating becomes difficult to resist.
Refined carbohydrates like sugar, white bread, and pasta can cause a spike in blood sugar that is quickly followed by a drop, often called a crash. This crash results in hunger making you feel as if you didn’t eat an hour ago. You can help to stabilize your blood sugar and reduce spikes and crashes by eating complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, and including lean protein with your meals and snacks.
Whether it’s groceries or a goal weight, putting it down on paper helps you stay focused. Lists serve as guides and reminders, and they can be effective tools to help you reach your fitness goals.
Menus to map out your week
A weekly menu is one type of list that will help you stick to healthy eating. Planning your meals for the week keeps you on track and helps you identify gaps in nutrition. This gives you a chance to revise your plan so you don’t end your week with too few vegetables or too much added sugar.
Shop for healthy foods
If you go to the supermarket without a well thought out list, you may leave with a cart full of unhealthy foods meant to satisfy a short-term craving. Create a list of the foods you need to make healthy meals throughout the week. Take the list with you and stick to it at the store. With a kitchen full of nutritious foods, you will be prepared to eat better and resist tempting, high-calorie treats.
Make exercise a priority
When you put your to-do list in writing, those tasks become a priority. Whether you jot down a 5-minute break to walk the stairs or block out 30 minutes to go for a run, write down your workouts on the same list you use to record errands and tasks.
Work with your schedule
A to-do list is a revealing indicator of your eating and exercise patterns for the week. As you make a list of tasks for the week, complement it with a list of where and what you plan to eat and when you will workout. You will be prepared to pack a healthy lunch on the day with back-to-back meetings, and you can plan to wake up early for exercise when you have a nighttime obligation.
Visualize your goals
What would you like to accomplish in one month? What about in six? Goals like losing inches or running more miles are accomplishments you build up to. You go down one pant size and then two, and you run two miles before you can run six. Writing down your short term goals helps you visualize your long term goals. Making a list of what you want to accomplish is the first step in creating a plan to get there.