Smart grocery shopping tips

“The Dirty Dozen” celery  •  peaches  •  strawberries   apples •   domestic blueberries nectarines  •  sweet bell peppers spinach, kale and collard greens cherries  •  imported grapes   lettuce  •  potatoes

“The Dirty Dozen”
celery • peaches • strawberries
apples • domestic blueberries
nectarines • sweet bell peppers
spinach, kale and collard greens
cherries • imported grapes
lettuce • potatoes

by Paula Owens — 

The most important component to prevent and reverse disease, experience lasting fat loss and achieve your highest level of health begins by being mindful and conscious of what you choose to eat. Good nutrition and healthy eating start with making smarter choices when shopping for food. The following tips will make your food shopping experience as healthy as possible.

• Shop for real food. Stay away from processed, boxed, dead Frankenfood and sugary beverages, including fruit juices. Avoid fat-free and low-fat products, which are loaded with chemicals and artificial sweeteners that are a toxic burden on your body and detrimental to your mood, brain and waistline. Simply switching from processed to real food is a huge step in the right direction.

Become familiar with misleading marketing claims. Items labeled as “all-natural,” “organic,” “sugar-free” or “gluten-free” are not necessarily healthy.

Common items claiming to be healthy (but are far from it) include: energy and protein bars; diet soda; fruit juices; Crystal Light; agave syrup; dried fruit and fruit roll-ups; veggie burgers; vitamin water and sports drinks; yogurt with fruit; cereal, granola and instant oatmeal; some trail mixes; cooking sprays, canola oil and margarine; multi-grain, whole-grain and wheat bread; soy milk and soy products; some protein powders; some vitamins; some gluten-free foods; and low-fat and non-fat products.

These foods are devoid of nutrition, most likely loaded with an exorbitant amount of sugar, unhealthy vegetable oils, corn, soy, wheat, genetically modified (GM) ingredients, chemical preservatives and artificial sweeteners, which contribute to a blood sugar roller coaster, GI distress, increased cravings, depression, headaches, diabetes, memory problems, disease and extra body fat.

• Be a label detective. Read the list of ingredients on every product, including personal care items and pet food. Do not buy items that contain artificial ingredients, artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, sucralose, chemicals, vegetable oils, wheat or colors and dyes. The fewer ingredients listed, the better.

• Shop with a list. Plan meals and snacks for the week. Download the non-GMO shopping guide and the Fooducate app for your phone; both can be helpful when shopping.

• Shop the organic section. Not every item you purchase has to be organic. Familiarize yourself with the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen Plus list and prioritize to always buy these items organic.

Eating organic has many significant benefits. Approximately 100 studies show that organic produce provides 25 percent more nutrients than nonorganic produce of the same varieties. Those who eat an organic diet tend to have stronger immune systems, less body fat, calmer demeanors and experience more restful sleep patterns than those on a nonorganic diet. While it may cost a bit more to eat organic, the long-term savings on medical care and your health are worth the investment. Not only that, but when you eat nutrient-dense food, you tend not to consume as much because you will feel full longer.

If you are on a limited budget, priority should go to organically raised, grass-fed, free-range, pastured meats and eggs, and avoiding the Dirty Dozen vegetables and fruits.

• Eat a protein-rich snack or handful of nuts before shopping. Stick to your list. Never shop when you are hungry or when you are experiencing low blood sugar.

• Keep an eye out for promotions and sales. Buy organic food in bulk. Download a phone app so you can compare prices. If you have the space and weather permitting, plant a garden to grow your own organic fruits and vegetables. Be mindful while shopping. Take note of items such as alcohol, candy bars, chips and ice cream, which have zero nutritional value.

• Stock up on seasonal veggies and fruits. They are packed with nutrients, add variety to your diet and are often less expensive than out-of-season foods.

• Most of us tend to eat the same foods day after day and week after week. Be adventurous and buy one new vegetable or leafy green every time you shop. Try healthier recipes.

• Shop at local farms and farmers’ markets. Join a co-op for organic produce, meats and eggs. Sign up for home delivery of a local farm box. Order online. Visit the Local Harvest website to find farmers’ markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area.

• Shop alone. You will be less likely to buy chips and crackers, Cocoa Puffs®, Fruity Pebbles, candies, cupcakes or other sugary treats.

• Does your busy schedule prevent you from cooking or shopping? Visit the seafood department at Whole Foods Market. Select your favorite fish and have them cook it for you while you shop. This is a free service they offer.

Order affordable, organic and nutritious “Healthy Meals” delivered directly to your home (found at All you have to do is pop them in the oven.

• Eating healthy, nutrient-rich, real food is not more expensive than processed, packaged foods or fast food. Buy the majority of your items from the perimeter of the store. Include plenty of fresh veggies and leafy greens; sweet potatoes and yams; seasonal fruit; pastured eggs and poultry; butter; grass-fed meats; and wild fish and seafood. Minimize the items from the center aisles, except for organic coffee and tea, nuts and seeds, olive oil, coconut or almond milk, nut butters, coconut flour and spices.

Eating healthy is possible without spending more. Remember, you have total control over what you buy and bring into your home. Choose wisely. Your personal fat-loss revolution starts in your kitchen.

Sources: Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011 May; 8(5): 1727–1754; Raynor, H.A., Kilanowski, C.K., Esterli, I., et al. 2002. A cost-analysis of adopting a healthful diet in a family-based treatment program. J Am Diet Assoc. 102(5): 645-650, 655-656.


Paula Owens, M.S., is a nutritionist and fitness expert with more than 25 years of experience. She is the author of The Power of Four and Fat Loss Revolution and the creator of “21 Days to a Leaner, Healthier You,” an online exercise and weight-loss program.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 32, Number 5, October/November 2013.

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