So You Want to Start… Buying Healthier Groceries

by Coach Stevo
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So You Want to Start… Buying Healthier Groceries

You’re home on a Saturday. You’re hungry. Your kids are hungry. So you go to the pantry to make a healthy snack and the only thing you have is a box of stale Lucky Charms and soon-to-expire milk. It takes a series of less-than-stellar decisions to get to this point, but we’ve all been there. You know you need to buy healthier groceries, prepare healthier snacks, and cook better meals for the week, but how do you break the cycle of buying less than ideal foods?

Making better food choices starts by surrounding yourself with better options. And the first step to doing that happens at the grocery store. Here are my do’s and don’ts for buying healthier groceries:

Make a list Failing to plan is planning to fail. Even if you are going to store for one thing, write it down and stick to the plan. My favorite way to generate a shopping list is to start with recipes that I am exited to make. That way, you have a plan for the week as well as some great dishes to look forward to!

Shop on a schedule Set a reminder and go to the grocery store for your big shopping trip at the same time every week. With over half of our brain’s activity dedicated to automatic decisions, humans are creatures of habit. And by shopping at the same time every week, you can more easily get into the routine of buying healthier food automatically. If you run out of something and have to go back to the store mid-week, only buy what you went there to buy (make a list!). Most of the junk food in your house probably got there on those little “emergency” trips that happened outside of your grocery store routine.

Don’t shop hungry When you’re hungry, your willpower is low, making it harder to resist the box Lucky Charms. If your stomach is growling when you get to the grocery store, grab a snack from the aisle to take the edge off and keep the wrapper so you can pay for it in the checkout lane. Better one mediocre food decision than the dozens that can result from shopping on an empty stomach.

Buy treats (but not the fully assembled kind) The greatest threat and greatest ally to fat loss is convenience. Want to stop eating a pint of ice cream a week? Don’t pick up a carton ice cream. Instead, buy sugar, eggs, and heavy cream, and an ice cream maker. It only takes about 20 minutes to make fresh, delicious ice cream in any flavor you want, but having all the ingredients (unassembled, and without the convenient pint and lid) will limit your ice cream eating to those times when you really need it.

Get the good stuff delivered If you live in a major city, many grocery stores offer home delivery. Ordering your groceries online practically forces you to stick to your list! Other options for delivery include community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes and farmer co-ops, which are often cheaper and more delicious than the grocery store because only in-season items are included. On the first of every month, a box of fresh fruits and vegetables arrives at my house—it’s convenient and temptation free.

Don’t shop alone When people shop with others, even kids, they tend to make better decisions. How likely are you to buy that box of Lucky Charms if you have to justify it to your friends?

You might not know it, but you’ve reached a crossroads. A fork in the road that is going to impact how you and your family eat for the next week. Shop smart, and shop with a consistent routine. You can get back on track after that Saturday afternoon Lucky Charms incident if you set up yourself up for better decisions next week.

How do you keep junk out of your grocery cart? Share your tips in the comments below!

About the Author

Coach Stevo

Coach-Stevo-Logo.pngCoach Stevo is the nutrition and behavior change consultant at San Francisco CrossFit. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Chicago and an MA in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University. He teaches habit-based coaching to wellness professionals all over the world and he contributed to Intervention by Dan John in 2012. 



12 responses to “So You Want to Start… Buying Healthier Groceries”

  1. Avatar Pastamomma says:

    The best way to keep junk out of my cart is to leave my husband at home!

  2. Avatar Jess says:

    We just don’t go down the aisles that contain all the junk – and if we *do* need to go down one of those aisles, we go only as far as necessary and turn around. Works, almost always.

  3. Avatar crims says:

    There is no such thing as “healthy” look up the twinkie diet, he became “healthy” eating junk food.

    • Avatar Evgeni says:

      He lost weight on the twinkie diet – it wasn’t a study on health. Eating with a larger variety of non-convenience food, while not needing to entirely remove convenience food generally assures a better nutrient profile.

  4. Avatar Nobam2012 says:

    Shop the outside isles only.

  5. Avatar Melinda Fritz says:

    Use ground turkey instead of hamburger

    • Avatar natlee says:

      Although turkey seems to be a better alternative, if you purchase a very high quality ground beef you may actually be saving fat calories. The same with chicken mince… I was buying turkey and Chicken mince and after reading the labels the beef mince was less fat… so just watch the labels.

  6. Avatar Mamasan says:

    I have no problems with leaving the junk food alone, it is whether or not I have the energy to prepare healthy food, snacks, etc.

    • Avatar natlee says:

      I think that youll find the more you eat healthy snacks the more energy you’ll have. I try to keep either boiled eggs, sliced ham or turkey-roll with a slice of good quality cheese, nuts/seeds/dried fruit, or fresh fruit on hand its a little easier to make a better choice… when you have a choice.

  7. Avatar Chameleon says:

    Shop at the farmers market first. While there snack on some fresh produce then go to the supermarket to buy other essentials. Seeing all the healthy fruits and veggies make me not want to buy junk when I go to the supermarket.

  8. Avatar Sharon Beck says:

    I read labels. if I can’t pronounce it, it should not be consumed. Try to keep my sugar intake to 15-20 grams per day. I am loosing weight and feel better and never realized how many products have sugar added….geeze! I meal plan, make my grocery list, shop with my 21 yr old daughter that’s on her own every Sunday. She comes over to do laundry and we review our lists, have a nice snack with a cup of coffee and go grocery shopping. I have a hectic career that exhausts me so I cook all of my meals on Sunday, freeze what I can and write oven cooking directions down for hubby because he gets home first 😉

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