The hundreds of options available while buying can be baffling if you’re not prepared and well-equipped with knowledge. It’s important to read the labels and know what they mean. Read up on the most common labeling marketing myths here. Here are a few of my tips to buy the most nutritional items in the most cost effective way! Also, it goes without saying but don’t ever hit the grocery store when you’re hungry – trust me, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. No I have never polished anything off before reaching the checkout stand…never!
- You will save money buying produce in bulk and avoiding buying pre-packaged, ready-to-eat items.
- Fresh produce is often cheaper than its frozen version.
Meats & Seafood:
- The grade of meat signifies its fat content. “Select” (7% fat) is the leanest, followed by “Choice” (15% to 35% fat), then prime (35% to 45% fat).
- Choose ground turkey breast or ground chicken breast as a healthier choice than standard ground beef. Skinless options have the least fat. If ground beef is a must, choose ground sirloin, ground round or extra lean ground beef. Note: Ground poultry like ground turkey can have just as much fat as standard ground beef.
- Focus on seafood for high quality protein with healthy omega 3 fats.
- Buy oily varieties of fish that are abundant in omega 3 fats such as salmon, herring, trout, tuna and halibut. Avoid shark, marlin, tilefish, king mackerel and swordfish because of toxins.
- Shellfish is great – clams, shrimp, oysters, lobsters, mussels, scallops, crawfish and crab.
Dairy and Eggs:
- Avoid full-fat dairy products and whole milk. Always choose low-fat, reduced-fat or skim versions of dairy products and choose organic varieties when possible to avoid exposure to potentially harmful environmental contaminants.
- Choose low-fat or non-fat plain yogurt and avoid the yogurt with added sugars.
- Avoid all stick margarines.
- Select eggs fortified with omega 3 fats with “omega 3” or “DHA” on the label. “Free-range” does not always indicate the presence of omega 3 fats.
- There is no nutritional difference between white eggs and brown eggs.
Grains and Cereal:
- Avoid all refined flour and processed starches.
- Only choose 100% whole grain products and recognize that physically intact grains like oatmeal and brown rice are a healthier choice than whole grain or whole wheat bread or flour-based products. Labels with “contains whole grains” or “made with whole grains” are a dead giveaway that the product is not 100% whole grain and probably unhealthy.
- Note that “fiber-fortified” grain-based foods like cereals, cereal bars and breads may not be as healthy as you perceive since adding extracted fiber to boost fiber content has no proven health value. Stick to the fiber naturally found in foods like physically-intact whole grains and beans.
- Make sure the nutritional facts for every selection lists five grams or more of fiber per serving and 10 grams or less of sugar per serving.
- Buy plain (not flavored) oatmeal. Steel cut or old-fashioned are gest.
- Buy lentils. Cheap, versatile, filling and power-packed with fiber, protein, key minerals, B-vitamins and antioxidants, lentils provide more folate than any other food and cook quickly so they require no pre-soaking thus causing less gas.
Fat is what gives our food flavor and if you know exactly which oils to select, you get great tasting food that guards and protects your health too. It is the type of fat in your diet that really matters and your goal is to bring in the make-me-healthier fats (monounsaturated and omega 3 fats) and to keep the unhealthy fats (saturated and trans fats) out. All oils are uniquely susceptible to oxidation which can diminish their nutritional benefits and their flavor. Oxidation of oils is accelerated by heat, light and exposure to air so store them in the refrigerator with the exception of olive oil which will solidify in the fridge. Keep olive oil in a cool, dark cupboard!
- Make extra virgin olive oil (a monounsaturated fat) your oil of choice.
- Use canola oil (a monounsaturated fat) for baking and food prep where the flavor of olive oil isn’t ideal
- Use peanut oil, sesame oil or coconut oil for very high heat (pan-frying, stir frying, etc.).
- Use cooking sprays when you want less fat and keep foods from sticking to pots and pans.
- Avoid oils high in omega 6 fats like corn oil, soybean oil (also called “vegetable oil”), safflower oil and sunflower oil.
- Avoid all shortenings like Crisco.