Something I have been telling my patients for years is finally backed up by research: Do not go food-shopping hungry!
Researchers from Cornell University had 68 adults fast for five hours and then gave some of them crackers before setting everyone loose to grocery shop. Those who didn't have a snack bought about 19 percent more food, including more higher-calorie foods. The study also found that healthier food choices were made between the hours of 1 and 4 p.m. and 4 and 7 p.m.
Clearly this means it's best to grab a snack before shopping. But there are more things you can do to pre-empt the purchasing of high-calories foods and make healthier choices when you stroll down the aisle.
1. Make a list. This seems like a relatively easy thing to do; however, I cannot tell you how many of my patients don’t do it. Start by looking to see what you already have and don’t have in the house, and then plan your meals and snacks for the week accordingly. You might want to put this list in your phone so you don’t forget it (like I typically do) when you walk into the store.
2. Forget the mantra "shop the perimeter." While there are very important items to be found there such as fruits, veggies, and low-fat dairy, there are also nutritious items "inside the perimeter"—canned beans, 100% whole-wheat bread and crackers, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, canned tuna, olive oil, peanut butter, and water to name a few. In other words, shop the entire store.
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3. Look beyond the ice cream in the frozen food section. No doubt that ice cream is delicious, but it isn’t an item that should be on your grocery list weekly, unless you are really, really good with portion control. If you are like the rest of us, forget the dessert for now and turn your attention to the fruits and veggies, which are a healthy choice. Frozen at peak ripeness, they are great items to keep on hand so you can never use the excuse "I don’t have any veggies in the house." Also once you are savvy with label reading and can decipher the frozen entrees that are healthy, you might find that when you are in a time-crunch, they are a lifesaver.
4. Leave your husband or significant other at home. My husband does not like to stick to my list; if anything, I think he might rebel against it. When shopping with him, all types of unhealthy items appear in my cart, and whether or not I eat them, I rather keep them out of the home since his health obviously matters to me too. You know the saying, "Pick your battles"? I prefer them never to be about food.