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The grocery store can seem like a maze sometimes, especially once you get outside the perimeters into the aisles with the processed foods. If you’re like me and find the advice to stick only to the perimeter of the market unrealistic for your lifestyle, then follow the 10 tips I follow to be a mindful shopper:

  1. Plan your meals and make your shopping list before you go to the grocery store. Planning your trip beforehand will help you stay on track and not go over budget. A cool app for this is the Paprika Recipe Manager App, which lets you enter your own recipes, plan your meals, and make a shopping list.
  2. Become familiar with food labels. There’s no better way to become a smart shopper than to become aware of what’s in your food and understand what the food label means. In general, it’s best to skip the marketing messages on the front of packaged foods and go straight for the nutrition label and ingredients list. Need help understanding what the food label means? Take along your Smartphone and use the Fooducate app to scan a food’s barcode and better understand whether the food is a good choice
  3. When choosing fruits and vegetables, know which types to buy organic and which are safe to buy conventionally grown. According the Environmental Working Group, you should buy the organic options of the “Dirty Dozen” – these are fruits and vegetables with the highest concentrations of pesticides, such as apples and strawberries – and feel free to buy the conventionally-grown version of the “Clean Fifteen,” which includes bananas. There is also a free phone app here to help you while you’re grocery shopping.
  4. When in the pasta and bread aisles, choose 100% whole grains. Note that “multigrain”is not the same as “whole grain.” Choose items with a whole grain listed as the first ingredient.
    [This only applies, of course, if it’s safe for you to consume gluten!]
  5. Avoid foods with trans fat. Unfortunately, if there is less than 0.5g of trans fat per serving in a food, the FDA allows the food company to list zero per serving (you’ll usually see this boasted on the front of the package, which is why you should ignore everything you read there!). So, how do you know whether a food contains trans fat? Look for the words “partially hydrogenated,” “hydrogenated” or “shortening” in the ingredients list.
  6. Watch sodium, especially in frozen foods and canned soups. Some soups and frozen items have more than half of the USDA’s daily limit for adults. Watch the percentages of sodium on a nutrition label and consider how that food will play into your entire day’s worth of food intake. And, remember, the USDA recommends that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams per day, though the preferred limit is 1500mg per day.
  7. Avoid BPA in canned foods. Opt for tomato products in glass jars rather than cans since most cans have BPA lining and the acid from tomatoes can cause the protective lining to expose the BPA.
  8. Avoid foods with artificial sweeteners. While the FDA has approved all of those artificial sweeteners we find in the blue, yellow and pink packets, some of them have been linked to neurological disorders and weight gain. Better to play it safe and avoid them.
  9. Skip the soda aisle. Sodas are high in sugar, calories and typically loaded with artificial colors and preservatives. There’s really no need to drink soda when you can quench your thirst with a more natural beverage like coconut water.
  10. Be a squeaky wheel. If your local grocery store does not carry organic produce, ask to speak to the produce manager. If you feel that your store lacks variety in its healthful snacks, speak to the manager and tell them, specifically, which products you would like them to carry. Change happens when we demand it!

Do you have any tips to share? Do you use any of these already? We’d love to hear from you!