Shop Like Your Personal Trainer is Your Cashier

Prepare for health success with the proper grocery shopping techniques.

Julia ZammitoIn order to eat clean, you need to shop clean. If you don’t stock up on the proper nutritious foods, then it will be impossible to maintain a healthy lean diet.

Before you head to the store, plan out all of your meals for the week. Know what you want to cook each day, including what kind of snacks you want to have available for in between meals. This will help avoid impulse buying and also going to the fridge in the middle of the week, not knowing what to make, or realizing you’re missing some key ingredients and opting to order a pizza or Chinese food.

A general idea is to shop along the perimeter of the grocery store, where all the fresh fruits, veggies, fish and meat are. However, you can find great stuff on the inner aisles, too. You just have to look at the ingredients. That is key – look at the ingredients, not just the calories. Often, even products that look like they are healthy, are actually packed with surprising chemicals and sugars. Possibly, it’s a healthy item that seems high in fat, but it could be heart-healthy fat instead of “bad” fat like trans fats and saturated fats.

Be sure to stay away from the following ingredients and chemicals:

  • Monosodium glutamate
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Sodium nitrates
  • Trans fats
  • All hydrogenated oils
  • Aspertame
  • Sodium Benzoate
  • Artificial colors

Another tricky thing to watch out for is ensuring you read what the serving size is listed as on the packaging. Sometimes an item will seem healthy, but then you’ll read closely and realize that a serving is only a half or even a third of what you would normally eat in one sitting. Also make sure there are no or minimal added sugars and it is low in sodium. You should aim to keep your sodium intake to less than 1,500 mg per day. Once you start reading labels, you will realize that you could easily get this much in one meal if you are not careful. So as much as calories still count, the ingredient list is even more important. Look to see if “whole wheat” is the first (or one of the first few) item. If so, you may be off to a good start. Even when buying what seems like obviously healthy items, still remember to read the labels. For instance, dried fruit makes for a great healthy snack, but make sure no extra sugar has been added to them. Similarly, raw nuts are wonderful for you, but make sure you buy the raw kind, and not the ones coated with salt, sugar, or some other candy coating. A general rule is that the shorter the ingredients list, the better, because that usually means there are not a bunch of added chemicals and dyes. Also, avoid products in which sugar is one of the first three ingredients.

Buying organic whenever possible is ideal, since then you won’t be ingesting all of the pesticides and insecticides that are so prevalent in non-organic food. However, I do realize that buying all organic food can get expensive. Therefore, if you are going to do anything completely organic, then I strongly urge to buy organic meat and dairy because of all the harmful hormones that are in non-organic meat and dairy items.

Whenever possible, buy produce when it is actually in season. Here is a sample list to get started:

  • Apples: October to February and July to September
  • Grapes: June to September
  • Kiwi: February to July
  • Peaches: May to August
  • Bananas: Year-round
  • Watermelon: June through September
  • Cabbage: May through September
  • Collards: October to June
  • Potatoes: Year-round
  • Broccoli: October to December and August to September
  • Carrots: Year-round

Shop Healthy, Live HealthyOf course, one of the biggest most important things to avoid while grocery shopping is processed foods. These usually have harmful chemicals in them and contribute to weight gain. Instead, shop heavily from the health-food/organic section of your local grocery store.

Other important to consider, especially when planning and executing meals, include never missing a meal – especially breakfast; eat six times per day, every two to three hours; make your last meal of the day some kind of protein and vegetables. Drink at least eight glasses of water a day; eliminate or reduce oil, salt, and butter; and of course, avoid or limit alcohol intake, as this is just another form of sugar with many unnecessary calories.

Now you know the proper way to shop, so get out there and start your clean way of life!

Suzanne Garrett

October 29, 2013 at 8:57 am

I am a little surprised that this blog post is so lacking in currency in nutrition information; that it is not fact checked. Saturated fats are “bad fats”? This statement is simply not up to date with current findings on the lack of connection between deteriorated cardiovascular health and saturated fat. This article, six days old, cites several peer reviewed studies that counter the tired myth that saturated fats are a causation variable tied to cardiovascular disease:,0,2193813.story#axzz2j7tGhDdq

Saturated fats from pastured meats, wild caught sea food, coconut oil, red palm oil, nut oils like walnut and macadamia, are all very healthy, inclusive for brain health.


October 29, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I think the article is fine for the general public who are still consuming the SAD (Standard American Diet). I also think the LA Times Article attached in the comment above could be argued with quite easily as they suggest/encourage meat and diary consumption which is a whole other debate. There are tons of peer reviewed studies and well known physicians who can argue that meat and dairy alone should not be consumed and that nuts and oils should be consumed in very moderate amounts.

I think Julia did a fine job giving the basic amount of information to help educate those who need a starting point. America is on a one way train to obesity and sadly the train won’t stop until most are educated about what is actually in their food and what big name companies are really hiding from us. Encouraging America to eat the perimeter of any grocery store is a great suggestion.

Carmen Demske

October 30, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Oh my, Julia you have written a great article. Everyone needs some good guidance. You’re offering some great overall advice for anyone looking to live a healthier lifestyle. Thank you for putting your heart in this article. Anyone who reads this article can see that you have written it for those who need a great starting point into health and for those that could use a great reminder on navigating the grocery store. Food isn’t perfect. People aren’t perfect. Moderation with your foods is the key to living more healthful. Thanks again!!!


October 30, 2013 at 1:20 pm

I think this article directs people in the right direction towards health and wellness. The name of the game is Motivation & Determination. I admire Julia for having the passion to help others get serious about their health & focus on eating REAL ingredients.

Let’s be supportive & pass on the passion for others.

Remember: You are Worth It!

Chrisie Allemand

October 30, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Great article! As consumers, we deal with the grocery store on a steady basis. This article gives tips to help us do that. Nutrition is relatively a new science compared to other fields of study. Food and diet trends can come in and out of fashion rather quickly. With so much research being done on obesity, metabolism and disease specifically, the message to the public needs to promote lifestyle guidelines. Well done, Julia Zammito, your written grocery store tour is spot on and I absolutely love the seasonal buying tips. Keep inspiring and teaching healthy habits!

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