Food Shopping the Healthy Way

Produce

As I’ve said, every time I walk into a produce department here I’m blown away by the amazing selection of fruits and veggies you guys have to choose from. Get this: I’d never eaten an avocado until I came to the States 4 and half years ago. It’s true! So don’t be afraid to try the stuff you haven’t had before — it’s a great gift to have these options at your fingertips.

Now, you don’t want to stock up on this food group, as it is perishable. I recommend buying only what you can eat within three days. In addition to that, frozen fruits and vegetables are great options, as they never spoil and you’ll have them on hand whenever you need them. Frozen fruit is great for morning smoothies, and frozen vegetables are a quick solution when you’re without a healthy side dish to go with your dinner. Broccoli, cauliflower, peas, and corn all freeze very well and retain a good amount of their nutritional value. There is also the option of dried fruit, though I can’t say I’m a huge fan of it. I prefer the fresh kind, but dried fruit can be good to have in the car, at the gym, or as an on-the-go snack to keep you satiated until the next mealtime.

Meat, Fish, and Poultry

When choosing red meat, you’ll want to have a price point in mind. If you have a lot to spend, the choice is easy: Get a lean cut with little or no fat. Funds a bit tighter this week? Look for meat that has a small amount of white fat surrounding the reddest part of the cut. With poultry, I smell it for freshness and go for the biggest skinless breast I can find (hey, I’m a big guy). If you can’t find skinless, buy the breast with the skin on it and just cut it off when you get home. When it comes to fish, I myself eat only salmon, tuna and Halibut. These are lean fish that offer maximum benefits, and honestly, I’ve just never been a big fish eater. If you are, you can also try cod, haddock, lobster, tuna, salmon, or tilapia (an easy fish to cook, and not expensive).

Bread, Rice, and Cereal

Carb it up! Don’t run away from grains — you need them in your diet, so forget all the crazy diet books you’ve been reading. The biggest grain trend at the moment is whole wheat, and for good reason! Most regular wheat products are refined, a process that causes them to lose most of their nutritional value. So look for whole grains when you’re shopping — and don’t be fooled! Read labels carefully. Look for 100% Whole Wheat.

The best whole-grain products are becoming more readily available every day, so there’s NO excuse for not opting for the whole-wheat pastas, breads, and cereals out there. Ezekiel Bread is a great whole-wheat product to try (And if you pick up a few whole-wheat pastas, pair them with tomato-based sauces rather than those high-fat creamy ones)

Dairy

This section is easy: Stick to either low-fat or nonfat products. Most companies now offer nonfat dairy products, and I can’t tell the difference most of the time. With cheeses, it’s okay to go with a hard cheese such as cheddar, Parmesan, or manchego. Even though these cheeses have a higher fat content, you can use them sparingly because they are quite strong and flavorful. When buying a softer cheese such as mozzarella, opt for the nonfat variety (nonfat mozzarella makes a great addition to cold salads). If you use low-fat cheeses on hot entrees, you’ll find they actually melt better!

Fats and Oils

I cook with canola oil and extra-virgin olive oil. Personally, I don’t like all those sprays out there — to me, it’s not natural to spray fat out of a can! Just use a small amount of the bottled stuff, and you’ll still be cooking healthily. As for the rest of this section, make sure you stick to low-fat salad dressings and go for nonfat mayo.

TIP OF THE WEEK:?When I go grocery shopping, I go straight to what in Ireland we call the pasàiste glas, or the “green aisle.” That means I stick to the outside aisles of the market, where the freshest produce is found, as well as ingredients with minimal or no processing. Trust me: Do most of your shopping in these lanes — they won’t let you down. Finish up with a quick trip into the center aisles to pick up any essentials you need, but the freshest items in the store should fill up the major portion of your cart.


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