If I was to rummage through your kitchen cupboards right now what would I find?
Would you gladly throw open your cabinets and fridge to show me a plethora of healthy produce, lean meats, and whole grains? Or would you perhaps start to break a sweat at the thought of me coming across your secret stash of chips and chocolate bars that somehow always need replenishing with the weekly trip to the supermarket?
Don't worry, I'm not about to make an unannounced visit, but if you're trying to make better efforts at living a more healthy and productive life sometimes we all need to take stock of what we have available in our pantries.
Most all of our meals are eaten and prepared in our own homes. Yes, you may go out for takeout or fancy desserts every once in a while, but the majority of what you eat will be based on what kind of food you have in your house.
If we stock our refrigerators with healthy produce, carbohydrates, and fats then that is what will be available to us should the pangs of hunger come knocking. Alternatively, if you have microwave dinners, chips and pop you will most likely reach for those, especially when you are moody, hungry or bored.
An occasional treat at home is nothing to be worried about, however, it's easy to sabotage our health when we make food purchasing decisions that do not reflect our health goals.
While it may not always feel this way, you are in charge of your heath. Making the conscious decision to stock your kitchen with fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, complex grains and nutritious snacks will help to leave you with less cravings and desires.
Feeling low in energy, tired, frustrated, moody and bored can all be confusing signals for your brain. Many times we turn to high calorie foods to trigger our dopamine receptors and get that instantaneous reward from food (1). However, these feelings are temporary and the initial negative sensations come back, repeating the cycle. Learn how to break-free with "The 10 Best Secrets for Eating Your Way to Fat Loss" manual.
Grocery stores and supermarkets are becoming larger than ever, with an ever expanding stock of real and not-so-real food choices, and it can be easy to fall by the wayside when surrounded by unhealthy options geared towards getting your attention. Creating some rules in advance of your trip can help you take control when it comes to the most important contributor to your health: FOOD!
Here are five grocery shopping tips to keep in mind the next time you wander the aisles of your favourite supermarket.
1. Perimeter shop with a list:
While stores will vary, most all follow the same layout: perishables on the perimeter and boxed (and processed) foods on the interior. Always walk the edges of the grocery store first so you can pick up your produce, meats, eggs, and milk. Carrying your grocery list, only go into the interior aisles for the exact items on your list. This way you avoid buying the chips, cookies and junk foods that you might want, but don't really need.
2. Never shop on an empty stomach:
Shopping while hungry is the easiest way to over-shop and buy "junk". Junk foods are those things that satisfy your taste buds without giving you much if any nutrition, and are often include added sugar, preservatives, and excess packaging. Be prepared with not only your list but also a nutritious snack before you leave the house so your healthy intentions won't freeze up when you pass the ice-cream aisle.
3. Read your labels:
When it comes to buying canned, boxed or prepared foods, check your labels carefully! Just because a product says, "Natural", "No added sugar" or "No trans-fat", doesn't mean that they don't include other harmful ingredients. Use a quick app such as Think Dirty and read this article for "The Truth Behind the 13 Most Feared Additives".
4. Shop on a dime, not on a nickel:
Shopping on a budget doesn't mean you need to sacrifice food quality. Focus on grocery stores that have good quality meats and get the rest of your produce from local markets or places that will price match.
5. It doesn't all have to be local, organic and seasonal foods:
When it comes to food we'd all like to be able to buy local and organic. You get to support your community, while consuming high quality nutrition with the least harm.
Unfortunately, many people can't afford to get all their groceries in this way. For me, I focus on the foods that have the potential to do the most harm, including the dirty dozen, meats, fish and seafood. Get high quality organic and preferably local of these first and make sure to wash the rest of your produce thoroughly. Learn how to make your own DIY Natural Produce Cleaning Products here.
We all get hungry. The difference between grabbing that chocolate bar or piece of fruit during these moments, however, can be as simple as opening the fridge. When it comes to filling that grocery cart you have the final say.
Getting your kitchen and pantry stocked with healthy options in advance of the inevitable stomach growl can keep you in the express checkout to accomplishing your health goals. Shop healthy and shop smart and fill those cupboards with something you'll have no problem showing off.
1 Baik, Ja-Hyun. "Dopamine Signaling in Food Addiction: Role of Dopamine D2 Receptors." BMB Reports 46.11 (2013): 519-526. PMC. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.
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Buy your vegetables in advance, chop them how you like, and store them in containers in the fridge for the week, says registered dietitian Kiran Bains of edovivo. "You’re more likely to use the healthy food in your fridge when it is convenient and ready to use."
One you get meal prepping down, eating healthy during the day is easy. "When grocery shopping, I choose two proteins that I will enjoy for the week and about five to six different veggies," Bains says. Try making your batches on Sundays and Wednesdays (to keep your menu fresh) and for starches try variations of rice, sweet potatoes, wraps, quinoa and pastas high in fibre.
For some of us this may be a wrap or a stir-fry or a rice bowl. Whatever your favourite meal is, stick to it during the week. "My go-to meals are stir-fries, wraps, soups, and salads when it comes to lunch items and of course, I love using left-overs from my dinner meals whenever possible," she says. If you're having chicken dinner, use leftover pieces for a wrap or salad the next day.
"One of my favourite things to do and easiest ways to get all of your food groups into a meal is to make a soup from leftovers," Bains says. If you're cooking chicken or beef, use the bones to create a broth. To keep things healthy, make sure you add as many vegetables as you can to your pot of soup.
"If you decided to splurge on that sugary baked good that’s been calling your name in the cafeteria, try to find an option that is higher in fibre like a bran cookie or bran muffin," she adds. Not only this, but combine your snack with peanut or almond butter for the added protein.
Keep snacks that are high in healthy fats, fibre and protein at your desk. Try nuts and seeds, fruit and low-sugar granola. And just like snacks, hydration is always important, Bains says. Make sure you keep a water bottle handy.
"Set Outlook reminders to snack throughout the day if you’re one of those people that forgets to eat during the day. Snacking throughout the day and keeping yourself hydrated is a great way to ensure your portions aren’t blown out of the waters when it comes to your main meals," she says. You can also use apps on your phone and set reminders to drink water and eat a healthy snack!
We don't need to tell you which office snacks to avoid. But if you aren't ready to give up your mini doughnuts and chocolate bars just yet, think about portion control. "When I do splurge on sugary items, I like to keep the portion size to just half the size of the palm of my hand in mind," Bains says. "If I’m still hungry, I’ll increase the amount of protein that I’m having with it, to make up for that loss."
Follow Dr. Alison Chen, ND on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrAlisonChenND