Healthy eating starts at the grocery store. From there, nutritious meals can be cooked up quickly or prepared ahead of time to be put away for busy days. This process however, especially for busy families, can be quite challenging.
The best thing is to start the process while at home. Plan your meals for the week ahead. This eliminates fast decisions for meals, which often result in box meals or fast food. To save money, look at the grocery flyers and see what is on sale before heading out (they always have them online as well).
Tip #1: Write out a grocery list for everything you will need during the week. When shopping stick to the list! This prevents impulse buys, which are almost always less nutritious. Also, don’t shop hungry! Although all of the necessary foods that you need to perform at your peak can be found in the grocery store, there are so many choices, that sometimes it’s difficult to choose the best ones. Supermarkets are designed for you to buy more food.
Tip #2: When shopping with your kids, they will also get you to buy more food! Accept their input before the shopping trip but don’t allow them to stray from your list while in the store. Keep any negotiating to before entering the grocery store, when you both can make reasonable decisions.
Tip #3: Look at the top and the bottom of shelves for better deals and sometimes more nutritious choices. Name brands often pay more to be placed at eye level. Also, skip the displays at the end of aisles. They’re rarely nutritious choices and they usually aren’t even on sale. One of the best ways to go through the grocery store is to stick to the perimeter. This way you can get all of the important food groups, while avoiding the junk food aisles. After crossing off all of the items found in the perimeter, you’ll find there’s not much in addition that you have to get in the aisles. Some examples of healthy items found in the aisles are tuna, beans, healthy crackers (often placed at the top above eye level) and healthy cereals (many of which can be found in the health food/organic aisle with less sugars).
Tip #4: When purchasing most grain products (in particular cereals, crackers and granola bars) look for: four or more grams of fibre on the label and is less than 10 grams of sugar. That will make label reading a lot easier.
Tip #5: Always start your shopping in the fruit and vegetable section. You’ll be less rushed and are therefore more likely to buy more here. Most athletes are low in vegetable intake so choose lots of variety here. Any fruit or vegetable that is darker in colour means it has more nutrients. For instance, sweet potatoes have a lot more nutrients than white potatoes and spinach is much higher in vitamins than iceberg lettuce. Also, don’t be afraid to buy frozen fruits and vegetables. Often the nutrient content is even higher since they’re frozen as soon as they are picked. Have a look at Canada’s Food Guide and post one on your fridge so everyone in the family is reminded of how many servings of fruits and vegetables they should be eating every day. Anyone over 14 years old should be having at least seven and a half servings a day! Also, before thinking that fruits and vegetables are so expensive, remember that a bag of chips is upwards of $3 and yet there is virtually no nutritional value! Also, remember that price of fruits and vegetables has not actually increased much compared to other foods.
Tip #6: Aim to buy all of your groceries the least processed as possible. Think: The closer to the farm, the better. For instance, buy regular oatmeal over instant oatmeal. It still cooks really fast and yet it doesn’t have all of the added sugars. Try plain yogurt with a chopped up fruit rather than flavoured yogurt. Also, have your family get used to whole grains. Try different ones such as quinoa, bulgur, barley or millet. They all have distinct tastes and yet are just as easy to cook as rice.
Overall, the main goal is to have lots of colour in your meals, lots of fruits and vegetables to choose from and to avoid any foods that are highly processed such as those that contain a lot of artificial ingredients or ingredients that can’t be pronounced.