Trustworthy Advice by our Nutritionist: 12 Tips to Empower Yourself at the Supermarket.

by admin

Depending on my mood, budget and… hunger level, grocery shopping can be either very efficient and enjoyable or just plain torturous. As you empower yourself towards health and continue to make diet and lifestyle changes, you shopping experience needs to evolve as well. Becoming aware of some tricks of the trade and educating yourself around products will eliminate much of the confusion and potential frustration that you might find.  Here are 12 grocery shopping hacks for you to consider.

1. Make a Plan: 

Many people struggle with impulse buys while shopping due to their energy level, time, hunger level, etc. A way to avoid this trap is to make a meal planning date with yourself BEFORE shopping. Let’s say that you have one day a week that you dedicate to chores, errands, etc. Take an hour during this day to plan your next week of meals. Choose a few recipes or plans and create your shopping list at home-this way you know exactly what you need for the meal and what you may be out of, or running low on and won’t have to guess at the store. 

  • Make a meal planning date with yourself 
  • Make a list (This will determine your shopping trip-stick to the list!) 

2. Marketing: 

Let me be blunt, grocery stores are there to make money. Yes, providing you with a source of food is their business model. The people drive the trend…you may have noticed a move towards health in the grocery store, this is because as people become educated about what they eat and where their food comes from, they request what they want from their stores. This does not mean, unfortunately, that the stores have your health in mind, but rather that they will sell what you demand. I mention this, to keep in mind as we look at some hacks for shopping at the grocery store. 

The store will carry what you demand 

Stick to the outer periphery of the store. This is where the REAL food is kept! The inner isles are dedicated to packaged/processed foods (AKA) foods to limit and avoid. On the outside we have fresh produce, dried nuts/seeds, meats, dairy, frozen fruits and vegetables, etc. This is not to say that we can’t pick and choose selected packaged goods to add to our pantry, but it is important to know what to look for and to avoid. The stores count on you weaving in and out of the isles to entice you to buy more, but if it’s not on the list, it doesn’t go in the cart, 

Not on the list? Doesn’t go in the cart. 

Start becoming aware of the placing of items. Stores tend to place items in eye-line that are on trend or in need of moving. They tend to place higher quality, better ingredients, higher up out of eye-line. Lower shelved items tend to be cheaper, and poorer quality-generally speaking. “End caps,” or the end of the isles, tend to be where sale items, trend items (ex. Holiday), impulse buys live. This is where the store might put the (ex. 2 Liters of soda for ONLY $5!!!) Again, if it’s not on the list…not in the cart. 

  • Become aware of item placement- know your value, get the quality your body deserves. 
  • Avoid impulse buys- you are smarter and stronger than they think! 

It is not necessary to avoid sale items, but again- if it’s not on the list…you know…  

This is a great way to stock up on the basics for your pantry staples, like canned tomatoes, canned organic beans, gluten free pasta, rice, fresh seasonal organic produce, frozen organic produce, etc. 

However, this is not a time to stock up on unneeded items, like chips, soda, or processed foods in general. 

  • Be smart- List items on sale are a great buy! 
  • Just because its cheap, does not mean you should buy it- you value YOURSELF too much! 


3. Moving around the store:

Produce: When possible, choose organic. All produce stickers that are organic will start with the number, “9”. You can pick and choose what you need to buy organic. Here is a list from the, “Environmental Working Group’s 2021 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide in Produce.” This list the most potent toxic load within produce. If these items are too pricey to buy organic fresh, try froze- it’s the next best thing! 

4. Bulk or packaged Nuts/Seeds: 

When choosing nuts/seeds, go for, “Raw” and “Unsalted.” 

Nuts and seeds are a great source of plant protein, fiber and vitamins. When choosing nuts/seeds, choose raw, unsalted. Roasting the nuts may have added unhealthy oils and can easily go rancid. It’s best, to roast and salt on your own-that way you are in charge of the type of oil and salt used. 

5. Deli Meat/Meat/Fish: 

If it does say, “Natural” make sure that it also specifies that it was raised without hormones or antibiotics. 

Deli meat and how it’s displayed and marketed can be misleading. Processed deli meat have added preservatives, coloring agents, sodium and other fillers that are toxic to our body’s and our health. The word, “Natural” is a marketing scheme, it means nothing-just makes the consumer feel better about the processed meat. Look for Organic when purchasing meat.  

Organic meat if possible. Look and REQUEST, “Pasture raised” 

In general, you want meat to be organic, if possible and minimally processed. “Grass-fed” or “Grass Fed and Grain Finished,” is ideal- choose a fatter cut. If “CAFO” (Concentrated animal feeding operation)- choose a leaner cut. “Pasture-raised,” is the term we’re looking for when buying poultry. “Free-range” and “Cage Free,” are basically marketing terms that don’t really mean anything, unfortunately. 

With fish the ideal is, “Wild Caught.”

With fish the ideal is, “Wild Caught.” Also, with pollution at a higher rate than ideal, you want to consume the smaller fish first. Think, Sardine, oyster, scallops, etc. These will contain less mercury than the larger fish like tuna, swordfish, etc. Wild Alaskan Salmon, Tilapia, Cod, Mackrell, Albacore Tuna (Troll or line caught), Halibut, Lake Trout are all great option. 

6. Dairy/Plant-based Milk/Yogurt/Cheese: 

As with the meat, choose organic if possible. Avoid added flavors, colors, fillers and SUGAR. Plant-based milk and yogurt can have an excess of these. Look for,” Unsweetened,” “Plain.” You can add in the natural sweetener (honey, real maple syrup, coconut sugar) or fruit on your own. Cheese should be aged, not processed. Look for the least amount of ingredients. Ideally using whole, raw milk. 

  • Organic 
  • Unsweetened 
  • Minimal additions 
  • No processed cheese 

7. Grain-based products (Bread, pasta, crackers, chips, etc): 

If possible, avoid gluten. Many people struggle with digestive issues with gluten at the source. Brown and wild rice, millet, sorghum, teff, quinoa, amaranth are all great options for a side dish. Avoid packaged rice mixes with flavor packets- these have hidden additive, preservatives, sodium or sugar. There are many grain alternative products on the market now, made with nut and legume flours, be adventurous and try some! 

If you choose to eat grains focus on the seeded, multi-grain, whole grain variety-and as with all processed foods the less ingredients the better. 

  • Try gluten-free 
  • Avoid mixes 
  • Multi-grain, minus fillers 

8. Get those beneficial Bacteria! : 

Eating fermented foods is a great way to add in beneficial bacteria to your gut. Depending on your digestive sensitivity (check with your nutritionist first), consuming fermented or cultured foods can help regulate and add to your digestive health. Some examples easily found at the grocery store: Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), kefir (fermented yogurt drink), kombucha (fermented tea/juice), kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), yogurt, etc. 

9. Cooking Oils: 

Don’t let product placement determine your health! 

Keep in mind placement here…The healthier cooking oils (for high heat) like Avocado oil, Coconut oil, Walnut oil, Sesame oil and olive oil (for low heat, marinades dressings-best version is Extra Virgin, Cold Pressed) will be found (usually) higher up on the shelf- OUT of eyeline.  

The higher quality usually means a bit more money. Food is medicine, how much is your health worth? 

The unhealthy options, meaning vegetable oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, partially hydrogenated oils (AKA) “Crisco” and other vegetables shortenings will usually be found at eyeline and under. 

10. Cleaning/Grooming products: 

Many people don’t think about the toxic load that our skin and respiratory tract have to defend against when using cleaning and grooming products. A good rule…If you can’t eat it, you should not expose your skin or lung to it either. This may seem extreme, but your skin is actually your largest organ and whatever it is exposed to, your body, then has to detox from. Choose natural ingredients. Avoid- aluminum, paraben, sulfate, colors, dyes, etc. 

11. Packaged foods: 

New practice: READ LABELS 

Remember you are smarter than the marketers. Only buy what’s on your list. As with your other food items, organic is best, if possible. Always choose the item with the least amount of ingredients. Avoid- artificial anything, added refined sugars and sodium, trans fats, canola, vegetable, and sunflower oil, artificial sweeteners, preservatives and MSG. It is also important to note that if purchasing canned or bottled items to make sure they say, “BPA-free” on the label. This is an endocrine disrupter and potentially cancer causing.  

  • No “low-fat,” fat-free,” “sugar-free,” “low-sugar,” “Sweetened with syrup,” etc. – Think of these terms as code words for added preservative, artificial sweeteners, added high fructose corn syrup.  
  • Be adventurous while maintaining nutrition. 
  • The goal is WHOLE FOODS- as close to nature as possible. 

When choosing a sweetener, rather than choosing a bleached processed sugar, try a more natural solution. There are many natural sweeteners that are now available in the grocery store, some examples to choose from are honey, agave, real maple syrup, coconut sugar, monk fruit, date sugar, stevia. These can be found in a powdered form like sugar or liquid form as a syrup…make the switch for your health! 

12. Don’t be overwhelmed:  KNOWLEDGE=POWER.  

Armed with education, nothing can stop you from the health you deserve! 

Need help with meal planning? Call us for an appointment for a customized meal plan. You can make an appointment online for a virtual visit or call our office at 240 766-4552. 


“Dirty Dozen list” Environmental Working Group, (2021). 

Found at: 

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