Grocery Shopping Guidelines

Food shopping seems like an easy task, but once you step foot inside those sliding doors and face all the options ahead of you it can get quite scary. Which brand of cereal should I buy? Should we go organic or settle for the cheaper conventional produce? Can I resist the cookie and candy aisles? These are just some of the many questions that circle our heads often leaving us feeling overwhelmed and defeated by the time we check out.

As food prices are on the rise and health information floods the media confusing us even more, picking and choosing what to buy at the store can feel impossible. Options upon options also make choosing healthier foods even more difficult. The truth is you don’t need to worry as long as you follow these simple guidelines:


1) Stick mostly to the outside perimeters. That’s where all the best stuff is including fresh produce, fresh meats, dairy/eggs and the frozen foods. You’ll find more of the empty calorie, processed foods in the center of the store and deep in the aisles.

2) Make a list  before you go. How many times have you realized you forgot something right after you left the store? Take the time to make a list and you’ll be less likely to forget stuff or purchase foods you simply don’t need.

3) Don’t bring your children if you can help it. Not only will they distract you from your mission but high sugar, or more kid appealing foods, like fruit loops, chips ahoy and candy are strategically placed on the bottom shelf so that kids can spot them easily and nag you until you give in and buy it for them.

4) Going to the store hungry is like opening up pandora’s box. One of the leading causes of impulse food shopping is an empty stomach.  You get there without any food in your belly and you’ll leave the store with plenty to fill it with! If you don’t have time for a meal, grab something on the go with some fiber and protein such as an apple with a part-skim string cheese, or 1/4 cup of pistachios.

5) Read a magazine if you’re waiting on a long line so you’re not tempted at what’s right next to you. Did you ever notice that a lot of the “good stuff” like candy bars, chips, and soda pops up right before you check out? Its not a coincidence, but again, another marketing strategy to sucker consumers into buying more.

7) Check the front AND back of the food labels. Words like “fat free”, “heart healthy,” “gluten-free,” “organic,” and “low-carb” stamped cleverly in bold on the front of food packages may sound promising but, in reality, are quite misleading. Organic foods are not necessarily better options and are not usually much superior in nutritional quality than conventionally grown/raise foods. In addition, gluten-free does not mean sugar or fat-free so be careful not to confuse the meanings. The healthiest foods contain 3 ingredients or less and nothing that a 5 year old can’t pronounce. If you flip over to the back of the product you should see the ingredient list and as always, its better to load your cart with foods that have no packaging at all, like fresh produce.

Here are some nutrition label guidelines when you’re buying specific foods with a package:

Cereals – Per 1 cup: <160 calories, <10g of sugar, >5g of fiber

Breads – 1st ingredient should be 100% whole wheat and its best to find a brand that contains minimal ingredients and no high fructose corn syrup

Snack Bars – Per bar: <180 calories, <2g of saturated fat, <8g of sugar, >5g of fiber, >5g of protein

Any Condiments (Salad Dressings, Dips, Etc) – Per 2 tbsp (or 1 oz): <50 calories, <2g of saturated fat, <200mg of sodium, <3g of sugar

Soups (canned or frozen) – Per 8 oz or 1 cup serving: <140 calories, <5g of fat, <400mg of sodium, >4g of fiber

Veggie Burgers – Per 1 patty: <1g of saturated fat, <250mg of sodium, <12g of carbs, >10g of protein

Beverages/Drinks – Per 8 oz serving: <50 calories, <5g of sugar


Looking for more information? Email us at with your questions!

Nick VanMeter