The first step to having a healthy diet for your family happens when you make a trip to the grocery store. Choosing what foods you put in the cart actually determines your child’s health, in a lot of ways.
Here are some tips to make grocery trips a healthy success
Make a habit and priority of going to the grocery store at least once a week.
This sounds basic, but what happens when you are low on food in the house? Often this means picking up fast food, random snacks, or making a meal out of chips. Also, cooking food at home is key to a healthy lifestyle. Research supports this, and also shows that families who eat together eat more fruits and vegetables. It’s also wonderful family bonding time and a place for kids to learn healthy eating habits from their parents
Here is a basic list of foods to get weekly for the family
- Meats, beans, tofu, or seafood for main dishes
- A variety of fresh fruit for side dishes and snacks, frozen fruit for smoothies, and/or dried fruit for snack.
- Vegetables to eat raw, like salad greens, carrots, tomatoes, celery. Vegetables to eat cooked like potatoes, onions, garlic, brussell sprouts, zucchini, squash, peas, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower.
- Eggs (if your family eats them), for breakfast or to cook with.
- Milk or milk alternative.
- Cereal and/or oatmeal.
- A jar of nut butter.
- “Flavoring and cooking” items like sauces, dressings, olives, seasonings, cheese, olive oil, etc.
- Whole grain bread.
- Whole grain side dishes like pasta, quinoa, or brown rice.
- The rest of your list can be the specialty items needed for new recipes or specific meals.
Keep a pen and paper handy for an ongoing list for the next grocery trip. That way if you come across a good recipe in a magazine or online, you can write down the ingredients needed. Some people find it helpful to create a “menu” plan for the week for dinners, and use new recipes throughout the week. A list keeps you focused and organized while you are in the store.
Picture a typical grocery store in your mind and how it is set up. The middle aisles draw you in, but what do you find there? What do you find when you walk the perimeter of the store? It is not random that most grocery stores are set up this way. The middle aisles draw you in, but mostly are filled with processed foods. The outer part of the store is where many whole foods are: fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood. Don’t skip the produce section.
There are many side by side options of every food product out there, making a grocery trip feel like a “Where’s Waldo” experience. My choice is to buy organic and local as much as possible. Reduced fat or regular depends on what you and your family needs as part of a healthy diet. I choose regular, as many reduced fat foods are loaded with sugar or other chemicals in place of the reduced fat.
If you’re brave enough to bring the kids along to the grocery store (or maybe you don’t have a choice), let them pick from healthy options you have preselected. For example, give them a few breakfast cereal options and let them pick which one they want. Or bring them to the produce section and let them pick one fruit and vegetable each. This gets kids engaged in healthy eating, and if they picked it, they are more likely to be excited about eating it.