6 tips for healthy supermarket shopping

While browsing the supermarket aisles it can be tempting to load up the trolley with unhealthy snacks. They lurk on every corner, presenting an irresistible challenge to your healthy shopping intentions.

Supermarkets use all sorts of methods to part us from our money but ultimately, it’s down to the shopper to spend wisely. Arming yourself with a few healthy shopping tips can help you avoid many of the common pitfalls found in the stores.

1. Write a list

Rather than wandering around the store looking for inspiration, always come prepared with a list. Decide what meals you're going to eat that week and buy accordingly. Include plenty of vegetables to accompany the main meals plus lots of healthy fruit for snacks. Having a list to hand is also helpful if you're in a hurry when you might be tempted to grab whatever catches your eye, healthy or not.

2. Eat before you go

You've probably heard this one before, but grocery shopping on an empty stomach is a sure fire way to impulse buying and not sticking to your list! If your hunger hormones are rampaging in a supermarket full of tempting food, you'll be fighting a losing battle and end up purchasing way more than you budgeted or planned for. You don't need to eat a full meal, just enough to keep hunger pangs at bay. A small snack such as a banana, a handful of nuts or something like avocado on toast should be enough to sustain you on your supermarket rounds.

3. Beware of supermarket tricks

Supermarkets are clever, or rather those that manage them are. They know our weaknesses and capitalise on them. For instance, stores love to waft aromas of freshly baked bread around the store, knowing this will draw us towards the bakery. Of course, this is conveniently placed in the far corner of the store, thus ensuring we'll pass by plenty of offers on the way. Stores also like to place bargains and offers at the end of the aisles. This prominent position gives the shopper little chance of avoiding them as they turn the corner. Beware, it's never fruit and vegetables on offer here!

4. Check labels

Not all food is what it seems. Manufacturers blatantly promote health benefits on the packaging but neglect to mention those which are detrimental to our well-being. For instance, a cereal box may declare it's low in salt or high in fibre, but upon reading the label, you may discover it’s also high in fat and sugar. Likewise, products such as yogurts are promoted with 'low fat' labels but are actually loaded with sugar. Try to avoid ultra processed foods as far as possible. These are foods which have undergone complex processing methods and contain ingredients unlikely to be found in your kitchen, for example, stabilisers and preservatives.

5. Avoid snack aisles

Steer clear of the snack aisles, especially if you're easily swayed by offers or promotions such as 'buy one get one free'. Most of the food found here is loaded with ultra processed, high fat and salt products with few, if any, health benefits. March right past these aisles and you won’t be tempted in a moment of weakness.

6. Stock up with tins, dried pulses and frozen food

It can be helpful to keep a ready supply of healthy tinned and frozen food at home as well as packets of dried pulses which have a long shelf life. This is particularly useful for those occasions when you've run out of fresh produce, so there's no need to go without a healthy intake of nutrients. Tinned and frozen fruit and vegetables contain as many vitamins and minerals, sometimes more, as fresh produce. When choosing tinned fruit, look for those in their natural juices rather than syrup which is high in sugar.

Shoppers are fortunate to have so much choice when supermarket shopping. But this isn’t always to our advantage. Resisting the bargains on unhealthy products can prove difficult and ruin a shopper's good intentions. Make sure you're prepared to recognise the tactics used by stores and manufacturers. Eat a small snack beforehand, be aware of the unhealthy promotional offers and misleading labels and stick to a well planned shopping list and you should be well armed for making your supermarket trip a healthy one.

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