Are you getting ready to embark on a health journey but feeling overwhelmed with all of the changes you need to make? Here are fifteen healthier food choices that are easy to make when grocery shopping!
Making healthy food choices is the biggest hurdle many face when hoping to get healthy and lose weight. I for one, am raising my hand on this one because clean eating is and will probably always be my biggest struggle.
I’m a NASM certified personal trainer, but I’ve mentioned in many posts that I struggle with cravings and overeating OFTEN.
I don’t always feel in control when it comes to food, but one thing I know is that I’m not giving up!
I felt like I needed to write this post for the thousands of other people who struggle with the eating portion more than the exercise side of it.
Identify Your Personal Weaknesses
I personally feel addicted to coffee, chocolate, and carbs. Those are the things that I overeat and are usually sending me over my calorie range. (I am not one of those people that advocates eliminating any foods completely and forever, but I know for a fact that most of us could scale way back on consuming these things!) Because I know this, I try to make healthier choices accordingly.
But for a long time, I didn’t really pay attention to my unhealthy habits. It took me a lot of time to develop the bad habits, and it took me a lot of time and reflection to later identify them. But I think that self-awareness is super important in creating change, so I want you to do some self-reflection.
What are you eating every day that you shouldn’t? Are your portions healthy? What are your triggers? Are you a social over-eater? Emotional? Do you rely on certain foods to get you through the day? Do you associate certain foods with certain times of the day?
I want to challenge you to think about all of these things. If you want, I have a free meal log that you can use to keep track of your food for a day and see if there’s anything that stands out to you.
Think About Your Food Habits!
When I started to ask myself some of these same questions, I realized that my eating habits since becoming a mom were vastly different than ever before. Here are some of the weird psychological things I tell myself, perhaps subconsciously:
- Coffee will get me through the day – without it I won’t make it!
- I need ALL the carbs for the short-term energy they provide since I was up all night with a baby.
- I need a reward (chocolate or some other sweet thing) after getting through the day!
It’s crazy to me, but that’s how I justify eating some things daily! I know I need to make healthier food choices, but these habits and subconscious thinking are so engrained and it needs to stop.
So. What healthier food choices need to replace the not-so-healthy ones? What is the driving factor behind the poor habits? Just something to think about.
Is Making Healthier Food Choices More Expensive?
Guys, I’ll be honest with you. I do think that some healthier food choices are expensive. However, there are a LOT of ways to offset the costs of making healthier food choices. Let me elaborate on a few.
- If you eat less meat (more veggies, whole grains, and legumes, etc.) you can save quite a lot because in any given meal, meat is typically the most expensive component.
- If eating organic produce is adding up, you CAN grow your own – even if it’s just for a few months of the year. I have a post about vegetable gardening for weight loss if that interests you.
- There are some fruits and veggies that are okay to eat conventionally grown (not organic). If you know which ones they are when you shop, you can save a little there. You can find the list here.
- Frozen fruit and veggies are a great second choice. If you can buy in larger quantities, you’ll save money. Just make it worth it by freezing some of your haul to use in later meals. Or you can just by stuff that’s already frozen.
- There are a lot of bulk-buy and CSA-type programs out there for locally raised meat & produce. You’ll often find that these are cheaper than a large-grocery haul.
- There are tons of rewards programs out there. Sign up for your grocery store’s program, then earn cash-back with an app like iBotta. I use it when I shop and have earned over $160 so far! (You bet I turn around and use that money on more groceries!)
My Number One Tip For Making Healthier Food Choices
I’m about to give you a lot of different ideas for healthier food choices. But I want to tell you about my number ONE weapon against poor food choices.
Well, there’s more to it than that. The advent of free grocery pickup is a game-changer for moms like me, but it can be a huge advantage for ANYONE. Why? So many reasons. But let’s take a look at a few:
- No last-minute impulse buys that result in you stuffing your face on the way home from the store.
- No random purchases that don’t amount to a healthy or complete meal later. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve purchased something then later thought, “What was I even planning on doing with this?”
- You can read the label for each product thoroughly without standing in someone’s way in the aisles.
- You can find new products and healthier food choices that you might not have seen while in a rush.
- Gone are the days of bringing screaming kids to the store.
- No waiting in line at the checkout and getting lucky by waiting behind some old lady taking 5 years to write a check.
- No juggling bags, your purse, and babies when you load up.
- So much time saved when you “favorite” your go-to foods and easily add them to your cart online versus walking through the whole store and still forgetting it.
Honestly, I could find a few more things that make free grocery pickup amazing, but you just need to try it.
I live in a town that doesn’t have Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or any other health food store, so I use Walmart Grocery Pickup. (A few other stores have free pickup, but some charge per pickup.) If you’re okay with Walmart, you can try it free AND get a $10 store credit using my link!
(If you do try it using my link, all it does is give me credit toward my healthier food choices in the form of store credit, so it’s a win-win!)
Anyway, I use Walmart’s free grocery pickup to be very intentional about what I buy. That’s what you should do, too. Let’s move on to the 15 healthier food choices you should consider making when grocery shopping.
15 Healthier Food Choices To Make When Grocery Shopping
1. Go Reduced Sugar
Sugar is NOT good for us. It’s okay when it comes in natural forms, such as in fruit. However, so many products have added sugar that we’ve become addicted. And guess what? Sugar that is not used in our bodies gets stored as FAT! So less sugar is better. If there is a reduced-sugar option for any product you use, TAKE IT. That is, as long as it doesn’t use some nasty artificial sweetener (often worse for you than real sugar) instead.
2. Choose Olive Oil Mayo
There are bad fats and good fats in this world. I wrote an extensive post about it here. In general, you’ll find that good fats are naturally-occurring, such as those in nuts and olives. A simple way to be healthier is to opt for heart-healthy fats whenever possible. Switch to olive-oil mayo – you won’t even know the difference.
3. Look For Preservative-Free Meats
Preservatives are bad for your body. They’ve been associated with cancer growth, hormonal issues, and so much more. (Here’s an article that just scratches the surface.) It’s hard to find preservative-free everything, but luckily we’re seeing more and more meats that are more natural. Look for meat products labeled “preservative-free” or “nitrate and nitrite” free. So far I’ve successfully switched over to deli-meats and ham that have zero preservatives, but other meats are hit-and-miss.
4. Go Organic When You Can
This is an all-across-the-board kind of statement. You don’t want any additives in your foods at all, let alone herbicides and pesticides. While we may not be able to eliminate every possible chemical added to our food, we ARE able to limit our consumption. You should go organic every change you get.
5. Opt For Single-Ingredient Items, AKA Fresh Foods
Processed foods that come in a box or bag are some of the unhealthiest foods out there. That’s because they’re packed with added sugar, sodium, preservatives, artificial colors, etc. All of these things are unnatural and unhealthy. You should focus your healthier food choices around making fresher choices and selecting things that ARE the ingredient. That means that there are no “ingredients” labeled on the product – such as with fresh produce.
6. Switch to Olive, Avocado, or Coconut Cooking Oils
I talked a little bit about health fats, but I want to reiterate it. You want to stay away from trans and saturated fats if heart health is important to you. A simple way to do this is to stop cooking with vegetable or canola oil. Choose olive, avocado, or coconut oil. (There are more but these seem to be the most versatile.) In my opinion, olive and avocado oil taste almost the same and can replace vegetable/canola oil for just about anything. Coconut oil is awesome for baked goods and is another great choice!
7. Opt for Real Sugar Instead of Replacements
As I mentioned briefly above, many sugar replacements are worse for you than real sugar. In fact, many of them have been linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and other health issues. So if you have to use sugar that isn’t naturally-occurring (like in fruit), just go for the real thing. Tip: In many recipes, no-added-sugar applesauce can replace sugar in baked goods! Here’s a conversion chart for that and other healthy baking substitutes.
8. Switch To Vinaigrettes
Ahh, salad dressings. Glorious ranch, how I love thee. Why do you have to be full of the “bad” fats, added sugars, and preservatives? Luckily, balsamic vinaigrette saves the day!
In all seriousness, vinaigrettes are usually simpler recipes that have healthier fats, less sugar, and less random unhealthy ingredients. If you want to make an easy healthy choice, choose an organic vinaigrette with just a few ingredients. (Like oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, spices.) You can also make this easy choice at restaurants!
9. Go With No-Added Sugar Items
We already talked about reduced-sugar, but there are some foods that just don’t need ANY added sugar. Take applesauce, for example. Perfect sweet naturally. Either look for items that are labeled “no sugar added” or read the ingredients list. Just beware of the MANY different names for sugar. (There are a ton!)
10. Watch Out For Saturated & Trans Fats
I’m gonna talk about this again so that you have a better understanding of bad versus good fats and what that looks like on a food label. (In case you haven’t read my comprehensive post about fats.) I’ll use the FDA’s example from a nutrition label to help you understand:
Notice how fat is a general category, then saturated and trans fats are listed below. 4 grams of fat were listed, 1.5 of which were saturated and 0 of which were trans. That means that the remaining 2.5 grams came from either poly or monounsaturated fats – which are the good fats we’re after. The lower the saturated and trans fats, the better.
11. Limit Processed Foods
Processed foods come from a factory. They don’t come from a farm or nursery. They are “made up” foods – they just aren’t entirely real. And I know, they’re hard to avoid. But if you can just eat a little less of these foods (TV dinners, potato chips, Ramen noodles, etc.) you’ll be just a little healthier. Yes, they are super yummy and super convenient. It may not seem like one little choice can help you be healthier, but it really adds up. To help you limit your consumption of processed foods, make sure you have healthy snacks like nuts, washed fruit, and Organic greek yogurt on hand!
12. Skip Carrageenan-Filled Products
Ugghh, this one is gonna be such a bummer for many of you. It’s a bummer for me too because I love creamer and cottage cheese and so many other dairy-type products. Carrageenan is an additive used to produce a desired texture and what I call “gumminess & creaminess” in certain products. At least that’s what I understand from my research. There’s mixed research on carrageenan, but many things point to it being linked to cancer, digestive issues, and allergies if consumed regularly. Just to be safe, skip it!
13. Take Advantage of Riced & Spiralized Vegetables
I am loving the new veggie products out there! They make reducing carbs and increasing veggie intake so much easier. I personally love the spiralized zucchini anywhere noodles could be used – alfredo, stir-fry, spaghetti…I even made a yummy easy mandarin beef zoodle recipe that you can find here. But you’ll also find all kinds of stuff to replace rice! Try them out!
14. Try Nut Flours
I love baked goods, but honestly, whole-wheat everything just doesn’t play off well with my taste buds. Still, I know that white, refined flour is not good for me. (I tend to overeat it!) You don’t have to go totally-gluten free, but I recommend moving away from bleached all-white flour. For baked goods, try nut flours like almond flour. You can still have yummy pancakes, muffins, and scones with them!
15. Opt For Grass-Fed, Free Range, & Antibiotic Free
Y’all, if you didn’t already pick on it by now, I think that chemicals are the worst. They take things beyond overeating. It’s like eating poison. A super simple way to reduce your chemical exposure it so make sure that you eat meat that was raised in a more natural environment. If you don’t want to consume antibiotics, preservatives, and other nasty additives, that is. Want to know more? I’d encourage you to watch “What The Health?” on Netflix!
There – now you have a lot of ideas for healthier food choices! I hope this helps. Good luck!