"Markets perform a great public service, but keep in mind they are
designed to get you to buy (and, therefore, eat) more food, not less," says
Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, professor of nutrition at New York University and
author of What to Eat: An Aisle-by-Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and
But with a little guidance, healthy choices are a cinch to find in any
Plan Ahead for Success
The process starts even before you head to the grocery store, experts say.
Before you set out for the market, plan your meals for the week, and create a
list to shop from. It takes a few minutes, but saves time in running back to
the store for missing ingredients.
To save money, use coupons, check the weekly grocery ads, and incorporate
sale foods into your meal planning. And don't shop hungry: An empty belly often
results in impulse purchases that may not be the healthiest.
"When planning your grocery list, consult the guidelines of
MyPyramid [the government nutrition web site mypyramid.gov] to make
sure you are including all the foods you need for good health," advises
Elizabeth Ward, RD, author of The Pocket Idiot's Guide to the New Food
To help meet the pyramid guidelines, you should be filling your cart with
plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, lean meat, fish, poultry,
beans, and nuts, she says.
Most of us tend to eat the same foods over and over again. But variety
really is the spice of life, says Ward.
"One of the tenets of the pyramid is variety, so instead of white
potatoes, choose sweet potatoes, which are much richer in beta-carotene, or
baby spinach instead of iceberg lettuce," she advises.
Be adventurous; aim to try a new fruit or vegetable each week, she
Both Ward and Nestle say organic foods are a great option, but note that
they may not be the most economical choice.
"You get the same nutritional benefits with fewer pesticides [with
organics], but eating plenty of produce is more important than choosing organic
foods," says Ward.