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Caution: Landmines in the Grocery Store Ahead

Knowing what is what in your grocery cart can save you fat, calories, and even money.

What to Choose in Each Section


Avoid prepared tuna and chicken salads, which generally contain full-fat mayonnaise. Steer clear of macaroni and potato salads for the same reason. If you're looking for ready-to-eat convenience, try the rotisserie chicken and a green salad that doesn't come with dressing on it. For sandwiches, choose lean roasted meats, such as turkey or roast beef. Avoid lunchmeats with visible fat in them such as salami. Remember also that many of the deli meats contain high amounts of salts. Look for part-skim cheeses.


In sliced bread, the wording is important. It can't just say "wheat." It should say whole wheat, whole grain, or oat bran, says Cindy Moore, MS, RD, director of nutrition therapy at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation and an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman. Check the label for fiber. Some brands have a whopping 4 grams per slice, but 2 or 3 grams is the norm. It is recommended that adults should consume about 20 - 35 grams of dietary fiber per day from a variety of sources.

If your brand has just 1 gram -- look closer at the label, it's likely not fiber-filled whole wheat. For other fiber-rich baked goods, choose 100% whole-wheat flat breads, wraps, and tortillas.

Meat Counter

"Filet Mignon or more expensive cuts of beef are usually leaner choices," says Moore. Lamb and pork chops or any beef (such as rump roast) that needs to be slow cooked is generally leaner, too. Ham, sausage, bacon, and short ribs are all meats higher in fat. Chicken and turkey are great options but remember, prep method still matters. Frying or sautéing in butter will add calories and fat, as will eating the skin.

Talk to the butcher or meat counter person at the grocery store. They're often happy to trim excess fat or recommend cuts with the most marbling.

Seafood Tank

Fish such as salmon, tuna, and sea bass are tops picks, says Platzman. They're filled with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that men who ate fish at least once per month had less incidence of strokes caused by clogged arteries than those who ate fish less often. Research shows a twice-a-week fish meal may decrease your heart disease risk and lower bad cholesterol.

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