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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.
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What to Choose in Each Section continued...

But since dangerous mercury levels have been detected in large specimens at the top of the food chain, limit shark, swordfish, and king mackerel to no more than one serving per week.

Dairy

Go for reduced-fat or skim milk, and the fat-free version of any flavored coffee creamers to cut calories and fat. Low-fat yogurts or those made with non-caloric sweeteners, such as saccharin or NutraSweet, are the best bets at the grocery store.

Research shows that eating three servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt each day might help you burn more fat. If you're buying into enhanced or "smart" yogurts designed for women or children because they provide extra calcium, folic acid, or other supplements, weigh the additional cost involved. You're likely getting those minerals in other areas of your diet, says Moore. It may not be necessary to spend extra -- unless you simply prefer the taste.

Water

Buying bottled water at the grocery store is fine, but spending money on "enhanced," highly purified, or flavored water is not necessary. "When exercising, especially heavy cardio, or if it's extremely hot outside, the specialty waters are worth something as they provide electrolytes. But under normal conditions, most people do not need the extra ingredients, and in fact, many add unnecessary calories," says Platzman. As for "molecularly purified water," there's no evidence yet that these waters hydrate better or have any affect on athletic performance. If you simply don't like plain water and prefer it infused with flavors, such as raspberry or citrus, it's fine to drink flavored water. Just check that you're not downing hidden calories, since water should be a zero-calorie drink.

Frozen Convenience Foods

Frozen convenience items in the grocery store often have skyrocketing sodium counts. "Avoid products with more than 700 milligrams of sodium per serving and 20 grams of fat per serving," says Moore. Look for meals packaged as healthy, low-fat, or for the weight conscious -- they often tout higher fiber and less sodium, fat, and calorie counts, plus come in every variety from meatloaf to pasta primavera. Go for plain cheese or veggie-topped frozen pizzas rather than high-fat meat versions. Graze the nutrition label to be sure you're getting the healthiest choice.

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