How to shop in the supermarket for weight loss
Give preference to single ingredients (staple foods)The easiest way to control what you eat is if you make it yourself. A rule of thumb is:
If it is made by simple ingredients then it is good for you.
Do not visit the supermarket hungryStudies show that when you hit the store hungry, you are more likely to opt for some less healthy options. Plan to visit the supermarket after a meal, or have a high protein snack before you go. This will keep your tummy full and your mind focused 😉
Buy in bulkVisit a supermarket chain that encourages buying in bulk. Here is why:
- Budget. Usually, these supermarkets give you better deals when buying in bulk.
- It is less likely to run out of something (e.g. oatmeal) and be forced to eat the less healthy alternatives you have laying around from the times you were not paying attention to your nutrition (e.g. breakfast cereal).
- Avoid short trips to the express store, which will lead to you buying more junk foods.
Fresh is not always betterThat’s right, frozen and canned food has been shown to have similar nutritional content as fresh food. It might sound counter-intuitive that a piece of frozen broccoli consumed three months after harvesting has more nutrients than fresh broccoli bought from the grocery store, but research shows that sometimes vegetables that are frozen right after harvesting, preserve more nutrients than fresh vegetables that have been sitting on the grocery store for a few days. Generally speaking, that difference in nutrient value is so small that is practically insignificant. If frozen and canned food helps you stay on track with your moderate caloric deficit, then you should totally make it a part of your day to day nutrition. The choice of buying frozen and canned food comes down to personal preference. What we generally get in frozen or canned form is:
- Canned corn, beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
- Frozen broccoli, peas, green beans, carrots, etc.
Skip the chocolate aisle altogetherIf you absolutely need to buy stuff that you know are less healthy, buy them first. Studies show that people who pick up their “healthy foods” first like salads and yogurts (these are what the public conceives as “healthy foods”, but that’s a discussion for another day) have higher chances of “rewarding” themselves with something unhealthy. This is why the leafy greens are usually placed at the entrance of the supermarket, so people can pick them up first, and the supermarket can make a profit out of people who overspent on the unhealthy treats.
Be careful with the fresh produceOnly get a couple of days worth of fresh food. If you buy more and it goes bad quickly, you will be tempted to eat it, just so you do not through it away. After all, you worked hard to earn the money that paid for these bananas. It doesn’s feel right to just throw them away, right? But I also guess you do not want to spend your daily calorie budget on a pile of bananas, just because they are turning ripe. So, plan ahead and only buy what you will need.
Always check the nutritional labelsUnless you have bought the same product in the past, check the label. Last week I mistakenly bought a jar of pickles with 87 calories per 100 grams! Just for reference, normal pickles with no added sugars are usually around 17 calories per 100 gram.
Try the store-brand productsSupermarkets usually sell some of the most basic products under their own brand. While these products are the cheapest, they do not necessarily lack quality. Since the supermarket’s marketing strategy is based on low price, they do not care so much about tricking your taste butts with added salt or sugar. So my advice is to give these products a try. Some of them you will hate, some of them you will love. It’s up to you.
Do not fall for the common marketing schemesBeware of the “healthy” aisle. Products that are marketed as “healthy” are not necessarily helping your weight loss. Cereal breakfast, for example, are so filled with added sugar, that will bump your calories up without satisfying your hunger. Do not let “low fat” and “low sugar” labels fool you. To me, “low fat” translates to “high sugar” and “low sugar” translates to “high fat”. After all, that taste has to come from somewhere. This must be either added sugar or added fat. If one is reduced, the other has to be increased in order to keep the buyers satisfied.
Make a listWrite down what you need and how much, in advance. When you are in the supermarket your brain is vulnerable to the numerous marketing techniques and making poor choices. Make it so that you will need to make as few decisions as possible.
In a nutshellPlan your visit to the supermarket or grocery store like you plan your meals. Focus on single ingredients and prepare the food yourself. Do not be afraid to experiment with new products. Use the nutritional label to evaluate if some food is “worth” its calories. In the end, its all up to you and your personal preferences. This is how you shop for weight loss.
Stavros is an engineer who used to work as an expat and now traveling around the world. He has been obese for a good part of his adult life, until two years ago where things took a happy turn for him. Today, Stavros wants to share his weight loss experiences, tips and mistakes, in hope to inspire other ordinary people to find their way to improve their body, their life, their happiness.