10 Steps to Smarter Food Shopping

In an enticing palace of eating designed to lead you astray, here's how to stay on track.

You came, you saw, you shopped. But then you got home from the supermarket and started unloading fatty snack items and deli meats. What went wrong? You fell back into the habit of shopping like an average American rather than a person with a dietary purpose. In an enticing palace of eating designed to lead you astray, here’s how to stay on track.

1. Make a list.
Before you shop, write down what you need — to reduce the chances of buying what you don’t.

2. Limit your trips.
Make your shopping list long so you have to make only one or two trips to the store per week. Besides being more efficient, this provides less opportunity to make impulse purchases.

3. Avoid shopping on an empty stomach.
When you’re hungry, you’re more likely to grab high-fat snacks and desserts.

4. Follow the walls.
Limit browsing to the perimeter of the store, where you’ll find the freshest, most healthful foods: raw produce, low-fat dairy products, fresh lean meats and fish. Venture into the interior aisles only when you’re after specific foods such as pasta and dried beans, to avoid picking up extra items not included in your diet plan.

5. Pay attention to portions.
Those cookies look great — and hey, eating them only costs you 75 calories. But check the serving size: 1 cookie. Eating “them,” say three cookies — brings your calorie count up to 225.

6. Ignore the pictures.
Golden sunshine glows on heaps of freshly harvested grains — an image of good health that signifies nothing. Look at the side of the box instead for the facts, and choose foods that are high in fiber and low in fat and calories.

7. Grade your grains.
Want high-fiber bread? Look for the words “whole grain,” “100 percent whole wheat,” or “stone-ground” on the label. Breads labeled simply “wheat” — even if they are brown in color — may not contain whole grains. True whole-grain bread contains at least two grams of fiber per serving.

8. Watch the language.
Beware of foods labeled “no sugar added” — the wording is carefully chosen, because the product may be loaded with natural sugar. You’ll find the real story on the label, under “Sugars.”

9. Add some spice to your life.
Instead of creamy condiments, load up on such spices as basil, chives, cinnamon, cumin, curry, garlic, ginger, horseradish, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, and Tabasco sauce. They’re very low in carbohydrates, fat, protein, and calories.

10. Keep your eye on the cashier.
You’re waiting in line, nothing to do — a captive audience. It’s no accident that supermarkets pile their impulse items next to the registers. Keep a couple of items from your basket in your hands. It’ll stop you from reaching for the candy bars.