• Thanks, Oh yeah! So true. And then, there’s the Nirvana of grocery shopping experiences for the food addict: Whole Foods! Thank God, I live 3,000 miles away, that place is just pure wonder and temptation!

    From Merlyn Ruddell
    October 7, 2012

  • Just know that you are not alone, Merlyn. We all struggle with this. Thanks for your comment. Now go out and do some safe shopping!

    From Linda Hopkins
    October 7, 2012

Safe shopping: Coach Linda goes to the grocery store

When did feeding ourselves get so complicated? With supermarkets on steroids, what used to be a simple matter of picking up essentials is now a monumental task, requiring great courage and stamina, not to mention a good pair of reading glasses and a set of blinders. Anybody else feeling my pain?

On a recent stop at one of my favorite grocery chains, instead of making my usual dash, I decided to browse—not recommended. I marveled at the thousands of items from which to choose—and that was just in the bakery/deli department. In a moment of sheer delight, I picked up the cutest little individual coconut cream pie (a personal weakness), but dropped it like a hot potato when I saw it for what it was: a conglomeration of sugar, fat, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, not to mention 439 calories just waiting to hop on my hips.

Continuing on, I was almost overcome by the aroma of freshly baked pizza, wafting from the center aisle next to the make-your-own salad bar. At the same time, the kid in me was begging for the cupcakes with sprinkles and threw a tantrum as I passed up the warm apple fritters and oversized chocolate chunk cookies.

The snack aisle was a virtual minefield. I fondled a few bags and scanned the fuzzy labels. Fat chance I could see the fine print, much less pronounce any of the ingredients. Next, a nice lady offered me a taste of what looked like orange silly putty masquerading as cheese. Thanks, but no thanks.

Then there was the ice cream section where, in an effort to jump in my cart, Ben and Jerry (who know me by my first name) got into a brawl with some anorexic cow hawking her wares as a healthy alternative. I knew I had to get out of there fast!

With grit and determination, I made my way to the produce aisle and picked up the berries, bananas and bagged salad I came for. Of course, at the checkout counter, the Snickers and M&Ms beckoned loudly, but somehow I managed to escape unscathed. Whew!

I call this grocery store roulette, and it’s a game I wouldn’t recommend if you are on a quest to improve your health and/or lose weight. Here are some tips for navigating the supermarket without shooting yourself in the foot:

  •  Fill your tank. Shopping for food on an empty stomach weakens your decision-making muscle. So, have a meal or snack and a glass of water before heading out to buy groceries. Temptations will still be lurking but easier to resist.
  •  Take inventory. Avoid unhealthy impulse buying by making a list of what you actually need and making a commitment to stick to it.
  • Save some energy. Exhaustion and stress make it easy to reach for convenience items which are rarely the healthiest choices. Plan your shopping trip at a time when you can relax and focus.
  • Keep your guard up. While eating your way through the grocery store’s free samples may seem like a bargain, there’s a price to pay. You could easily rack up hundreds of extra calories and still be hungry for more. And, of course, there’s the sense of obligation to buy what you just tasted. That’s their strategy! Don’t fall for it.
  • Define fresh. If it comes in a box with a bar code, it may not be the healthiest choice. Fill your cart with “real” food. As Michael Pollan advises in his book, Food Rules, “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
  • Bring your spyglass and skepticism. When it comes to food labels, be your own detective. Just because the label says it’s “healthy” or “fat-free” doesn’t make it a smart choice. Read the ingredients. If you don’t recognize it or can’t pronounce it, be highly suspicious.
  •  Color your world. The contents of your grocery cart should resemble a rainbow. Select a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The different colors indicate different vitamins, minerals and phytonutrient content.
  •  Live on the edge. In most grocery stores, processed items dominate the center aisles while fresh foods are displayed around the edges. When you must venture to the middle, focus on your list and block out the surrounding eye-candy.


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