Feeding America worked with Cornell University to develop a nudge-based way of presenting food in food banks and pantries — putting produce and recipe ideas right up front so that it was easy for people to make the right choices. Your local grocery store has its own priorities in layout, but you can point yourself in the right direction with a little planning. If you’ve generally gone down the aisles and grabbed anything that looks good, you’ll need to develop some new tactics to nudge your eating toward better nutrition. Take a look at these categories, and choose one or two tips to get started.

Before you go to the store:
Have a snack: Something healthy and yummy in your belly will make it easier to pass up junk food.
Make a list: Make a shopping list, and stick to it.
Plan a route: Put your list items in order so you can just walk through the store once — no walking down the same aisles 2 or 3 times, testing your willpower.

At the store:
Start at the edges: OK, the bakery and deli are on the edges, but so are the fruit and vegetables, the meat, and the dairy and eggs
Avoid foods with added sugar: And learn what different terms processors use for sugar. Wheat Thins “Whole Grain” have 3 different forms of added sugar (“sugar,” “malt syrup,” and “high fructose corn syrup” — original Wheat Thins have “invert sugar” instead of HFCS) — it’s a way to hide how much total sugar is in the product.
When choosing carbohydrate-rich foods, look for a high fiber content: Most of us should be eating 25g to 30g of dietary fiber a day — look for foods that will help you get there in fewer servings.
If you buy meats, look for leaner cuts and consider skinless chicken breasts.
Don’t buy junky snack foods: If you don’t have them at home, you won’t eat them.
Grab some frozen fruits and vegetables: They last a long time, and it’s nice to have them on hand for quick meals.

At home:
Frozen fruit is perfect for smoothies. Here’s a suggestion from Jamie Oliver. This recipe uses ice cubes, but with frozen fruit, you may not need to — experiment a little.
Frozen vegetables mean it’s always easy to grab a quick side dish. Here’s a suggestion from Allrecipes.com, which has over 1600 vegetable side-dish recipes.
Prep food ahead of time: Tune up your lunches and snacks at work by doing some batch cooking on the weekend and parceling out your food into storage/travel containers.
Learn to cook a few favorites: I’m a fiend for French dip sandwiches, so I learned to make them at home. Pick one or two dishes that you like to eat out, and learn to make them just the way you like them.

As you get more familiar with choosing and preparing foods, all of this will become easy, so don’t feel like this is a to-do list you have to finish right now. Just choose one or two things that you’re ready to do, and give them a try!

Do you have a favorite way to make grocery trips speed you on your way to healthy eating?


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