Did you know that your average suburban grocery store carries an astonishing 40,000 items? Navigating supermarket aisles and making smart health choices for you and your family doesn’t have to be confusing, intimidating or time consuming. Novant Health dietitian Katie Jordanhazy is here with some of her tips.  

  1. Come to the store with a list and stick to it.   You’ll already know what’s on sale by checking in online prior to your visit so you can stick with the list, save money and avoid unnecessary temptations. You’ve heard it before: Don’t go to the store hungry.

  2. This is key: When it comes to processed and packaged foods, ingredients matter. If a product has five or more ingredients, skip it. If the label has unpronounceable words, it’s probably not good for you.

3.    The healthiest aisles are along the perimeter of the store. That is where you find the produce, dairy, fish, meat and poultry sections.

4. First stop: The produce section, where you should stock up on nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. The more vibrant the color, the better the benefit. “Only 13 percent of Americans eat the recommended amount of fruit and only 9 percent consume the recommended amount of vegetables.”

5.   When choosing meats, buy the leanest cut possible. “The meat should have less than 10 grams of total fat and 4.5 grams of saturated fat,” she said. The name of the cut of meat can help guide you too; a loin cut, for instance, is the equivalent of a lean cut, she said. Always opt for fresh meat rather than processed varieties.

With poultry, white meat is lower in calories and fat so buy the chicken or turkey breast instead of the thighs or drumsticks.      

6. Eat fish twice a week. Wild-caught fish tends to have slightly more omega-3 fatty acids which promote heart health better than farm-raised fish.   But if wild-caught fish isn’t in your budget, you can still get the heart-healthy benefits with the farm-raised.  

7.   When picking out dairy products, examine the labels. Buy skim or nonfat milk products, low fat cheeses and nonfat plain Greek yogurt.

8.   Those   center aisles can be a shopper’s downfall, but there are some easy suggestions for making better choices there. With frozen foods such as vegetables and fruit, select the bags that are plain and don’t have added sugar, salt or sauces.

9.   Canned foods can be tricky too. Look at labels and buy low-sodium beans and vegetables and make sure to rinse them well before using. Canned meats and fish should be packed in water and not oil.

Watch this supermarket video tour with Jordanhazy for ideas on making better food choices.

Navigating a Grocery Store from Novant Health Healthy Headlines on Vimeo .