Healthy Living: Navigating the Supermarket
Shelves stocked with bright boxes of artificially colored cereals and aisles filled with cookies and snack foods can make the grocery store a very stimulating environment for young children (and a nightmare for parents). Many moms I know would rather starve than take their young children to the grocery store. After decoding food labels and searching for the latest super food, the last thing they want to add to their already confusing grocery shopping experience is entertaining young children.
However, when armed with a few simple tips and some truly healthy brands to look out for, grocery shopping with the kids can actually be fun!
Make a list
Organize your list by sections in the store and you will be in and out of the supermarket with the speed of a super mom! Not only will your shopping trip be faster, your cart will be healthier. Making a list and sticking to it will help you resist the tempting calls of the junk food aisle.
Start off with a Snack (for both you and the kids)
Make sure you all have something healthy to eat before heading out to the store (my kids love eating apple slices for our pre-shopping fuel-up snack). The kids will be less likely to whine and you will be less likely to make unhealthy purchases.
Look for local/seasonal produce
Having trouble getting your kids to eat their fruits and veggies? Try giving them in season produce grown locally. No question it tastes SO much better (my 3-year old has been referring to the local strawberries as “candy strawberries”). Not only will the kids be more likely to eat this delicious produce, you will also be supporting local farms and the environment. Remember to buy a rainbow of different colors to enjoy throughout the week.
Opt for Organic
Wondering which cereals to choose for your family? Words like “all natural” and “healthy” are more for marketing than consumer education. Many seemingly healthy brands may actually contain pesticide residue and genetically engineered organisms. (Not to mention the food dyes and added sugar in the other boxes). When shopping for truly all-natural cereals, look for the organic seal. Some of my favorite brands include Bob’s Red Mill, Grandy Oats and Nature’s Path. While they may not contain fun colors or prizes, they do taste delicious and I promise your kids will love them!
Greek yogurt is not only higher in protein than regular yogurt (A 6-ounce serving of Greek yogurt contains 15 to 20 grams of protein vs. only 9 grams of protein in regular yogurt), it is also lower in sugar. Opt for the plain and then let the kids have fun flavoring them at home with fresh fruit, nuts, granola, etc.
Watch out for Added Sweeteners
Always read your food labels. Foods you might not even realize are sweetened (some breads, crackers and even dried fruits) may be full of hidden sugars. Remember that cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, beet sugar, raw sugar, corn syrup, honey, molasses, fructose, turbinado sugar, etc all mean sugar. Try to limit foods that have any of these “sugars” listed as one of the first three ingredients. Two of my favorite unsweetened breads are Food For Life Ezekial 4:9 Sesame and The Baker Wheat and Flax Bread.
Skip the Trans Fats
Trans fat is considered by some doctors to be the worst type of fat as it both raises your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your “good” (HDL) cholesterol. Trans fats can be found in many foods including cereals, hot cocoa, hamburger buns and frozen yogurt. If partially hydrogenated oil, or trans fats are listed on the label, put it down and step away! I promise for every item you find with trans fats, you can find a healthy alternative without.
Make it Fun
Play games like “I spy” something orange, guess how much the apples weight, look for stores that have mini shopping carts for “shoppers in training” or race cars attached to the carts. The kids will be having so much fun that you may actually get your shopping done without any whining!
Hillary Baron Irwin MS RD, Simply Beautiful Mom
Hillary has years of expertise in teaching clients to make nutrition and health a regular part of their lifestyle. With her supportive, nurturing style, Hillary takes into consideration the habits of each client. She is an expert at teaching clients how to fit proper eating into a frantic lifestyle, taking the busiest of the busy and teaching how simple changes can create fantastic results.
In addition to her private client practice, Hillary has served as the in-house nutritionist at the Reebok Sports Club/NY, Inform Fitness and Exhale Mind Body Spa. She is a regular contributor to several popular magazines and websites and she lectures on healthy eating behaviors throughout the Tri-State area.
Hillary is a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) with a B.S in Nutritional Sciences from Cornell University and a Masters Degree in Applied Anatomy and Physiology from Boston University.