Health Library

Categories > Diet and Nutrition > Healthy eating

Smart supermarket shopping

You head to the grocery store to stock up for the week and stroll out with the necessities—plus cookies, soda, chips and ice cream. To avoid these diet saboteurs, which lurk around every corner of the store, plan ahead and shop smart. Here’s how:

  • Make a list. Planning meals can help stop you from impulsively buying unhealthy fare. Not sure where to begin? Hook up with a dietitian or look for healthy recipes online. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a free heart-healthy cookbook at
  • Eat before you go. Shop while you’re fighting off hunger pains and you’ll undoubtedly reach for high-fat, high-sodium convenience foods or even crack open a gooey chocolate bar in the candy aisle.
  • Shop around—literally. Roll your cart around the perimeter of the store first, where some of the freshest and healthiest foods, such as fresh produce and dairy, are found. Then work your way inward, sticking to items like canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, dried beans and whole-grain cereals.
  • Move quickly. The less time you spend in the store, the less money you’ll spend.
  • Don’t be fooled. Just because those potato chips are displayed prominently at the end of the aisle doesn’t mean they’re on sale.
  • Bypass the bakery. No matter how determined you are to stick with your list, when you walk near the bakery, the aroma of freshly baked bread, muffins and cookies can be impossible to resist—a fact the grocery store owner surely knows.
  • Read labels. You want to buy foods low in calories, fat and sugar and high in fiber, but labels can be deceiving. Those cookies made with “whole grains” are not as healthy as the “100 percent whole-wheat” bread. Likewise, “reduced fat” isn’t as good as “low fat.”
  • Beware of numbers. Research shows that we buy twice as much when faced with signs with numbers (“4 for $10” or “Limit 6 per customer”).
  • Choose the right checkout. Look for the candy-free lanes. Women consume more than 14,000 calories a year (that adds up to an extra four pounds!) thanks to impulse buys at the checkout aisle.
  • Skip the store. Just can’t resist the tempting smells and colorful displays at your local supermarket? Do your food shopping online, if the service is available in your area.