Smart Shopping for Your Eats + More.

Happy Monday!  

I know, Mondays aren't that exciting.  You have to go back to work and make it through the WHOLE 5-day week until the weekend. Ugh. Hopefully you planned ahead for this week for meals, workouts, a guilty treat here or there...if you did or didn't, read below for some ideas during your planning process.

Do you ever feel like you are at the grocery store and not quite sure if you are actually picking out the healthiest items for you and/or your family?  Maybe you like to compare calories and that is all that you focus on, instead of the nutrients or certain types of fats you should or should not avoid. 

I've got some smart shopping tips for you, including best areas of the grocery store to shop in, how to read a nutrition label, and some fun extras at the end!

Areas to Focus on in the grocery store.
  • Outer areas
    • Think produce - all outer areas will contain the fruits, and veggies to keep your body clean. 
    • Meat section.  Instead of picking up some steaks, try some fish (salmon is a great way to get in your Omega-3 fats).  If you don't shop every week at the grocery store, go to a bulk grocery store and pick up a long slab of salmon.  You can cut up into great portions and freeze for times that you don't have time to pick up a fresh batch of fish!
    • Dairy.  Greek yogurt, milk (almond milk for some of us), eggs, etc.
  • Frozen Foods: This area can be tricky.  Its a great place to pick up frozen fruit and veggies to use for smoothies and to thaw out for meals, but don't linger around the frozen pizzas and frozen meals.  As convenient as they may be, these babies carry a lot of sodium and saturated fats.
  • Health Section:  Most grocery stores these days have a health section which can give you a ton of options if you are looking for organic, gluten-free, lactose-free, vegan or just healthier options in general.  This area usually contains bulk bins such as spices, granola, flax seed, nuts, dried fruit, etc.  I tend to hit this area at Hy-Vee on Wednesdays - they give you 10% off of everything in the health section on that day.  Score!
How to read a nutrition label.
I used to do what I think a lot of people do with the labels. Check out the calories - and ugh, no that is not on my Special K diet! Put it back on the shelf and move on.  Really though what we need to be looking at are yes, the calories, but other things that are going to keep you movin' and shakin' well into your 90's!

So check this out. When I was a freshman in college, I was up late one night eating graham crackers(SSS). Yes, multiple. Since I had noticed I was gaining quite a few pounds that year, (I mean, who doesn't want to order Pokey Stix at 2 am?!) I was checking out the calorie content and totally misread the caloric area. So instead of eating just 1 serving size, I think I ate 4.  Moving on...

  • Serving size: The green area shows you actually how much of the food is in one serving.  So if you are eating for yourself, typically you should be serving yourself just 1/2 cup. There are 4 servings in the whole container.
  • Calories: Pretty easy.  The red area shows how many calories are in a serving. So, you will be taking in 90 calories in 1/2 cup of whatever you are eating.
  • Limiting Nutrients: The orange area shows nutrients you really should be staying away from. Saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium and just fat in general - all of these can increase your risk for high blood pressure, or clogging your arteries that can lead up to a heart attack.  I know that its not always possible to get away from these nutrients, even in healthy items - so just try to keep them as low as possible. 
    • The Daily Values can help you in this investigation process (Blue part).  Daily Values may not represent your individual needs, but they are good estimates of the average American's needs and make comparing the nutrient content between foods easier, based off of a 2,000 calorie per day diet.  As you can see below, you can really rate them to be low, good or high.
  • The Good Nutrients: Get.These.Into.Your.Belly.  NOW. Fiber, Vitamins, Minerals, etc. are all great things to see on a label.  Other really great things to make sure you are including are:
    • Monounsaturated fats: Olive Oil, Nuts, Avocados (Which by the way, I am very much into right now.  Avocado seriously makes everything so much better). 
    • Polyunsaturated fats: Fish (Salmon, tuna), Eggs, Flax Seed.  Polyunsaturated fats contain your Omega 3's!!
  • Footnotes: The purple area is information based off of your discretion, depending on how many calories you are taking in per day.

Great programs to keep track of yourself.

One last thing to blab about and them I'm done.  If you need some extra motivation, or if you just want to see how many calories you really are eating a day, there are some great tools below. (Yes, you do have to count those 5 pieces of chocolate you ate at 4:45 pm at work because you couldn't wait to get out!)
  • My Fitness Pal: I love this.  I actually have the app on my phone because I'm usually on the go and its super easy to put in what I ate each meal, my workouts, how much water I drank, etc.  It sets goals for you and you can save all of your meals in there.  Very beneficial for anyone that is looking to stay on track!
  • Live Healthy America: Awesome 10 week challenge going on right now, wherever you live! Live Healthy America has a couple of different programs each year to keep you on track as well.  You can be on a team and work together to hit a specific goal, entering in your physical activity and food intake online.  Specifically being in Iowa, our state is hoping to reach the goal of being one of the healthiest states in America.  Check out Blue Zones Project to get more information on this.  I'm the administrator for the company I work for as we participate with Live Healthy Iowa.  I know our employees get super motivated with these challenges.
That's all for now, folks.  Enjoy your week - hopefully enjoy your weather.  It was rainy and cold yesterday and apparently its hiking up to a whopping 45 degrees today!  I guess we have to expect that living in Iowa. :)

Stay tuned for more health tips and recipes, coming soon!

Be Healthy.


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