So there you are in the supermarket, doing your grocery shopping like every other week – and then it happens.
Forget the carefully crafted shopping list, the healthy eating plan you’ve spent weeks building up to, and the knowledge that fat, carbs and high levels of sugar and salt are bad for you.
Your tummy is rumbling, you’re tired and all you want is something sweet and smothered in cream. Suddenly, like an outer-body experience - you find yourself reaching for the chocolate éclairs.
Sound familiar? Whatever your taste in junk food, it’s easy to find yourself reaching for it in the supermarket – despite your best intentions.
This, says Dublin-based dietician Sarah Keogh of Eat Well is a common occurrence.
“My clients bring it up all the time,” she says. “Grocery shopping while trying to keep to a healthy eating regime requires planning.”
So what can you do to be supermarket savvy and shop only for the right food?
Don't go shopping when you’re hungry
“This is the most important rule to follow,” says Sarah. “Do not attempt to grocery shop when hungry. “If your tummy is rumbling, your defenses will be down and your will power low.
“You’ll end up making a whole lot of bad food choices – and well forget the diet. You’ll eat them when you get home.”
Look for a healthy version of your favourite food
Just because you’re craving crisps doesn’t mean you have to go without. Opt instead for a healthier version. Irish company, Strong Roots, for example do a great line of oven-baked sweet potatoes, which are gluten free, low in saturated fat and salt, and high in fibre.
We can’t get enough of Nobo ice cream at the moment. Made from coconut milk, honey, avocado and natural flavourings, it’s actually nicer than the real thing!
Avoid unnecessary aisles
It’s not enough to make a shopping list – you’ve got to stick to it. So, plan ahead and make a shopping strategy. “Think about the layout of the shop and try to avoid the biscuit aisles,” says Sarah. “Anticipate how you will react when tempted by any junk food and imagine yourself resisting in advance.”
One third of your shopping should be fruit and veg
We’re supposed to be eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day.
Whether they’re fresh or frozen, fruit and vegetables should make up at least one third of your shopping.
Plan your meals for the week
“Many of my clients go shopping on a Monday full of good intentions and buy lots of vegetables,” says Sarah. “By the end of the week they’re throwing them out.” Instead shop strategically she says with specific meals in mind. “Make a list of meals for the week before you shop and shop with them in mind to avoid food wastage.”
Read the food labels on the back
We can all be conned into thinking foods are nutritious when they’re not. For example, they may be low in fat but high in sugar or salt.
Our advice? Read the food labels. Bypass the front of the package and rely mainly on the nutrition facts panel and the ingredients list.
Don’t buy treats in advance
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with having the odd treat,” says Sarah. “But don’t buy it in advance and leave in a cupboard at home.
“If you’re craving chocolate whilst watching TV some evening, the temptation will be too much. If you want it that badly, then go to the shops and buy it.”
Check your Trolley before you check out
Get into the habit of checking your trolley at the end of your shopping for anything that you really don’t need. Ideally it should contain lots of fruit and vegetables, lean and plant proteins, whole grains and plenty of healthy fats, like avocado, nuts, seeds and olive oil. Get rid of all the junk food. And pat yourself on the back when you leave. Congratulations. You have shopped like a health pro!