Grocery Shopping for Your Health– Building a healthier way of eating
As part of our “Grocery Shopping for your Health” series, we will take you on a tour of a typical store. But, before we begin, let’s look at what it means to build a healthy eating pattern.
Many things influence our food choices, which are unique to you. Your choices might hinge on your culture, ethnic background, or special dietary needs. They likely depend on your income. And, of course, your tastes will dictate many of your decisions.
With those influences, we also need to keep in mind recommendations from the federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
- Select an eating pattern that meets nutrient needs over time at an appropriate calorie level.
- Account for all foods and beverages consumed and assess how they fit within a total healthy eating pattern.
- Follow food safety recommendations when preparing and eating foods to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
A healthy eating pattern focuses on nutrient-dense foods. What do we mean by nutrient dense? Well, nutrient-dense foods (which also includes beverages) provide vitamins and minerals for a relatively low calorie count. This includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, lean meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, among others. Nuts and seeds not prepared with added sugar and salt also are considered nutrient dense.
Eating foods that are nutrient dense not only provide essential nutrients but also fiber in our diet.
Remember, we said nutrient dense foods also include beverages. Our beverage choices throughout the day contribute to our overall dietary and calorie intake. Yes, beverages provide needed water, but some beverage choices can add a substantial amount of extra calories through added sugars and fats. And since the calories found in beverages and their portion sizes can (and do) vary widely, becoming more aware of your beverage choices can (and does) impact your eating pattern.
So, what are some healthier beverage choices? Fat-free or low-fat milk and 100 percent fruit juices provide a substantial amount of nutrients, while water and unsweetened beverages, like coffee and tea, contribute to your total water intake without added calories.
Just as each of us is unique, our food choices are unique to us. But, we all should consider the foods we eat and how they affect our health. So, as this series takes us on a virtual tour through the grocery store, we will want to keep in mind the three key recommendations, including how we can fill our carts with more nutrient-dense foods.
NEXT: Our first tour stop will be the fresh produce department, with a focus on fruits.