Let’s see where you land on this very fundamental question –
A. Love ‘em!
B. Hate ‘em…
Either way, I can’t blame you.
When I was younger, I remember actually being jealous when my parents would go shopping without me. The grocery store – full of its fun fruits, bright packaging, and ICE CREAM – was a magical place! Who wouldn’t want to go there?!
As I’ve set off on my own health journey, though, and helped others along theirs, I recognize that this isn’t the case for everyone. While I still look at grocery shopping through the lens of fun and possibility, I also know that shopping for food can serve as a real source of frustration – especially when you’re trying reach goals around nutrition.
Below are the three big reasons I see for why grocery shopping and selecting healthy food options is so challenging. You may be familiar with some of these and others may be new to you. Either way, awareness is key when it comes to choosing food at the store.
3 Reasons the Grocery Store Can Feel Like Temptation Island
1. So. Many. Choices.
The first thing that makes grocery shopping hard when you’re trying to meet your nutrition goals is that there are so many options. The average grocery store has more than 44,000 items to choose from! It can make walking the aisles feel like a constant game of ‘this or that’ – Nutrient dense or calorie dense…or both? Fresh or frozen? Perishable or shelf-stable? At the end of it all, you find yourself just wondering if you made the right choice.
Ah…marketing. The discipline that gave us Tony the Tiger and the Nike swoosh also gives us ‘natural,’ ‘non-GMO’ and ‘whole.’ Now, I’m not saying any of that is good, bad or indifferent – but it does make shopping confusing. When we’re constantly bombarded with marketing messages about what’s healthy (or at least perceived to be healthy), how can we know what to put in our cart?
And speaking of the cart…
3. The store is designed to make you buy more stuff.
From the size of your cart (a study showed that, when the cart is double-sized, people bought 40% more) to aisle end caps (which food manufacturers can purchase to encourage sales of a certain product) to laying out the store in a way that takes you right through that deliciously smelling bakery section…grocery stores are designed in a way that makes you buy – and not necessarily buy healthy.
How Do You Get Around the Temptation?
It’s true: all of these reasons can make grocery shopping frustrating. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. Here’s a few quick tips to make the process easier and help you stick to your goals.
Tip #1: Shop the outside edges of the store.
You’ve probably heard this before, but most of the non- or lower-processed foods (think: dairy, eggs, produce) are along the outside edges of the store – not within the aisles.
Tip #2: Buy things that go bad!
Yeah, it’s great that the box of cereal can last for months in your pantry and still be good – but what preservatives are in there to make it last that long? There’s a time and place for things that have a long shelf-life, but consider buying items that will go bad if you don’t eat them up soon – fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain bread, meat – for your meal-time staples.
Tip #3: Make a list!
There’s nothing worse than wandering into the grocery store without a plan and on an empty stomach. Of course, the cookies and candy and chips will sound delicious! Whenever you can, plan ahead and head straight for the items you need. That way you’re more likely to get just the broccoli you came for and leave the junk food for another time.
So, there you have it! Three reasons the grocery store can turn into Temptation Island and three tips for shopping in a way that helps you reach your goals. With a little planning and a lot of clarity, grocery shopping can actually help you accomplish your goals and it doesn’t have to be so scary.
Want more tips and tricks for making healthy food choices that work for you and your family – including grocery shopping and meal planning worksheets? Check out the #thrivetoday 90-Day Fitness Challenge, kicking off in July! Registration is open until June 26.
In addition to her work as an MJST Success Coach, Christina Schroeder has been actively coaching in the fitness and wellness community for 7 years. Her certifications include: CrossFit Level 1, CrossFit Level 2, Stages Cycling, and Precision Nutrition Level 1. She'll also be beginning her Precision Level 2 certification training in the near future. She is based out of Omaha working for Mark Jewell Speaking & Training and Nerve Health and Fitness.
Note: Please work with your physician or other qualified health professional when addressing your unique fitness, nutritional and health needs. Have questions? Check out the fine print here.