The grocery store junk food aisle. We try to avoid it because we know everything stocked on the shelves will most likely undo all our healthy eating habits and weight loss efforts, yet there we are, gazing at all those goodies and tossing them into our shopping carts anyway. How do we resist the temptation of the junk food aisle? Here are some of my tried and true tips:
1. Stick to the outside aisles.
The best and most economical thing to do, that will not only save you money, time and your waist line, is to steer your cart around the perimeter of the grocery store. Think about how your store is set up. It’s a big rectangle or square. Like this:
The majority of your time should be spent in these aisles. Where MOST of the healthier foods are kept.
Obviously, you’ll have to venture down a few center aisles. You’ll need items like grains, condiments, water, beans, oil, etc. Go down those aisles quickly, get what you need and move on to the next.
2. Make a list. Check it twice.
Never go grocery shopping without a list of the items you want and need. If you push your cart up down the aisles without a clue or you’re hoping to be inspired by something you see, you’ll end up spending an awful lot of time and a whole lot of money. You’ll give into overpriced impulse items and convenience foods because you’re frustrated and don’t know what to buy. And you’ll probably find yourself in the junk food aisle. Not to mention, you’ll most likely forget a few things you need and waste more precious time running back to the store.
Take an hour once a week (Sunday is best because that’s when all the store circulars come out and you can see what’s on sale that week). Then, plan your menu based on the items on sale that you plan to buy and write down everything you need. For instance, if chicken breast is on sale, plan a couple of meals for the week around that. And think about what you’re going to serve with the chicken. Vegetables. Grains. Etc. Add it all to your shopping list. Perhaps you want to try a new chicken recipe. Go over the recipe and write everything you’ll need on your shopping list, but check your fridge and pantry first to be sure you don’t already have some of those ingredients on hand. That will also save you money and time. If you have your list in hand every time you go shopping, it will make shopping easier, less expensive and it will keep you from straying into the aisles you don’t need to go – like the junk food aisle. Try, as best you can, to stick with the list and not venture from it unless absolutely necessary. And carry a pen to cross each item off your list when you place it into your cart.
Here’s another great tip when it comes to making your shopping list. Organize your list according to how the store is organized. Most of us do our food shopping at the same couple of stores the majority of the time. So, before you begin your list, take a moment to visualize exactly how the store is set up. You most likely have a pretty good idea of which items are kept in which aisles, so build your list accordingly. If you need tomato sauce, pasta and rice, they’re usually kept in the same aisle. Same with eggs, cheese and yogurt. All in the same aisle or area of the store. So group those items together on your list. Got it? This will save you from pushing your cart haphazardly through the store and from venturing down any aisles you don’t need or want to go.
If the whole idea of making lists or planning meals overwhelms you, down load my FREE Meal Planning Guide here. You will find it invaluable when it comes to saving money, time and your waistline. Remember, we often fail because we fail to plan. My Meal Planning Guide can really help you formulate a healthier eating plan and stick with it.
3. Skip over it.
This might take some real discipline at first. It’s as if those darn shopping carts are programmed to go directly to the junk food aisle! Try to resist by pretending it doesn’t exist. Firmly grip the handle and steer it straight toward the produce aisle. Or any other aisle that isn’t stocked with junk or processed foods. Practice makes perfect and eventually, you’ll be able to walk on by.
4. Skip the shopping cart.
If you’re only picking up a few items and not doing a whole week’s worth of shopping, don’t get a cart. Use a shopping basket. You can only fit and carry so much in one of those. An empty cart with just a few items in it is just begging to be filled!
5.. Never shop when you’re hungry.
How often do you go grocery shopping when you’re absolutely starving? Probably, most of the time, right? Don’t do it. Same goes for when you’re angry, sad or super stressed. You, feeling hungry or lousy and surrounded by food, with an empty cart just waiting to be filled? That is a recipe for disaster. You will succumb to all sorts of impulse buys and those are usually unhealthy choices. Cookies, cake, candy, ice cream, potato chips….. I’ve never known anyone hungry, angry, sad or stressed who impulsively bought fruit to satisfy their hunger or make them feel better.
6. Keep a stash of healthy snacks.
You’re busy. I get it. And your grocery shopping is usually done after work or added to your list of a dozen or more chores on the weekends. Which explains shopping when you’re hungry or super stressed. It would be nice if you could shop at a different time, so maybe you can work on that. In the meantime, you can save yourself from the junk food aisle by keeping a supply of healthy snacks with you all the time. In your car. In your purse. In your desk drawer at the office. Your stash of healthy snacks can be your salvation. Have a snack before you leave the office for the day or right before you walk into the store. That will save you from the temptations of the junk food aisle.
Don’t know what to put in your Healthy Snack Stash? Download my FREE guide to Healthy Eating for Busy People on the Go here. It’s chock full of quick and healthy foods and delicious portable snack ideas.
What if you do stroll down the junk food aisle and MUST buy something because it’s just been one of those days?
7. Read your labels.
Just because a product claims to be healthy and says so on the label doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Go for baked snacks over fried. Focus more on ingredients instead of fat or calorie content. The less ingredients added, the better. And stick with ingredients you recognize. Anything unfamiliar or difficult to pronounce quickly and easily, will be unrecognizable to your body and difficult for it to process. Look for snacks that are made with good quality oils – like olive, avocado or coconut oil. Choose items that are seasoned with sea salt and natural ingredients. This doesn’t necessarily make them super healthy, but they’re better for you than the alternative.
Here’s an example of what I mean. Sweet potato chips are still junk food, but these are better for you than other varieties.
Sweet potatoes, organic coconut oil, sea salt.
If at all possible, push your cart past the chips and right on over to nuts section. Nuts are terrific for snacking as long as you don’t over do it. Skip nuts with added sugar or that are artificially flavored or seasoned. Chocolate covered nuts, although delicious, are rarely a healthy choice. Again, check the ingredients. Your best bet? Macadamia nuts or pistachios in the shell.
Okay, so what if nothing works and an item or two from the junk food aisle just happens to wind up in your shopping cart and eventually into your mouth? Forgive yourself and move on. Without guilt. Without punishment. Nobody’s perfect. We all have those days when nothing else but junk food will do.
Yours in Good Health,