Grocery store techniques for fat loss


So, you’re interested in getting lean? You might think you should stock up on the latest supplement, or try a fancy new workout. But what if we told you that the secret to leanness is as close as your local grocery store?

In this Q&A with PN grocery store ninja, Amanda Graydon, we’ll explore some lean shopping strategies.

Grocery cart

Many people want to eat better. Where can they start?

First, remember that there is a significant jump between eating poorly/overeating and eating well.  Don’t try to do it all at once.

Take small steps to get to the goal of healthy eating.  These small steps could include:

  • adjusting food choices, for example by substitution (easiest)
  • changing food portions (moderate challenge)
  • focusing on nutrient timing (most challenging)

Interestingly, most of these steps start at the grocery store.

What should we consider when choosing a grocery store?

In the beginning, stick to the grocer you’ve always used, feel most comfortable visiting, and find most convenient.

For example, if you drive by a grocery store every day on the way home from work, that’s probably the one that’s the most convenient for you. And it’s the one you’ll likely visit regularly.  It doesn’t make sense to seek out a grocery store that isn’t convenient just because it’s “new”.

In most cases, women are the nutritional decision makers of a household, so if change is really going to happen it’s going to start with them.  This also means that they’re more likely to shop at stores that fit within their existing routines.

Tell us about the list.

One sure way to guarantee change is to ONLY grocery shop with a list.  If you have no list, you don’t stop.

Plan ahead, take the time to put a list together, invest yourself in that list and you will stick to it. No extras jumping into your grocery cart, no grocery gimmicks out to get you (aisle stoppers, items on special etc.). Just you, your cart and that list!

Once you have your list, the driving route to the grocery store should be no issue at all. Clearly you haven’t written on your list, “Stop just before the grocery store and pick up a quarter-pounder, with the works and fries.”

Your time traveling to/from and being in the grocery store is going to be made up of deliberate, well thought-out choices that are included on your list.

You are in control. You create the list; you choose to stick to it; you bring the foods home and ultimately you choose to cook those foods. The sole responsibility of your nutritional intake is on your shoulders. You can definitely do it!

That list is magic. Don’t ever underestimate its power to guide your choices.

What is most important when it comes to writing a grocery list for healthy eating?

There are several things to consider.

1. How many people are you shopping for this week?

Without knowing this piece of information it’s very easy to “overpurchase” and therefore overeat during the week. For example, if it’s just you this week and your significant other is out of town, you can likely cut your grocery items in half. If you typically grab 6 apples, then 3 will do for this week. If you normally buy 2 bags of spinach, buy just one this week and so on…

2. What is your planned activity/exercise level this week?

The recommended amount of exercise is 5 hours/week. If your exercise includes the suggested variety of high intensity, weights and steady state exercise then you’ll want to consider your nutrient timing rule: post workout carbohydrate intake. Be sure to select whole grain, natural carb selections (eg. quinoa, whole grain pasta, Ezekiel wraps, long grain wild rice etc.).

If you’re not exercising much that week — maybe it’s a “recovery week” — you won’t need nearly as many carbohydrate rich foods.

3. What is your work environment this week?

There is a significant difference between a sedentary career and laborious or active career when it comes to calorie expenditure.For example, a physical education teacher will be expending energy all day long compared to a senior analyst who will only leave their desk chair for meetings in another desk chair. These two careers will lead to a different nutritional regimen.

If your work-based activity is sedentary to moderate, keep the carbohydrate and natural sugar intake to a minimum and select a variety of vegetable, healthy fat and protein sources.

If you’re moving around, and on your feet all day, include a few carbohydrate and natural sugar options such as fruits, wraps, and whole grain bread.

4. Will you be entertaining or dining out this week?

This is an important question to answer and plan ahead.  If you’re eating out with friends, that is an entire meal you don’t need to have in your fridge. If those extra foods are there it’s quite likely that you’ll be tempted to indulge. Rather than relying on willpower, just don’t have that temptation there. Purchase less food when you grocery shop that week.

On the other hand, if you are hosting a dinner party or gathering at your place this week, be sure to have the ingredients you’ll need on your list so you don’t have to revisit the grocery store later that week. Plan ahead, make one trip per week to the grocery store, and avoid the temptation to pick up “extras”.

What is a good snack to have before going to the grocery store and why?

Don’t go to the grocery store under-nourished. Heck, you likely shouldn’t drive a car, let alone make nutritional decisions in this state.

While feeling hunger, you are also tired, irritable, more sensitive to noise and smells around you, and perhaps distracted by hunger pains. As blood glucose drops, you’ll find it harder to make decisions or make a clear plan.

Thus, shortly before a grocery outing, consume an appropriately sized portion of vegetables, healthy fats and protein. And if you’ve worked out just before you hit the grocery aisles, you can include a carbohydrate dense food with your of vegetables, healthy fats and protein.

What is the best way to shop in a grocery store?
  1. Shop with a list.
  2. Shop mostly along the perimeter, where the produce, dairy, and meat aisles are.  Avoid the inner aisles such as the frozen or processed food aisles. Stay away from the junk food aisle!
  3. If you must enter an inner aisle, enter and exit at the same end. There is rarely a reason to wander the entire aisle. Get in, get what you need and gracefully exit.
  4. Be aware that grocers stock sale items at the end of the aisles. Sometimes these are good — e.g. cans of tuna — but mostly they’re not.
  5. Never fill your cart, unless you’re feeding a big family or stocking up on pumpkins and giant fluffy bunches of kale. (See above about buying for your actual household needs.)
  6. Complete your entire grocery outing in 45 mins or less. Don’t linger.
What are some common triggers for eating junk, and how can people deal with such triggers?

For starters, going to the store hungry is a sure way to choose and eat unwanted foods.

Also, avoid situations that you know are going to be unhealthy. For example, if you are getting together with friends pick a restaurant that offers delicious, nutritionally appropriate meals. Avoid the wings and beer places!

Always be prepared. Never leave home without a little stash of mixed nuts, chopped veggies, and pepperettes in your bag or car. Should you end up in a situation where you are hungry and the food choices around you are minimal or unhealthy, you are prepared with the foods you have brought with you.

A protein bar or liquid nutrition will also help you avoid any undesirable nutritional situations such as this.

OK, you've gotten your food. Now, how should you eat it?

Season your meals with things like spices, fresh herbs, a squeeze of lemon, etc. Then take the time to taste the delicious variety of flavors.  In other words, become aware of what is in your mouth. Tune in to your taste buds! Eating healthy doesn’t mean having to eat bland, tasteless food. It’s quite the opposite, actually.

Stop and take a sip of your water in between bites. This will help to make you feel full and potentially answer the question: are you still hungry or are you thirsty?

And last, eat slowly. So what if it takes you 15-20 mins to eat? Is that a crime? What is the rush after all? Give yourself that time. Allow yourself to really enjoy the meal that you’ve created. There is no reason to rush through your meals.

If you find yourself finishing off your plate in less than 5 minutes, ask yourself: Did I enjoy that meal? The answer will be no, because you hardly tasted it.  Let all the senses in your body indulge in the experience we call dining.

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