A key step for losing weight, keeping the weight off, and staying healthy is learning how to buy the right foods at the store.
Avoid buying foods in bulk and shopping in warehouse-type stores if you can. Getting a good deal can lead to overeating. If you do buy large amounts of a food, divide it into smaller portion sizes and store what you will not use right away.
When you buy protein, choose:
Lean ground turkey or chicken and skinless turkey or chicken breasts
Lean meat such as bison (buffalo) and lean cuts of pork and beef (such as round, top sirloin, and tenderloin)
Salmon or whitefish
Egg whites and low-fat or nonfat dairy products
Legumes, such as pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, lentils, and garbanzo beans
Fruits and Vegetables
Buy plenty of fruits and vegetables. They will fill you up and provide vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs. Fresh ones are best. Remember though that most fruits have calories in them, so unlimited eating is not a good idea. If you buy them frozen or canned, make sure they do not have extra sugar or sauces added. Some buying tips:
One medium-sized apple has only 72 calories.
1 cup carrots has only 45 calories.
1 cup of cut up cantaloupe melon has only 55 calories.
Select canned fruits that are packed in water or juice, not syrup, and have no sugar added.
Breads and Grains
Choose healthy breads, cereals, and pasta, such as:
Whole-grain breads and rolls, such as whole-wheat, pumpernickel, or 7-grain
All bran, 100% bran, and Shredded Wheat cereals -- look for cereals with at least 4 grams of fiber per serving.
Whole-wheat or other whole-grain pasta
Always buy real foods. Look for 100% fruit juice and whole food items. Choose foods with no extra sugar or salt and as few additives as possible.
Avoid processed foods. They are much more likely to:
Be high in sugar and fats, which add calories
Be low in whole grains and real fruit or vegetables
Lack vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients
Before you buy food for the week, think about your schedule:
When and where you will be eating over the next week?
How much time will you have to cook?
Then, plan your meals before you shop. This can keep you from buying whatever foods look good to you, whether or not they are healthy.
Make a shopping list. Remember to take it with you, and promise yourself you will not buy things that are not on it.
Never go food shopping when you are hungry. You will make better choices if you shop after you have had a healthy meal or snack.
Know How to Read Food Labels
Learn how to read the Nutrition Facts labels on food packages. Know what the serving size is and the amount of calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates per serving.
Learn how to tell the difference between foods that are truly organic. Two words on labels that can be misleading are "natural" and "pure." See also: Reading food labels
Some other tips for reading labels and buying healthy foods are:
Choose tuna that is packed in water, not oil.
Check the label for the words "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" in the list of ingredients. These are unhealthy trans fats. The closer to the beginning of the list these words are, the more of them the food contains. The label will give the total trans fat content, and you want this to be zero.
Carefully read the label of any food that claims it is a weight-loss product. Even though these words are used, the food may not be a healthy choice for you.
Know what "lite" and "light" mean. The word "lite" can mean fewer calories, but sometimes not much fewer. There is no set standard for that word. If a product says "light," it must have at least 1/3 fewer calories than the regular food has.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.