Cut Calories by Cutting Grocery Aisles

Cut Calories by Cutting Grocery Aisles
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

The Lark DPP mission on “Shop and Cook” has focused on doing your own cooking to lose weight, but lowering diabetes risk begins at the supermarket. The Lark check-in introduced healthy meals that you can cook at home, but here are some tips to stay focused at the supermarket so you can leave with a basket of groceries that are healthy while avoiding impulse buys.

At the Store

Come in with a plan

Having a shopping list is an important part of your plan for healthy grocery shopping. You can strengthen your plan by knowing what you will do when you get to the store. Think ahead about which aisles you will shop, and how you can use labels to help you. Also, do not go on an empty stomach, as you will be more tempted to buy high-calorie snacks.

If you have them available, wear your own headphones and listen to music while you shop. This will help you ignore external stimuli like samples being handed out, as well as the music supermarkets play, which is chosen to be slower to keep you in the store longer. Just be sure to remove them when you reach the cashier out of courtesy.

Healthier Aisles

The traditional layout for supermarkets places produce, dairy products, and fresh meat and fish along the outside aisles of the store; that is, the sides and back of the store. Inner aisles may be filled with more processed foods, so you might want to make sure you do the perimeter thoroughly before venturing to the inner part of the store.

You can use the same principle even if your supermarket does not have the traditional layout with produce on the perimeter. Basically, avoid problem areas, whatever these may be for you. If potato chips trigger cravings for you, do not go down the snack foods aisle. If you cannot resist grabbing a cookie sample when you pass the bakery, skip that area. If the ready-to-eat pizza or ribs smell too good to pass up, skip the prepared foods section. In particularly, avoid the aisles that contain alcohol such as wine and beer. Seeing them can be tempting to purchase.

Impulse buys, such as soda and chips, tend to be on the ends of the aisles, known as the “end-cap”. These items are often not even on sale, the retailer has been paid by the food company to place these items here to catch your eye! Try to avoid these “deals”, rarely are they ever a healthy food option. 

What to Skip in Each Section

  • Freezer – ice cream, most frozen dinners (if you get one, look for one with a lean protein such as non-breaded chicken or shrimp, vegetables, and beans, sweet potatoes, or a whole grain such as brown rice), fried potatoes, chicken nuggets and other breaded foods, breakfast sandwiches with bacon or sausage or on croissants or bagels, pizza
  • Meat and deli – sausage, fatty red meat, processed luncheon meats, prepared mayo-laden salads, lunch kits with processed meat and crackers
  • Bakery section – cake, cookies, pie, doughnuts, white bread and bagels
  • Pantry – sweetened breakfast cereal and oatmeal, instant meals such as mac and cheese, canned chili, canned fruit with sugar added, toaster pastries, syrup, jam,
  • Dairy – butter, margarine (or choose trans fat-free), pudding, sugar-sweetened flavored yogurt, sweetened almond or soy milk
  • Snack aisle – white crackers and pretzels, potato, tortilla, and corn chips, cookies, rice cakes, dried fruit, granola bars
  • Cash register – candy, single-serve sodas
  • Beverages – fruit drinks, fruit juice, soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, coffee creamer