February 26, 2013

Grocery shopping tips – how to navigate your local store

 Professional Home Economists and Registered Dietitians have so much in common. Aside from the fact  both professions are loaded with brilliant people, we are both concerned about your health and we are trying to make your lives easier.

Every year during Nutrition Month the Dietitians of Canada promote a new healthy habit. This year they are helping you navigate the grocery store with some tips and recipe ideas.

For free daily grocery shopping tips throughout Nutrition Month, visit or download the free iPad or iPhone Eatipster app at


Healthy choices in the grocery store



Although I am not an RD the Dietitians of Canada have kindly allowed me to share their press releases as well as their website info. See below.


Grocery Store Treasure Hunt

Tips on finding the healthiest choices in every aisle


Walking through the grocery store is an overwhelming sea of selection. The aisles seem to go on and on with dozens of items per category to choose from.  How do we know which ones are the healthiest?  What should we look for, or avoid, to make the best choices for our family?

March is Nutrition Month and Dietitians of Canada is dishing up 31 simple and practical tips, one for each day of the month, to help Canadians navigate the grocery store and put healthier foods in our shopping carts.  Here’s a selection:

Investigate the inner aisles: We’ve all heard that health conscious shoppers should stick to the perimeter of the store. However, there’s a wealth of tasty and nutritious options in the inner aisles too to create balanced meals and snacks. Prepared, convenience foods can be healthy too.

  • In the soup section there’s everything but the kitchen sink!  To find the healthiest options, choose soups based on overall nutrient profile and lower in sodium.  Check % Daily Values and compare ingredients – just because it has one healthy ingredient doesn’t mean the product is healthy.
    • Fresh, canned or frozen, fruit is a sweet thing. Look for no-added sugar varieties of dried and frozen fruit, and choose canned fruit packed in water, not in sugary syrups, for maximum nutrition.
    • Fish, such as canned salmon and light tuna packed in water, can make tasty, protein-packed sandwiches, plus they’re healthy additions to salads, casseroles and pasta dishes. Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids fatty fish is the way to go for healthy hearts, brains and eyes.
    • Look for legumes such as black beans and chickpeas, as well as nuts and seeds such as walnuts, almonds and sunflower seeds. These protein-rich plant foods make satisfying soups, stews and chilies that are deliciously nutritious.


Winning whole grains: Gluten-free and wheat-free diets are becoming increasingly popular, but they’re not intended for everyone. A gluten-free diet is the only healthy way for those with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, but it’s not meant for everyone else. Instead, embrace whole grains such as brown rice, bulgur, quinoa and barley.  Look for “whole grain” in the ingredient list and chose those with higher fibre contents. Whole grains keep a healthy heart and reduce the risk of stroke and Type 2 diabetes.


Make friends with salads, fruits and veg: People who eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruit are more likely to have a healthy weight. Unfortunately, many Canadians know this but still under consume this food group. Shopping in the produce aisle doesn’t mean spending hours in the kitchen. Healthier versions of convenience foods can be time savers when it comes to getting healthy meals on the table. Next time you’re shopping, look for these nutritious options right in the produce section:

  • Pre-cut butternut squash and sweet potato: Simmer in broth to make a nutritious soup in minutes.
  • Pre-made salads and stir-fry vegetables: For a simple, light lunch or dinner, just sprinkle with almonds and serve with whole grain bread.
  • Hate peeling garlic? Pick up a jar of the minced variety to save time and smelly fingers!

Chill out in the cooler section: There’s tons of selection in the dairy case too, especially when it comes to yogurt. For a protein-packed and low sugar option, go Greek-style. When it goes to eggs, pick up a carton of whole or egg whites for a boost of lutein, an antioxidant important for eye health, and cancer-fighting vitamin D and we can’t forget about the powerhouse of the cooler section, milk. Whether skim, 1% or 2% this nutrient-dense drink builds bones, provides energy and is a family’s best friend.


“Meat” your mate: Maximize your options in the meat market and reduce your grocery bill! Pick-up a club pack of chicken, pork or ground beef to cook ‘n’ share. Prepare big batches on weekends to swap with friends.  Making large batches of soups, stews, lasagna, or hearty chili saves time and money and spices up your regular meal repertoire!


High five in the frozen section: Most frozen vegetables and fruit are flash frozen at their peak and contain no added sugar.  Frozen is just as nutritious as fresh!

Vegetables: Along with peas and corn, try frozen leafy greens such as spinach, kale or mixed Asian vegetables.


Fruit: Frozen peaches, mangos and berries make quick smoothies for tasty, healthy breakfasts and snacks on the go.


Fish: Keeping plain, unbreaded fish fillets such as salmon, trout or Arctic char in the freezer makes it easy to enjoy fish at least twice a week.



From March 1 – 31, visit or download the free eaTipster iPhone or iPad app from and savour a new grocery shopping tip each day.

When buying yogurt look for plain and for an added hit of protein look for Greek style 0% fat

Put your best “food” forward
Ten easy tips to help you ‘Plan, Shop and Cook’ this Nutrition Month

When it comes to eating well, it boils down to how well we Plan, Shop and Cook. To help us get the most out of our meals the Registered Dietitians (your trusted source for food and nutrition advice in Canada) are serving up great ideas for planning, shopping and cooking.

Tip #1: Healthy shopping is not just about the store perimeter. You can find healthy food in the inner aisles too!

You’ve probably heard that you should shop the outer aisles of the grocery store. It’s good advice – that’s where you’ll find vegetables and fruit, fresh lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs and milk products. But don’t avoid the inner aisles! There are lots of healthy choices there too. You’ll find nutrient-rich staples such as no-salt-added canned tomatoes, dried legumes (beans, peas and lentils), whole grains, high-fibre cereals, nuts and low-sodium canned light tuna and salmon. Choose more of these items along with fresh foods from the outer aisles. Steer clear of processed, packaged foods that are low in nutrients and higher in salt or sugar, such as salty snack foods, sugary drinks and packaged baked goods.

Tip # 2: Love the smell of freshly baked bread? Follow your nose to whole grain baked goods.

The smell of freshly baked breads wafting through the grocery store can be tantalizing. You don’t have to cut bread out all together, just make smart choices.  Breads made with whole grains have more vitamins, minerals, fibre and other nutrients that are good for your health. People who eat a diet rich in whole grains are more likely to have a healthy heart. Check the ingredient list for the words “whole grain” in front of each  ingredient name.

Tip # 3: Grocery shopping for one or two? A smart strategy will help you save money.

Shopping for one or two people requires a different strategy than shopping for a big family. Get the most out of your food budget and reduce food waste with these tips:

• Shop in the bulk section. You’ll save money by buying only what you need.

• Shop as a team. Grocery shop with a friend so you can split large packages and take advantage of volume discounts such as, club packs or “buy one, get one free” deals.

• Buy only what you need. Break up a bunch of bananas, buy half a dozen eggs and ask the butcher to split packages of meat. If you do buy bigger packages of meat, divide and freeze in single portions.


Tip # 4: Check percentages! Nutrition labels work best when you use them to compare products.

When you know how to read nutrition labels, shopping for healthier food gets a little easier. The Nutrition Facts table provides information on the calories and nutrients in a specific serving size of food. You can check the serving size and compare it to how much food you actually eat. The % Daily Value (% DV) on the Nutrition Facts table shows you if a food has “a little” or “a lot” of a nutrient. For example, 5% DV or less is a little of a nutrient, and 15% DV or more is a lot of a nutrient. You can use the % DV to compare food items and make better choices.


Tip # 5: Convenience foods can be good for you: Find healthy options in the produce section.

Healthier versions of convenience foods can be time savers when it comes to getting healthy meals on the table in a flash. Next time you’re shopping, look for these nutritious options:

• Pre-cut butternut squash: Simmer in broth to make a nutritious soup in minutes.

• Ready-to-go stir-fry vegetables: For a quick meal, just add tofu, cashews, or leftover chicken or beef, and you’re ready to go!

• Pre-made salads: For a simple, light lunch or dinner, just sprinkle with almonds and serve with whole grain bread.


Tip # 6: Think before you buy your drinks. Choose drinks that contain no added sugar most of the time.

Sugary drinks contain more calories than most people realize. In fact, some sugary drinks have as many calories as a whole meal! Sugary drinks include energy drinks, fruit drinks, pop, sports drinks, slushes, specialty coffee and tea drinks, and vitamin-enhanced water. Most sugary drinks provide little or no nutrition, so stick to healthier beverages such as water, herbal tea, or milk or even chocolate milk (although it has added sugar, it is a nutrient-rich choice.)


Tip # 7: An unpacking strategy goes a long way to keeping food fresh. Add some planning when putting your groceries away:

Unpacking groceries may seem like a mindless task, but a few important steps can help you make the most out of the food you buy. To keep food fresh and safe to eat:

• Store eggs (in their carton) and dairy products inside the fridge, not on the door (that’s the warmest part of the fridge).

• Put meat and poultry into containers on the bottom of the fridge so juices won’t drip and contaminate other foods. Split bigger packages and freeze in meal-size portions for easy defrosting.

• Keep tomatoes on the counter, out of direct sunlight, so they stay fresh and flavourful.

  • Cut-up veggies in ready-to-eat portions so they don’t go to waste and are easy to grab–and-go.


TIP 8: Looking to save cash and calories? Easy money-saving strategies can help you do both!


Strategies that save you money can also help keep your calorie consumption on track. Try these simple tips next time you’re at the grocery store:

• Pay with cash, not plastic. You’ll have to stick to your budget if you bring only the amount of money you plan to spend.

• Think small. Those jumbo packs of snacks aren’t a bargain if you end up throwing some away, plus having bigger packages at home means you’ll eat more.

• Skip the sweet samples. If you taste a sugary treat, such as cookies, candies or chocolate,

you may be more likely to buy less healthy foods that aren’t on your list.


TIP 9: Have different food needs in your family? Everyone wins by planning together before you shop!


Elderly parent? Picky toddler? Newly declared vegetarian teen? Food allergy? When shopping for family members with different health needs or preferences, it helps to plan ahead.

• Plan menus and grocery lists together. Look at cookbooks, magazines or websites for meal ideas.

• Check if your grocery store offers tours led by a Registered Dietitian.

• Try a “do-it-yourself” meal such as fajitas, tacos, sandwiches or salads. Put all the healthy ingredients on the table and let everyone assemble their favourite combo.


TIP 10: Quality counts! Choose foods based on overall nutrient profile, not just one healthy ingredient.


One healthy ingredient doesn’t necessarily make a food a healthy choice. For example, cheesy popcorn starts off with a healthy ingredient: whole grain popcorn, but the final product has almost as much fat and more sodium than potato chips.  When shopping, read food labels and consider a food’s overall nutrient content. Some foods that are low in fat and salt, such as candy and pop, can be high in sugar and calories and low in nutrients. Choose foods that have more of the nutrients you want, such as fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Looking for the Minestrone Soup recipe?

Here it is!

Marvelous Minestrone

From: The Ultimate Healthy Eating Plan that still leaves room for chocolate! (Whitecap 2002)

Kid Friendly


This is a quick and easy all-in-one meal soup. It’s packed with outstanding veggies, like tomatoes, carrots, onions and kale, whole grain pasta, healthy canola oil and cholesterol lowering beans. I made this on TV one morning and the crew gobbled it up. A true testimonial – eating beans at 8:00 a.m.; it’s was either delicious or the crew were out of their minds. I’m going with it was delicious.


1 Tbsp + 1 tsp (20 mL) canola oil

1 large onion, diced

2 large carrots, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 – 28 fl oz (796 mL) can diced tomatoes

1- 19 fl oz (540 mL) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups (500 mL) lower sodium chicken stock

1 ½ (375 mL) cups water

4 cups (1 L) chopped kale, spinach

¼ cup (60 mL) whole wheat rotini

½ tsp (2 mL) red pepper flakes

¼ tsp (1 mL) pepper

2 Tbsp (30 mL) fresh basil, chopped

2 Tbsp (30 mL) balsamic, optional


  1. Heat a large pot over medium heat; add the oil and the onion and sauté till almost cooked, approx. 5 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Add the carrots and the garlic. Sauté for 3 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Add the tomatoes, beans, chicken stock and the water.
  4. Bring to the boil. Add the kale, whole wheat rotini, red pepper flakes and pepper. Bring back to the boil, cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10 – 12 minutes or until the pasta is cooked.
  5. Add the basil and balsamic if using, stir and serve. If desired sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.


Makes – 10 cups (2.5 L)

Serves – 6 – 1 ½ cups (375 mL) serving


Each 1 ½ cups (375 mL) serving contains

210 Calories, 4 g Total fat, 0.5 g Sat Fat, 0 g Trans Fat, 490 mg Sodium, 33 g Carbs, 10 g Fibre, 10 g Protein

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