How to Choose Healthier Foods: 10 Tips

June 16, 2020
When you go to the store, it's important to have some guidelines in mind regarding what you should and shouldn't buy for your weekly menu. Today, we'll offer you 10 tips to help you choose healthier foods.

Choosing healthier foods can be a headache when we’re unaware of some of the basics that can help us out. Therefore, in the following article, we’ll tell you what you need to know so you can bring home the right selection from the grocery store!

Choosing healthier foods

The first step to choosing healthier foods is going to the store when you’re on a full stomach. In other words, you should never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry!

A 2013 study published by JAMA Internal Medicine supports this claim. According to the study, those that do their grocery shopping while hungry tend to buy foods that are higher in calories

So, now you know… In order to eat better, you need to have lunch before you head to the store!

Now, let’s assume you’re done eating and, therefore, you’re full. What else do you need to keep in mind to choose healthier foods?

Take note of the following tips.

1. Choose fresh foods

A basket full of fruits and vegetables.
Fresh fruits and vegetables should make up part of your daily diet.

Your first choice when going out shopping is to opt for fresh foods. Fruits and vegetables offer an infinite amount of nutrients. Principally, they provide vitamins and minerals and, therefore, should make up plenty of space in your shopping cart.

Don’t wait until the end of your shopping trip to grab your fruits and vegetables. Stock up right away when you have plenty of energy and are enjoying the activity. That way, you’ll be more likely to grab a greater amount than you would if you were already eager to get home. What’s more, you’ll probably spend more time making sure your fruits and vegetable are in good condition.

2. Prioritize foods that are local and in season

When it comes to choosing fresh foods, opt for those that come from your region and that are currently in season.

Keep in mind that fruits and vegetables from far away must travel long distances to the supermarket. That usually means that farmers harvest them before they’re ripe and, therefore, they ripen in boxes while traveling. As a result, they offer a lower amount of nutrients than fruits and vegetables that ripen before harvest.

3. Buy whole-grain foods to choose healthier foods

A variety of whole grains.
Whole grains offer more nutrients that refined grains.

When it comes to choosing healthier foods, whole grains cereals should also be a priority. These grains maintain their bran, germ, and endosperm, which all offer different nutritional benefits. 

As for bran, it offers fiber, iron, magnesium, and group B vitamins. At the same time, the germ is rich in vitamin E and healthy fats. Finally, the endosperm provides carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

Unlike refined cereals, whole grain cereals provide a great number of nutrients. All of these components are beneficial for the body, so don’t forget to put plenty of whole-grain products in your cart!

Discover more: Replacing Commercial Cereals with Whole Grain Cereals

4. If your budget allows for it, go organic

If you’re looking to choose healthier foods, organic is the best way to go. These foods stand out because they don’t contain any synthetic traces. In other words, they’ve had no contact with preservatives, artificial colors, or any type of antibiotic or pesticide.

So, by consuming organic foods, you’ll be sure to avoid toxic residue that can be harmful to your health. If you have an organic farm or vegetable garden nearby, shop there to get healthier foods.

5. Look at nutrition facts labels to choose healthier foods

A woman reading a nutrition facts label.
Read the nutrition facts labels on containers in order to choose healthier foods.

When we go to the store, we often throw things in the cart without putting much thought into it. But have you ever stopped to read the labels?

We’re not referring to the main packaging where we read phrases like “light” or “sugar-free”. Rather, we’re talking about turning the package around and looking closely at the nutrition facts label. There, you’ll be able to see what ingredients are really in the food you’re buying.

If you want to choose healthier foods, then understanding the nutrition facts labels is a fundamental step. You should know that the ingredients on the label are in order according to their volume. Therefore, the first ingredient to appear on the list is the principal ingredient, and the amount of each ingredient that follows is lower than the previous ingredient.

Besides just looking at the number of calories in each product, we recommend taking a closer look at the nutritional information. Check if the product has saturated fats, how much sodium and sugar it contains, and compare it with other products. That way, you’ll choose the option with the best nutritional value.

6. Give preference to foods that are low in fat

When buying cheese and milk, choose those that are low in fact. Low-fat products are ideal for the entire family to consume, except for children under the age of 3, who require whole-fat products.

7. Avoid pre-cooked meals

Precooked meals, like frozen dinners, contain a lot of preservatives and sodium. You’re much better off buying fresh ingredients and preparing meals from scratch.

That way, your dishes will be much more flavorful and nutritious.

8. Don’t buy candy and sweets

A pile of gummy candies - choose healthier foods
Excess sweets can put negatively affect your family’s oral health.

We know that it can be hard, but do your best!

In general, candies and sweets don’t offer your body any nutrients and only contain so-called “empty calories”. So, instead, opt for a bar of dark chocolate to satisfy your desire for something sweet.

Discover: 5 Great and Curious Reasons to Eat Dark Chocolate

9. Don’t let advertising fool you

This final recommendation for choosing healthier foods goes hand in hand with reading nutrition facts labels. Don’t allow advertising to influence your choices.

Rather, look for yourself to see what nutritional benefits different foods offer. Some foods that claim to be “light” actually contain a great deal of sugar, for example.

10. Make a list

This may seem obvious, but making a list and sticking to it will prevent you from compulsive buying… or at least keep your compulsive buying to a minimum. Those products we add to our cart out on a whim tend to be high in calories and low in nutritional value.

Choosing healthier foods requires awareness and discipline. Before doing your grocery shopping, plan what meals you want to eat during the week. Prepare your list accordingly and only allow for one or two temptations.

That way, you’ll spend less and eat better!

  • Tal A., Wansink B., Fattening fasting: hungry grocery shoppers buy more calories, not more food. JAMA Intern Med, 2013.
  • Gianfredi V., Salvatori T., Villarini M., Moretti M., et al., Is dietary fibre truly protective against colon cancer? a systematic review and meta analysis. Int J Food Sci Nutr, 2018. 69 (8): 904-915.