You always go to the grocery store with healthy intentions, and yet, when it’s time to check out, you notice a shocking amount of junk food in your cart. How did this happen? And why is it so hard to avoid?

While the grocery store always appears in a constant state of chaos, they’re actually structured very strategically. Like any business, the primary goal is to get consumers to spend as much as possible. Typically, this means coercing you into purchasing an abundance of sugar-coated, high-calorie foods through a seemingly cheap deal. After all, you may not need it, but who can say no to a bargain?

Don’t fall into the trap at the expense of your own health. Learn how to leave the supermarket feeling proud of your purchases:

Make a List

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And stay committed to it! You’re less likely to splurge on the junk food you don’t need if you go to the grocery store with a plan. That way when one of your unhealthy guilty pleasures catches your eye, you’ll be able to look down at something reminding you it isn’t actually a necessity.

Explore the Store’s Perimeter First

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Most of us traverse the supermarket by wandering from one side of the store to the other. This could actually be one of the leading reasons we find ourselves with an abundance of fatty, sugar-coated junk when we make our way to check out. The majority of foods you should avoid are assembled in all the aisles. You’ll find the fruits, vegetables, lean meats and low-fat dairy products are available along the border of the store.

Find Healthier Substitutes

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Fortunately, there are plenty of substitutes for the junk food you can’t live without that essentially tastes the same, with the added bonus of low calories. You can get the same satisfaction you gain from chips by eating popcorn, or pickles, or carrots with hummus instead. Just remember that when you hear, “Doritos,” your body is really craving sodium, which can be found in many other foods.

Avoid Falling for “Fat Free” Fakeouts

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As much as I want to believe low-fat peanut butter is the same as healthy peanut butter, this, unfortunately, isn’t the case. By slapping a “fat-free’ label on products, consumers sort of started to think that meant cookies were now a little bit healthier to eat. In reality, removing the fat from these products means companies had to make up for it somewhere else — usually with an ingredient your body breaks down in the same way it does sugar.

In fact, there are plenty of foods we’ve been lead to believe are good for us, when in reality they’re not.

Also, Whole Wheat Is a Lie

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I really do feel bad about spoiling this one, but whole wheat is full of sugar and gluten and flour. It’s really no better than just swapping your meal for a Snickers bar. Whole wheat not only contributes to a growing muffin top, but it’s also linked to a mess of other severe issues. From now on, skip the whole wheat, and invest in chickpea pasta, corn tortillas, veggie fries, and sprouted grain bread.

Avoid Last-Minute Temptations

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So you’ve made it to checkout, and the finish line is in sight. You’re feeling proud of your purchases when suddenly you notice the assorted snacks while waiting in line to pay. You find yourself thinking, “When was the last time I even had a Milky Way?” Before you know it, you’ve started justifying a treat because, after all, look at all the healthy food you’re about to invest in! One sweet won’t kill you, right?

This is how many stores get consumers to buy last minute items they truly don’t need. They force you to stare at it while waiting to pay for your things. If you find your stomach whining at checkout, pop open one of your healthy snacks (grapes, nuts, etc.) and satisfy your cravings with that. After all, since you’re trying to improve your eating habits, you shouldn’t start by feeling guilty about a candy bar!

How do you avoid guilty pleasures at the supermarket? Let us know in the comments!

The clean eating can start tomorrow. Here’s where to find the most delicious doughnuts in the DMV! 

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