Food manufacturers are recognizing Americans’ interest in healthy eating, and there are plenty of healthy, delicious foods in almost every aisle of the supermarket these days. Use these tips to focus on healthy selections for your whole family. If your kids are old enough, get them involved in choosing healthy items and navigating the store aisles to find the healthy stuff. It can be fun and will help them develop healthy eating patterns for life.
1. Cereal aisle: It’s no secret that prime real estate in the cereal aisle is at children’s eye level, so they can easily spot the sugary cereals and beg Mom and Dad to buy them. Try to resist – there are plenty of healthier options that still satisfy a sweet tooth. Be sure to look for whole-grain cereals that are high in fiber – 5 grams or more – and cereals that have less than 9 grams of sugar per serving.
2. Dairy section: Choose low-fat dairy options over whole milk and full-fat varieties; they usually have all the same nutrients and benefits without all the fat. Individual packs of cottage cheese and yogurt make great snacks, as do low-fat string cheese and individually wrapped cheese squares. Yogurts can be high in added sugar, so be sure to read the label and pick those with little added sugar. Take advantage of lunchtime as a great opportunity to give your kids natural sources of calcium.
3. Juice aisle: Only buy 100% juice and avoid other beverages that include such ingredients as high-fructose corn syrup, artificial color and artificial flavor.
4. Frozen section: Bags of frozen fruit and vegetables can come in handy when you’re out of fresh produce. Frozen berries can be mixed into yogurt or cereal. Frozen veggies are great in stir-fries and casseroles.
5. Produce section: Go for variety. Buying the fruit and vegetables your children like assures that they’ll eat plenty of them, but what about trying ones they’ve never even heard of? How about jicama, papaya, tomatillos, mango or even artichokes? Look for what’s in season and don’t be afraid to try something new. Prewashed and peeled veggies, such as mini carrots or celery sticks, make great snacks. Apples, pears, peaches, oranges and bananas are lunchbox-ready, but any fruit is easy to pack – simply cut it up and put it into little single-serving containers.
6. Soda aisle: Keep walking! But, if your kid loves the fizz and carbonation, consider flavored seltzer waters – they have zero calories and zero sugar. Or make your own spritzer by adding a splash of 100% fruit juice to seltzer.
7. Snack-food aisle: This can be a tough aisle with all the options out there: a zillion potato chips, pizza-flavored tortilla chips and sugar-laden cookies and bars – with new ones filling the shelves every day. Weeding out the good from the bad is a challenge, but here are some tips to get you started:
- Go for baked instead of fried potato chips or corn chips.
- Limit portion size; a 1-ounce portion is plenty.
- Avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oil listed in the ingredients list; these are unhealthy trans fats.
- Chose whole-wheat pretzels and whole-grain crackers over varieties made with refined flours.
- Look for granola bars that contain whole grains, nuts, seeds and pieces of dried fruit.
- Introduce your kids to snacks made of whole foods, such as nuts, dried fruit, trail mix and fruit leather.