Buying food

Making informed choices at the supermarket can help trim your waistline, lower your salt intake and keep your heart healthy. As an added bonus, smart food shopping can also be good for your wallet, helping you to save pennies along the way. So here's realbuzz's essential guide to food shopping...

Buying food in season is one way to cut down on spending. Winter vegetables such parsnips, carrots, and sweet potato are cheap and cheerful in the winter, and are great when roasted, baked, or made into stews, mash or soups. Ask your local grocer what’s in season to get the best quality produce and the best prices.

Smart shopping can help you avoid reaching for takeaway menus or convenience foods when you’re in need of a quick meal – this means you not only save money, but avoid fatty, processed foods too.

Standby items such as tinned beans and dried herbs – when bulked out with fresh produce – can easily be transformed into a nourishing, nutritious meal. For example, tinned chickpeas can be blended with garlic, lemon, tahini and olive oil to make hummus, while lentils can be added to vegetables and stock to make a hearty and healthy soup.

When shopping, remember to read the labels to keep an eye on salt, fat and sugar levels. Claims on the front of packets can be misleading, so check the information on the back for yourself. Try to avoid highly processed foods (such as salty snacks), items with added sugar, and foods that contain saturated or trans fats. Remember too that some packaged foods may contain more than one serving. For example, one large pack of corn chips can contain up to six servings. Sticking to the serving sizes can help you keep portion sizes in check.

Lastly, try not to shop when you’re hungry! Shopping on a full stomach rather than when your tummy’s rumbling can help you to make better food choices. Hunger fuels impulse buying and steers you towards quick-fix foods – you may find when you get home that you actually have very little that you can make a meal out of.

You might want to look at the following list to give you some inspiration before you hit the supermarket:

Canned goods
These have a very long shelf-life and can be extremely handy… but try to stay away from foods tinned in salt or sugar solutions.

  • Tinned tomatoes – a must for sauces and stews.
  • Tuna – a good lunch staple – mix with low-fat yoghurt and lemon juice and have in a baked potato or with salad and oatcakes
  • Salmon, sardines contain good oils for a healthy heart
  • Sweetcorn for salads, soups, stews, fritters, bread
  • Beans, chickpeas are full of fibre

Dried goods
Cupboard staples

  • Herbs and spices use these in place of salt to add flavour to your food
  • Oatcakes contain soluble fibre, which can help lower cholesterol
  • Lentils, couscous, other grains excellent staples that add fibre to your diet
  • Porridge oats contains slow release sugars that can keep you feeling fuller for longer
  • Mixed unsalted nuts are full of healthy oils
  • Dried fruit – high in iron; a handy snack when you need a sugar hit
  • Vegetable stock cubes – extremely versatile, but can be high in salt, so try not to overuse these

Frozen goods
Frozen foods can have a higher nutrient content than fresh, as they are processed quickly after harvesting.

  • Vegetables, for example: peas – try with risotto or in pasta
  • Fruit, for example: frozen berries great for making fruit-based puddings, breakfasts, desserts and smoothies
  • Wholemeal bread, for example: pitta bread filled with salad and lean protein for lunch, or have as a snack with homemade hummus

Handy foods to have...

  • Lemons – a good source of vitamin C
  • Onions contain compounds that act as antioxidants
  • Garlic may help lower cholesterol
  • Pureed herbs use instead of salt to flavour food

And once a week, stock up on:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables as colourful a range as possible to get the widest variety of nutrients
  • Lean meat for protein, iron and zinc
  • White fish – a low fat protein
  • Oily fish for omega-3 oils, which can benefit your heart and mind
  • Low-fat dairy products – a good source of calcium

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