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A lot of the time when you’re grocery shopping, you may feel overwhelmed by all the choices and end up buying things that aren’t necessarily healthy or that you don’t even need.

Here are 15 ways to fill that shopping cart with healthier food choices:

1. Don’t go hungry!! This is THE golden rule of shopping – it will help you avoid temptation and all those cookies and chips calling your name!

2. Do make a list! Planning your meals ahead of time and making a list will help you stay on track and stick to a healthy eating plan. It will also save you time and money.

3. Do shop around the perimeter of the store. Fresh and healthy ingredients such as produce, low-fat dairy, lean meats, and whole grains are located here. Empty calories are located in the middle aisles!

4. Do read food labels. Remember to look at the serving size first and then assess the calories, fats, sodium, and fiber.

5. Don’t forget the fine print on food labels. Check the ingredient list for trans fats and avoid products that contain partially hydrogenated oils.

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6. Don’t pass up frozen fruits and veggies. They are picked at their peak and then flash frozen so they retain nutrients. Keep a variety on hand in your freezer for quick and easy meals.

7. Do fill you cart with an array of color. Aim for fruits and veggies of all colors of the rainbow and you’ll reap the benefits of different phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

8. Do buy lean meats. Specifically, purchase meats that are labeled “lean” or “extra lean”. They meet criteria for being lower in fat and saturated fat.

9. Don’t forget the seafood department. Aim for 2 servings of fish a week, especially Omega-rich fish such as salmon, tuna, and trout.

10. Do buy whole wheat products. Make sure the breads and pasta you purchase list “whole wheat flour” as their first ingredient. Whole grains offer more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

11. Do buy healthy cereal. Look for cereals with at least 3 grams of fiber and less than 10 grams of sugar.

12. Don’t count out frozen meals or meal replacements. They offer instant portion and calorie control and are a convenient way to stay on track. Choose items with at least 10 grams of protein, less than 4 grams saturated fat, no trans fat, and less than 500 calories. Compare products and choose ones with the least sodium and the most fiber.

13. Do buy portion-controlled treats. They satisfy, but help avoid over-indulging. Try fudgesicles, fat-free pudding cups, frozen fruit juice bars, snack pack popcorn, 100 calorie packs, or string cheese.

14. Don’t skimp on non-fat and low-fat dairy. Calcium is not only important for strong bones, but may also play a role in weight loss and may help lower high blood pressure. If you do not drink milk, try fortified soy milk, rice milk, or almond milk.

15. Do try to buy sodium-smart products. These are products with less sodium than calories per serving. Aim for less than 2,300 mg (1 teaspoon) of sodium per day.

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