What’s your nutritional GPA?: How to be a savvy grocery shopper

You’ve made your New Year’s resolutions and so far you’re doing all the right things. You’re making it into the gym on a regular schedule and have even found a fitness class you enjoy. Your mornings begin with a hearty, protein rich breakfast and you’re even packing your lunch for work. You did cave when one of your coworkers brought in homemade sea salt and caramel chocolate chip cookies, but hey, besides that you’re doing pretty well! Until it comes to grocery shopping.

Funny Cry for Help Ecard: I made poor decisions at the grocery store.Source: Some Ecards

You can work out until you’re blue in the face, but if you aren’t maintaining a balanced, healthy diet then you likely won’t see or feel the benefits and results you’re after. It could be due to a moment of weakness while strolling down the chips and dip or frozen pizza aisle. Or maybe you’re shopping on an empty (or full) stomach, as both can make a grocery shopping trip a failure towards your health goals. You’re already working so hard towards obtaining a healthy and active lifestyle, so why not make the full commitment and be a savvy grocery shopper?

IMG_1360My hidden gem farmer’s market in Hell’s Kitchen. The best looking produce for the best price!

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What’s the plan Stan?

You didn’t make a list ahead of time and now you can’t remember what you really need and you’re doing the grocery cart dance move by grabbing everything in reach that looks appealing. Plan ahead for what you need for meals and healthy snacks and stick to your list as this will prevent the wandering eye. In addition you’ll also cut down on the amount of time you’ll spend shopping leaving you time to work on some real dance moves!

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You’re not “tasting the rainbow”

Put those Skittles down, we’re not talking that rainbow. Your shopping cart should contain a variety of colors from the produce department as each color tends to offer your body a different source of essential vitamins and minerals for your body. If fresh produce stretches your budget a bit, first shop for what’s in season and then it’s okay to hit the frozen aisle or even the canned food. Just avoid foods that are prepared with sauces in them or have added salts and sugars.

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You shop when you’re hungry

These are the moments when we are at our weakest. Everything looks good and we lose our ability to resist the temptation of chips and dips and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. Try having a light snack as shopping on a full stomach can lead to you not wanting to buy any food and results to ordering in when you really are hungry at home but have no healthy options on hand.

You’re shopping when you’re full

It’s good to not shop on an empty stomach, but it can be equally bad to shop on a full stomach as nothing will look appealing and you’ll go home with less than you need for the week causing you to make poor choices later in the week. Try having a light snack or bringing along water to keep you hydrated and hold you over while you shop.

To the person who boughtthe Fat-free, Sugar-free,Lactose-Free, Soy,Coffee Creamer Substitute Be afraid! Be very afraid!

Source: Rotten Ecards

You’re fooled by things like “sugar-free” and snack size.

Just because it’s sugar-free and/or 100 calories a serving, doesn’t mean it’s healthy and unfortunately a lack of self-control can lead to multiple “100 calorie servings”.  Instead, look for foods with natural sugars and no additives or sugar substitutes. If you’re going to have something sweet, have the real deal. And if you’re looking for moderation, look for things that are already individually packaged for snack size or make your own 100 calorie portions at home by dividing into Ziploc bags.

Avoid eye contact

Retailers know that if you see it, you’ll be tempted to buy it. Because of this, often times tempting items that may not have already been on your grocery list are placed at eye level so you’re tempted to add these items to your purchase. Stick to the list and avoid the wandering eye!IMG_1395

You aren’t grocery shopping enough

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, most people only grocery shop roughly 1x a week. If you’re in this category, you’re likely purchasing too many packaged, unnatural (aka not the most healthy option) goods as this frequency isn’t often enough to keep your fresh produce replenished. Try going twice a week and buying what you need to hold you over until the next trip.

Trying to find time to shop twice a week and keep track of what’s about to expire…ain’t no one got time for that! Good thing there’s an app for that.

Locavore– Do you know what’s in season throughout the year in your region? This app will tell you what’s in season and allows you to compare supermarkets and farmers markets. Buying in season helps ensure not just good quality produce, but also a good price!

Fooducate– Now you can look up a food on the spot to see what its nutritional value is. By scanning the bar code, you can see what grade (A-F) that food has been given and if there’s a better option out there. So what’s your GPA nutrition goal?

Green Egg Shopper – Keep track of the foods you purchase and their expiration dates by logging them in each time you shop. This app will keep track of when they expire and when foods should be replenished.

What are some of your healthy grocery shopping tricks?

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One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years. –Tom Wolfe

I know I’ve compared New York City to a hormonal teenage girl before. But after a year of living here, I’ve realized this is an injustice to this place. I don’t know how you really describe this beautiful catastrophe, but if there was a pms-ing, hormonal teenager trapped in the Dalai Lama and he also happened to be a place, he would be New York City.

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Weird comparison? Probably one of the most bizarre I’ve ever thought up of. But it’s the best analogy I can use to sum up my first year residing in the Big Apple. New York can pull a person’s emotions all over the place. It can wear you down emotionally, cause you to feel lost and confused. It has the power to leave you overwhelmed with chaos and at the same time, overwhelmed with opportunity. It will evoke inspiration, to be not just hopeful for the future, but empowered to create your life the way you thought was only conceivable in your dreams. You’ll discover yourself a dozen times only to realize you are stronger and capable of more than you ever fathomed.

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It’ll make you feel so poor that you begin to value the super saver coupons and Walgreen’s Value of the Week, but rich in intellectual stimulation from the fascinating people you’ll converse with when your subway is being “held by the dispatcher, we’ll be moving ‘momentarily’”.  You’ll feel fit as Jillian Michaels from carrying your life and groceries with you everywhere you go, only to gain back all that lost weight after devouring the best pizza, cookies, and cheesecake in THE WORLD. It’s true, New York is the city where you can be anyone you want to be, see and do anything you want to do, and wake up the next day feeling like you still have so much to grasp from what this city has to offer. Who would have thought such a place could actually exist?

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Originally, I had five pages to serve as a “brief” summary of my past year. But I didn’t want to lose anyone with my idea of “brief”/”rambling” and remembered there’s a reason I’ve been blogging about my adventures in the city this past year. At least I can use those pages as an opener for the book that I will likely put out there one day.

So what do I post on my one year anniversary with the city? I could compare the two days and share my terrifying taxi ride and grocery store experience on my first day. Or give 365 lessons I’ve learned while in the city, including don’t do talk to strangers on the subway and behind you in line at Trader Joe’s. I could talk about all the different people I’ve been blessed to meet and the friends I’ve made from all over the world.  I could talk about how making friends is harder than dating, but when you do make a friend, they’re your friend for life and you would do anything for them.

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I could steer towards the dramatic side and talk about how there were moments I didn’t think I would make it a year in this city as I broke down on nearly every block of Broadway and discovered that even thinking you have bed bugs is one of the worst feelings in the world. Or I could talk about my experience with finding an apartment and roommates on Craigslist and how my mom was petrified I was going to arrive in the city and find out I had been scammed and there would be no roommate and no apartment for me to arrive to. Craigslist and roommates are going to have to be their own chapter in my New York life story.

I could share my Big Apple Bucketlist and what some of my highlights have been from this year such as running across the Brooklyn Bridge, standing shoulder to shoulder next to Neil Patrick Harris walking down Broadway, ice skating in Central Park hand in hand with my love, watching fireworks on a rooftop in the middle of the summer, seeing the Yankees play against the Red Sox, running through Central Park with my sister during the biggest rainstorm I’ve ever been caught in, landing a job with my dream magazine to work for, playing a red piano in Prospect Park, finding my NYC soul mate, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the list goes on and on.

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Instead, I figured I would share the best thing NYC gave me. It’s something I kind of already knew, but NYC reiterated it and made me realize the truth behind it.

On the day of my one year anniversary, storm Hercules caused the Rodale offices to be closed giving me an extra day to spend with Luke and also a day to get caught up on things around the apartment while he worked from home. I found this out after my early morning wake up and workout. New York always finds ways to surprise me. The next 48 hours were actually the perfect way I would have wanted to celebrate my one year. I made French toast for Alex, Luke, and myself followed by trekking through the snow with my bags of laundry and ordered in Luke’s favorite, Blockheads. Later that evening, we met up with a group of friends to go down the block and watch the Ohio State bowl game as Alex and I reminisced on our first encounter and memories from our first year in the city from our first “date”, losing phones, sharing cabs with strangers, the best pizza we had, accompanied by laughter and toasting to another great year in the city. The next day, Luke and I ice skated in Central Park and revisited the first place I went to in the city where I started to feel at ease with my move.
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With growling bellies, we walked over to my old neighborhood which happens to also be home to one of the best pizza places in the city. After each devouring an entire pizza to ourselves, it was time to go home for a How I Met Your Mother marathon and low key night before Luke’s departure.

What does all this have to do with what New York has given me? It has reiterated that life is about living with no regrets and making the most of whatever happens. If life gives you a snowday…by gosh you go out and play in that snow! And if you can get things done at the same time then it is a double Whammy. Take chances and don’t hold back. Find strength to go out and get what you really want in life. Be positive, be optimistic, and surround yourself with people who encourage you to be all these things and more.IMG_0489

The growth that has come with living in the city has created a woman who knows what she wants and makes sure that it happens. A woman whose increased curiosity has led her to not only discover the city that many people love, but has fallen in love with herself. I don’t know what the next year will bring, but I do know this hot potato will be taking on the big apple with all she’s got and living up every opportunity. Here’s to another year for the books!

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I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance. -Nora Ephron