You can afford to eat healthy by practicing smart grocery shopping. Our desire to feed our family healthy foods is sometimes challenged by budgetary concerns over the cost of healthier foods.  Here are some great tips on how you can


your dollar  and do some smart shopping!

Healthy Food Smart Shopping

Portion Control

Yes, portion control, not only can proper portions help you minimize overeating, it can save you money on uneaten food.  One recent report said that we can waste up to 30% of our food because we cook too much and many times throw away what is left on our plates.  But for those who tend to clear their over portioned plates; the savings may also include your health.  Smart grocery shopping isn’t just about spending less but wasting less.

healthywomanFruits & Vegetables

Of course, fresh is preferable, however, when not in season or on sale, many times fresh can be expensive.  So consider frozen which has some good benefits.  Flash-frozen fruits and vegetables retain many of their nutrients that are many times lost with fresh produce when it spends too much time on the shelf or in the truck on the way to your store.  The other benefit that makes frozen fruit a great choice for smart grocery shopping is that it will not spoil.

Private Label or Store Brands

These are not you mother’s private label products of the past.  In many cases store brands are equal to or better in quality than many of the national brands; in many cases, the national brands produce the store brands.  And, for those who prefer organics, you’ll now find many organic store brands which makes smart grocery shopping much more achievable.

Smart Grocery Shopping for Local Foods

There is a resurgence of farmers markets around the country, and most carry locally grown produce that is in season.  Check around for a farmers market or produce stand in your area and you might find some great smart grocery shopping opportunities.

Bulk Up

That’s right, Costco, Sams, and BJ’s offer some great values provided you don’t get carried away.  For fresh meat, poultry, and fish buying in bulk, individually wrapping portions, and placing them in your freezer is very smart grocery shopping.  Also, many natural food stores offer some products such as oatmeal in bulk that are a better value than the same thing in a package.

Play the Game

First off, it always makes sense to practice smart grocery shopping by checking the ads and clipping those coupons, but that sometimes can be a time-consuming process.  Don’t veer away from healthy eating just for the savings.  If what you know is right to eat is not on sale, take the savings from non-food items and apply the difference to healthier foods.  Here are some more sites that can help save you money:

Smart Grocery Shopping Online

But wait a minute, doesn’t that cost money?  Well yes, generally around $10, however, you may come out ahead by skipping the impulse purchases and by being able to shop the specials online when you may miss them in-store.  In most cases you may also use your coupons without having to shuffle through them while you are shopping and you’ll save on gas.

Value Protein

Protein does not always take the shape of meat, poultry, or fish.  Less costly alternatives for smart grocery shopping are available in nuts, beans, tofu, peanut butter (watch out for peanut butters with hydrogenated oils in most national brands), and eggs.  The old reliable PB&J sandwich is a great way for kids to get protein; just substitute the “J” for the pure fruit alternative.

Smart Grocery Shopping is About More Than Price

Have you ever wondered what some of those words on the nutrition facts label and the ingredients lists really mean?  Manufacturers are getting more and more clever in choosing words to put on their labels and the confused shopper is left to “trust” the manufacturer.  We have decided to arm you with knowledge what is in your food so you can continue smart grocery shopping.  Here are some definitions to help you make better choices in the supermarket:

Ascorbic Acid

This is just another name for vitamin C.  It is a citrus fruit derivative and acts as a preservative, helping prevent oxidation.  When you add lemon or lime to avocado to prevent it from turning brown, you are adding ascorbic acid.

Acacia and Guar Gum

These are binding agents and help thicken food and are harvested from the tree or shrub with the same name.

Food Additives/Colors

Chemically created substances that are added to foods to enhance flavor or appearance.

  • These “excitotoxins” are known to alter the chemistry of the brain and include artificial sweeteners like aspartame, MSG, food colorings, and preservatives.
  • Have no nutritional value.
 Linked to neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
 A child’s growing brain is four times more sensitive to excitotoxins.
 Can cause severe headaches and mood swings in both children and adults. Make sure you are smart grocery shopping for your family by avoiding these as much as possible.


Generally recommended as safe. This means that the product is generally recognized by the scientific community as safe to add to foods but that it might not have been specifically tested for adverse effects.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

 An inexpensive sweetener added to many processed food items, especially “low-fat” foods.  Because it is not a “natural” product it does not break down quickly, therefore extending the shelf life for a multitude of products.  A chemical process developed in the 1970’s that converts the semi-sweet cornstarch (corn) sugars to much-sweeter fructose.

  • Unlike natural sugars, HFCS does not trigger the release of the hormone leptin, part of the body’s natural system that creates the feeling of fullness and satisfaction.  Those who have HFCS regularly in their diet are more likely to overeat.
  • HFCS is believed to increase blood fats more than the same amount of table sugar, causing a rise in bad cholesterol which has been linked to heart disease.  When you are smart grocery shopping be aware of foods that contain HFCS.

Hydrogenated Oils (or Partially Hydrogenated Oils)

 An unhealthy fat that results from food manufacturers pumping hydrogen gas into vegetable oil, a process called “hydrogenation.” This process chemically changes these unsaturated fats and provides some economical advantages for food manufacturers.  First, hydrogenation helps oil withstand higher heat (like deep-frying in many fast food restaurants) and second, it gives products a longer shelf-life because these chemically altered fats don’t spoil as fast as natural oils.

  • Our bodies do not recognize these chemically altered fats like natural fats, so when these unnatural fats are absorbed into our body’s cell 
membranes, they become more rigid and they interfere with the cell membranes’ growth and function.
  • Hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils are known to raise cholesterol, decrease immunity, increase heart disease, increase many cancers, increase the chance of developing diabetes, and increase abdominal fat, which in turn increases the risk of many other diseases.

L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus, L. acidophilus, Bifidus, L. casei, and L. reuteri

These are all beneficial bacteria and are often added to yogurt.  Beneficial bacteria help the body in the digestion process and are a great thing to include on your smart grocery shopping list.


Made from a component of soybeans or egg yolks and is used to help foods stay moist.

Minimally Processed

Raw material is not fundamentally altered.


  • Meat, poultry, and eggs legally can contain no artificial ingredients or added colors.  They can only be minimally processed.
  • For all other foods “natural” has no legal meaning. The FDA has no definition of the term “natural.” This means that companies can put a “natural” label on almost any product.


Organic production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenish soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. Organically produced foods also must be produced without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering, sewage sludge, irradiation, or other excluded practices. Cloning animals or using their products would be considered inconsistent with organic practices.  Organic foods are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation to maintain the integrity of the food. Smart grocery shopping should include organic products as often as possible. (Source:


The fat that results from a vegetable oil that has gone through the process of “hydrogenation” is called a trans-fat. These fats are called “trans-fats” because the process of hydrogenation transports atoms from one side of the fat molecule to the other.

  • If an ingredients label has the words “hydrogenated oils” or “partially hydrogenated oils” listed the product contains trans-fats.
  • If trans-fats are less than .5% of a serving, the food manufacturer can legally say “No trans fats” on the packaging.

Avoiding GMOs

You spend hours sorting through confusing advertising messages and reading lengthy nutrition labels when smart grocery shopping to provide your family with the highest possible level of nutrition. In addition to looking for fiber and fat content, have you ever considered whether the food you are purchasing contains GMOs?

GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, are created when an organisms genome has been altered by the techniques of genetic engineering so that its DNA contains one or more genes not normally found there. The new method of genetic engineering is a scientific technology that unnaturally forces genetic information across the protective species barrier.

What does this mean to you, and why should you be concerned? There are many reasons you should be concerned, one of which is that these products have been laboratory created and limited amounts of testing results exist for these products.  For more information on GMOs, visit

To help you with smart grocery shopping for your family the Center for Food Safety has created a downloadable document detailing what specific brands and products use GMOs. Click here to view and download this sheet and gain an additional tool for smart grocery shopping.

Simple Substitutions

Here are some great substitutions to make your family healthier:

Instead Of: Try: For:
Sour Cream Plain Yogurt (equal amount) Topping on a baked potato or soup, Enhancing Mexican Food
Mayonnaise Plain Yogurt (equal amount)
Avocado, Hummus, or Pesto
Tuna, egg or chicken salad, Sandwich spread
Bottled Salad Dressing A combination of: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Apple cider or balsamic vinegar, Choice of herbs/spices like oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary and tarragon Salad dressing
Rice Quinoa, Kashi or Couscous A side dish
Oil Applesauce (equal amount), Broth Baked goods, Sautéing
Granulated Sugar
(1 cup)
¾ cup honey and reduce liquid in recipe by ¼ cup
Buttermilk (1 cup) 1 cup milk mixed with 1 tbsp white or apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice (let stand 5 minutes), 3/4 cup of plain yogurt and 1/4 cup of milk, 1 cup plain yogurt (for baking)
Wine Apple juice or cider, ¼ cup vinegar, ¼ cup water & 1 tbsp sugar Cooking, Marinating

Dr. Sears LEAN StartFinally, when smart grocery shopping, keep in mind that eating healthy leads to better health; better health leads to savings with fewer sick days and trips to the doctor!

Sign up for my online Dr. Sears LEAN Start classes, coming soon, to learn more about Smart Shopping, Label Reading, Meal Planning and Much More!

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Source: Dr. Sears Wellness Institute