Article by Registered Dietitian Amy Bragagnini, MS, RD, CSO

Healthy eating begins with a list (well, at least in this dietitian’s opinion).  So many people have the best intentions to improve the overall health of their diet…but then they make the mistake of going to the grocery store without a plan, especially during the holidays! They may swing through the store and purchase a plethora of produce (catchy, eh?) but then get it home and not have any clue what to do with it.  Many of my patients report feeling frustrated that they can’t lose weight; however, when I ask them what they have been eating they say “I was too tired to cook so I grabbed a pizza” or “we didn’t have any food so I grabbed fast food on the way home.”  Planning ahead is the first step to improving your diet and helping stay on track during the hectic holidays season (i.e. christmas cookies, candy, eggnog, oh and more christmas cookies). It will take a little time and effort but will have huge pay outs in the end.

The first step to improving your diet is to get your family involved.  I suggest having everyone brainstorm about ways to improve the nutrient value of the foods you are eating. Get your list ready and discuss the upcoming week. Plan meals for each night of the week and think about batch cooking on the weekends to be prepared for those nights where you don’t have the time.  Make sure there is a healthy vegetable serving with each of the dinners and try to include veggies at lunch. Discuss healthy snack options with your family. If potato chips and cookies are not in the house, you can’t eat them. Keep the “dinner menu” in a place where all of the family members can see it and so they know what to expect. This will help enlist their help in getting the basics together for you if you are running late.

While you are talking with your family, begin your grocery list. I like to have my list set up based on the flow of the grocery store. I break up my list into sections based on what I encounter first in the store. That way I am less likely to forget something and have to go back. (Don't forget to stop at the juice aisle!) Be sure you are checking the store circular in advance for sales and be sure to note sale items on your list. When in the store, stick to the list. And, given that it is very easy to impulse buy in the store, don’t go to the grocery store hungry. Try to go during a time that it will not be too busy. Every once in a while I will go to the store early in the morning before work or later at night to miss the crowds.

One of the most important steps to grocery store shopping takes place after the shopping trip! When you get home, it is very important that you prep your purchases. Based on your planned dinners/lunches, I recommend cutting up the necessary produce that will be used in the dinners or to pack in lunches. Chop peppers and broccoli for stir fry, put hummus in small Tupperware for lunches and slice up fruit and place in a clear container for snacking. Finally, set up your day for success by packing your breakfast and lunch the night before. While I am cleaning up from dinner I have my lunch box out and I fill it with yogurt/granola for breakfast and I assemble my salad, string cheese and high fiber granola bar while I am putting away leftovers. That allows me to leave the house on time and with healthy food the next morning!

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