The HSI Grocery Guide

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There are no magic pills, shakes, powders or quick fixes.

The weight loss industry has offered us so many diets to choose from that they've begun to contradict each other! This massive industry (which, by the way, raked in over $65 billion in 2017 alone) turns out hundreds of strategies - many of which revolve around your intake of macronutrients, the compounds found in all foods we consume in large quantities: carbohydrates, fats and protein.

A lot of trending diets place emphasis on one macronutrient over the others, but at the end of the day, a balance of all three is not only important but critical to overall health. What many people fail to realize is that our bodies are extremely adaptive to our needs and naturally do some of the balancing act for us! For example, if your body is low on iron, it will absorb more through the foods you eat, or if you're getting too much vitamin C, your body will naturally excrete what it doesn't need. You don't have to be hyper-vigilant about your intake - just listen to what your body needs and make nutritious decisions.

Finding a healthy balance doesn't have to be that complicated - in fact, it shouldn't! I wrote this blog to help cut through the confusion. Here are some tips on where and how to start your long-term "fresh is best" sustainable diet:

Before the Grocery Store

Prep for success.

Every week, I set aside time to map out food plans for the week. I consider which days will be busy and what nights will require leftovers on hand. For us, planning takes place on Saturdays, but find a day of the week that works best for you to determine a weekly menu and grocery list. 

No clue where to begin? Check out these meal prep resources and recipes:

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Sides

At the Grocery Store

Stick to the list.

First of all, never go to the grocery store hungry. If you do, you're more likely to stray from your list. Your list should contain the ingredients you need to create 5+ meals throughout the week and a few staple items like fruits, vegetables and extra meat to keep on hand in the freezer.

Keep to the perimeter. 

I'm sure you've seen advice on how to read a nutrition label, but the best foods don't have labels! Try to stay on the outside perimeter of the grocery store - that's where you'll find healthy dairy, grain and produce options. Avoid aisles where the majority of the food is packaged in bags and boxes because it's often an indication that the food is processed. If you're stocking up on fruits and vegetables, seek out fresh or frozen options first - canned foods are often filled with excess sugar and/or preservatives.

One more pro tip: your grocery store likely has a health section or designated aisle that promotes organic options. Be sure to look closely at the nutrition facts and ingredients in this section before making an assumption that everything is truly good for you.

Variety is nice, but not necessary. 

If vegetables aren't your favorite, find the ones you like and stick with them! If the opportunity calls for you to get adventurous, you can, but don't let that interfere with your health habits. Here's a list of foods in season throughout the year, increasing the odds that the produce you buy will stay fresh longer. 

Unpacking Your Groceries

Make food accessible.

I wash and cut up produce as part of my unpacking process, otherwise, much of the food is likely to stay in the bag or container it came in. Once washed and cut up, I place them in eyesight. If they go in the crisper drawer, I'll likely bypass them each time I open the refrigerator. I also take time to prepare a dozen hard boiled eggs - they're a great form of protein throughout the week and great to have handy for meals on-the-go.

Don't get too caught up on how food is prepared. If it's appealing to you, then it's a win, especially compared to many alternative options. When preparing recipes, be open to healthy substitutes: replace sugar with applesauce, pure maple syrup, honey, dates, coconut or raw sugar. You can also substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream in certain recipes. 

Get back to the basics.

It's important to remember that food is a form of medicine and has the ability to directly impact energy levels, attitudes and our overall sense of wellbeing.

Fresh is always best. Your body deserves and depends on a nutritious balance of protein, grains, fruits and vegetables. Simplify the process where you can and be your own advocate. If you can grow it or wash it, you should eat it often and make it part of a healthy, sustainable diet. You can heal your body with the right foods just as easily as you can harm your body when you deprive it of the nutrients it needs.