10 Grocery Shopping Secrets that Will Make You Skinny

10 Grocery Shopping Secrets that Will Make You SkinnyBy Jessica Girdwain

Grocery shopping is not a new thing for you. In fact, you're probably there as many as a few times per week! But some seemingly unrelated things you do in the store-from whether you grab a cart or a basket to whether you pay with cash or credit-can make or break a healthy-eating habit. Follow these 10 tips next time you head to the store. Photo by Getty Images.

1. Make (and stick to) a shopping list.
Seventy-six percent of shoppers make decisions in-store, but that can deplete your cognitive capacity, making impulse purchases more likely, says Deborah Cohen, MD, author of the upcoming book, A Big Fat Crisis: The Hidden Forces Behind the Obesity Epidemic. Prevent this by planning meals for the week before you go to the store so you know what to buy-and don't resort to takeout. To build your list, Jen Haugen, a registered dietitian for the Austin, TX, location of the supermarket chain Hy-Vee, likes the app ZipList. Or order groceries online, suggests Dr. Cohen. It lessens mindless browsing (and impulse buys) because you're forced to search for the items you need.

Related: Discover 50 surprising foods under 50 calories.

2. Don't go stressed.
A bad day and the grocery store don't mix. "If you're susceptible to emotional eating, you're more likely to soothe yourself with comfort food, and you'll choose foods that reflect that," says Katherine Brooking, a registered dietitian in New York City. If you have no choice but to hit the supermarket (it's either that or takeout…again), then pick up one comforting treat to eat later. But bypass the ice cream, and opt for a healthier creamy-and-cool snack, like nonfat Greek yogurt with honey and fresh fruit.

3. Bring a snack. For you (and, sure, the kids too).
The worst thing you can do is shop with a growling stomach, says a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine. Why? Everything looks delicious (and your body tells you you need calories, stat!), and you're more likely to choose higher-calorie over low-cal foods. If you know you'll be hungry in the supermarket, take a fruit-and-nut bar or a small bag of trail mix and munch while you shop. (Just do it out of sight if employees give you the stink eye.)

4. Grab a cart.
Choosing one over a basket could help you pick apples over ice cream, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Marketing Research. Flexing your arm while holding a basket triggers a desire for instant gratification, researchers say, possibly because you're making a motion of pulling things toward you. So you're more likely to ignore long-term health goals and pick treats. When you get your cart, fill half the space with a "produce section" of fruits and veggies (fresh, frozen and canned), recommends Haugen. Less room in your cart for unhealthy fare means you take less home.

Related: Learn which foods keep you full longer.

5. Ignore combo foods.
Your plan: to use salsa as a low-cal, veggie-packed topping for chicken or as a dip for celery and carrot sticks. Be careful that tortilla chips don't sneak into your cart. Retailers know that placing popular combo items (like chips and salsa) next to each other increases sales of both because you associate one with the other, according to a University of Maryland study. Just being aware of sly supermarket tricks like this can influence what you buy and go a long way to making smart choices.

6. Shop for healthy, long-lasting foods in bulk bins.
Many grocery stores have big bins filled with unpackaged food, like lentils, rice, beans, nuts and dried fruit, that you can scoop into individual bags, often at a fraction of the packaged cost. "Use what's in the bins to build healthy meals and snacks in a hurry," says Haugen. For example, buy a few cups of black or red rice or an ancient grain like millet or bulgur, cook them up and freeze individual portions. Or pick up dried fruit and nuts (like walnuts and dried cherries) for a trail mix. These are often healthier than packaged versions because they don't include added oils and sugars.

7. Read every label.
People don't read nutrition labels as often as they think they do, according to research from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Even though one-third of study participants said they look at calorie content and 26% said they look at serving size, eye-tracking devices found only 9% actually pay attention to calories and 1% look at servings. Every time you put a new item in your cart, quickly scan for serving size and calories-small packages can contain two or three servings (translation: two or three times the calories), which you can easily eat in one sitting. Or use the Fooducate app, which allows you to scan the food's barcode to find out how healthy it is-and receive better alternatives.

Related: See 6 stomach-friendly foods.

8. Shop for good-for-you prepared food.
You don't have to swing by the drive-thru to make dinner happen in a rush. A healthier, just-as-quick alternative: Pick up nutritious premade food at the grocery store that's lighter in calories, fat and sodium than fast-food counterparts. Haugen's suggestions: a rotisserie chicken, pre-cut fruit and packaged salad mix. (You don't even have to wash the produce!) Shred the chicken on top of the salad and have fruit for dessert, or throw chicken into quesadillas with cheese and serve fruit and salad on the side. "This approach may cost a bit more, but a nutritious meal makes you feel good in the long run," she says.

9. Avoid the bakery
"Environmental cues can be powerful. We're vulnerable to the sight and smell of treats-even when we're not hungry," says Brooking. The best way not to get lured in is to not go there (even to take a peek) at all. Otherwise, when you get a whiff of your favorite cookie, you have to call on willpower not to give in-but willpower doesn't always work. Out of sight, out of mind.

10. Pay with cash.
Shelling out dollar bills-versus plunking down a credit card-can cut down on impulse purchases. One study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that you're more likely to buy more when credit cards are used. (That's how those Oreos got in there…) "Paying with cash gives you more of a set budget, so you're more likely to question if your family really needs another bag of chips," says Haugen. "Many times the answer is no."

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