Despite the cheap and easy option of 24-hour food courts or hawker centres, perhaps you’ve made the decision to cut down on eating out. After all, the best way to control what goes into your food is to prepare it yourself. But if it’s been a while since your last trip to the supermarket, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by aisles of discounts, endless choices and temptations. In this article, we’ll share some basic guidelines on on how to best fill your shopping basket, as well as tips to get in, get what you need, and get out, and back to running!
Back to the Nutrition Basics
Like the fashion industry, many diet fads and nutrition advice have a short shelf-life. As experts are busy contradicting each other or changing their minds, it might be easy to feel overwhelmed and confused. Don’t worry! The fundamental principles of sound nutrition are timeless, sane, and easy to follow. If your grandparents were eating it 70 years ago, it’s probably good for you. Remember:
- Unless you have a serious food allergy, it is important to include all the basic food groups every day: fresh vegetables and fruits, meat and fish, cereals and grains, nuts and seeds, dairy, and healthy fats. Miss out on any one category and your diet becomes unbalanced, and unsustainable in the long term.
- Choose minimally processed options: the closer a food is to its original form, the better it is for you. Plain Greek yogurt is better than non-fat sugar-free fruit-flavoured yogurt. Oranges are better than UHT orange juice. Fresh chicken and pork are better than frozen chicken nuggets or sliced ham.
If it sounds like basic common sense, that’s because it is. All the complicated food rules, like demonising of certain macronutrients, or obsessing over micronutrients are simply driven by the billion-dollar food and pharmaceutical industries that stand to gain from our paranoia and insecurities.
As runners, we need carbohydrates to fuel our runs, protein to build our muscles, and contrary to fat-phobia, fatty acids are essential for a range of body functions, including vitamin absorption, hormonal production, cell reparation, maintenance of immune health, and the list goes on. A balanced diet also eliminates the risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Remember, you only get out what you put in; don’t expect to run your best if you are not giving your body what it needs!
To make things even easier, here are four tips to help you tackle the weekly supermarket trip.
#1: Come Prepared (make a list)
Instead of wandering around the aisles searching for inspiration, come armed with a shopping list, and you will know exactly what to buy, in which quantities. This way, you are less likely to be distracted by promotions or bargains, which may trick you into making poor food choices, or bulk-buying with its “value-for-money” hook.
#2: Come Alone
Any parent who’s taken a toddler shopping in a supermarket will understand the battle against targeted marketing by the food industries as they repeated say “no” to unnaturally colourful, sugary cereals, snacks or sweets. After dozens of times of saying “no”, or if a child starts throwing a tantrum, it is easy to give in and say “yes”. Even significant others or friends can influence our shopping choices, so unless they have the same healthy-eating intentions, it is best to come alone.
#3: Set a Time Limit
The bright lights, pop songs from the 90s, and the smell from the bakery… hang around the supermarket long enough and you’ll eventually feel compelled to buy more than you need. Instead of spending Saturday afternoon grocery shopping, go in and get what you need, then get out quickly and go for a run!
#4: Set a Budget
If all else fails, determine in advance how much you are willing to spend on the trip, and start by filling your basket with the basic food groups mentioned above. Eating healthy is affordable since seasonal and local fruits and vegetables are not expensive. If you find yourself with a few dollars left to spare, it’s no reason to reach for those chocolate biscuits or potato chips! Why not splurge on salmon, or upgrade from regular to brown rice?
The Bottom Line
You only have to say “no” once to unhealthy choices at the supermarket, but if you buy it and bring it home, the temptation will always be there. Don’t be misled by perceived value-for-money bulk buy bargains – if you buy more than you need, it will end up as waste, or on your waist. Preparing a healthy meal begins with making healthy choices at the supermarket, and with these tips and guidelines on hand, you’re well on your way to nourishing your body, mind and soul!