USDA Calorie Cutting Tips

Smart Shopping

Our final two ways to cut calories involve a little planning and some moderate preparation. But we think the results are worth it. Don't you?

Grocery stores aren't designed to help you stick with your diet. Marketing ploys surround you, trying to get you to buy foods that are not a part of your pound-dropping plan. Why? Processed foods have a higher profit margin than many of the unprocessed foods such as vegetables and meat. But with planning and a few tricks in reserve, you can make it through the store unscathed -- buying mostly nutrient-dense, low-calorie food to further your weight-loss efforts.

Before heading to the grocery store, you should follow these calorie-cutting tips:

  • Make a list before you go to the store, and stick to it for the most part. Avoid impulse buys of food you don't need.
  • Try to go to the grocery store only once a week. Planning your meals and snacks for the week will help you get what you need in one trip and avoid the temptation of repeated trips to the store.
  • Don't go to the grocery store hungry. You'll be less likely to buy impulsively.
  • Shop the perimeter of the store first. Fill your cart with foods low in calories and brimming with nutrients, such as fresh vegetables and fruits, nonfat dairy foods, lean meats, and whole-grain bakery goods without a lot of added fat and sugar. These are the basic foods of your food pattern.
  • Shop the interior aisles of the grocery store with care. Stick to wholesome foods such as rice, pasta, beans, and peanut butter. Avoid processed foods in packages and boxes, such as cookies, chips, crackers, packaged snacks, soft drinks, and most convenience foods. Processed foods often have added fats and sugars, which will tip your calorie-balance scale in the wrong direction.
  • Read the Nutrition Facts panel on food products, but don't obsess about reading them all at one time. Choose a few items on your list each week to compare and make the wisest choice.
  • If you do buy processed foods, read labels and choose those that have less fat, sugar, and calories.
  • Don't buy problem foods that you know will call your name from the cupboard. Leave them and their calories on the grocery store shelf.
  • Shopping with young children? Make a firm agreement with them ahead of time about consequences if they pester you or throw a tantrum. Appropriate behavior earns a treat, such as picking out a new fruit that they want to try. Treats don't have to be food at all, and certainly not junk food.
  • Enlist older children to be label lookers and help you find the smartest choice of a product. This not only makes your job easier, it teaches them lifelong skills they'll need to manage their weight.
  • Say "No, thank you" to food samples offered throughout the store.
  • If possible, choose a checkout line that doesn't have candy or snack displays.
  • Small shopping trip? Carry a basket rather than pushing a cart. It uses more muscle, burns more calories, and limits the room you have for impulse buys!

See the next page to learn how to modify your recipes to cut calories.