When it comes to making smart choices in the supermarket, the first rule of thumb is to know before you go. Arm yourself with the information you need about healthy eating before you ever start scanning the store shelves.
The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine in the United States gives general guidelines about a recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. The trouble is that the charts can be difficult to read, and even harder to put into action. What is an mcg, for example, and how much is it in terms of what you eat?
Helpful RDAs for people over 50
The Linus Pauling Institute has a very helpful summary of the RDAs for people over 50 that can help you stay on track, with clickable links explaining what each element is, such a biotin and selenium, and why it is important.
Food labels and a good food database can help you put together balanced meal plans to help cover most of your nutritional needs each day. Food labels will list the essentials, including calories, fat, and nutritional content. When you are at the supermarket, aim for foods that are high in protein, fiber and nutrients, and low in fat.
However, use packaged convenience foods in moderation. The best diet will involve cooking from scratch in order to avoid sodium, artificial coloring and other chemicals, and preservatives.
Look up what is in your recipe.
The Self magazine Nutrition Data section of their website is fun and easy to use. Look up each ingredient in your recipe if the nutrition is not already listed in the recipe itself.
Before you head to the supermarket, make a list of all you need for the nutritious recipes you plan to prepare that week. Avoid any unusual or expensive ingredient you will probably only use rarely. Aim instead for versatile staples such as oatmeal, olive oil, and 0% plain Greek-style yogurt.
Don’t forget to bring your coupons and check out the weekly sales flyers. In most cases you can look them up on your store’s website before you go and even clip extra coupons and make a special list with just a few clicks.
Once you are in the store, spend the most time looking at the fresh fruits and vegetables and comparing prices. In the meat aisle, choose chicken, turkey and fish.
Shopping smartly takes time to learn, but it is an invaluable skill when it comes to eating a healthy, balanced diet once you are over 50.