From the second you enter a supermarket, to the moment you pay, you are faced with choices – and these choices are influenced by your environment more than you may realise. People generally know what a healthy diet is – we all know that apples are healthier than donuts for example. However, it is harder than you might think to buy the apple instead of the donut, and it’s not necessarily always our fault or a totally conscience decision, and there are numerous factors at play including cost, convenience, and taste.
Eating healthily is about having a healthy balance but the world around us can heavily influence our purchasing behaviours and consumption. One of the key reasons we don’t have a good balance in the UK is because our wider food environment currently tips the scales in the wrong direction – to spending more than intended and on less healthy products than we set out to buy.
Navigating a supermarket can sometimes make it difficult to avoid the tempting offers and alluring marketing of less healthy products. It can also feel harder to locate healthy products, or to work out which products are even healthy in the first place! And you never see Buy One Get One Free offers on healthy items like vegetables or staples like milk, do you?
Supermarkets need to take bold action, some of which will only be possible with government and industry support. In the meantime, while we await such change, here are some of our top tips that can help you start shopping smarter from today…
Top Tips for Shopping Healthier
- Try to pick food options that are lower in fat, sugar, and salt. Food labels can sometimes be confusing, but lots of packets use traffic light labels. This can make it easier to understand what’s in the food you’re buying and compare products quickly. Even if you’re in a rush, just look out for the red, amber, and green colours. Try to pick options that have greener and more amber, and less red.
- Take time each week to plan your meals, write a shopping list and stick to it! It can make it easier to avoid unhealthy impulse buys.
- Fruit, vegetables, wholegrains (like brown pasta and rice) and pulses (such as beans and lentils) are great healthy foods to add to your shopping list. Pulses can easily be added to many of your favourite meals.
- Filling up your basket with healthy foods first, leaves less room for unhealthy ones. And don’t let promotions on less healthy foods fool you. We know they’re tempting, but there is evidence that buying foods on offer can lead to more spending overall.
- Worried about fresh foods going to waste? Buy more tinned and frozen fruits and vegetables. They last longer, are often cheaper, just as nutritious, and still count towards one of your 5 a day! Buy tinned options in fruit juice or water – avoid those with extra added sugar (eg. syrup) or salt.
- Don’t go shopping on an empty stomach. If you’re hungry it can be more tempting to put extra snacks in your basket. Shop after a meal or have a healthy snack on the way to the supermarket.
By Lisa Aldwin, Programme Manager, Eat Smart Sheffield