Shop for Lower Cholesterol
Where and how you shop can have a huge impact on your cholesterol levels. If you do most of your shopping at the local supermarket, are you often tempted by the foods you see on sale in the aisles - foods such as potato chips and frozen chicken dinners? Do you leave the store with high-fat items that were not on your list? You are not alone.
The many foods and choices available to us when we shop should make it easier to choose healthy items that we enjoy and are good for us, but often the opposite is true. When faced with lots of food choices, many of us find it hard to resist the foods that we know are bad for us. Luckily, relearning to shop can go a long way towards lowering your cholesterol over the next 30 days. For the next 30 days, consider where you shop for food:
1. Greengrocers, farmer’s markets, and farmer’s stands. These are excellent places to shop, and if you want to lower your cholesterol over the next month, you will want to make it a priority to shop at these types of locations for groceries. Shopping at farmer’s markets, farmer’s stands, and greengrocers has several advantages:
- You will get a wider variety of very fresh food products than you would get at a grocery store.
- You will support local farmers and enjoy lower prices.
- These places are more environmentally friendly and give you better healthy choices
- These places to shop feature fewer advertisements and convenience foods packed with fats.
If you want to lower your cholesterol and enjoy a lower-fat diet, shopping at your local farmer’s market, greengrocer or farmer’s stand is an excellent way to get the foods you need to stay healthy.
2. Farms and organic farms. Pick-your-own farms, organic farms, and farms that sell directly to customers offer great value and fresh in-season healthy foods, often at great prices. A few hours at one of these farms can give you some fresh air, exercise, and the foods you need to stay healthy. Visiting these sorts of farms for some of your menu items is a great way to eat more heart-healthy products.
3. Health food stores. Health food stores often have a wide variety of products that are low-fat and animal-protein-free (there products are sometimes called vegan). These stores can be great places to buy dried peas and lentils, herbs, natural products and a wide variety of items that are not available at your grocery store but which are great for your heart health.
4. Grocery stores. Many grocery stores offer a produce section as well as meat and deli sections which feature low-fat products. However, most grocery stores are also filled with high-fat convenience foods. If you need to shop at a grocery store for all or much of your food, make conscious choices to pick out the healthiest products possible and avoid the aisles or sections of the stores that have high-fat foods.
Tip: When shopping in a grocery store, do your shopping around the perimeter of the store. This is usually where the produce, milk, and meat sections are. Avoid the center aisles, where chips, pop, cookies, and other high-fat foods tend to lurk.
5. Convenience stores. You should avoid shopping in these types of stores unless it is a true emergency. Most convenience stores have higher prices and lots of high-fat and processed foods that are prominently displayed. Healthy foods are often at the back and fresh produce tends to be in less than fresh states. Since these stores are tiny and specialize in “convenience foods,” there is usually very little variety of healthy options available. If you want to lower your cholesterol over the next month, avoid shopping at convenience stores.
6. Cafeterias, cafes and restaurants. Since cafeterias, cafes, and restaurants are businesses, they want to make money by having you enjoy their food enough to purchase more of it. For this reason, these places worry more about taste than about heart-health. High-fat and high-sodium foods are on too many restaurant and cafeteria menus, and if you want to lower your cholesterol, you need to stay away from these places.
If you want to lower your cholesterol over the next thirty days, avoid buying prepared or pre-packaged food, whether from grocery stores or restaurants. Brown-bag your lunch and arrange to meet friends somewhere else besides a restaurant. If you need to eat at a restaurant, choose the smallest portions of the plainest foods available. This is better than ordering the salad, assuming that it will be healthier - a salad packed with bacon bits and cheese can sometimes be among the highest-fat items on a menu!
Instead, choose dishes that seem to have low-fat elements - such as skinless chicken or fruits. Ask for dressings on the side and eat around any high-fat items such as cheese. Avoid cream sauces.
You don’t need to completely change the way you shop over the next thirty days in order to lower your cholesterol, but stopping by the farmer’s market once a week and avoiding convenience stores and restaurants will make it that much easier to find a terrific variety of fresh heart-healthy foods that you will enjoy eating. After all, how good your diet is depends on the ingredients you put into your food.
How you shop can be as important as where you shop. Taking a few simple steps can make it easier for you to choose foods that will help you lower your cholesterol:
1. Shop for food once a week. Plan your menu for each week ahead of time and select one day a week for food shopping. This will minimize the amount of time you spend thinking about food and will reduce the chances that you forget items or overshop (and overeat).
2. Shop after eating. Shopping on an empty stomach will encourage impulsive buying. Your willpower will also be at its weakest when you are hungry, making you more likely to reach for fatty comfort-foods.
3. Choose a time to shop when the stores are not too full and the selection is at its height. At farmer’s markets and greengrocers, the selection may be best earlier in the day. You can ask your grocery store when their deliveries of produce are scheduled. If you shop when stores are uncrowded and selection is good, you are more likely to have the time to make good choices - and you will be able to enjoy a selection that makes healthy eating easy.
4. Stick to a list. Plan your shopping list -based on your weekly menu - ahead of time and stick to the list to prevent overbuying and overeating. The only exception to this should be fresh fruits and vegetables you see that may make good snacks. You can buy some of these if you find fresh produce that you have not tried before or produce that is one sale. In general, though, buy only what you need each week so that you will have complete meals rather than food that goes bad or invites binging.
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