When I first learned about the principles of the Anticancer Diet, I remember feeling overwhelmed as I started to implement them in my daily life. What used to be a quick and easy trip to the grocery store involving habitual purchases, became fraught with anxiety as I consciously thought about every item I placed in my cart.
Now that I’ve formed new purchasing habits, grocery shopping is as quick and easy as it used to be. But if you find yourself a little perplexed about what to reach for on the store shelf, or are simply looking for some advice and shortcuts as you seek to improve your diet, here are a few tips to help you grocery shop as you build your nutritional awareness and confidence in the choices you make.
Download Anticancer Grocery Shopping Guide
First, download the Anticancer Grocery Shopping Guide to keep the key principles of the Anticancer Diet in mind while you shop. It is so easy to get distracted and lose focus when navigating through countless options, endless ingredient lists, and the creative marketing that companies use to make things appear healthier than they are. I would often get home with my groceries and feel defeated, because something I had purchased, like an expensive organic granola, was loaded with added sugars and bad oils, and I hadn’t noticed at the store.
That’s why I decided to create my own little grocery shopping guide, listing the key Anticancer principles. Before I established new buying habits, I would keep my guide in my purse or on my phone to reference while I shopped. Checking the guide as I shopped helped reinforce the Anticancer diet concepts in my mind.
Explore Foods You Eat the Most
Second, explore and find healthier options for the things you eat the most. I haven’t necessarily changed my diet by giving up certain foods that I really enjoyed—the Anticancer diet is not about deprivation! Instead, I largely focused on choosing healthier versions of the same foods I like to eat.
For example, my go-to snack used to be chips and salsa. My husband and I would make homemade salsa weekly and consume it with an entire bag of tortilla chips in one sitting. Although the fresh salsa was relatively healthy, I discovered that the tortilla chips were loaded with salt and inflammatory oils, like corn or soybean.
With that recognition, I began my quest to find a healthier tortilla chip. It didn’t end there. I found those same unhealthy oils in cereals, breads, and countless other products. Carefully reading labels for the first time, I was able to make better selections within the types of foods that I normally buy.
Spend More Time in the Produce Section
Third, spend more of your time in the fresh produce section. Most grocery stores are set up with the fresh produce section on the perimeter. The easiest and best thing you can do to improve your diet is to simply purchase more vegetables and fruits.
A diet focused on fresh produce might feel limiting, but I quickly learned that any limits I felt were of my own making. The produce in my diet had been limited to carrots, celery, apples, oranges and occasionally some spinach, until I started being intentional about trying new things. In doing so, I discovered there was a whole unexplored (for me) world of fruits and vegetables out there that taste amazing and are really good for you. Variety in fruits and vegetables is important to get the nutrients your body needs for optimal health.
A good tip is to “eat the rainbow” by selecting a variety of colors in your produce. This might include, for example, pomegranate, purple cabbage, rainbow chard, sweet potatoes, asparagus, blueberries, blackberries, and eggplant. The different colors help indicate different vitamins and minerals in each of these products. You’ll often find a delightful variety of fresh fruits and vegetables at local farmers’ markets.
My diet has completely transformed from what it was several years ago. I still enjoy chips and salsa, but I no longer crave them or eat them nearly as often as I used to, because I now fll my plate with so many new delicious foods. Over time, I have noticed my tastes have changed. I now find myself enjoying the natural and subtle sweetness in whole foods that I couldn’t appreciate when my diet contained so many added artificial sugars and sugar substitutes. (Not-so-fun fact: approximately 80% of the items in the grocery store contain added sugar!) Most importantly, the health benefits I have experienced from eating more whole, organic, and largely plant-based foods keep me motivated to continue making small changes.
Here’s the truth: it takes time and patience to build nutritional awareness and confidence in the choices you make when grocery shopping. Small, incremental, positive steps can lead to some pretty significant changes over time. Neither my diet nor my discipline at the grocery store is perfect, but I give myself plenty of grace through the ups and downs of learning and implementing better choices on this lifelong journey.