If you've spent the last few months at home and noticed yourself hunting for snacks in your pantry more than usual, then you also may have noticed the number on the scale tick upward. But trust us: You're not the only one whose eating habits have been affected by the times.
"Working from home is challenging for many reasons, and for some people, being within an arm's reach of the fridge, freezer and pantry made it even more difficult to avoid unnecessary snacking," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It - Taking You from Label to Table.
Sound familiar? Despite the grocery store being essentially unchanged from its pre-lockdown state (minus the occasional shortage of toilet paper), with much of the rest the world on pause, it's understandable to turn to food to spice up your life. But, if you're looking to change that number on the scale, the key to getting back on track actually starts with how you grocery shop.
"The supermarket can help you to gain weight, lose weight or maintain the weight you have — you just need to choose wisely and take the time that you deserve to do so," Taub-Dix says.
Picking satisfying, nutritious foods and drinks is key. To help you do that, Taub-Dix recommends making a grocery list.
"Once you create a list you can rely on, food shopping will be a breeze, instead of a chore," she says. "This will prevent backtracking and could save time, money and even calories."
Ready to give your grocery trips a tune-up? Here are this RD's top six tips for shopping smarter.
1. Create a Master Shopping List
Have you ever pulled up to the grocery store and made a mental note of a few things you think you need, only to spend the next hour just wandering up and down the aisles? It happens. But that's why Taub-Dix is into a more organized approach.
She recommends saving a master list onto your computer or phone that reflects the layout of your go-to store. That way, you can plug in which ingredients you're running low on and match them up with the specific areas of the store — so the next time you go shopping there's no more aimless wandering.
2. Take Sodas and Sugary Beverages Off the List
The only thing that Taub-Dix recommends always leaving off your list when you head to the store? Sugary drinks. "They curtail weight loss and provide no value," she says.
Instead, sip on beverages without added sugar, like flavored waters and lower-calorie veggie and fruit juices. If you need a midday boost, V8 +Energy® contains 80 milligrams of caffeine from tea (comparable to a cup of coffee) — plus a combined serving of veggies and fruit.
And for a quick hit of hydration, V8 +HYDRATE® contains natural electrolytes from sweet potatoes to quench your thirst and replenish nutrients.
3. Don't Skip the Middle Aisles
You might obey by the "shop the perimeter" rule because you heard that it lends itself to a better-for-you shopping cart at the end of your trip, but Taub-Dix doesn't want you forgetting the middle aisles, either.
"Make the most of the middle aisles, and don't just shop the perimeter," she says. "You'll find key foods like almonds, beans, whole grains and other foods that will fuel you without providing empty calories."
And if you're on the hunt for a middle-aisle must-have that's surprisingly filling (and tastes great), V8 Original contains two servings of veggies in every 8-ounce glass, with only 45 calories and no added sugar. Talk about a power snack.
4. Spend Time in the Produce Section
While sticking to the perimeter only is a no-no for Taub-Dix, you should still spend a decent amount of time in the produce department, because these foods provide the bulk of the important nutrients you need each day, she says.
"Frozen and canned fruits and veggies are also good to rely on when your faves are not in season," Taub-Dix says.
5. Pay Attention to the Labels
Before you add anything to your cart, take a solid scan of the nutrition labels on your potential pantry or fridge products. "Be sure to flip your packages to read food labels to see what you're really getting," Taub-Dix says. "Don't be fooled by terms on the flashy front of the pack; focus on the label terms that speak to you the most."
6. Stay Stocked
The final piece of advice this RD wants to leave you with? "Keep your shelves, freezer and fridge stocked so that you don't run out of the foods you can rely on to create healthy meals you can easily throw together."
Keep satisfying snacks like V8 on hand to hold you over between meals, too, and voila: You have your new grocery shopping routine on lock.