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Baby & Kids

Healthy Tips from Dr. Sears: Grocery Store Navigator

February 5, 2013 | Dr. Bill Sears

Here's some tips for navigating through the grocery store

Shopping with your child is an important experience—you can teach your child what to look for in the store, what areas are important (fruits and veggies, dairy, etc.), and what should be avoided. It’s also a good time to develop a habit of reading food labels.

Healthy Tips for Shopping from Dr. Bill Sears

Make a list.

It helps you buy the foods you need, and be sure your child helps you make the list.

Go directly to the grow foods.

"Grow foods" are foods that are nutrient-dense—they pack a lot of nutrition in a small amount. Because babies, toddlers, and children have tiny tummies, they often don’t eat a lot at one time, which is why feeding them nutrient-dense foods is important.

Involve your kids.

Have them participate in everything you're doing and they'll feel more ownership. They can help bag apples, pick out lettuce, and put things in the cart. When they get home, you might just find they’re even more involved with the end result— "Now it's 'my' lettuce!"

Spend more time in the perimeter of the store.

Think about the typical grocery store layout—the "interior" aisles are where most of the prepared, packaged foods are found. The perimeter of the store is where you'll find more of the unprocessed "ingredients"—literal "whole" foods like fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy.

Use the store as a learning experience.

Filled with exciting colors, sounds, and pictures, the grocery store is almost as exciting as a toy store for little kid. You can channel their natural enthusiasm into fun teaching moments. You could easily practice counting ("How many apples?") or colors ("What color is that pear?"). Use your imagination and follow your child’s lead.

Teach traffic-light eating.

Eating healthy isn't about what you can't have—it's about what you can enjoy. Focus your kids (and yourself) on the foods that are good for you, that you can enjoy any time ("green-light foods"), allow the occasional treat("yellow-light foods")and stay away from foods with ingredients to avoid ("red-light foods"). Make the search into a scavenger hunt, and kids will have a blast.

Green-, yellow-, and red-light foods

Green-light foods

Good for you. Enjoy these grow foods anytime.

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Salmon (wild)
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Olive oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Tofu
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Lean meats
Yellow-light foods

Slow down, not too much. Eat these sometimes, as occasional treats.

  • Sweet treats
  • 100% fruit juice
  • Ice cream
Red-light foods

Stop and think about a healthier choice. Avoid these foods.

  • Sweetened beverages
  • Hydrogenated oils
  • Foods with “bad words” from yucky additives (aspartame, MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, NHT and other preservatives, Red #40, Blue #1, Yellow #6 or any other color-number combo)
  • Artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners
  • Nitrite-containing meats

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