The Scoop on Food

6 Easy Tips for Buying Healthier Groceries

Feeding your family well starts at the grocery store. Improve the quality of your cart with these ideas from the author of the cookbook Eating Clean.

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Sneaky ingredient obstacles and pitfalls such as misleading labels are everywhere in the grocery store. If you're trying to feed your family healthier, less-processed foods, here are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind as you shop:

Always read the ingredient list. To this day, I'm guilty of walking through a health food store and grabbing an "organic" product like Dijon mustard, vegetable broth, or salsa without looking at the ingredient list. When I get home, I realize the "healthy" food is filled with refined sugar, flavorings, and other ingredients. My advice is to look at every label, or contact the brand of the product if you have questions. Most brands have contact pages on their website. Ask questions about ingredients, GMOs, organic certification, sourcing, and more.

Buy whole foods. Purchase one-ingredient whole foods that don't have an ingredient list (like apples, avocados, etc.), or choose foods with a short list of ingredients that you can pronounce and understand.

Avoid numbers. No ingredient on any box or package label you purchase should ever have a number in it. Red no. 40 and yellow no. 6 (along with all the other colors and numbers) weren't grown from the ground or on a farm. Your taste buds may love the chemical flavors on Dorito chips, but your body surely can't identify them.

Look for the "9." Check out the little stickers on your fresh produce. Fruits and veggies starting with the number "9" are organic.

Shop online for bulk. Bulk bins are helpful for buying things like legumes and grains for less money, but make sure you trust your store. A bin can be an easy spot for bacteria and mold to form, and that's not worth the cheaper price point. One option is to shop online for bulk; it's much cheaper and safer! Shop Frontier Organics online and get bulk bags sent directly to your door.

Avoid gum and candy. They're filled with chemicals and nothing about them is good for you. For years I was addicted to sugar-free gum and Snapple. After cutting them out, I feel so much better. Instead, use fresh lemons, limes, herbal teas, and fresh ginger to create flavor in your meals so you don't crave sweets.

amie valpone eating clean book
Text excerpted from EATING CLEAN: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body, © 2016 by AMIE VALPONE. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Amie Valpone is the author of Eating Clean and the editor-in-chief of The Healthy Apple. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.