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How to Plan Ahead of Time When Shopping for Healthy Food

Step 1

Learn about nutrition by using the USDA's My Plate guide (which replaced the Food Pyramid formerly used), which will tell you what you should be eating and how much of it you should be eating. The typical plate should be divided among proteins, grains, fruit, vegetables and dairy, with grains and vegetables in larger portions than proteins, fruits or dairy. The USDA recommends that at least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains and that your dairy choices should be low fat or nonfat options. My Plate also gives you an idea of portion sizes so that you can avoid overeating. The USDA recommends as little added fat, salt and sugar in your meals as possible.

Step 2

Look into your cookbooks, websites or other recipe resources, and find meals that appeal to you. Evaluate them for healthfulness by using what you've learned about nutrition from My Plate. Decide how many meals you want to plan in advance — three or four, or a week or more. Choose as many as you need to fulfill your plan.

Step 3

Write a shopping list and include a list of the ingredients you need for each meals with the amounts you'll need. For example, if you need three tomatoes each for two different meals, list six tomatoes. Many grocery stores now offer online versions of their weekly sales fliers, so you can check for what's on special; some sites also offer printable coupons. Keep an eye out for seasonal produce, which will often cost less and be fresher than other options. Use this information to adjust your menu planning, keep your pantry stocked and save money. Once you've listed everything you need, you're ready to hit the grocery store.

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