How To Avoid Buying Junk Food At The Supermarket

"One bunch of kale" doesn't have to turn into a basket of treats.

Not buying junk food when food shopping feels like an impossible feat.

This is how it usually plays out: we head to the supermarket with the intention of buying just healthy food, but then we see the chocolate we like so much on special for half price. Half price, people.

We can't go past a bargain (or the enticing packaging) so we add it, along with cheap chips and bikkies perched at the front of the aisles, to our shopping basket.

Thankfully, there are easy ways and strategies to avoid buying junk food at the supermarket.

"Junk food is often on special or offered at a price which is 'too hard to resist'. Most of us love a deal so we give into temptation and purchase the junk food, even if it's not something we really want," nutritionist and celebrity chef Zoe Bingley-Pullin told HuffPost Australia.

"We can easily be distracted by bright, shiny things, and bright, colourful food packaging with clever marketing is no exception," nutritionist Fiona Tuck added. "Junk food is strategically placed to entice us to pick it up and pop it in our trolleys."

However, there are myriad other reasons why we give into junk food temptations, which are far more complicated than clever advertising -- for instance, stress, tiredness or being on a restrictive diet.

"If we have been very strict with diet and are feeling deprived, then we may feel we are 'owed' a treat and choose the junk food," Bingley-Pullin said.

"We may be shopping at a time when we're feeling rushed or stressed, and are looking for a quick boost of energy and, naturally, junk food appeals."

Follow these five tips to avoid buying junk food when food shopping.

Shopping basket goals.
Shopping basket goals.

1. Shop on a full stomach

Being hangry is no state to be food shopping in. Why? Because it results in us going overboard with purchases. Think about it: your brain is actively telling your body is hungry and seeking out quick sources of energy (that is, sugary, processed carbohydrate treats), making it harder to be rational and make healthy choices.

"Don't shop when you are hungry as you can find yourself picking up all sorts of unnecessary items," Tuck told HuffPost Australia.

2. Have a detailed plan

"Go in with a plan -- make a list of what you need and what you intend on buying," Bingley-Pullin said.

This means taking five minutes before your food shop to write down exactly what healthy ingredients you need. Perhaps even write your future-self a little note: "Put down the chocolate".

Tuck also recommends organising and prepping some of the week's meals, so that you're less likely to resort to quick, unhealthy foods and meals.

"Plan ahead -- pre-prep meals, such as pre-cooked grains and roasted veggies -- so that cooking dinner is easy."

3. Shop while in a calm mood

If you're shopping straight after a long, stressful day at work, and you're feeling tired or overwhelmed, chances are your food choices may reflect your mood.

"If you shop when you are hungry, stressed, tired or feeling down, a packet of biscuits or family-sized tub of ice cream can look very appealing, so don't shop when you are tired or too exhausted," Tuck said.

4. Shop once a week

"Do a big shop once a week so you don't have to pop into the supermarket to pick up a small item, as you will always come out with more than one thing," Tuck said.

Think about it: it's easier to say 'no' to those chips and bikkies once a week at the supermarket than it is to say 'no' six times doing little shops.

If you do find yourself in the confectionery aisle, go for dark chocolate.
If you do find yourself in the confectionery aisle, go for dark chocolate.

5. Shop around the outside of the supermarket

Chocolate, chips, biscuits, lollies and soft drinks are all located in the middle of the aisles, so if you can, just don't go down those aisles.

"Stick to the perimeter of the supermarket where the fresh food is kept. Try to avoid walking aimlessly up and down the aisles as this is when you can get distracted," Tuck said.

There are exceptions to this rule, however. For example, nutritious legumes, herbs, spices and grains are found in the aisles, so just be aware.

And, if you do find yourself in the chocolate, chips and lolly aisles, there are healthier options to choose.

Healthier substitutes for treats when food shopping:

  • Good quality dark chocolate (75 percent and higher)
  • Nut bars or nut and seed snacks
  • Fruit and nut 'bliss balls'
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Roasted seaweed snacks
  • Mixed nuts and dried fruit
  • Fruit yoghurt
  • Dark chocolate-coated blueberries
  • Cheese and crackers (e.g. Ryvitas)
  • Frozen yoghurt

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