Whether you’re new to the tracking lifestyle or an experienced tracker, what you pick up from the grocery store can dramatically impact your success in sticking to your plan, as well as the amount of food you can fit into your macros.
The grocery store is a place I can spend hours in, analyzing all the various brands and foods that are available. I often do multiple trips to a few different grocery stores each week, so that I can get my favourite brands of everything. Here are 6 mistakes I have found myself and others who are tracking their nutrition intake make on a regular basis when grocery shopping:
1. Falling for the pretty labels
There are so many products out there that are marketed as being ‘healthy,’ whether it be gluten free, organic or what have you, but are not actually the best option in terms of macronutrients. When you’re tracking your nutrition, unless you have a diagnosed intolerance or allergy, gluten will not affect your progress. To add to that, just because something has a pretty label to appear like a healthier option and is marketed as organic does not mean it will have any benefit to you, calorie wise. A calorie is a calorie, regardless of whether it’s organic or not.
2. Buying with added flavor or sweetener
Greek yogurt and almond/cashew milk products are the best examples. If you compare the label of a plain Greek yogurt to a vanilla or strawberry flavoured one, you will find the plain option has about 20g less carbs. You can make your plain yogurt taste just as good with a few berries and some stevia, for a quarter of the calories.
It’s the same with almond milk - always opt for the unsweetened and unflavored option and then sweeten it yourself.
3. Shopping while hungry
You’ve probably heard this one before, and it’s arguably just kind of obvious.
Despite it being considered common knowledge, If you don’t plan your time out well, you will end up needing to grocery shop on an empty stomach. You will not only be vulnerable to overspending on items you don’t really need, but you will also likely overeat when you get home.
4. Not bringing a list
Not only will being hungry entice you to spend money on unnecessary items, but so will grocery shopping unprepared. Making a list ahead of time is vital if you are tracking your macronutrients and need the necessary items, and only those, for your prep.
Nothing is more disappointing than conquering a trip to the grocery store and find yourself missing ingredients for your meal prep as soon as you arrive home to start cooking.
5. Being rushed
This one ties in with the next and final point, which is the most important one in my opinion. If you go to the grocery store, especially one that you aren’t familiar with or haven’t scoped out the brands that they carry yet, being rushed will lead to you not only buy unnecessary things but won’t give you the time you need to really check out what options you have.
6. Not getting the most macro for your gram
Really take the time to compare brands and the nutritional information of products. Don’t be fooled by the varying serving sizes or labels that advertise as being “low fat” or “low calorie” because in my experience, a lot of the best brands don’t make it obvious. You may think you’re doing the right thing by comparing two labels, but the serving size they’re using plays a big role: Some brands will use half a regular serving size (eg 60g) when the other brand is using a standard one for that type of food product (eg 120g). By doing this, the brand that may actually be much higher in calories will appear lower at first glance and win your business, despite not being the better macro-friendly option.
This number comes into play most often with the following few items:
- Bread - check to see if the serving size is for one or two slices before beginning to compare brands. A lot of breads are covered with seeds and grains that increase the calories per slice. This may or may not be beneficial to you and your nutrition goals, so keep an eye out for it!
- Greek yogurt – even between various brands of the plain, 0% variety, calories (carbs specifically) tend to vary quite a bit.
- Tomato sauce – many pasta sauces are labeled as “low fat” when really there are multiple choices out there with 0g fat that don’t advertise it. As well, look out for unnecessary carbs when it comes to choosing a pasta sauce.
- Peanut butter – I could spend hours comparing the various brands of peanut butters and almond butters trying to find one that best suits my nutrition needs. Take some time to find one that works for you, and then try to stay consistent with your buying habits.
About the author
Maggie Morgan is a competitive powerlifter and bodybuilder, as well as a devoted macro-counter. She’s passionate about lifting and all things flexible dieting (mostly donuts). She is a nutrition coach at LiftHacks, and hopes to share her learned knowledge with as many people as possible.