Best grocery shopping secrets

March 13, 2008 5:38:17 PM PDT
Registered dietitian and Health magazine contributor, Julie Upton, reveals her grocery shopping secrets.

Organic products are not necessarily more nutritious, and often, if imported from around the world, are not truly green. However, where you want to spend for organics is in animal products, like milk, yogurt and meats, as well as berries and other fruit with thin skin where pesticides can penetrate. Bananas, grapefruit and naval oranges are not worth purchasing organic.

Unless it's 50% discount or a two-fer, the ends of aisle discounts aren't great bargains. And, they are rarely with healthful products.

Despite many people saying and believing that it's too expensive to eat healthy, studies actually show that eating a diet that has more plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans will be much less expensive than one that is rich in animal meats, like beef and convenience snack foods. Also, people who make lists and follow them spend less and have better diets than those who don't make lists.

What should people be looking for when they shop?
First, spend more time around the fresh foods and less time in the interior aisles of the store, where the more processed packaged foods are. I try to divide the shopping trip into 20 minutes around the fresh produce and exterior, deli, dairy and meat counter and limit interior aisle shopping to 10 minutes or less.

Brain Boosters
For brain health, you want plenty of fruits and veggies and especially berries that are antioxidant-rich and have been shown to improve brain function. Also, look for products with DHA and EPA, these are the marine-based omega 3 fatty acids.

Eye Candy
The leading cause of blindness among older Americans is age-related macular degeneration and too much sunlight can speed this along but luckily dietary factors can help prevent it. You want specific antioxidants that target the eye, and those are lutein and zeaxanthin. These are responsible for the green pigment of foods, and the yellow of egg yolks. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in egg yolks, pistachios and avocados.

Healthy Skin & Bone Builders
Vitamin D is the new super nutrient of the day. It's not only essential for calcium to do its job for bone health; it also may have anti-cancer properties, including skin cancer. Since we use much more sunscreen than ever before, our bodies are making less vitamin D, so we need to get more in our diet. Unfortunately, only oily fish and cod liver oil are great sources for most of us don't get nearly enough vitamin D daily. But some fortified foods make it easier to boost vitamin D in our diet.

About Julie Upton
Julie Upton, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and contributor to Health magazine and blogger at As a past national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, Upton has been quoted in over 500 print articles and has been interviewed on the NBC Today Show, CBS Evening News and ABC World News Tonight. She is a frequent guest on news programs for CNN, ABC and Fox. For more information, visit