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Holiday Supermarket Smackdown

With the holiday season here, I turned to Leah McGrath, RD, LDN, Corporate Dietitian for the last ten years for Ingles Supermarkets in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Here are McGrath’s responses in my first ever Holiday Supermarket Smackdown blog:

Best strategy BEFORE you set foot in the supermarket: First, gather your recipes and ideas and make a list. Plan to include some lean protein at every meal (for example seafood, pork loin, or even beans) and have more than just starchy vegetables as your sides; for example, try some colorful foods like dark green leafy vegetables (like kale or collards), Brussels sprouts, purple cabbage, bok choy, or broccoli.

9 must-have items to stock up on for the holidays:

1. Low sodium chicken/vegetable/beef broth. Great as a starter or base for making soups, stews and gravy.

2. Canned pumpkin. A great source of beta carotene, plus you can use it to make smoothies, pancakes, breads, and muffins–and of course, to make pie.

3. Whole grains such as whole wheat pasta and brown rice. These are great to have with leftover turkey or ham.

4. Canned beans. These can be used to make soups, stews, and casseroles with leftovers, or use them to make chili or have as an appetizer.

5. Good quality spaghetti sauce. You can only eat leftovers so many times, and you may really get a craving for a pasta dish one night.

6. Butter/Canola blend. This can be used as a spread instead of butter or margarine, and also works well in many recipes for baked items.

7. Eggs. You ALWAYS need eggs for baking or to make breakfast items.

8. Fresh herbs. There’s nothing quite like fresh herbs to add a flavor dimension to stuffing and sides…sage, basil, oregano…dried are fine if you can’t find or keep fresh ones.

9. Fage 0% plain Greek yogurt. Makes a great calcium-rich base for dips or smoothies, or to have as part of your breakfast or in-between meal snack.

Top money-saving tips to help you feed lots of hungry mouths:

Plan, plan, plan; use coupons; check for sale items; buy store brands whenever possible; and ask relatives or friends to make their favorite dish or bring a beverage when they’re coming over for a holiday meal. Having said that, be sure and keep your eyes open for fruits and vegetables that are in season and look especially fresh; these are great to incorporate daily into your meals and snacks.

4 shop-smart strategies:

1) Don’t go shopping when you’re stressed out or really short on time and try not to wait until the last minute. Also, don’t shop late at night; often stores are not continuously stocked after 6pm.

2) Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry– this can be fatal! Everything will look too good and it’ll be hard to resist when you’re hungry.

3) Bring reading glasses (if you need them) to check the unit price so you can make the best shopping decision.

4) Be sure to look on top and bottom shelves– sometimes you’ll find the best deals there.

5 rules for calorie- and health-conscious people:

1) Don’t be fooled by packaging, or led astray by numbers or stars– read the Nutrition Facts Panel.

2) Pay attention to portion sizes.

3) If you’re buying things in bigger quantities to save money, this may not be a wise thing to do if the foods tempt you. If that’s the case, buy smaller amounts so you’ll eat less of them!

4)  If you’re very tempted by certain foods like ice cream or chips, either don’t buy them, or buy them in flavors you don’t like so other family members or friends can enjoy them.

5) Try to buy packaged items that have the fewest ingredients– those that aren’t full of artificial flavors, colors or additives.

How kids can help mom or dad with grocery shopping:

Kids can help you create a holiday meal (and a list of items that go along with the meal). At the grocery store, they can weigh produce items, match coupons with products, find items on the grocery list, and keep a running tally of how much money you’re spending on a calculator/cell phone.

What helps you when you shop over the holidays?

Leah McGrath, RD, LDN is the Corporate Dietitian of Ingles Find her on Twitter as @InglesDietitian or follow Ingles Supermarket on Facebook Leah also hosts a radio program that streams on on Saturday mornings at 8:05EST; you can listen to podcasts of her previous shows on the Ingles website. 

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About The Author

Elisa Zied is a nationally recognized and award-winning health and nutrition expert, author, speaker, and spokesperson. A trusted source of food, nutrition, and health information, Elisa has garnered millions of media impressions, lending her expertise and real-world perspective to dozens of TV shows, web sites, news organizations and magazines. She’s the author of four nutrition books. An avid walker, she loves motivating others to #moveitorloseit. A book lover, she recently earned a certificate in children’s literature from Stony Brook Southampton and is currently working on several young adult novels. You can find her previous Food, Fitness & Fiction posts here and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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