health in your shopping cart

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Celebrity nutritionist Ryan Fernando helps you draw up the perfect shopping list for a healthier lifestyle

When I start a nutrition counselling session with a shopping list instead of a diet chart, my clients invariably respond with a quizzical look. The key to changing the way you eat lies in altering your lifestyle. Diets are difficult to maintain and can have a negative impact on your health. I choose, instead, to realign the concept of eating with customised nutrition plans and guidelines for making healthier choices. Ensuring that your body receives wholesome nourishment is a task that involves a careful survey of what you purchase at the supermarket, making a list of products that encompasses all food categories, checking the nutritional values of packaged food and getting what your body really needs.


In an urban environment, the abundance of options can foster a culture of excess. The simple solution is to be aware of what you ingest. As they say, a moment on the lips, forever on the hips! The idea is to be a step ahead and prevent this from happening. A shopping list is the only disciplined way to get your life in order when it comes to deciding what you eat. If you are able to align what you buy with what you really need to consume, rest assured that your meal plan will get you to your goal. Research says that you should never shop when you are hungry. The resolve to resist putting the wrong products in your cart melts away, and any plan you had to buy healthy is lost.

There are several reasons why you should make a list before you shop:

  • Impulsive purchases never help. As important as having a list is sticking to it. And if you’re working with a nutrition coach, your choices are likely to be more accurate and will begin to impact your body within a few weeks.
  • With a list, you can estimate your portions, and your family’s, more precisely. This can ensure a controlled intake of calories, as well as reduced expenditure and wastage.
  • It is my foremost aim to educate families about buying local and organic. Nutrition counselling sessions with an expert are like studying for an exam. The shopping list is the exam and the results are in calories – in this case, the lesser the better!


a list Before you start making a list, consult a nutritionist to better understand which foods work and don’t work for you. A blood and food allergy test is also recommended. Insert foods based on what your body can receive – consider your calorie, protein and carbohydrate requirements and see if you need to increase or decrease any macro or micronutrients. Once this is taken care of, begin clearing out the junk in your kitchen – a cluttered cabinet or refrigerator can tempt you to cheat on your list. So get cleaning! By planning what to buy, you also begin to understand how long food remains fresh. For instance, bananas last for three days while apples can survive six, and spinach and broccoli need top-ups every three or four days. Here’s how you can prepare the perfect shopping list:

  • Work with two columns: new purchases and top-ups.
  • Have a separate adventure list, with items of indulgence such as chocolate and ice cream – you’re human after all! Learn about the products, the calories they contain and work out how you can incorporate them in your diet. The key is portions – buy small bars of chocolate and small cups of ice cream, never more than one per person, and not more than three times a week.

The author is a nutritional coach and the views expressed in the article are his own

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