Guide to Shopping

Grocery stores are arranged with the fresh foods around the perimeter and dry goods in the center. Many now have organic and natural food sections, as well as ethnic food areas. Once you know the location of the items that you typically purchase, it will make shopping easier.

Selecting Fresh Produce

Fruits and vegetables taste best when they are in season. Even though many types of produce are available year-round, most taste best during a specific season. Organize your shopping list and meal plans around seasonal produce for premium flavor and appeal.

Note: Look for signs which indicate where the produce originated from. Grocery stores, particularly the higher-end specialty ones, sometimes call out the state or country of origin. Locally grown produce is available at farmer’s markets year round in some parts of the country and during the summer and fall in other parts. It is always nice to be able to support the farming community and to enjoy fresh-from-the- farm products. You will certainly taste the difference.

When choosing fruits and vegetable, inspect them to ensure that the flesh is firm and no bruises or cuts are present. A helpful tip is to smell produce (especially with melons and other fruits); if fruit smells ripe, it is at its peak flavor. Out-of-season produce does not mean that the produce is bad, just that the produce may be smaller and/or have less flavor than in-season fruits and vegetables. Ask the produce manager what fruits and vegetables are in season, and how best to prepare unfamiliar types of produce.

Selecting Fresh Meat, Poultry, and Seafood

Beef: Fresh aroma, a bright red color, and marbling signifies a more flavorful, juicy, and tender cut of beef.

The quality grades (in order of excellence) are: Prime, Choice, Select, Standard. (See Lesson 3 for more information.)

Pork: Fresh aroma with a relatively small amount of fat over the outside meat and a pale-pink color. USDA quality grades (in order of excellence) are: No. 1, No. 2, No. 3

Poultry: Fresh aroma with no discoloration. Go skinless and/or boneless for a healthier option. Grade A is the only grade likely to be seen at the retail level.

Fish: Fresh aroma of the ocean and not fishy. Fish flesh should be firm and shiny and bounce back when touched. No discoloration should be present.

Reading Nutrition Labels on Dry Goods

All products are required to have a nutrition label. Knowing how to effectively interpret a nutrition label will help you understand the nutrients and calories that you are consuming.

1. Serving size and calories: The information listed on a nutrition label is calculated according to one serving so, the number of calories and the nutrient amounts equate to that one serving. Most packages typically contain more than one serving size. Be aware that a single serving size may be smaller than we expect. Serving sizes are standardized to make it easier to compare similar foods, and are provided in familiar units, such as cups or pieces.

2. Nutrients: Most food labels calculate nutrition information according to a 2,000 calorie diet. Your calorie needs maybe be higher or lower depending on your physical activity level and metabolism. The first nutrients listed, fat, saturated fat, and trans fat are nutrients that Americans generally eat in adequate (or even excessive) amounts so, therefore, consumption of these nutrients should be limited. Conversely, most Americans do not consume enough dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. It is important to pay attention to the amount of these nutrients on a food label in order to strive to meet the recommended daily values.

3. The percent daily values listed on the label state the amount one serving of a food fulfills of the recommended daily value of the specific nutrient. For instance, according to a 2,000 calorie diet, daily total fat intake should be less than 65grams, and therefore a granola bar that contains 2.5grams of fat supplies 4% of the daily value for total fat intake.