We’ve all been there. Six o’clock hits and you’re starving, so you hit the grocery store. As you’re cruising through the aisles, those bag of Doritos or a container of cupcakes calls your name. When checkout rolls around, you’ve somehow managed to buy a Super Bowl-worthy spread, instead of a week’s worth of nutritious eats. This cycle is all too common (trust us; we know!), so to kick the habit, we consulted Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. Vice President of Nutrition, Communication & Education Colette Heimowitz. She gave us some healthy tips to implement the next time we hit the supermarket.

Grocery Store

First things first: Heimowitz recommends never shopping hungry. The expert suggests noshing on a low-carb snack before hitting the store to prevent any “aisle wandering” along the way. “Make sure you’re hydrated and have a low-carb snack before you go, so you’re not tempted to grab a high-sugar snack that will just cause your blood sugar to spike and crash and slow you down,” she instructs.

Then, once you’re there, the expert’s no-fail plan of attack is to shop along the store’s perimeter. “This is where the balance of high-fiber carbohydrates, optimal protein, and healthy fats are located: fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat, and fish,” she says. Layout dependent, the order of these sections is important too. “I start in the produce section and fill my cart with a rainbow of colorful vegetables. From there, I hit the deli counter for roasted meats and cheeses, then the meat and seafood counter, and finally the dairy section,” Heimowitz says.

With colorful veggies in the cart, Heimowitz goes on to say why you should steer clear of the middle of the store. “The center aisles usually feature the food you are trying to avoid — the items that are high in carbs and packed with ‘hidden sugars’ (carbs that digest in your body and affect you the way sugar would),” she says. Of course, there are always a few exceptions. “I usually hit the center aisles only for canned tuna and salmon, canned vegetables, broth and bouillon, spices, oils, and condiments. I also hit up the tortillas section and get my low-carb wraps, which are great for stuffing with your favorite sandwich fillings, scrambled eggs, and more,” she adds.

Grocery Hack 2

With a renewed sense of how to approach our local TJ’s or Whole Foods, we deferred to Heimowitz on her favorite healthy foods to pick up. Her advice? “Try to purchase a nice balance of high-fiber carbohydrates, optimal protein, and healthy fats such as colorful vegetables, high-fiber/low-glycemic impact fruits (i.e., berries), fish, poultry, meats, eggs, dairy products, and oils. In my new book, Atkins: Eat Right, Not Less, I include a whole section on how to create a low-carb kitchen, including tips for your grocery shopping list,” she says.

Of course, all good foods come at a price (literally), so we asked for Heimowitz’s recommendations of affordable foods to scoop up. The list includes surprising items like canned tuna, lentils, bluefish, bean sprouts, cabbage, cottage cheese, and greek yogurt. Pair those with anything you can freeze or buy in bulk, and you’ll walk away with one affordable haul.

Whether you’re planning on revamping your shopping strategy or grocery purchases altogether, consider us officially inspired to hit the store in a healthy state of mind.

What are your favorite foods to pick up at the grocery store? Let us know @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)